Choosing a Staple Diet For Your Hedgehog

Before you get your hedgehog, he or she will need food to eat. If you’ve done a little research in the area, you may be aware that a high quality cat food is generally recommended over hedgehog specific formulations. But which one do you choose?

Choosing a staple diet can be one of the most stressful decisions to make. I know, I’ve been there. And the voices in my head were not helping:

“I know to feed high quality cat food, but there are a million choices!”

“What if I pick the wrong one?”

“What if I mess up my hedgehog??”

We all want what’s best for our little friends, and being told as an inexperienced owner to make a choice out of dozens of different foods can be anxiety inducing.

Here, I will discuss the points I consider when analyzing a food and deciding whether or not it’s something I want to feed to Nestor.

 

Diet Pinterest Graphic-min

 

Why Cat Food?

Although they do seem to favour insects, a hedgehog is actually an opportunistic omnivore, meaning they will eat a variety of different foods depending on food availability. Dogs are also opportunistic omnivores, but the kibble pieces are often too big to offer to a hedgehog unless they are broken up into smaller pieces. This is one of the reasons why hedgehog owners stick to cat food.

Cats are classified as obligate carnivores, meaning they only eat meat. But you know how food made for hedgehogs isn’t the healthiest choice for them? Well the same goes for cats. Many commercial cat foods contain grains, fruits and vegetables. Not ideal for a carnivore, but it suits our little hedgehogs just fine.

 

Nutritional Content

The 3 macronutrients to look out for when analyzing a potential food are protein, fat and fibre. The ideal food for your hedgehog would be within these guidelines:

 

Protein

35% maximum

Fat

15% maximum

Fibre

5% minimum

 

The percentages reported on the bag don’t account for the amount of moisture in the food, which will vary from brand to brand. So to compare different foods, you must calculate the dry matter basis (DMB) for each nutrient to account for the varying moisture levels.

To find the dry matter basis for each nutrient, subtract the % moisture listed from 100. Then divide the % nutrient listed by this number, and multiply by 100.

 

DMB Calculation-min

 

So if protein is listed at 30%, and moisture is listed at 10%, the amount of protein in the food is actually 33% based on dry matter.

Even when I’m not comparing two different foods, I will try to keep the nutrient levels close to the guidelines based on the dry matter basis.

Once you get used to the calculation and have done it a few times, it does become quicker to do on your phone.

 

Ingredients 

High quality ingredients are required to maintain our good health, and the same goes for our pets.

This doesn’t mean you have to go through a list of 20 ingredients with a fine-tooth comb for every food you are checking out. Ingredients legally have to be listed in order of concentration, from highest to lowest. The first 5 ingredients in the list make up the bulk of the food, so you can usually get a pretty good idea about the food quality just by looking at the first 1 or 2 lines or so.

An ingredient to avoid is anything labeled as a by-product. A meat by-product is basically anything that is not the meat itself. While some ingredients such as ground bone and organ meat can be part of a healthy diet, there is a lot of power in ambiguity. By being ambiguous in the listing of ingredients, it gives the company leeway to put pretty much anything that is leftover from meat production and the quality can be quite variable.

For this reason, I look for the listing of specific ingredients such as “chicken meal” or “duck meal” instead of “poultry meal”, and stay away from anything listed as a by-product so that I know the source of protein in the food is high quality.

Other ingredients to avoid are any corn or fish products, since hedgehogs can’t digest these easily (when would a hedgehog eat a fish in the wild?). Some foods will have fish oils listed for their fatty acid content, but it is usually so far beyond the main ingredients that the levels are pretty much negligible. Anything with a fish meal listed in the ingredients may cause digestive distress and should be avoided.

Basically, what you are looking for is a food that lists mostly specific types of meat and vegetables within the first 5 ingredients. If it sounds yummy to you, it is most likely a good high quality food for your hedgie.

 

Choosing One

When actually making a choice between one brand and another, it comes down to a balancing act between high quality ingredients and nutritional content.

Maybe the fat content is a little higher than the maximum recommended, but you have a baby hog that can handle a little higher fat content and the first 5 ingredients are solid.

Maybe there’s a filler in the first 5 ingredients, but the nutrient content is well within the recommendations.

The goal is to find the best food that is possibly available to you. The perfect food doesn’t do your hedgie a lot of good if you can’t obtain it easily.

You are not going to mess up your hedgehog, just do the best you can with what you’re given.

 

Nestor’s Food Switch

On our most recent check-up at the vet’s office, we found that Nestor is starting to gain a lot of weight and were told that it’s starting to be excessive for his frame. So we were to watch him carefully and ensure that he doesn’t gain much more.

Nestor is a good example of how a food that previously worked in the past may not work throughout life.

When we first got Nestor, the food we were advised to get was a little higher in fat and protein than recommended. But the ingredients were awesome, and he was a very active runner so he maintained a good weight.

Now that he isn’t responding as well to his food in adulthood, I found myself in the same boat as most new hedgehog owners. What food do I feed him now?

It was important to me that I could find his food locally so it would be easy to obtain, so I went one of our local pet store chain to scope out all of the different brands.

I wanted to challenge myself to find a grain-free cat food, because I wanted to mimic what an African pygmy hedgehog would eat in the wild as closely as I could.

So starting in the grain-free isle, I took a quick look at each brand’s ingredient list and nutrient values. Most grain-free brands are super high in protein, so it didn’t take too long to decide whether or not a food was appropriate.

After about 15 minutes or so, I found one brand that would be an appropriate switch: Blue Freedom Weight Control Chicken Recipe. The nutrient levels are well within the recommended range for a hedgehog and the main ingredients listed are all high quality.

A minor downside to this food is that there is a filler listed within the 5 main ingredients. A major downside to this food is that it is only sold in an 11-pound bag! Holy hedgehog, that is a lot of food!

It’s not 100% perfect, but we feel it’s the most appropriate food we can find. You may find another food to be more appropriate and better suited for your little one, and that’s ok.

As long as you try your best to ensure good nutrition and good ingredients, then it is the right choice.

 

What brand do you feed your hedgie and how did you decide on it? Let us know in the comments below!

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5 Popular Types of Hedgehog Habitats Owners Buy or Build

So many decisions to make before even buying a hedgehog! Here we discuss some options to consider when choosing a habitat.

Disclaimer – This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase a product through these links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. However, this does not impact my reviews or comparisons.

 

So many decisions to make before even buying a hedgehog! Deciding on what to use for your hedgie’s home is a big one, and the fact that there is a lack of products made directly for hedgehogs makes this decision even harder.

Ultimately, your decision will depend on: i) quality of life, ii) personal affordability, and iii) feasibility for your particular area. Here are some options to consider.

Cage Graphic-min

 

Critter Nation Cages

I absolutely love these! Critter Nation cages are wired cages marketed for ferrets.

Since they are wired cages, they offer great ventilation to ensure your hedgie is getting enough fresh air cycled through.

They come in single or double-layered sizes, so it is very space efficient if you would like to own more than one hedgehog. Personally, I’ve been keeping these set-ups in my memory bank for when I start a breeding program (sometime in the distant future).

Be aware; because they are marketed as two story cages for ferrets, you will have to create a fully flat bottom on the top layer with a board or something similar if you plan on housing two animals at the same time.

These are on the expensive end as far as cages go, and a more adventurous hedgehog can actually climb the wires or get their head stuck in between them. For this reason, the bars must be covered past the height your hedgehog can reach.

 

Plastic Bottomed Wire Cages

Prevue Hendryx Small Animal Cage
Nestor lives in a Prevue Hendryx small animal cage with an extra deep bin. He has about 4.1 sq ft. of living space.

Aside from the critter nation cages, there are also wire cages with a plastic bin for a bottom. I have to admit, I’m a little biased towards wire cages because I like that they offer a good amount of ventilation so that there is always airflow through the cage.

This also means that heat isn’t held in as much, so it may take a higher wattage lamp to heat the cage to ambient hedgehog temperature (72 – 80 ºF).

These can be found anywhere from the midrange to high price point when it comes to commercially available cages.

As with the Critter Nation cages, there is a climbing hazard. If the tray isn’t a deep tray, you may have to cover the wires to discourage climbing.

 

Vivariums

Reptile vivariums are quite popular among hedgehog owners because the walls of the cage can’t be climbed.

Vivariums usually open almost completely from the side, so cleaning is easier than the smaller openings that the wire cages can have.

They are designed to hold in heat, so they can be prone to being overheated past 80°F and don’t offer as much free airflow through the cage as wire cages. When using vivariums as hedgehog habitats,  the use of a thermostat is ever more important so that the lamp will turn off once it reaches your desired temperature.

If you are considering a vivarium for your hedgehog habitat, it’s better to buy new to avoid sicknesses from any microbe another species of animal might carry. I’ve heard horror stories of fungus infections, even when the habitat has been cleaned with bleach!

 

Cubes and Coroplast (C&C)

C&C Cage - Phil Whitehouse
The same type of C&C cages used for guinea pigs can be made for hedgehogs too! Photo by Phil Whitehouse.

If you are pretty crafty (unlike myself), you can make your own DIY hedgehog cage out of storage cubes and cut coroplast for the floor and walls.

C&C cages are popular among hedgehog owners because of the versatility. You can make any shape of cage you want, in any size! And they offer free airflow if uncovered.

There is still a climbing hazard as they are wired, so the coroplast walls should come up past where your hedgie can jump up and reach.

If you craft a cage yourself, they are inexpensive relative to the commercially available wire cages or Critter Nation cages.

If, however, you are like me and are not the craftiest of people, there are options to buy these types of cages. If you choose to buy this type of cage, the cost is close to a regular small animal wired cage with a plastic bottom.

 

Plastic Bins

I see less of plastic storage bins used as cages, but they are still in use.

They offer more ventilation than vivariums, and if they have high enough sides there is no risk of your hedgie climbing out and hurting itself.

It can be difficult to find a bin with adequate floor space for hedgehog. Some (more crafty) owners fix this by connecting two storage bins together by a PVC pipe or some other type of tunnel.

 

Some Things to Consider

One crucial thing to consider when picking out your cage is floor space. An adult hedgehog needs a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space.

Many plastic bins (as well as wired cages with a plastic bin for flooring) will taper down at the bottom, decreasing the amount of usable floor space you actually have. So be sure to measure at the bottom of the cage to get an accurate measurement.

Bigger is also not always better either. Hedgehogs are not fans of big wide-open spaces, so if you have a huge cage you will need to fill the open space with toys for your little friends. It’s not a bad problem to have, just be aware that you will need to fill the extra space.

If you would like to craft a multi-level cage, as some owners do, ensure that you fashion a ramp with sides so that your hedgie can’t walk off the edge (some owners like to use tunnels). Your hedgie will walk off the edge if it can.

All in all, for which ever type of cage you choose ensure that you are aware of and correct for any hazards it can present, and that there is lots of room for your hedgie to run around.

 

Did you find this helpful? What kind of home does your hedgie live in? Let us know in the comments below!

Where do I buy a hedgehog from?

Note: Prices ranges are similar in USD and CAD. If you are planning on importing your hedgehog across the border, the ranges will vary depending on the exchange rate.

So you’ve been doing a bunch of research on pet hedgehogs, and you’re ready to make the leap and get a little friend of your very own. Where exactly can you buy one?

The online hedgehog community is heavily pro-breeder, but is this the right choice for you? To help make this decision a little less overwhelming, here are some pros and cons to each of the avenues you could take to purchase your hedgehog.

Breeder

 Private breeders are usually people who are super passionate about hedgehogs and want to do their part to maintain a strong population. In the United States, you can be a hobby breeder if your herd is no larger than 3 intact (not spayed) females. But once your herd grows larger than that, you must be have a USDA license to be able to run your business. Here in Canada, licensing may depend on the province the business is in. Be sure the review the Animal Care Act for that province to ensure you are buying from a licensed breeder.

A big pro to getting a hedgehog from a breeder is that the family lineages of their breeding lines have been pedigreed over several generations. This allows them to avoid inbreeding and carrying over serious genetic diseases such as Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS). For this reason, many breeders will even have a lifetime guarantee against WHS.

The biggest complaint I hear about breeders is the investment; you pay quality prices for quality animals.

Sometimes I like to “window shop” on hedgehog breeder’s websites to look at cute baby hedgehog pictures. I love looking at the different colours these guys come in! I have found prices ranging from about $150 to $250, depending on the colour. Black and albino hedgies tend to have a higher selling price. Some breeders are willing to send their hedgehogs to their fur-ever home anywhere in their country at the new owners expense. If your desired breeder isn’t in your area, you could be paying upwards of $150 to get the new addition to your family sent to you by airmail.

To ensure your chosen breeder is reputable, contact the business and ask questions about how they raise their hedgehogs and a few hedgehog care questions. A knowledgeable breeder should be able to give you detailed answers about how they ensure the highest quality of their hoglets.

Pet Store

 Buying animals from pet stores has become more controversial over the past decade and a half or so, and this controversy definitely extends to small animals as well as dogs and cats.

The biggest complaint about pet stores is that the store acts as a middleman between the customer and the breeder, so the customer has no idea where the animals are coming from. This leaves room for non-reputable or irresponsible breeders to sell their animals without the knowledge of the consumer.

Big chain pet stores have fought this reputation by making statements saying that they only deal with high quality breeders. However Taylor Nicole Dean, a popular pet-tuber, discusses her experiences working for a big chain pet store and states that even though animals were never sold sick, not all animals came into the store in the best of shape.

 

“Over the near two years I worked there (referring to “Petshmo”) we continuously received animals in awful condition”

Taylor Nicole Dean

 

Aside from the source of the animals, hedgehogs are exotic pets and therefore can be waiting in the store for long periods of time before getting adopted to their fur-ever home. I’ve seen hedgehogs as old as 2 years old in a pet store. At that point they are considered geriatric by veterinarian standards and I would consider them rescues. An older hedgehog would most likely take longer to bond with a new owner, is susceptible to more veterinary work being needed and is less likely to be adopted at a pet store where many customers are looking for younger animals.

So why buy from a pet store? Pet stores offer a physical location to buy your fur-baby if a breeder isn’t in your area. This gives you a chance to interact with the animal a little and to see how well the animal interacts with you. They also usually charge less than a specific hedgehog breeder would, and all of your hedgehog supplies can be purchased in the same store. Although they don’t offer a lifetime guarantee against WHS, most stores offer a 30 day refund policy if your new pet should happen to pass away within that time frame.

Rescue

 A rescue is a hedgehog that was previously owned and needs to be rehomed. Some big cities have small animal rescue shelters. Rescue hedgehogs could also be found on sites like Kijiji or through some breeders.

Much like buying a hedgehog from a pet store, the history of the animal (including age) could be unknown. Rescues will be older animals, so bonding will take a longer amount of time and more vet visits could be warranted.

So why buy a rescue hedgehog? For starters, you would be giving a little hedgies in need of love a second start in life. All hedgies need love, and rescue shelters in general aren’t the first place people look for exotic pets. If you know you are a patient person, you may be just what these little guys need!

They are also cheaper to buy than hedgehogs from a breeder or pet store; the price can range from $50 to $80 depending on your area. The hedgehog community on social media is well populated with owners of rescue hogs as well as with original owners, and the relationship between owner and hedgie looks to be just as fulfilling and happy.

There is no right or wrong way to buy your hedgehog. The best you can do is to research multiple sources available to you and make a decision that is right for you. Passionate pet owners have passionate opinions on this matter, but the final decision is ultimately yours to make.

How We Bought Our First and Second Hedgehog

I’ve wanted a hedgehog for years before my husband finally agreed to add a pet to our family. The only breeder I found in our area was not active anymore, so we started to look around at some pet stores. When we found our little guy at a big chain pet store, a 6-week-old dark brown baby, we bought all our supplies at the store and brought him home that night. He was the sweetest little thing! Not shy at all! He dove right into his food (we named his Ghrelin) and fell asleep out in the open in my hand.

Within 3 days I came home from work to find him unresponsive. I called around to every vet clinic that accepted exotic animals and funny enough the only clinic that was available to accept a hedgehog on an emergency was right next to the pet store where we originally bought our hedgehog! The vet informed me that little Ghrelin had indeed passed, and that given the information I gave them it sounded like it was most likely due to a congenital condition there from birth.

When I told them we had bought it from the pet store next door, they personally went to the store to speak with the manager. They did this as I was waiting in the consultation room, so I have no idea what was said. After all was said and done, they gave me a full refund in the form of a gift certificate no questions asked (except for proof of purchase of course).

The store offered to replace the hedgehog, but I was too heartbroken at that time. It may have only been 3 days but Ghrelin burrowed in to my heart and I loved him.

After a few months, we decided to try again. I found a smaller local pet store that sells hedgehogs. This particular pet store didn’t manage a stock of hedgehogs. The owner informed me that a personal friend of theirs breeds hedgehogs, but doesn’t deal with the general public. They had an arrangement where they could get a hedgehog directly from their breeder friend when there was interest in the store.

Being a little mistrusting at this time I asked if I could see the hedgehogs before purchasing them, but I could not as the breeder did not want visitors on their property. The owner assured me that the animals were all high quality and that his customers have raved about how well their hedgehogs have worked out.

We paid the shop and about a month and a half later we brought Nestor home. Nestor snuggled up close to our hearts in no time and he remains to be a wonderful addition to our family!

Knowing what I know now, I could tell that Ghrelin was either too young (and therefore we were lied to about his age) or too underweight to be sold. Nestor was easily double his size, and he was only a week older when we got him!

I think that the arrangement the smaller local pet store had for their animals was a fair and humane way for a pet store to sell hedgehogs. The animals aren’t taken from place to place before getting adopted out, and was also not subjected to the stress of potential owners handling them and poking at them during the day.

Now that I have experience as a hedgehog owner, I’m going to look into rescuing an older hedgie if I am ever looking for one again. If there are any pet store managers reading this, please don’t keep exotic animals in store!

What’s your story? Where did you buy your hedgie from? If you don’t have one yet, where are you thinking of getting one? Let us know in the comments section below!