Okay, here goes (with a warning that I can get long winded on animal care. I apologize in advance):
Hedgie ownership is not for everyone. They are nocturnal, prickly (though not painfully so) and gram for gram are the biggest poopers of any animal I’ve ever owned.
**Story-time:skip if you’d like**
That being said-I adored my girls-I ended up with 3-but would have taken more. I started off with one (fairly expensive) girl bought from a breeder out in Buffalo NY and caravan’ed to me here. So I didn’t get to pick her out. She was a big prickleubutt. My second girl was a rescue (which I would suggest). She and her brothers and sisters were rescued from a neglectful home and it took me a while to win her over. My third and favorite girl was technically a birthday present-but only because I was kind of broke. I would have figured out a way to get her anyway. She and her siblings were in a pet store (don’t get me started about buying from pet stores)-at least 5 of them-in a ten gallon fish tank, no hiding places, on pine shavings-no wheel or anything. I felt horrible snagging her and not grabbing her siblings, but I couldn’t buy them.**Adorable pictures of the girls at the end**
**Okay-Caring for and pampering your new prickly butt friend**
~Please take what I’m saying as my experience-not gospel. Your milage may vary. I’ve put further handy resources at the bottom.~
1) Cage: Hedgies (unlike guinea pigs or rabbits) don’t chew. and for the most part can’t really climb (unlike hamsters) So: Cages can be open topped, made of many things. I made my first cage out of two sterilite totes. Second one out of those mesh cube things that you pop together.
~At LEAST 4′x2′. I wouldn’t say double it for each animal-but how would you feel confined to such a small space for your whole life.
Make it BIG. Most cages they have in the pet store are rubbish for space. Research building hedgehog cages. There are some awesome how to’s out there and they are easy.
*** The bottom of the cube cage I made is a ‘box-type’ liner made from corrugated plastic (coroplast). They are awesome and you can build your own easy. Example here.
2) In the cage: (see above as well)
~Good size wheels are mandatory. They have a territory of 2-300 meters-and as such they run a lot. They are also poop-runners. So, a pan with some type of litter should be under the wheels. I used short sided aluminum pans filled with pelleted news print type littler (just don’t use cedar or clumping cat litter-gets stuck in their paws.) You should clean daily-as they poop A LOT and are smelly.
Sleeping/eating area: can be covered in cloth type liners. This area tends to not be soiled as much. I despise having them walk and sleep on litter and sewed my own liners. You can also use cut up velux blankets-as long as it doesn’t fray-loose strings amputate toes. Fleece (esp. clearance cuts) is a marvelous thing.
They are hiders by nature, so need a covered place to retreat and or sleep. Hedgie hats (above in ‘Cuse colors) are a quick sew or just give them extra blankies to burrow under. I sewed a fleece sac for hiding/sleeping in. They loved it.
Things like cat toys (balls and such), Large PVC pipes to hide/play in, stuffed animals, etc are always fun to add. As are the legendary tp tubes. Hedgies love to go ‘tubing’
Food: I don’t know how readily available specific hedgie food is now, but Mazuri makes an insectivore diet and apparently there is a complete hedgie diet in a bag. IF you choose to go the cat food route: they need high protein, low fat. I used to buy things like Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul Lite, Blue Buffalo cat food, or similar. The whole animal protein should be the first on the list. They like eggs,chicken, most fruits and veggies.
They are insectivores, so crickets, meal worms, silk worms, etc can be fed (in moderation), as can high quality canned cat food on occasion. **my first girl loved her food-and ended up being over 600 grams. If you have more than one hedge-I’d recommend NOT free-feeding so you can monitor food intake.**
Water should always be available. I preferred water bowls to
Socialization: Contrary to initial thoughts:hedgies aren’t ALWAYS in prickle mode. Most of the time their quills lie flat to their body and they like being petted once they are comfortable with you. I do the scoop from the side: fingers go between front and back legs under belly to scoop up. Let them on laps, chests,shoulders, much like kitties. Patience is the key. Just pick up, pet and hold daily.
*If you have an area wide open and pet safe-you can let them run around the room-or pen off areas. They like to explore. Also: there are hedgie sized hamster type balls you can put them in to run around in-those are fun and safe.
Odds and ends:
*Temps need to be kept above 70℉ as they are African Hedgehogs. They do not hibernate like the European Hedgies. They do enjoy a heating pad under their sleeping area if your room is cooler.
*They can be prone to cancer and other diseases.
**cleanliness is next to godliness** Most of them like baths: tepid water, baby shampoo. They get very dirty (poopy boots)-so baths often may be necessary. Old toothbrushes help clean dirty quills and feets. Towel dry.
Their nails grow constantly-and need to be cut frequently. I used Bird nail scissors.
I felt better having a pet/hedgie first aid kit made up: here (though I bought one-can’t remember where. AS well as finding a vet who treats hedgies.
Fun/weird hedgie things:
~They do this thing called ‘annointing’. They take spit and groom it into their quills on their back. I think I read somewhere that they did it in the wild after eating something toxic (not to them) as more of a protective mechanism.
~They make funny noises. Especially when disturbed. They ‘huff’ ‘pop’ and can ‘growl’. When irritated. the puff their quills up and ‘pop’ like little jumps and make a quick ‘pfft’ ‘pfft’ noise. Here and here.
~They can weigh anywhere from 250-550 grams. (I weighed every week-to keep track of health. They drop weight fast when sick and can hide symptoms)
~Common life span is 4-6 years
~baby hedgies are called hoglets or pups and litters are anywhere between 4-9.
~There are some amazingly beautiful colors of hedgies out there. Some rarer than others. My favorites are: choc. snowflake, cinnacot, platinum, pintos. BUT go into it for personality-not necessarily color. You’ll Pay for color.
(The Dutchess-also knows as princess prickly pants)
(rescued hedgebutt-aka Rosie the grump)
(and little tiny Lilly the smol-who sleeps on my chest)
Good research sites:Colors