Hedgehogs sure are sharp little creatures. These mammals are part of the Erinaceinae subfamily and there are seventeen different species under five genera found in the world. Unlike you may think, these spiny animals are not related to porcupines.
These cute creatures were once quite scarce but since the hedgehog became a popular pet, breeders all over the world started investing in these tiny creatures and their populations grew dramatically. It is, however, important to note that it is illegal to keep a hedgehog as a pet in certain countries like some US and European countries.
Hedgehogs are naturally found in the wild but they are also quite popular as pets and with breeders. Despite their spines, they are relatively easy to keep and these animals are quite simple to care for.
All species of hedgehogs are omnivores which means they enjoy consuming both plant and animal food sources. These creatures might have small mouths but their razor-sharp teeth and strong jaws are designed to bite through the tough shells of insects and kill snakes.
Being omnivorous, hedgehogs do have quite a versatile diet. It is also important for pet owners or breeders to offer a healthy and nutritious diet to keep these animals happy and healthy. Here is a quick look at the best foods to offer your hedgehog;
Hedgehogs cannot get sufficient water from foods to stay hydrated. They need access to clean fresh water at all times. Pet owners often choose to add a stoppered water bottle to hedgehog cages so their tiny friends will always have as much freshwater as they need.
You can purchase commercial hedgehog food. These foods contain all the needed nutrition that hedgehogs need to survive or to stay healthy. If hedgehog foods are not available in your region then you can also choose to offer cat food. Meat or chicken cat dry foods have a high protein intake and are a good alternative for your pet.
Hedgehogs can be successfully kept on dry foods but it is best to also offer your little friend some moist foods as well. I nature, hedgehogs will consume all sorts of moist foods such as slugs. In captivity, you can choose to offer canned cat or dog food that offers lots of protein. Meat and chicken foods are the best picks for hedgehog feeding.
Hedgehogs love to nibble on fruits and veggies. You can add tiny amounts of foods such as beans, peas, corn, apples, carrots, melon, watermelon, berries and more to your hedgehog’s cage. It is best to offer a variety of foods and to only offer small portions so your hedgehog won’t overfeed on these foods. Always remove leftover fruits and veggies the next day to keep your animal from consuming rotten foods.
In nature, hedgehogs mainly consume insects and other small animals like reptiles. Hedgehogs are very keen to consume insects, snails, frogs, toads, snakes and may even enjoy consuming eggs. Pet owners can choose to offer these foods as treats in addition to their dry food. These food sources are packed with lots of protein and are very healthy for hedgehogs.
Being omnivorous, the diets of hedgehogs can vary quite a lot. In addition to fruits and veggies, your hedgehog may enjoy consuming plant materials such as grassroots and mushrooms. Hedgehogs may also choose to nibble at odd food sources around the house.
It is best to keep your hedgehog away from foods that contain lots of spices and flavorings. These animals do have sensitive constitutions and can be very fragile at times.
Wild and domesticated hedgehog is fairly easy to feed. The feeding quantity and consistency for wild and domesticated hedgehogs do however differ quite a lot.
Lots of people love to feed wild hedgehogs to ensure their survival and so they can observe these creatures in their natural environment. If you choose to feed a wild hedgehog then remember not to offer too much food and to always offer food at irregular times. Hedgehog can quickly become domesticated and can start to rely on your food offerings for survival.
Domestic hedgehogs are mostly kept in a cage. Your hedgehog should always have access to fresh water and you can choose to keep a bowl with the dry cat or hedgehog food in the cage at all times. This allows your hedgehog to feed whenever he or she feels hungry.
You can also offer occasional supplementary foods such as fruits and veggies but keep quantities limited so your hedgehog won’t overeat. Occasional or even daily treats such as insects can also be offered to your hedgehog in addition to their general dry food.
The amount of food a hedgehog consumes depends on its size and some simply have a bigger appetite than others.
Hedgehogs sleep during the day and will only forage for food from late evening to early morning. They hardly ever eat anything during the day time but at night they can consume quite a lot of food considering their size.
Hedgehogs also hibernate during winter time which affects their food consumption. During the hibernation stage, the body temperature of these animals drops to match their surroundings and they enter a stage of torpor.
The animal seems to be asleep and won’t consume much if any, food during this time. Instead, they rely on fat reserves for energy and nutrition.
In autumn, hedgehogs consume a lot more food to store fat for hibernation. They can also be pretty hungry in spring right after hibernation. Their appetites are moderate during summertime.
Wild hedgehogs can spend their entire night hunting for food. These hedgehogs often consume more food than domesticated hedgehog because they travel further, work harder and burn more energy to locate foods. Food consumption depends on what is available in the area.
Domesticated hedgehogs can consume anything from one teaspoon to one tablespoon of dry food in one night. They may also enjoy occasional treats in addition to these foods.
A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet. In some regions, they can also be called pups or urchins. Hoglets should remain undisturbed at their mother’s sides 5 – 10 days after birth. Hedgehog mothers can become stressed if disturbed and can reject the hoglets.
The mother and hoglets must also be kept separate from cagemates as some hedgehogs may choose to eat the young or this could also cause rejection from the mother.
Hoglets are weaned for 4 – 6 weeks. After 4 weeks, they need to be offered additional foods because suckling will be reduced. Hoglets can be offered wet cat food (not fish-based) or you can soak dry kitten food in water and offer as extra feed. At 7 weeks, hoglets are fully weaned and can be removed from the mother. They can then be offered the same foods as adult hedgehogs but in smaller pieces.
If you do need to care for a rejected baby hoglet then you will need to raise it yourself. These tiny animals can be fed using plastic syringes on sheep’s milk. Small amounts of a raw egg can also be added to a specialized milk formula. It is always best to consult with a vet when you try to raise an orphaned hoglet.
Wild hedgehogs consume foods they find in their surroundings. They are creatures of the night and forage after dark. Wild hedgehogs are mostly insectivores and will consume any small reptiles they can find including snakes, lizards, and frogs. They also enjoy consuming a variety of insects like snails, grasshoppers and more.
These animals will also consume natural plants like grassroots, wild berries and any other fruits they can find in their environment. They also love consuming small birds eggs should they happen to come upon a nest.
Any animal with teeth may bite. Wild hedgehogs especially can lash out and bite you if they feel threatened or if you come too close to them.
Domesticated tame hedgehogs are not too likely to bite. They can, however, bite when your hands smell like something tasty to eat or when they become afraid.
In nature, hedgehogs have quite a lot of predators. They try to avoid these predators by curling into a ball with their quills pointing outward. This defensive method is effective for warding off some predators but the animal is quite vulnerable to a great many.
Animals like birds of prey, foxes, ferrets, weasels and more can kill and eat hedgehogs. Domestic hedgehogs can also fall victim to your pet dog if these animals were not introduced to each other at an early age.
Hedgehogs are fascinating creatures. They are beloved pets in plenty of homes all over the world and these tiny animals play a huge role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.