HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR AFRICAN PYGMY HEDGEHOG

Copyright © 1999 - Laura Ledet - All Rights Reserved




IS YOUR HEDGEHOG WARM ENOUGH?

In general, a room temperature of around 75 degrees should suit your prickly pal just fine. However, sometimes a bit more heat is warranted, especially if the heat in your house tends to fluctuate. Many different devices have been used to add an additional source for warmth for hedgehogs, among them; Electrical heating pads (the type used for humans), reptile heating pads, and overhead heat-radiating light bulbs (usually the variety sold in the reptile section of pet stores). While I know many who have used some of these methods successfully, I feel a word of caution is warranted. Having used the heating pads typically designed for reptiles for the turtles and lizard I myself keep, and knowing many other reptile owners who also use them, I can tell you that they can and do short out, and they can overheat causing burns. As for the human-type of heating pads you will note that every one you buy has a warning on the package to never leave one on and unattended. With good reason...they can short out and cause fires. Those incidences may be few and far between, but far too risky for me to chance. As for over-head heat lamps, if you use those be very careful they aren't radiating too much heat and are secure enough so that there is no danger of them getting knocked over and or into the cage which could result in a fire, electrical shock and or burns. *If you keep your hedgehog in an aquarium, heat can build up quickly with an over-head heating bulb, resulting in the death of your pet so be very careful! The tank would need to be quite large and long so that a cooler end would be available to your hedgehog.
** My personal preference for heating devices are what is called a Micro-Heat Disc. They are about the size of a Frisbee, only thicker. You microwave them for a few minutes and they will stay warm for appx 12 hours. These particular discs are sold by Foster and Smith for $19.95, but I have also seen others marketed under different names, such as SnuggleSafe-Discs, sold at Pet Smart and other stores. After microwaving them, you simply wrap them up well in a blanket, which serves to keep them warm longer and keeps the hedgie from having direct contact with it, and slide it under their beds. However you decide to offer your hedgehog extra warmth, be sure to place it on just one end of the cage, that way they can choose the temperature that feels best to them.**DO NOT let any heating device take the place of a warm house!

Micro-Heat Discs.
You can contact Foster and Smith by calling: 1-800-826-7206 or go to their website:

Foster and Smith's Online Catalog






HOW DO I KEEP MY HEDGEHOG WARM IF THE POWER GOES OUT?

When winter is upon us, it is time to think about how to keep our hedgies warm, especially in the event of a power outage. There are a number a things we can do to keep the warmth in and the chill out during cold weather:

Generators: Think about investing in a generator. These are priceless to have around, even if you only have to use it occasionally. Last winter when we lost power I was able to run the microwave (which we heated the snuggle discs in), a space heater, the tv, and my electric skillet to cook in. It sure made that power outage much more tolerable!

IF YOU HAVE A GENERATOR:

Snuggle Safe Discs: These discs are about the size of a frisbee and you pop them into a microwave for the specified amount of time, then wrap in a towel or disc holder and slide them under your hedgies bed. If they are kept well insulated, they will provide heat for 10 - 12 hours. You can purchase these discs at many pet stores or through Foster And Smith online;
Foster and Smith's Online Catalog



Heating Pads: I would just ask that you use caution with any type of electrical warmers as there is a possibility (however small it might be) that they could short out or cause a fire.

Space Heaters: Again, use with caution. Make sure they are sitting on top of a non-flammable surface. I have ours sitting up on bricks to keep it away from carpeting and I do not leave them on when I am away from the house. Make sure your other animals cannot knock them over.

Bulb Heaters: You can find various types of bulb heaters in the reptile sections of pet stores that come in various wattages. My personal favorites are the ceramic heat bulbs. They emit no light and last a very, very long time. Alternatively you can purchase the reptile “night lights”. They emit a small amount of blue or red lite, but it is very minimal. You will need one of those metal domed bulb holders with a clamp so you can connect it to your hedgies cage. Make sure they will handle the wattage of the bulb.
I would not recommend these if your useing any type of open cage such as a sterilite or aquarium as they can get very hot and could severely burn or electrocute your pet should they accidentally fall over or get knocked into the cage.

HOW DO I KEEP MY HEDGEHOG WARM IF THE POWER GOES OUT?

Wrap Up Those Cages! To help keep heat in, wrap your hedgies cage with a blanket, sleeping bag or other heavy material.

Extra Blankets: Offer your hedgies some extra blankets to curl up in inside their cages.

Disposable Heating Devices: Hardware stores and places like GI Joes carry various types of inexpensive disposable heating devices. Again, use common sense useing these, and protect your hedgies from being able to get to them or from getting burned by them.

Hot Water Bottle: If all else fails, dig out your hot water bottle, wrap it in a blanket and offer it to your pet! Even if you lose power, the water in your hot water tank stays hot for quite some time so it can be refilled at least once or twice. If you don’t have one of those, fill up a empty pop bottle or something similar to that with hot water for your hedgie to snuggle up to.

Good Old Body Heat! Last, but not least, if all else fails, wrap your hedgie in a nice warm blanket and place him/her under your shirt. Your body warmth will keep your hedgie nice and toasty warm :)



MALE OR FEMALE?

I haven't really found any differences in personalities between males and females, having had wonderful hedgehogs of both sexes. It is, however, nice to know exactly what you do have as a pet (it isn't always easy to get a look!). The following pictures are meant to help aid you in determining the differences between the sexes:


The male is on the left, the female is on the right. A male hedgehog's penis is located where you might expect a belly button to be, whereas the females vagina is located directly above the anus.

*Photo compliments of: Deborah Kirksey.





COLOR VARIATIONS:

There are so many different color variations in hedgehogs now. Most breeders will up the prices for some of the fancier colors.




LONGEVITY:

Some books on hedgehogs I have read, state that their lifespan is typically 7 to 10 years in captivity. I have had hedgehogs for years, and know many people with hedgehogs as pets as well as breeders with years and years of experience. The general consensus is that the "typical" or "average" lifespan seems to be more around 3 to 5 years. There are always exceptions however. My Spicket is over 7 years old, and I know of numerous others whose hedgies have lived to that age and beyond, but those seem to be the exception, rather then the rule. Of course there are many factors that can influence this: genetics, diet, and general husbandry to name but 3 of them. Just yet another reason to do the best we can with our little prickly friends!



ANNOINTING:

Hedgehog's have this funny little habit of annointing themselves when they come upon a scent or taste that we assume they particulary like. If you ever see your hedgie turning around and licking itself, leaving a large foamy patch on their spines from their tongues, do not panic! This is a strange, but very normal behavior.


One of my very young hedgehogs beginning to annoint himself. This was brought on by the hand lotion I was wearing at the time.


Another example of annointing behavior. (photo compliments of Deborah Kirksey)



QUILLING:


"Quilling" is equivalent to human babies teething, except your hedgehog will not be losing teeth...he will lose quills. The first time occurs at about the age of 3 months, and then again a few months later. During this time your hedgehog will shed his baby quills and grow in the adult ones. You will know this is happening two ways:

1. You will find numerous quills laying around your hedgehog's cage and all over your house.
BEWARE: It is a well known theory amongst seasoned hedgehog owners that these little guys take great pleasure is sharpening those shedding quills so that their extra sharp when we step on them with our bare feet!

2.Your hedgehog will begin to act cranky and very sensitive to your touch.

Do not despair, this is a natural process they all go through and it won't last forever.
***Do not confuse this short period of quill loss and replacement with other true disorders that can cause the loss of quills such as: mites, an insufficient diet, hormonal issues etc... These problems need to be addressed by your Vet.
***On a serious note though, quilling can be uncomfortable for your little one, and often a nice warm bath with an oatmeal based soap can help soothe their irritated skin. You can find these soaps at any Health Food Store.


A really good closeup of healthy quills.









HIBERNATION:

In the wild, hedgehogs will typically fatten up in the warmer months to get ready to survive their winter hibernation. In captivity it is a whole other ball game. While your hedgehog might get cool enough to think it needs to go into a partial-hibernation mode, it won't be a true hibernation, and the animal will simply dwindle away and die. So what does it mean if one day you find your hedgehog feeling cold, lethargic, and curled into a ball, and when you try to wake him up you get little or no response? This "could" mean your hedgehog has gotten too cold and is attempting to hibernate. You then need to gradually warm your hedgie back up asap! One way would be to slip him under your shirt, allowing your body heat to do its work. Another way would be too wrap him up in a heated blanket or towel. Once your hedgie has warmed up and is once again awake AND alert, make sure to keep him warm. If for some reason your hedgehog does not come around, get him to a Vet as soon as possible, keeping him warm in the interim as this could be a sign of illness. **Placing a cold hedgehog on or under a heating device and thinking it will do the trick all on its own, does not always work, for your hedgehog might go off into a cold corner and continue to try and hibernate. It is important that you monitor the situation.
**Unless you get an abundance of natural bright light during the day in the room your hedgehog is kept, keep a light on in there throughout daylight hours. This will help simulate natural conditions, and ward off the tendency to hibernate as well.



SHOULD I HOLD MY HEDGIE
WHEN I AM SICK
?

I don't think anyone really knows if our hedgies can catch the commom cold or flu from us, but, I still believe care should be taken when you are ill, around hedgies and all other animals. If you are extremely ill, you probably won't feel like having your hedgie out anyway, but if you have a cold or something of that nature, just use common sense. Wash your hands throughly prior to handling them, keep them away from your face, and do not sneeze or cough in their direction. Like I said, use common sense....and err on the side of caution. I have heard some unsubstantiated "rumors" that hedgies can acquire herpes, so if you are unfortunate to carry any form of that, be extremely careful not to pass that virus on with your hands or by kissing your little one.





IN CASE YOUR HEDGEHOG CHOKES:

This advice was passed on to me via Jan Ernst, who read it off one of the hedgehog
e-mail lists she belongs to. Hopefully, you will never have to deal with
this situation, but I have known folks who have lost their hedgehogs due to them
choking on their food so I felt this was important enough to pass on.

Hold hedgie with his head on the palm of your hand, and the rest of his
body trailing up the underside of your forearm. Hold him at the 4:00
o'clock position. Shake him towards the floor a time or two. Now place
your other hand on top of him and firmly squeeze (compress) him with
your hand pressing down and your arm pressing up (like working a
bellows) twice. Listen. If needed, shake and compress again."


NEXT

BACK