The Hedgehog as a Pet

One of the most difficult problems to get right when keeping a hedgehog as a pet is its diet. Since it isn't well adapted to its life in captivity, it tends to develop problems with obesity or even fatty liver.
The Hedgehog as a Pet

Last update: 02 August, 2022

The hedgehog has become a popular exotic pet today, as its size and appearance attract the attention of many people. However, this mammal is not a domesticated animal and isn’t as sociable as a dog or cat. This is one of the reasons why a hedgehog as a pet may not be a good option.

There are several species of hedgehogs naturally distributed throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. They are all part of the family Erinaceidae, where they are grouped with the moonrats. Continue reading this space and discover what a hedgehog as a pet is feasible.

What are hedgehogs like?

In general, hedgehogs are small mammals that measure between 10 and 30 centimeters (4 to 12 inches) in length. They’re characterized by an oval body covered by several rigid, hollow quills (or spines) that serve as a defense. If they feel threatened, they retract all their limbs and expose their quills to protect themselves, something similar to what turtles do when hiding in their shells.

A hedgehog’s face is elongated and ends in a small trunk. This gives them a cuddly appearance that complements their miniature-sized limbs. In addition, although their back is quite rough and hard, their belly has a softer consistency.

Hedgehog behavior

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals that spend much of their day sleeping, while at night they come out to forage and hunt. They’re quite solitary and only gather with their fellow species during the mating season. They’re also territorial and don’t usually let other specimens get too close to their space, and so it isn’t advisable to have more than one hedgehog as a pet.

These small mammals are very receptive to noises and strong smells, so any sudden change in their habitat could cause them stress. For this reason, neither is it a good idea to handle them for a long time or constantly. If you do, it could cause serious health problems and even death.

In general, hedgehogs love to live in quiet, dark environments. In fact, it is likely that during the first few days in its new home it will hide and not come out often. They may also expose their quills frequently, although all this is only to defend themselves against what they think is an aggressor.

Food

Hedgehogs are omnivorous animals, so there isn’t much of a problem with their food. In fact, there are commercial brands that produce food in the form of special feed for this mammal. However, it’s also necessary to vary the diet a little and introduce fresh food such as fruits or vegetables. Some of the fresh foods that can be offered to this pet are:

  • Apples (seedless)
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Chicken (cooked)
  • Crickets
  • Eggs (cooked)
  • Worms
  • Kiwis
  • Papaya
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Watermelon
  • Asparagus
  • Watermelon.

The hedgehog’s natural diet is based primarily on animal protein, so both insects and meat of animal origin is essential in its diet. However, a diet based on feed and some occasional fruits or vegetables is enough for it to live well. Moreover, hedgehog food can be substituted for cat food, as the nutrients it provides are similar.

Health

These animals are susceptible to different diseases throughout their lives. Among the most common are the following:

  • Cancer
  • Fatty liver
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Skin problems (dryness)
  • Obesity
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Gingivitis

Although many of these pathologies are quite common and relatively easy to manage in other animals, the problem with hedgehogs is that there aren’t many specialists. Therefore, there’s a risk that one of these diseases could end their life if it worsens.

The legal ownership of a hedgehog as a pet depends a lot on the country where you live. For example, in Mexico there’s no specific regulation that prevents keeping them in captivity, while in a European country such as Spain it’s forbidden to keep the following species:

  • African pygmy hedgehog
  • Egyptian or eared hedgehog
  • European hedgehog
  • Brown hedgehog

The same happens in several cities and states in the United States and Canada, so it’s always best to check the laws of your country before adopting this peculiar mammal. Otherwise, you could commit a crime that carries a financial penalty or even jail.

An African hedgehog.

Is it good to have a hedgehog as a pet?

Although there are no legal repercussions for keeping them as pets, hedgehogs don’t always make good pets. You need to remember that hedgehogs are not domestic animals, so they haven’t adapted to living with humans. In fact, these mammals don’t like to live with their owners or other pets, as they perceive them as possible aggressors.

Because of this, it isn’t possible to establish as close a relationship as with other small animals, such as hamsters or gerbils. In addition, the simple fact of touching it could cause stress and other physical consequences, so it isn’t a good idea to have it as a pet if you aren’t familiar with its natural behavior.

It’s clear that when you have a hedgehog as a pet, you shouldn’t expect to receive affection from the animal. This behavior doesn’t exist in its nature, so the interaction between owners and hedgehogs may never be close.

Although hedgehogs have a cute and cuddly appearance, the reality is that for most people they aren’t a good choice as a pet. In addition, the cost of keeping an exotic pet is quite high, and so it’s always advisable to look for another, more affordable option. Rest assured that there are several species that would love to be your life companion!

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What Do Hedgehogs Eat?

What do hedgehogs eat? These animals are omnivorous, but have a predilection for insects and worms. Find out more here.



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  • Goertzen, K. (2012). Pet African Hedgehogs. A complete Guide to Care. Recuperado el 22 de junio de 2022, disponible en: http://www.westcoasthedgehogs.com/files/hedgehogbook/PetAfricanHedgehogs2-byKimberlyGoertzen.pdf
  • Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente. (2013) Real Decreto 630/2013, de 2 de agosto, por el que se regula el Catálogo español de especies exóticas invasoras. Recuperado el 22 de junio de 2022, disponible en: https://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2013-8565

The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.