FAQ - Basic Needs - Part 1

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alpayton

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Written by jandshyne:

A Cage or other suitable enclosure: Some hedgie caretakers are happy to let their hedgies free roam in a room of their house. This is acceptable providing your hedgie’s safety has been considered to the fullest extent. If you choose to allow your hedgie to be a free roaming pet you will need to make sure all electrical cords are well out of reach. You will need to make sure the room is free of anything the hedgie could ingest and possibly choke on. When a hedgie sees something they think might be edible or a toy they can easily play with it or try to eat it and end up choking. This means the room should be checked daily to make sure no one’s lost a button, snap, zipper, etc… and also the floor should be kept completely cleared of hairs or threads your hedgie could possibly get wrapped around his leg. Also important to keep in mind is that hedgies LOVE to eat paper and tear up paper. You will need to make sure all magazine wracks and shelves housing books, newspapers, magazines, etc… are out of reach. Not only is it quite the mess should they get in to paper but in large amounts in can cause intestinal blockages and make them ill. Not to mention some of the dyes used in ink are not good for them to ingest. You’ll need to make certain your hedgie can not get out of the room and wander in to other areas in the house that are not “hedgie proofed” and that other animals can not get in to the room and possibly injure your hedgehog (not to mention get poked themselves). Finally you’ll have to always be mindful of your hedgie’s position in the room. They are easily stepped on or squished and they can easily get shut up in to the foot rest of recliners. Any of those things could be very harmful and even fatal. Aside from that you will have to make certain your hedgie can reach his food, water, and litter box at all times and always keep in mind some hedgehogs do not want to be potty trained and sometimes potty training them fully is really difficult.

If you choose to cage your hedgehog you will want to make sure the cage is set up ahead of time and fully stocked with hedgie necessities.

A food bowl and water bottle or bowl: Your hedgehog will need a food dish. You will want a fairly shallow dish made of a sturdy or heavy material such as ceramic. Corning Ware leftover dishes make wonderful hedgie food dishes because they’re shallow and heavy enough it’s difficult to tip them over. They’re also easy to clean. A small plastic cat dish is also acceptable but remember hedgehogs will move things around their cage in the evening and often lighter plastic dishes will get tipped over. You may need a couple of these if you plan to feed your hedgehog fresh foods. Fresh food dishes should be washed out each day and those containing dry kibble should be washed out as needed (often hedgies will sit in their dish to eat and will soil the food) or at least every other day. We dump out all food and wash the dishes daily whether it’s dry kibble or fresh foods.

A water source will also be necessary. Many breeders use water bottles so chances are your hedgehog is going to be partial to a bottle over a bowl or dish. This is something you should always ask of the breeder before bringing your hedgehog home. Once they are used to one or the other it’s sometimes difficult for them to switch. If you use a water bowl or dish it will need to be dumped and re-filled several times a day and you will need to make certain it’s too heavy to dump over. Hedgehogs will soil the dish with bedding, food, poop, etc… so you must maintain sanitary water conditions. Water bottles should be dumped, washed, and re-filled at least every other day. If your new hedgehog is used to a water bottle and you would like to switch to a bowl (or vice versa), try offering both for several days. Your hedgehog should get the hang of the new choice on his own but you should never just switch them without giving them some time to adjust and learn to drink from the new source. Once you are certain he is using the dispenser of your choice then and only then can you remove the other. Hedgehogs can dehydrate rapidly so please make sure they always have fresh water.

Bedding/Liner & Sleeping Box/Bag: Your hedgehog will need some type of bedding or liner. They shouldn’t be left on the cage surface whether it is glass, wood, or plastic without some kind of bedding or liner. As with all small animals Cedar bedding is absolutely not to be used. Hedgehogs have very sensitive respiratory tracts and the Phenols in Cedar can damage the lungs irreparably. Recycled beddings such as Care Fresh, Yesterday’s News, etc… can be used but because hedgehogs love paper some find their hedgehog eating large amounts of this type of bedding. If you notice your hedgehog has developed a taste for it you will have to choose a different bedding. Kiln dried pine or Aspen may also be used. Many hedgehogs like these types of beddings and will burrow in them. If you have a male hedgehog you will have to check him daily, males have been known to get pine or aspen slivers stuck in their penile sheath which can be very dangerous and sometimes life threatening. You must check your male daily to ensure this doesn’t happen and if it does you must remove the sliver immediately.

Some people choose to use liners in their cages made of fleece, vellux, or corduroy. A Vellux blanket cut in to squares makes a good liner choice because it doesn’t fray. If however your hedgehog is a digger they can dig in to the vellux and get their nails caught in the threads at the center of the vellux, should this occur you will have to choose a different kind of liner. If you have the ability to sew a fleece liner works just fine. You should make it double layered and sew the seams in to the center avoiding any exposed loose threads your hedgie could get wrapped around their tiny feet. Sherry Songhurst at Pins & Needles in Colorado makes wonderful custom cage liners that last and last. They are machine washable and sewn with hedgie limbs in mind. I highly recommend having two or three liners in case one gets soiled. Chances are you will find yourself liner-less if you don’t have a backup.

If you choose to use a liner you will have to litter box train your hedgehog to keep your liners clean. A corner litter pan like those used for ferrets works well for this. Another option is a shallow pan under the wheel, hedgies poop when they wheel and this seems to be a good way to potty train. Hedgehog potty training is un-predictable at best. Hedgehogs are creatures of habit and prefer cleanliness, they choose a corner and they use that corner as a toilet. If you wish to potty train your hedgehog, your best bet is to let them choose the corner and then place their litter box in that corner. Litter boxes can be filled with regular cat litter (not the clumping kinds, they have chemicals in them that are toxic to hedgehogs), pine or aspen bedding or pellets, or washed sand. If you choose washed sand your hedgehog may play in the sand so you will need to be prepared for that. If your hedgehog goes potty outside of the litter box, quickly pick the feces up with a tissue and place it in the litter box (sans tissue of course). Hopefully your hedgehog will then find it there and learn to use the litter box for toileting. When your hedgehog uses the litter box it’s a good idea to reward them with their favorite treat, a mealworm, silkworm, yogurt, etc… This further encourages the use of the litter box. This can be a painstaking process and sometimes it can seem hopeless. Some hedgehogs just don’t get the hang of it. Consistency is the key, remember to always place poop you find outside the litter box back in to the litter box and reward your hedgehog for using the litter box. Eventually he should get the hang of it.

Your hedgehog will need a sleeping box or bag. In the wild they will build burrows, sleep under rocks, in the burrows other animals have left behind, under boxes, and even in rubbish piles during the day. You
will need a sleeping box or hedgie bag that allows them room to turn around and get situated but also feels snug enough and secure enough to allow them to sleep without fear of predators and distractions. A hedgie bag from Pins & Needles is a wonderful choice. It allows them to snuggle up and feel secure and keeps them warm in colder climates. A small animal nest box or roll is also a good choice. If you use a nest roll you will most likely have to replace it a few times if it gets soiled or starts to fall apart. As with the liners I suggest if you’re using a hedgie bag you purchase more than one so you always have an extra on wash day. No matter what you use you might also offer your hedgie some small fleece “blankies” or vellux “blankies” they can drag around and/or snuggle up in on cold evenings or during the day. Hedgies love to snuggle with blankies.

Another GREAT place to get a lot of hedgie supplies is The Hedgie Den.
 
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