Planning for Emergencies

In Charleston, South Carolina,

Keep two weeks’ worth of the following perishable supplies:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Litter or bedding

Also, put the following in a container with the rest of your family supplies:

  • Dish detergent and paper towels for clean-up
  • First aid kit (may be combined with your family kit)
  • A current photograph, in the event your pet is separated from you
  • A lightweight, portable cage (we recommend a top-opening cat carrier with handle)
  • Nest box, pillowcase, or other shelter, small enough to fit in the cage
  • Small, unbreakable food and water dishes
  • Hand wipes or paper towels and hand sanitizer
  • Small bags for pet waste disposal

After you have assembled your Hedgehog Hurricane Preparedness Kit, take a few moments to prepare your evacuation plan. In the event of a serious storm, where will you and your family go?

Can you take your pet(s) with you? If you plan to stay in a hotel, make sure well in advance that the hotel will permit hedgehogs to stay. Make sure to tell them that the hedgehog will remain caged during the stay.

Remember also that your small portable cage is discreet if you do not have any other pets with you.

With a preparedness plan, you, your family, and your pets will be safer and better off!

Hedgehog Health Care

Hedgehog health care

Hedgehogs have special health care needs, but caring for them can be surprisingly straightforward if you are prepared. Most common hedgehog ailments such as obesity, quill loss, tattered ears, and foot injuries can be prevented through proper diet, exercise, and routine care. For some routine health care supplies, see our Shopping Guide.

However, some ailments or symptoms necessitate veterinary care. Before the need arises, identify a veterinarian in your area who has experience with hedgehogs. A yearly well-pet visit consisting of a normal physical exam, fecal analysis, skin scraping for mites, and dental exam is an excellent precaution. A good vet can catch many symptoms before they become true medical emergencies.

Hedgehogs also need routine care including nail trimmings and the occasional bath. While often daunting to the new owner, these activities can be made easier (and sometimes even fun!) with a little preparation.

Since hedgehogs are relatively new to the domestic market, information on their proper care is rapidly changing. We strongly recommend joining one of the hedgehog mailing lists, which are an excellent resource to share hedgehog symptoms and knowledge with others. This symptoms chart is meant as a guide only; when in doubt, speak to a veterinarian with good clinical knowledge about hedgehogs.

 

Common Symptoms

Cause(s)

Remedy

Yellowing under armpits Obesity; may lead to fatty liver disease, a very serious condition, if not treated. Increase exercise level through more playtime, wheel.  Switch to a hedgehog-appropriate diet and reduce caloric intake if applicable.
Quill loss Several.  Mites are the most common. See vet for skin scraping and mite treatment if applicable.
Tattered ears Dry skin. Apply cocoa butter to ears several times weekly until improved; maintain with once or twice weekly treatments.
Wobbliness and lethargy with cold underbelly  Attempted hibernation.  Immediately warm hedgehog.  Then identify source of chill: temperature? draft? and remedy.  Hibernation attempts by domesticated hedgehogs can be serious or fatal. 
Wobbliness without cold underbelly Several, all under debate.  Possibly a neurological disorder called Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) or a simple nutritional deficit. Try switching to a hedgehog-appropriate diet to see if the problem is related to nutrition.  Vitamin E and Selenium deficiencies have been known to cause similar symptoms in other animals.  See vet regardless of home treatment.
Green poop Stress, illness, infection, response to some medications If it persists beyond 2-3 bowel movements, see vet.
Lumps or masses under skin Several, some benign, some malignant, even possible pregnancy. See vet immediately.

 

You may find the following articles useful to learn more about your hedgehog’s special healthcare needs.

 

Concern or condition

Suggested article(s)

Cancer Diseases You Don’t Know About in African Hedgehogs by Lisa B. Done DVM
Dental health Hedgies have teeth too! by Marian Brown
General health issues Common Disorders and Care of Pet Hedgehogs from NetVet
Clinical Approach to the African Hedgehog
by Heidi L. Hoefer, DVM, ABVP
Common Disorders and Care of Pet (African) Hedgehogs. by Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM
Hedgehog Nutrition by Wendy Graffam, Ph.D., Wildlife Conservation Society
Lori Keller was kind enough to share x-rays from her hedgehog Angel’s vet visit.
Injury Hedgehog lameness by Teresa L. Lightfoot DVM
Obesity Hedgehog Hobby on Obesity
Pregnancy and hoglets Hedgehog Hobby on Hand Feeding Babies
Tig Means on advice on raising hoglets, deciding to breed
Veterinarians Tig Means on finding a vet and when to take your hedgehogs to the vet
Veterinary Care for your Hedgehog by Rita Bhatnagar, D.V.M. and Mary Beth Wajda, D.V.M.
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome Wobby Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) article by Laura Roberts

Hedgehog quirks and characteristics

Hedgehog quirks and characteristics

The hedgehogs commonly kept as pets in North America are African hedgehogs, sometimes called African Pigmy hedgehogs. These are distinct from their larger, darker cousins in mainland Europe and the U.K., the European hedgehogs.

There are several species of African hedgehog, most of which have been interbred to produce the domesticated African hedgehog in North America. This breeding resulted in a surprisingly wide variety of colors and markings. African hedgehogs can be found over much of the continent, primarily in savanna or lightly forested areas. They prefer a warmer climate than their European cousins and do not hibernate, although they do engage in a heat-related torpor called estivation. Pet hedgehogs need to be kept warm, generally above 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and cannot generally tolerate hibernation attempts.

Hedgehogs have modified hairs on their neck and back called quills. These quills are not barbed like a porcupine, as many people assume. Hedgehogs cannot “throw” their quills, either. A hedgehog with spines erect feels somewhat like a rough scrub brush. These quills are for defensive purposes only; when a hedgehog is threatened, he curls into a ball and uses specialized muscles to raise the quills into a network of little points. This discourages many predators and has enabled hedgehogs to remain largely unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs.

Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal animals. Pet hedgehogs’ daily routines can often be gradually changed to a more compatible schedule with their human companions by gentle changes in handling and feeding times. However, their first instinct is to sleep during the day and be active at night. Their senses are adapted to work best at night. They have poor eyesight but excellent senses of smell and hearing. Two of the most noticeable traits of a healthy hedgehog – once you have become accustomed to the quills! – are their moist, active nose and large ears.

Hedgehogs in the wild are insectivores. However, they are also opportunists, meaning that in addition to insects, they will eat carrion, eggs, fruit, and just about anything else they come across. This kind of natural diet leads to some confusion about the proper diet for domesticated hedgehogs. In the past, cat food was recommended as a staple diet. Now, with advances in nutritional knowledge, commercial hedgehog foods are available, as is more detailed information on supplemental offerings. See the Shopping Guide for help in choosing an appropriate staple food.

One of the oddest behaviors that hedgehog engage in is self-annointing. Hedgehogs, when encountering a new or strong smell or substance, will often lick the substance, produce foamy saliva, and apply it to all or part of their quills. One of our Lowcountry Hedgehog Society members recently had the unpleasant experience of having their pet self-annoint with a dead caterpillar! Other hedgehogs are captivated by leather, garlic, and a host of other items. Some hedgehogs self-annoint frequently, while others do it only once or twice a year. Males tend to self-annoint more often than females. Although no one is exactly sure why hedgehogs self-annoint, the most commonly accepted theory is that the hedgehog, which is resistant to many toxins, is spreading a potential toxin or camouflaging smell on their bodies for protection.

Further online reading:

Hedgehog Hobby on Introduction to Hedgehogs, Hedgehogs in the Wild, Behavior, and Quills

European hedgehogs

Hedgehog Fact Sheet from Sea World / Busch Gardens’ Animal Bytes

Learn More About Your Pet

Even as hedgehogs gain in popularity as pets, there is a surprising lack of information about their proper care. The Lowcountry Hedgehog Society hopes to help you have a better relationship with your happy, healthy hedgehog. This basic care guide is meant as a starting point only; we have included some suggested online reading at the end to help give you the big picture.
Is a hedgehog right for you?Hopper

Before you take on the responsibility of a pet, you need to consider if a hedgehog is right for you. Bear in mind that hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal animals and can take a long time to become accustomed to being handled. We do not recommend hedgehogs as pets for children. A hedgehog owner should be patient, gentle, and willing to accept that their hedgehog may not keep the same hours as they do.

Your hedgehog may live up to five or six years with a good diet and plenty of exercise. Having this naturally shy animal grow to trust you can be a very rewarding experience and one that makes having a hedgehog in your life worthwhile.
MurrayHome sweet home

The first thing any new hedgehog owner will need is a habitat for their pet. We suggest an absolute minimum of a twenty-gallon terrarium — always provide the largest possible living space for your hedgehog. In the wild, a hedgehog can cover a territory of a couple of square miles hunting for food nightly, so exercise is a definite factor in choosing the habitat. Multi-level ferret cages or rabbit cages can make an excellent home for a hedgehog; just be sure to line any mesh floors with commercial carpeting to avoid foot injuries.

Supplying an exercise wheel is an excellent idea. Be sure to line any mesh- or bar-lined wheel with craft foam or a similar substance so that the hedgehog’s feet do not slip between the bars and become injured. See our Shopping Guide for some recommended wheels for your hedgehog.

Your hedgehog, as a nocturnal animal, will probably spend most of the day asleep. Provide a place where your pet can feel secure, such as a nest box (even a cardboard one!).

Although hedgehogs can often be taught to use a litter box, most owners choose to use some variety of bedding in their habitat. We recommend aspen shavings or recycled newsprint bedding such as CareFresh. Do not use cedar or colored bedding for your pet! The aromatic oils in cedar have been known to cause respiratory distress and may prove fatal. Another popular option is to line the hedgehog habitat with a vellux blanket, cut to fit, and to add a litter box with shavings inside.
Diet plays an important role

Serious consideration should be given to proper diet for hedgehog, since they are prone to a variety of diet-related illnesses, usually related to an excess of fat in the diet. Unfortunately, some products labeled as “hedgehog food” are not nutritionally sound.

Some owners choose to feed cat food, but make sure that whatever food you choose to offer your pet is low in fat and iron and high in protein. There are a variety of quality hedgehog food products available on the Internet or through mail-order. This staple diet can be supplemented by lean cooked chicken, fruit and vegetables, and no more than one or two mealworms per day. See our Shopping Guide for some suggested staple hedgehog foods. Other treats can include cooked fish like salmon or tuna (fresh only since canned fish has too much salt for hedgehogs) or homemade delicacies like Miss Murray’s Marvelous Mash, a chicken-and-rice puree that is also good for feeding to hedgehogs who are having oral problems.

Remember also that hedgehogs may be resistant to sudden changes in diet. Even if you want to stop feeding a particular food to your pet, you will probably want to do it gradually, mixing a little more of the new food each day until the old food is completely gone.
International Hedgehog Registry

One of the most important steps you can take in ensuring the preservation and long-term health of the pet hedgehog population in North America is to register your hedgehog(s) with the International Hedgehog Registry. Similar to the AKC for dogs, the IHR seeks to track hedgehog population, genetics, and other factors to ensure that inbreeding and other negative practices are kept to a minimum. It’s easy and free, and you can even receive a certificate of registration for a small donation to commemorate the addition of your pet to your family.
Suggested online reading

The Hedgehog FAQ is the most comprehensive source of information on hedgehogs online, and is even better than most books on the market. We suggest bookmarking this site as it has lots of information that you may not need now but may need in the future.

Links from noted breeder Tig Means include basic hedgehog care, tips on handling hedgehogs, how to choose a hedgehog, when your new hedgehog comes home, hedgehog escape planning, housing your hedgehog and pros and cons of different cage types.

Bryan Smith’s Hedgehog Hobby Pages is a marvelous resource. Articles for hedgehog newbies are basic hedgehog care, litter training, bedding choices, daily care routine, grooming, and handling.

Dr. Kelly Brodnik on Basics of African Hedgehogs

Ideas for Hedgehog Housing and Accessories

How to Handle a Hedgehog