**Please be sure that you can give all of the below necessary care for a hedgehog before you purchase one!
What you will need for your new baby:
1. Large, spacious, well-ventilated cage: I use a 105 quart Sterilite bin. Sterilite bins work great as well and are a cheaper alternative. From my own experience, I believe these are the best homes for a hedgehog. Just make sure to get one that is atleast 105 quarts and holes will need to be drilled into the bin if you are going to keep the top on to allow for proper ventilation. Cages should be kept in a room with natural light but out of the way of window drafts and direct sunlight.
2. Shavings or Fleece liners: I use Aspen Shavings. You can also use fleece to line the bottom of your hedgie's cage. Just remember that Cedar is bad for hedgehogs and pine shavings are also known to make your hedgies nose run. : (
3. Igloo or hiding/sleeping place: I use a Large Superpet Igloo and I put a snuggle sack inside for added warmth. You can purchase snuggle sacks online or make one yourself out of fleece material.
4. Exercise wheel: I use a Carolina Storm Wheel. You can view or purchase one at http://www.carolinastormhedgehogs.com/the-carolina-storm-wheel.html. I also prefer Superpet Giant Comfort Wheel and use these as well. Do NOT use wire or mesh wheels because it can hurt your little hedgies feet. Make sure it is solid all the way around and atleast 12 inches in diameter.
5. Food dish: I use ceramic because it is much sturdier than plastic and your hedgie will have a harder time trying to knock it over.
6. Water dish: Again, I use ceramic. I don't use water bottles because they can possibly chip the hedgies teeth.
7. Toys, Tunnels, balls, tiny toy trucks..etc: I use the little plastic balls that are for ferrets or cats. They have tiny bells inside them. Hedgehogs enjoy pushing them around their cages to hear the bell jingle. Toys are OPTIONAL.
8. Main Diet: I use Purina Indoor Cat Chow. This is the food that your baby will be used to eating upon arrival to you. Your baby will come with a small baggie of this food but I STRONGLY suggest purchasing the same food for them after the food I supply you with runs out. A hedgehog's diet should be high in protein 35% and low in fat 12%. Dried food should NOT be the only food a hedgehog gets in their diet. Fruit, Veggies, unseasoned grilled chicken should be offered a few times a week as well. Research online which fruits and veggies are safe for Hedgehogs.
9. Treats: Meal worms are a good choice. You can purchase live mealies or freeze dried mealies if real mealworms give you the willies. : ) Limit giving mealworms to a few times a week. My hedgies also enjoy dried crickets and papaya bites.
10. Heat source. Your hedgie will need an additional heat source if your home is kept lower than 74 degrees. Hedgehogs can go into hibernation if they get too cold and this can be fatal to them. I am fortunate enough to have my own room in my home just for the Hedgehogs so I use an Optimus Heater during winter months and on chilly nights. I also prefer using a Snuggle Safe heating disc. You can pop it in the microwave and it will provide warmth for your hedgie for hours! A covered heating pad set on low with a timer can also be used to place UNDER the cage where the igloo is, (NOT INSIDE THE CAGE). Your hedgehog SHOULD have a heating source that he/she can get off of if he/she gets too hot.
Care and Management:
When you bring you new hedgehog home, place him/her in his/her new cage (MINIMUM space of approximately 18 x 24 inches but I STRONGLY suggest LARGER) and let him/her have absolute 100% privacy for at least a day. It will probably be more like a week before he/she begins to feel at home. Baby hedgehogs need quite a bit of sleep the first month after they come home with you, so don't be too concerned if he/she sleeps a lot at first.
The more you handle your hedgehog, the more at ease it will become. At first, it may ball up and huff at you. This is done to scare off any potential predators. If you spend time with your hedgehog allowing them to gain trust in you, in no time at all your hedgehog will begin to lay his/her quills down and move around more freely. If you are afraid of being poked by its quills you should lift from underneath its body where it is softer. You may want to wear gloves for a while until your hedgie starts to lay down his/her quills. The more time you spend with your hedgehog the calmer it will be.
Place your hedgehog’s new home in a comfortable, warm, well lit area that is free of drafts and direct sunlight. They are most comfortable at temperatures of between 68-80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too low, your hedgehog may go into hibernation, which will most likely kill it. The basic rule of thumb is, if you are comfortable without a sweater, they will do just fine.
You can also add a few toys for your hedgehog to play with. An exercise wheel is an excellent addition and will help him to stay healthy and trim. Although a guinea pig wheel will suffice, there are now specially designed Hedgehog Wheels available from many pet suppliers. These are safer for your pet since they have a solid running surface rather than the more common metal bars which they sometimes get their long legs caught in.
What Should I Feed Him/Her and How Much:
Although there are hedgehog foods available in stores, dry cat and kitten formulas are equally good choices. Whatever commercial food you choose should be supplemented by a variety of other foods such as vegetables, meal worms and crickets, cooked meats and fruit and vegetables. However none of these should be fed as anything more than a treat 3 or 4 times a week. The dry food should be the staple.
Introducing new companions:
Two female hedgehogs can play and live quite nicely together, when introducing two females please monitor for any agressive behavior. If aggression occurs, remove one female from the cage. Never place a male and female in the same cage. Is also isn't a good idea to have two male hedgehogs living together. This can cause serious aggression and injury/death.
You can expect:
-To have to provide a regular source of appropriate, high quality food and clean water.
- To clean the cage once per week, sometimes a little more or less, and that your hedgehog may or may not litter train.
- That it will need to stay warm (above about 74 F), or else it may get sick and die.
- You will get poked. Even the best hedgehogs have off days.
- That there is a strong chance you will need to trim its toenails, even if it gets grumpy and doesn't want you to.
- That it will self-anoint (i.e., spread spit or other things on itself).
- That it will do better if handled daily, even for just a few minutes.
- That it will be happier if it has a wheel and a place to hide.
- That a hedgehog that is not friendly to begin with may never become friendly, although they do often show slow improvement over the years.
- That it may bite, though this is unlikely. Anything with teeth may bite.
- That two males probably will not enjoy one another’s company, although two females may.
- That its life expectancy is 3 to 6 years, with cancer being an extremely common cause of death in older hedgehogs.
- That it will enjoy toys that it can climb in or on, and items it can manipulate.
- That it may poop on you, especially if it is a baby. Babies don't seem to have much in the way of manners or bowel control.
- That most babies will go through a period of quilling (shed their baby quills and replace them with their adult quills) and will be very grumpy for a while. You will need to hold it anyway if you want to keep it from learning that this is a good way to get people to leave it alone.
- That it may need at least one trip to the vet for mites in its lifetime. The little pests are not species-specific, and can come from such innocuous sources as the bedding or other animals.
- That your hedgehog may never actively seek you out for companionship. Some hedgehogs do, but most just think humans are cool terrain to climb on.
Baths & Nail clipping:
Keep the water level at 1"-2" or less for babies. Hedgehogs are not usually fond of baths and will try to escape. Most will poop in the water as well. Be prepared to change the water. Use baby tear free shampoo. TEA TREE OIL SHAMPOO IS TOXIC!!! DO NOT USE IT ON YOUR HEDGEHOG. Once he/she is clean rinse him well. You can add a few drops of olive oil to help prevent dry skin. Avoid shampoo in the eyes and nose. When the feet are dirty put a small amount of water in the sink and let it run through, the dirt will usually come off on its own. Your hedgehog will need to have it's nails clipped occasionally this is usually best done after it has had a bath as the warm water will soften the nail a bit. You can use regular nail clippers or cat nail clippers to do this however be very careful not to cut the quick.
Since a healthy hedgehog is a bit on the plump side naturally, determining the difference between a healthy animal's "chubby" condition and obesity can be somewhat difficult. Since there is such a wide variety of size in domestic stock these days, an obese hedgehog can be as little as 8 ounces to as much as 2 pounds in weight, so weight guidelines are of little use in identifying a fat hedgehog! Of far more use to you than a set of scales is a weekly or monthly visual inspection of your pet's front legs and chin. While a hedgehog in its normal trim will be a bit chubby in these two locations, an obese specimen will have a double chin and "ham-hocks" for legs and sometimes even rolls of fat under the arm-pits. Such animals will be so fat that they will even be incapable of rolling themselves into a ball! If your pet should become this fat eliminate all treats from its diet but do not reduce the amount of dry food - the primary source of necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals. If after a month you see no evidence of weight loss, change the type of dry food that you are feeding to one that has a fat content of at least 20 percent. The theory is that the added fat will cause your pet to "bulk-up" and eat less and will actually help it to lose weight.
Mites are extremely common in hedgehogs and sometimes live in bedding. It is wise to treat your hedgehog for mites twice a year to prevent them from living on oyur hedgie. Revolution for Cats seems to work great. I treat my herd twice a year and babies before they go to their new homes. You can ask for Revolution for Cats at your local vet. It's considered over the counter medication.
Missing quills/fungal/bacterial infections:
Hedgehogs are not known for being sickly critters but occasionally something might come up. Here is a solution that I have found that you can order online to help with any quill loss (after the hedgehog has quilled and reached adulthood) and also for dry flakey skin, baterial/fungal issues. It's always good to have on hand if this ever happens because it will clear the skin up very fast.