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Food

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Feeding your Hedgehog


Hedgehog Feeding in the Wild

Hedgehogs are opportunistic scavengers, while they may mainly eat insects in the wild, they will also eat anything that presents itself to the hedgehog. These opportunistic foods include bird eggs, lizards, snakes, small mammals, carrion, and even their own children if they feel threatened.

While we do not know exactly what the nutritional requirements are for a pet African hedgehog we have a very good guess as to what to feed them in order to maintain their health.

In the wild the average African hedgehog has a lifespan of two years. It has long been observed that the easiest and best way to increase a pet African hedgehog's lifespan is through diet. By choosing foods that meet the nutritional requirements along with vitamins, minerals, pro-biotic, pre-biotic, anti-oxidants, and digestive enzymes many pet hedgehogs can live two or three times the average in the wild.

Types of Food

Many breeders have their own preferred homemade "Hedgehog mix". These mixes are often mixtures of different cat foods that have meat or meat meal as the primary ingredient in the food. Many breeders also use a "junk" food in the mix in smaller amounts that the hedgehog loves eating and to keep from feeding too rich of a diet.

A hedgehog can also be fed one type of cat food consistently although not recommended, but as hedgehogs can prove to be picky, they may one day decide they don't like a specific food, and want a change.

Some companies produce a commercial hedgehog food, but these are mainly junk for African pygmy hedgehogs, as the mixes are just leftovers from cat or dog food put into kibble form. Some of these foods are more geared towards European hedgehogs who have to hibernate through the winter.

When syringe feeding your hedgehog many people swear on Hill A/D recovery cat/dog food. Many breeders mix this with ground up kibble and baby food and syringe it to their hedgies. This mix helps a hedgehog get its appetite for other food back after a serious illness. Some other breeders and owners syringe feed Boost and Ensure protein health drinks (NOT chocolate) mixed with a bit of ground up kibble to their hedgehogs.

Currently the best advice is to feed your pet hedgehog a mix of three or more high quality, high protein, low fat cat/hedgehog foods along with treats consisting of live insects, unseasoned cooked meats such as chicken or turkey, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables and various types of human infant food

A hedgehog's diet must consist of a kibble that is at least above 25% protein (between 25% and 34%, 30% is the goal) and below 15% fat content. The kibble you feed your hedgehog should also contain a meat as the primary ingredient and a meat or meat meal as the secondary ingredient. This will insure your hedgehog is getting the high protein diet it would otherwise get eating strictly insects and scavenging in the wild.

Treats

Many breeders feed their hedgehogs insects as treats to supplement their diet. There are many discrepancies on how many insects a hedgehog should get, and over what period of time. Some owners swear by giving their hedgehogs 3 insects a day, where others only give their hedgehogs these treats weekly or monthly. The most common insect fed to hedgehogs are meal worms. At this point it is pretty much personal opinion, and the health of your hedgehog that determines how many insects you feed them. If your hedgehog is obese you should not feed treats daily, but if your hedgehog is skinny treats can help it to put on weight. A healthy hedgehog should receive no more than 5 meal worms worth of insects per day on average.
It is recommended that you DO NOT FEED YOUR HEDGEHOG MANY FREEZE DRIED MEAL WORMS AT ONCE as there have been deaths reported due to compacted bowls. It is believed these deaths were caused by feeding freeze dried meal worms or super worms. For more information see Hedgehog Central Forums - View Topic - Canned Meal worms (external link) or Hood Petz - Freeze Dried Meal worms... To Feed or Not To Feed? (external link)


To Mix or Not to Mix

Many breeders agree that it is best to give your hedgehog a variety of foods. This is often done for a few reasons. If you hedgehog is picky he may one day decide he doesn't like a certain food. If you are feeding it more than one food it will be able to eat some of the other foods. Some hedgehogs are picky about taste and thus you will need a bunch of different flavors in your mix (chicken, salmon, duck, pea) and some hedgehogs are picky about kibble shape and may require different shapes (pellets, circles, crosses, donuts). While hedgehogs can often change their mind about flavor they general stick to one type of kibble shape, but if you are concerned about it getting picky about kibble shape and flavor you can create a mix that has chicken pellets (Wellness), pea and duck circles (Natural Balance Pea and Duck) and ocean fish crosses (Chicken Soup for the Cat Lovers Soul).

If your hedgehog is not picky and will eat anything you put in front of it's face then you probably do not need to worry about creating a mix for your hedgehog provided you are feeding it a very healthy kibble that meets all of it's dietary requirements. If your current food does not contain omega fatty acids or flax seed than a good food to add to your mix would be on that does contain such ingredients (Wellness and Natural Balance) as it will help to keep your hedgehogs skin moist and provide other benefits.

Picky Hedgehogs and Returning Food

Some hedgehogs are very picky eater and will only eat certain flavors where as others will only eat a kibble of a certain shape. The best way to find out what your hedgehog likes is to get sample bags. Many pet stores carry sample bags and if you hedgehog likes it, you can buy a full bag and add it to your mix.
If your hedgehog suddenly decides it does not like it's food, some pet stores (Petsmart, PetCo?., ect...) will take back food even if a small portion is used. The company sends the food back tot he manufacturer, so they don't actually lose any money. At Petsmart they will often take back the food and give cash with a receipt or store credit without the receipt.

Hedgehog Approved Foods


Reaper on 'Dry Cat Food'

When choosing a food to add to your hedgies diet the first thing is to READ THE LABEL. It doesn't matter what the product is being marketed for (cat, dog, hedgehog, elephant, whatever) as long as it meets an African hedgehogs nutritional requirements. To learn about food labels, ingredients, and a ton of hedgehog info Laura Ledet's Website http://www.angelfire.com/wa2/comemeetmyfamily/tableofcontents.html (external link) is one of the best on the internet. Once you have learned about hedgie diet needs, found a store that sells a product you think is great, bought the food and brought it home, and given it to your little bundle of quills.........your hedgie may refuse to eat it. All hedgies have different personalities and tastes. So in the end your hedgie will have a say in what food selections you make.
I created this list to help the "newbie" African hedgehog owner narrow down what dry cat foods meet hedgies nutritional requirements. With so many brands and formulas on the market finding ones for hedgies can be a tedious endeavor. I will continue to update the list from time to time as new foods become available and when old formulas change names or are reformulated.
I am a strong believer that a healthy diet prevents sickness and can extend our quilled friends lives.


Reaper's Dry Cat Food List 2.0

For a list of good quality dry cat food to feed your hedgehog please see Reapers Dry Cat Food List 2.0

Reaper on 'Commercial Hedgehog Foods'

I decided it might be a good idea to talk about commercially prepared Hedgehog foods. Why some are ok choices for African Hedgehogs and some are not.
If you walk into a pet store and ask for "bird food" you will probably be shown a lot of packages that say "Bird Food" on them. The problem then arises if your bird is a Minah, a Toucan, a falcon, etc.etc. Even a Robin Redbreast cannot live off of seeds. So just because it says "Hedgehog Food" on the package this does not necessarily mean it is appropriate for African Hedgehogs. Some even have a picture of a European hedgehog on the package.
Here is a list of most of the commercially prepared "Hedgehog Foods":
1. Spike's Delight Hedgehog foods (all formulas)
2. Sunseed Hedgehog food
3. Brisky's Hedgehog foods
4. 8in1 Ultra Hedgehog food
5. L'Avian Hedgehog food
6. Hedgehog Complete by Exotic Nutrition

7. Pretty Pets hedgehog food
8. Zoofare insectavore
9. Mazuri insectavore
10. Brown's Zoo Vital
11. Vitakraft

Now the first six on the list are ok to feed an African Hedgehog. Most experts agree
to mix several types of high quality, high protein, low fat cat foods / Hedgehog foods. It is also recommended to feed a variety of treats such as live insects, lean cooked meat, fresh fruit, and vegetables. So let's discuss why the last five products on the list should be avoided in African Hedgehog diets. These products may be great for other types of hedgehog but for African Hedgehogs they are not a good choice. Pretty Pet's hedgehog food contains very little nutritional content. It may be ok as a treat but should be considered "junk food". Zoofare and Mazuri contain artificial preservatives and/or softening agents which have been linked to all kinds of health problems. Brown's Zoo Vital and Vitakraft actually may be very good for European Hedgehogs but contain ingredients which are extreme health
risks to African Hedgehogs. Things like seeds and raisins are choking hazards and have resulted in African Hedgehog deaths. The best way to insure you are choosing a healthy African Hedgehog diet is to learn the nutritional requirements of the African Hedgehog. And then READ THE LABEL of the food you are considering feeding your hedgie. Knowledge is the key when choosing a food to add to your
African Hedgehog's diet.


Laura D. on 'Soft Food for Hedgehogs'

The following was originally posted to CnQ by Laura D.

SOFT FOODS for HEDGEHOGS

Sometimes our little hedgehogs need to be put on soft foods because of tooth loss, gum problems, or other health issues. As always, before changing or adding to your hedgie’s diet, please check with your veterinarian; this is especially important if your hedgehog is currently on medication or is having trouble eating their regular food on their own.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re changing your hedgehog’s diet. First, you can be pretty much assured that the hedgie’s poop is going to change in consistency, color, and possibly scent; this is normal as their digestive system adjusts to the new foods, but talk with your vet about what to watch for (such as mucous in the stool). Second, many hedgehogs take a while to figure-out that the new thing in their food dish is actually food; they may choose to anoint with the new substance, walk through it, poop in it, or do other charming things. Third, hedgehogs seem to do best with foods offered at room temperature or a bit warmer; I’ve no idea why this is, but it’s true at least for the quilled kids here.

Many of the following food ideas can be administered via syringe, should your hedgehog be so ill that they need to be hand-fed. However, if your hedgehog is needing to be syringe-fed, PLEASE clear any of these foods (or any others that you want to try) with your veterinarian before adding them to your hedgehog’s diet.

For feeding your little one, I have the following suggestions:

1. Ground-up kibble - I use the same mixture as they've been getting whole (high-protein, low-fat), grind it in a coffee grinder (reserved especially for hedgie food), and store it in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator. Then I scoop out some and soften it in warm water; it's amazing how much water it can absorb! I usually add what I think will be too much water, and then end-up adding more after it's been sitting for a few minutes. Some times I also add a few drops of Omega-3 oils.

2. Canned and packet versions of their regular kibble – You may want to add some of their regular, ground kibble to the wet version for continuity of flavor.

Also, you may want to look at some of the various canned and pouched cat (and kitten) foods now available. There’s lots of options in terms of flavor and consistency (the “pate” versions have been a hit with the hedgies here) and those may be of some appeal to your hedgehog

3. Baby food - I've had good luck with the Gerber "Stage 2" foods, especially the chicken and gravy (ingredients: chicken, water, cornstarch), the sweet potato (ingredients: sweet potatoes, water, cornstarch), and the mixed veggies. Also, many hedgehogs like the Gerber Graduates Chicken Sticks. When the jar is first opened, the sticks are soft (can be difficult to get out of the jar without crumbling) and can be smushed into small bits with your fingers. After the jar has been opened for a day or two, sometimes the outside of the chicken sticks becomes chewy; when this happens, I just peel-off the outside of the stick and crumble the interior. (The fluid that is in the jar with the chicken sticks can become somewhat gelatinous - I sometimes add a bit of this liquid to the moist food.) I also recommend the “Earth’s Best Baby Food” brand, too, and there are other brands available throughout the country; just be sure to look for a food that is just the main ingredient, water, and cornstarch. I warm the baby foods a bit before serving.

4. Meal worms, waxworks, silkworms, crickets, etc. - if your hedgehog is having trouble chewing, they may not be able to get through the exoskeleton of live meal worms and crickets and the freeze-dried or roasted versions may be too crunchy for them. But there are several options you can try:

4A. You can take live meal worms, waxworks, silkworms, and crickets and freeze them. Once dead, you can then let the insects thaw and mash or grind them up and add it to your hedgie's wet food.

4B. With live meal worms, you can keep an eye on them as they grow and feed your hedgehog the worms that have just shed their skin (they'll be white and soft).

4C. If you have freeze-dried or roasted worms (or crickets), you can add these to the kibble when you grind it. Or you can grind them separately and sprinkle the resulting powder on the moistened food (baby food, moistened kibble, canned cat food, etc.).

4D. You can purchase canned insects (which tend to be a bit softer) in the reptile section of many pet stores and then grind or mash them. Remember that you’ll need to keep the insects in the fridge or freezer once you’ve opened the can, though, else they’ll turn rancid.

5. Yogurt - you can purchase small amounts of organic yogurt (you may need to experiment with flavors - my hedgehogs like the vanilla and banana flavors) and offer this as an addition to (or mixed in with) the moistened regular food. Stonyfield Yogurt has several options in their "YoBaby" line, including smoothies, whole milk yogurt, and drinkable yogurt. These (and other brands) can be found in the yogurt section of many large supermarkets and in natural food and nutrition stores. Please note, though, that some veterinarians advise against giving hedgehogs dairy products while the hedgehog is on antibiotics, so please ask your vet before adding yogurt to your hedgie’s diet. Also, yogurt from cow’s milk may cause green feces and other signs of stomach upset, so you need to be very careful. Right now I’m working with some local small farmers to purchase some yogurt made from goats’ milk, hoping that it will be easy on my sick hedgies’ digestive system.

Another option is cultured soy products, such as Stonyfield Farms’ O-Soy? cultured soy yogurt, which contains live active cultures that assist in the digestive process. You may need to contact a local health food store to find these items. It’s not essential to get a “flavored” yogurt. I often purchase “plain” and stir in a bit of baby food or other items to make it palatable for the hedgehogs.

6. Eggs – One thing that’s been a big hit around here are scrambled eggs. I just whip an egg, cover the dish with plastic wrap, and microwave it until done, then cool and crumble before serving. Some people use soy milk added before cooking, resulting in a "soft scramble" and other folks make regular scrambled eggs in a frying-pan with butter. Some of my hedgehogs also like well-mashed hard-boiled eggs.

7. Protein Drinks – There are several protein drinks currently available that people’ve offered to their hedgehogs with good results; the most common are the Boost and Ensure brands, both of which come in different flavors and different versions. I prefer to offer the Vanilla flavor, but I know that some hedgies prefer the Strawberry. Boost comes in a "Boost Plus" version, which I turn to when there's lots of weight loss in the little one. I usually water it down a bit (though some hedgehogs like it straight). Please do not give your hedgehog Chocolate-flavored anything, as we don’t know if chocolate is toxic to hedgies.

8. Children’s Electrolyte Drinks – While the most common brand is Pedialyte, many stores also offer a store brand. You can now get this in "freezer pop" servings, which you can just store at room temperature. The smaller serving size means less goes to waste. If you desire, feel free to dilute this with water. Also, a powdered version is now available which allows you to mix the amount that you want, to the dilution-level that you want, with not as much waste.

9. Hill's A/D (and other versions), Critical Care for Carnivores, and Feline Rebound - these are items that you will need to ask your veterinarian about, though the Feline Rebound can be ordered on-line from a few websites.

10. Emma’s Mix – I am currently syringe-feeding a little hedgehog who cannot eat on her own because of a lack of teeth and neurological problems. I feed Emma several a day and she receives between 9 and 15 cc’s (she starts “blowing bubbles” with her food when she’s full) at a time. Her weight is stable at about 320 grams, which seems to be a good weight for her body size. The mix consists of the following:

2 jars (2.5 ounces) Gerber 2nd Foods Chicken
½ jar (about 1.25 ounces) Earth’s Best Organic First Sweet Potatoes
½ jar (about 1.25 ounces) Earth’s Best Organic First Apples
½ container (about 1 tablespoon) YoBaby? Organic Whole Milk Yogurt, Banana or Vanilla OR ½ container Stonyfield Farms’ O’Soy? cultured soy yogurt (2-3 ounces)
1 tablespoon Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Oatmeal or Rice Cereal

I mix these five items in a microwave-safe container and store in the refrigerator; I warm the mix for about 30 seconds (until it’s about room-temperature) before feeding it to Emma. One batch lasts about 3-days. I feed the leftover foods (which shouldn’t be stored for more than a day or two in the refrigerator, once opened) to my pet rats, who are very appreciative of the treat. Feel free to experiment with the different baby foods until you find a mixture appealing to your hedgehog.


Vern's Bodegas Blend, A soft food diet

Bodegas Blend,
by Teresa Mills

In the course of rescuing hedgehogs for the past 8 years we’ve encountered numerous hedgehogs losing teeth or for other reasons needing a soft food diet on a long term basis. Poppy, Nibbles, and now Bodega. We relied on Jeannes magic recipe and various people foods to maintain their diet.

After numerous variations and some trial and error we’ve concocted a recipe here to add to the menu (to give them a little variety) that is a smashing success with the herd and feel confident making it available for all the hedgehogs in America to enjoy.
The mix:
2 cups cooked shredded/diced/minced chicken breast fillet (or any other cooked lean meat)
2 ½ to 3 small containers of yogurt
1 small container Breakstone’s cottage cheese doubles/blueberry (this is Bodega’s favorite flavor)
1 medium jar chicken and gravy baby food
1 medium jar beef baby food

These foods can be chopped by hand with a knife and cutting board, or minced in a blender. If you want to add powdered kibble that will work just as well, and there’s no reason why mashed mealies or crickets cannot be added to the mix.

Combine ingredients into a bowl and dollop it in ½ tablespoon sized portions into ice cube trays and freeze. When frozen store in the freezer in a Ziploc bag (makes for a nice treat on the warmer days of summer as well).

10-12 seconds in the microwave softens the food and makes a nice meal for the hedgehog, feed 2 or 3 cubes a day; with 1 or 2 still frozen late in the evening for the hedgie to nibble on through the night as it melts.

Substitutions are at your discretion, the base can be any flavor of yogurt the hedgie likes, same for the baby foods.

Bodega seems to be particularly fond of the blend (he cleans the dish every time) in addition to treats of moths and soft skinned bugs, dishes of canned salmon/mackerel/etc picked and deboned , scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin and other foods.

Even our uber picky Keenen the Fierce goes after Bodega’s recipe with a gusto we don’t often see here.

With Poppy and Nibbles we also powdered the kibble staple in a coffee grinder and mixed it with off the shelf Vitagravy available here at Petsmart.

This recipe makes a fine addition to Jeannes magic recipe for long term maintenance of hedgies needing a soft food diet for whatever reason.


Dog Food

While cat food is most highly recommended to feed your hedgehog, some owners may wish to feed their hedgehog dog food. If you can find a high protein and low fat dog food that contains meat and meat meal as the first few ingredients and does not contain a large amount of corn, corn meal or animal by-products and it also fits the rest of a hedgehogs dietary needs, then it should be okay for the hedgehogs consumption.

Some things to think about when feeding your hedgehog dog food:
  1. Make sure the kibble is not to big, this can be remedied by crushing the kibble
  2. Dog kibble is much harder than cat kibble as dogs use ti to clean their teeth as well as for food. Some hedgies may have a hard time eating dog food.
  3. It is not recommended to let your hedgehog eat out of your dogs bowl as the saliva and germs from the dog could contaminate the hedgehog


References

  1. Hood Petz - Freeze Dried Mealworms... To Feed or Not To Feed? (external link)

Forum Topics

  1. Hedgehog Central Forums - View Topic - Canned Meal worms (external link)
  2. Hedgehog Central Forums - View topic - Dry Cat Food List (external link)
  3. Hedgehog Central Forums - View topic - Commercial Hedgehog Foods (external link)
  4. Hedgehog Central Forums - View topic - Soft Food recommendations (external link)
  5. Hedgehog Central Forums - View topic - OK, I know about cat food, what about dog food? (external link)
  6. Hedgehog Central Forums - View topic - Corn (external link)
  7. Hedgehog Central Forums - View topic - Food advice inconstancies. (external link)
  8. Hedgehog Central Forums - View topic - Returns to Petco? (external link)

Created by: admin Last Modification: Sunday 22 of March, 2009 22:03:17 EDT by azyrios


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