Keeping hedgehogs is rewarding. Hedgehogs have a wonderful expression. That wiggly nose and those dark eyes are almost ready to comment on the day’s news or weather. In fact, if your hedgehog struck up a chat with you – it wouldn't seem at all out of place. Stepping out from the pages of The Wind in the Willows, those favorite little characters are just as welcome in our homes as they were in Badger’s!
These darling creatures evoke warm spring days, hedgerows and childhood. The scent of softened grasses and earthy raindrops all circle around these little critters, all wrapped up in a fairy tale package. Hedgehogs are native to Africa, Europe and Asia. None were found in the Americas. Thick hair strands make up the bristles that line their backs. These soft quills lie flat and are not sharp like a porcupine’s. A frightened hedgehog will raise the bristles for protection. While solitary in the wild, hedgehogs enjoy bonding with humans and make endearing companions.
Hedgehogs are considered exotic pets – so be sure to find a veterinarian that can treat them before you bring your buddy home. These animals are naturally nocturnal and will need a comfortable place to crawl into in order to feel safe.Their night-time activities can be adventurous, so place their habitat in an area where they can enjoy themselves without disturbing anyone’s slumber.
Choose a large hutch for them to live in – allowing at least 4 square feet per hedgehog. Fish tanks do not make good houses – they are quite heavy (you would need a large tank), do not allow for proper ventilation, heat up greenhouse style and are dangerous if the glass gets cracked or broken. Make sure the floor of the house is solid. Wire or mesh floors injure hedgehog feet. These insect-eaters are burrowers and wire floors will prevent them from safely engaging in this behavior. Resourceful and clever, hedgehogs will try to make a break for it – provide a lid and walls that are too high for the hedgehog to climb over.
Use a clean and dust-free litter. Pine or hardwood shavings cause respiratory distress, so only purchase the “Carefree” product or non-toxic shredded paper.
As active and curious creatures, hedgehogs need safe toys to interact with and a wheel to run on. Choose only those with a smooth wheel running surface, as the hedgehog will be injured if they get a foot caught.
Hedgehogs use specially made logs and sacks to crawl into. They enjoy curling up in fabrics and bedding material. This makes them feel safe while allowing them to create their own den space.
Unlike many other pets, hedgehogs are fastidious. Provide them with a litter box that is about 2 x 5 x 8 inches. Fill with shredded bedding that is not sharp with wood splinters (hedgehogs can be injured by splinters as they dig). Cat litter is not used for hedgehogs, as they will burrow in it and be affected by the dust.
The hedgehog boys in The Wind in the Willows sat down to a breakfast of porridge and ham. This is great for book characters, but not for the real ones! Hedgehogs are insectivores with omnivorous tastes, they forage for bugs, fruits, vegetables and crustaceans… and their diet needs to reflect the grocery list from the wild. Choose a specially made hedgehog food (or high-quality cat food) and always supplement this diet with other foodstuffs.
They are pesticide free and are very safe to feed as a special treat (they are high in fat). Offer these snacks in the easy-to-use freeze dried state or rehydrate them for a change of pace.
The hedgehogs dropped their spoons….
“There, sit down, sit down,” said the Rat pleasantly, “and go on with your porridge. Where have you youngsters come from? Lost your way in the snow, I suppose?”
“Yes, please, sir,” said the elder of the two hedgehogs respectfully. “Me and little Billy here, we was trying to find our way to school ….And at last we happened up against Mr. Badger’s backdoor, and made so bold as to knock, sir, for Mr. Badger he’s a kind-hearted gentleman, as everyone knows – ”
The Wind in the Willows