Basic Care of African Pygmy Hedgehogs

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Basic African Pygmy Hedgehog Care:

They can make great pets for people who genuinely have the time and interest in these little creatures. Their lifespan is about 3-5 years, but many have lived twice this long, if cared for properly. One must research thoroughly before considering one as a pet, as they are more difficult to keep than other small mammals. Please don't rely 100% and only on my advice, as it is important to research and decide what is the best for your hog and your situation. Please read down this page for the 10 care sections, that you need to think about before you decide on a African Pygmy Hedgie.

Also, there are 2 very good websites and forums that are a must for the new hedgehog owner, they are: 'Hedgehog Central' and 'Pygmy Hogs UK'  Just search for these in Google. Please note though, you must join Pygmy Hogs UK before you can read any of the posts or topics, but joining is quick and easy.

1. Enclosures;

Hedgehogs must be kept in at least 36 inch long (3 foot) enclosures, and be at least 12 inches (1 foot) wide and the same in height. Anything larger than 3 foot is obviously better, so the bigger you can go the better. They must have this space as are they are very active at night, and they naturally love to explore.

If choosing a vivarium for your hog, they must be modified to allow more ventilation, as hogs need fresh air and without enough clean new air, they can get respiratory illnesses, which can prove to be fatal. A Vivarium should have at least 6 holes/vents along the back, all of which are about 3 inches in diameter. It is very easy to modify enclosures so please be creative and remember that it is vital they are well ventilated. Another popular way to modify a vivarium is to remove the front glass doors and make a door out of fly screen mesh, again, please only use soft mesh and make sure the mesh holes are small enough so they don't get their toes or nails caught in it, as most hogs do like to climb. You can get the flyscreen mesh on ebay. Mesh with holes that are too big are bad aswell, as hogs can get stuck in the smallest of spaces, and also can injure themselves.

Another good option is the ZooZone Large cage, it is a good size and are widely used for hedgehogs. It has a wire roof that opens, but the sides and bottom are solid plastic. They also offer good ventilation. Please make sure that the cage you choose doesn't have a wire bottom, as they must be kept on a solid surface. Also as I previously mentioned, some hogs like to climb so all wire cages aren't really ideal. Another thing to remember is hogs can squeeze through unbelieveably small spaces, so cages with wide wire spacing are not ideal. All glass tanks or aquariums aren't reccomended, due to lack of ventilation modifications you can do to the glass, they steam up and can become stuffy very easilly, which is not good.

2. Excercise;

Hedgehogs must have an exercise wheel, as they are known to run upto 7 miles a night. They are also prone to obesity, so exercise is very important. The exercise wheel must be at least 12 inches in diameter/height, and must not be made of mesh or bars, as their feet and nails can get caught and injure themselves, or even rip off toes or nails. The silent spinner or comfort wheel is reccomended, and in the largest size at 12 inches diameter.

3. Essential Accessories/Toys;

Hogs must have a 'hidey house', igloo or hideaway spot where they can feel safe and secure. Plastic Igloos are a good choice. Hogs enjoy to play with things such are cat toys with little bells inside, or most famously toilet roll tubes (which are cut all the way down the middle, to prevent them getting stuck). Anything that they can move or manipulate are a favourite.

4. Diet;

Hogs must be fed a staple diet of dried cat food biscuits. The biscuits must be good quality and have at least 30% protein, and have about 10% fat. Anything higher than 10% fat, isn't very good for them. Also look at the ingredients and make sure that Meat itself, is listed first, rather than cereals or 'Meat meal'.  Poultry is the best flavour to go for and avoid anything with fish in it, so no fish flavours. Good quality dry cat foods that are available in the U.K are Royal Canin and Hills Science Plan Light. It is best to go for the good quality cat food brands such as these, as hedgies derive all their nutrients from one main source - the cat biscuits, so it's important to go for a high in protein good quality biscuit.

Wet cat food can be fed once every few weeks as a treat, in small amounts, it must not be fed regularly as it is very fattening and unhealthy for hogs. Wet cat food must not be fed as a staple, it really isn't very good, it will also make your hogs poop very runny.

As Hedgies feed mostly on the dry cat biscuits, obviously fresh water should be available at all times. Some hogs do enjoy dish tipping in their spare time, so heavy ceramic bowls are a good idea. Hogs can also use water bottles, but they can be awkward for hogs to drink out of, and they don't drink as much when using them. Also, some hogs might not know how to use them. I would probably stick with water bowls, that way you can ensure your hog is getting enough water.

Mealworms can be fed as treats every day or every few days, during handling, and limit them to about 5-6 each time. Hogs also enjoy cooked lean chicken and also mince (boiled) and prepared without any seasoning etc. This should be again, fed as treats, so about twice a week.

Hogs are lactose (can't eat dairy products and milk) intolerant, so milk should never be fed. However, my hogs seem to enjoy scrambled egg, so this can be fed but made without milk, make with water instead.

Spikes delight and Spikes dinner, is not reccomended for African Pygmy Hedgehogs. It is made for our garden European Wild Hedgehogs. It is expensive and is made of mostly raisins and cereal. Hogs cannot eat rasins, and cereal is not beneficial for them.

Some Foods to Avoid:

Grapes, nuts, raisins, avocado

5. Bedding/ Cage substrates;

A lot of people use Fleece liners to line their hedgies cages with. You must only use fleece to line the cage, as anything like towels, old bed sheets etc is NOT suitable, due to the loose threads. Hogs are very adventurous and can get them selves tangled up in threads and a lot have died, or lost limbs, because of this. The threads can cut of circulation and they can also injure feet and nails. I use fleece blankets personally and I think they are great. You just change them as neccessary ( every few days ) and chuck them in the washer when you're done. Fleece liners are especially good if you can manage to litter train your hog, (see further down the page for advice on litter training) as they are nice and soft for them to walk on and mine seem to enjoy it. However, some hogs can burrow under them, so this should be monitored.

Another popular substrate is woodshavings but they must be dust extracted. Dust isn't good for small animals and can create respiratory problems. Also, another down side to wood shavings is, they can harbour mites, they are messy, and hogs can eat it which can make them become ill. I would avoid 'hemp' bedding, as this isn't suitable for hogs, due to some things I have read about it getting stuck in hogs 'private parts'. Also corn cob bedding and chinchilla dust, isn't reccomended for this same reason. Cedar bedding is extremely harmful and dangerous to use, as it contains oils and irriatants and will create breathing problems and illness in Hedgehogs.

6. Litter Training;

Yes, it's possible for little animals to become litter trained! But, it is important to remember that it is hit or miss whether it will happen with your hog. Some do, and some can't ever be trained.

What I would do is buy a kitten litter tray, and place your hogs exercise wheel in it, and line it with paper towels. Don't use sand, or any cat litter, or small animal litter as this is not good for hogs, it is dusty and small bits can get caught in their 'private parts'.

Put all their droppings in the tray and hope for the best! Also, when handling them, take out the litter tray and when your hedgie attempts to go toilet on you, put them in the litter tray instead, and in the end they'll hopefully get the idea.

7. Vet & Heathcare;

You must have a Vet lined up before you buy your new hog. It is essential to be able to afford any bills that may arise, as these animals are exotics and can need veterinary care at some point in their lives. It is also reccomended to get your new hog a vet check when you first purchase them. Common ailments include mites, so if your hog is itching a lot, losing quills and has thinning of the quills or 'bald' spots, it may be mites. It is vital that you get him/her to the vet asap. However, if your hoglet is about 6-8 weeks old, he/she may be quilling, which means they are losing their baby quills and their adult ones are pushing through, this could also cause itching and dry skin. Hedgehogs can experience quilling at various other times during their life.

8. Bathing;

From time to time hedgehogs get dirty feet or have dry skin, so may need to be bathed. It isn't reccomended to bath hedgies very often, as this can also dry the skin out.

If your hog is quilling or has dry skin and is itchy, you can give them an oatmeal bath. Get some non instant dry oats, and put it into the toe of a sock and squeeze it under lukewarm water, until the water turns cloudy. The water should be only deep enough so they can touch the bottom, so 2 inches max. You must put your hands in there and be gentle as they tend to squirm about a lot, and pour the water over your hogs back, but take care to avoid the head, you should never submurse your hog in water, and you must always keep their head out of water and don't get it wet.

Hogs can catch a chill very easilly, so you must make bath time relatively quick, and must dry your hog with a towel or fleece, gently but thoroughly to make sure they are fully dry before putting them down or back in their cage. A Hairdryer can also be used on the lowest setting, if the hog isnt too scared of the noise.

You must NEVER USE any Tea Tree oil Products to wash your hog, as this is DEADLY to hedgehogs.

9. Heating;

Hedgehgs originate from Africa (hence their name), so prefer warmer, but not humid climes. As a general rule of thumb most hedgehogs should be kept at a constant 74 Farenheit (about 24 degrees Celcius), or higher. Each hedgie is different, so you need to see how yours tolerates the temperatures. If they get too warm however, they go through something which is equally as bad as Hibernation, called Estivation, where they will be lying splat out panting, also not moving and be sluggish because they are trying to cool themselves down.

It is important to research this as it is vital that your hedgie is kept at a comfortable temperature. A good website for heating information is the afore mentioned 'Hedgehog Central' http://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forums/index.php. Look for the 'Housing and Accessories' section for info about heating.

If thinking of using a Cermaic heat lamp for your hedgie, it MUST only be used with a thermostat to control the temperature.

From what I have read and experienced, I would avoid heat rocks, as these can get too hot for a hedgie, they fall asleep on them and a slow burn can occour, and they wouldn't wake up in time as it is so gradual. This has happened to many reptiles and hedgies alike, so I wouldn't use these for hedgehogs.

10. Hibernation;

Some hogs are very sensitive to temperature drops, and therefore attempt hibernation. They must be kept at a stable temperature. If your hog's belly is cold, or they are in a very tight ball, or are not moving very fast and are sluggish, you must warm them up ASAP, with a hot water bottle, or use your own body heat to warm them up. It is vital that you get them warm right away as hibernation, if left for as little as 30 minutes can be fatal. You should phone your nearest out of hours vet right away.

Another thing that can bring on hibernation, is not enough natural or artificial light. Hedgehogs must have 12-14 hours of light a day. This can be provided with a lamp in the vivarium, or a lamp placed near the cage, or if you have a very light room, natural light. Some hogs can go into hibernation if they don't get enough light, they think it's winter and they try to hibernate.

These are just some of the basic care tips for your African Pygmy Hedgehog, you should of course do your research, and take in as much info as you can from lots of different sources, just so you can have a better understanding of hedgie care.

 

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