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Back when I was setting up my hedgehog’s habitat for the first time, 2 issues made me completely neurotic: food and heating.
I felt like no amount of research was enough the make me feel confident about properly setting up a warm home for my hedge-baby. My hedgehog could literally go into hibernation and die. That’s a lot of pressure for an inexperienced owner!
So allow me to say to you what I needed to hear:
Calm down, take a breath! It will be alright, the fact that you are here and doing research is evidence of that.
Yes, temperature control is very important for the maintenance of good health. But you have a little more wiggle room than you think you do.
The optimum temperature range for an African pygmy hedgehog is 23 – 25 ºC or 73 – 78 ºF.
If the temperature of their habitat dips below this range, they can go into hibernation. Even though they have the instinct to hibernate, their bodies aren’t equipt to deal with a hibernation attempt. So if this happens they will die.
On the other side, if the temperature becomes too hot they can succumb to heat stroke.
There are many different tools you can use to achieve these temperatures in your hedgehog’s habitat. Here I discuss these tools, as well as give my personal recommendation.
Ceramic Heat Emitters (CHEs)
These are more commonly referred to as heat lamps. They come in two parts: the ceramic bulb and the dome.
CHEs come in 3 different power ratings: 60W, 100W and 150W. A 60W will be too weak to heat a cage big enough for a hedgehog on its own.
The 100W bulb and dome are what most hedgehog owners buy, but if you have a larger than usual cage (over 6 sq ft of floor space) you may wish to go with the 150W setup and positioning the lamp on an angle to cover more floor space.
There are a couple things to be aware of when buying CHE setups:
1. Ensure the dome is rated for the bulb you are using
The bulb and dome are purchased separately, so you must be careful to match the rating of the dome with the bulb you are using.
For example: if you choose to use a 150W CHE, you must buy a dome rated for 150W.
Bad things will happen if you buy a 100W dome and you decide last minute to use a 150W bulb (fire hazard!).
The dome ratings are the maximum it can handle, so you can safely put a 100W bulb in a 150W dome.
2. Purchase the dome and bulb from the same company
We bought our heat setup from a big pet supply chain when we were setting up our hedgehog cage. There were only one type of dome and one type of bulb available for us to buy, and they were from different companies.
When we brought it home the threads didn’t match up and it wasn’t going in with ease.
We brought it back to the store because the bulb didn’t fit the dome properly. The manager of the store forced it in hard to show us that it did indeed fit.
The bulb should be going in smoothly. If you have to fight against a lot of resistance, that’s a good indication that it shouldn’t go in the socket.
When we unscrewed the bulb again, we saw that the threads were now bent and crooked from forcing it in the socket.
CHEs are a favourite heating device amongst hedgehog owners because they heat the surrounding air and the hedgehog doesn’t have to make contact with it to reap the benefits.
Be sure to also purchase a thermostat so that the cage doesn’t heat up too much. Simply set the maximum temperature, place the probe somewhere in the cage. If it ever reaches that temperature it will shut the lamp off. When the temperature drops below the settings again, the lamp will turn on again.
Microwavable heating pads can be used for a temporary heating solution when your hedgehog is out of its cage, but you will want to use an electric heating pad for inside the habitat. It’s wise to ensure there is a layer of fabric between the hedgehog and the pad so that your hedgie doesn’t get burned!
Electric small animal heating pads are commercially available and are safer than just a generic heating pad. But you should still put it in a sleeve so that your hedgie isn’t in direct contact with the pad to reduce the risk of burns.
Hedgehogs seem to really enjoy heating pads! The only downside is that your hedgie needs to be in contact with the heat source for it to be effective and it does nothing for the ambient air temperature.
Hand warmers are not meant to be a primary source of heat, but they do make great emergency heat sources! It’s worth it to have a couple on hand just in case.
I like to throw one or two into my small animal carrier when I’m moving Nestor during the colder seasons.
Both re-usable or one-use will do the job.
Just as with the heating pads, ensure that your hedgehog does not make direct contact with the hand warmer to reduce the risk of burns.
Some owners like to make sleeves made from fleece or felt.
Again, your hedgie needs to be in contact with the warmer in order to reap the benefits and it does nothing to warm the ambient air of the cage or carrier.
An alternative to providing heat to only your hedgehog’s cage is to ensure the whole room is above 23ºC (73ºF).
The average energy output of a space heater is 1500W, leading to a higher energy bill in comparison of running a mere 150W CHE! But it may be worthwhile if you are housing a few animals in one room, such as for a breeding program.
Some newer models also have built-in thermostats and will turn off once an ideal temperature has been reached.
If you are planning on using a space heater, please take extra care with cage placement within the room. You definitely don’t want your hedgehog cage blasted with 1500W of power any more than you want to leave the cage under the air conditioner!
For a primary heating source for your hedgehog habitat, I recommend something that heats the surrounding air such as a CHE or space heater.
Too many times I read stories about emergency hibernation attempts, and more often than not the main heating source is something that requires direct contact such as a heating pad.
Heating pads and hand warmers are good heating sources to use, but should only be used as secondary or emergency sources.
It’s also worth noting that every square inch of your cage doesn’t need to be the same temperature. In fact, it’s best to have some areas of the cage cooler than others.
This lets your hedgehog regulate its own temperature and gives him or her the ability to escape from the heat if it’s just not feeling it that day. As long as the temperature is always between 23 – 25 ºC or 73 – 78 ºF, a fluctuation of a few degrees won’t hurt your hedgehog.
In Nestor’s 4.1 sq ft home, I set it up a 100W CHE in the middle of his cage but slightly off to the right. The far left side is warmed slightly but is a little cooler than directly under his lamp or the far right side.
We also have a microwavable heating pad and reusable hand warmers as emergency heating sources.
We have never had a hibernation attempt, and we live in a fairly cold climate. Last year we reached temperatures colder than Mars!
“In our experience, hedgehogs are more able to adapt to subtle temperature changes if they’re used to regular fluctuation”
No matter what you use to keep your little hedgie warm, the name of the game is to account for the climate in your area and to keep them within their ideal temperature range at all times.
As long as their little bellies feel warm to the touch, you have yourself a happy healthy little hog.
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