What is a Hedgehog?Hedgehogs are a small, insectivorous (insect eating) mammal that can be found throughout the world. They are native to England, Europe, Africa and Asia. The hedgehog that is now kept as a pet in North America is the Pygmy Hedgehog from Central Africa.
Hedgehogs and PorcupinesSince there are no native species of hedgehog in either Canada or the United States, many people still mistake the domestic hedgehog for the porcupine - an entirely different and unrelated animal. While porcupine quills are extremely sharp, barbed and very dangerous, the hedgehog quill is smooth and not nearly as sharp. Petting a friendly hedgehog can be compared to petting a hairbrush - bristly, not prickly.
Hedgehog WeightThe average African Pygmy Hedgehog weighs about ½ to 1 ¼ pounds and is 5 to 8 inches long - about the size of a Guinea Pig. There are some that will grow to as much as 1 ¾ to 2 pounds (without being fat) while others are as little as 6 or 7 ounces.
Appropriate Climate for your HedgehogYour pet should be kept indoors at a temperature of 72 to 80*F, with many breeders recommending 74 to 78*F.
Feeding your HedgehogYour hedgehog can be fed a good quality dry cat food or a specially formulated hedgehog food.
Hedgehogs as a HobbyBesides simply being enjoyed as pets, there is also an active hobby. Thanks to the International Hedgehog Association, (IHA) there is even a working show system and standard of perfection for African Pygmy Hedgehogs.
Where is the Best Place to Buy a Pet Hedgehog?The answer to this question varies depending on many factors, but there are some basic guidelines. Generally, it is better to purchase your new pet from a breeder rather than a pet store, but unfortunately, this isn't always possible. No matter where you end up looking, though, make sure that the breeder or store has at least some information on the age and background of their hedgies.
If There are Several to Choose From, Which Hedgehog Should I Select?You will want to choose a single hedgehog since they are solitary and don’t normally like to share a cage. Never buy a male and female to be placed in the same cage unless you intend to breed! Hedgehogs are ready to breed as early as 8 weeks and females should never be bred before 5 months, so be careful! SEE SEXING HEDGEHOGS
You may decide to either go to a pet store or check ads and buy from a breeder. In either case, you are looking for a good healthy animal.
Choosing a Healthy Hedgehog
I realize that it will be very hard to check all these points but most of these things are very basic. In fact, you will probably notice many of these things without even realizing it. Most hedgehogs are healthy and they suffer very few serious ailments, so it’s usually not a problem. But, if you do notice any of the problems listed here, have a qualified veterinarian check your choice before taking it home.
By following these guidelines, you will be helping to ensure that the pet you choose will live a long and healthy life.
Ask the person you are purchasing the hoglet from if they have any guarantees. They should at least guaranteed the hoglet from genetic defects that will show up in the next month. If something does go wrong with your new pet (which rarely ever does), have your vet check him so that you will have some proof of the problem to show to the person you bought him from.
Sexing Hedgehogs:Both male and female hedgehogs make equally good pets so this decision is entirely your own. You can readily tell a boy from a girl. If the hedgehog is tame and friendly, gently roll it over and look at the area closest to the tail. A female's genitals are immediately next to the anus, while the male's penis sheath, or "belly button" is farther up the tummy. The distance between the anus and belly button will be approximately 1/2 inch on a six week old male hoglet. However, this distance can increase to as much as an inch or more once it fully matures.
How Old Should My Hedgehog be Before I Take it Home?Never take a hedgehog home before it is at least six weeks of age. Older hedgehogs are OK too, but keep in mind that the younger the hedgehog, the better the odds of him bonding with you.
What Kind of Housing Will He Require?Your hedgehog will require a secure home since they are very good climbers and can easily escape from open-topped cages that are designed for animals such as guinea pigs and rabbits. If you do use a cage with an open top, it must have slippery sides that are at least 12" high and a floor space of at least l6” x 24”. A 20 gallon aquarium is ideal. It must also have good circulation and be well lit but not exposed to direct sunlight during the daytime.
Cage PlacementPlace your hedgehogs new home in a comfortable, warm, well lit area that is free of drafts and direct sunlight. They are most comfortable at temperatures of between 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
AccessoriesIn addition to a cage, your hedgehog will require the following accessories:
What Should I Feed Him and How Much?Although there are hedgehog foods available in stores, dry cat and kitten formulas are equally good choices. Whatever commercial food you choose should be supplemented by a variety of other foods such as vegetables, mealworms and crickets, cooked meats and fruit and vegetables. However none of these should be fed as anything more than a treat 3 or 4 times a week. The dry food should be the staple. While the dry food can be fed free choice to all but the more obese hedgehogs, the supplements should be offered for no more than 15 minutes and then removed.
Care and ManagementWhen you bring you new hedgehog home, place him in his new cage and let him have absolute privacy for at least a day. You may pick him up and hold him once or twice for a few minutes the first day, but remember, it will probably be more like a week before he begins to feel at home.
Baby hedgehogs need quite a bit of sleep the first month after they come home with you, so don't be too concerned if he sleeps a lot at first.
ObesitySince a healthy hedgehog is a bit on the plump side naturally, determining the difference between a healthy animal's "chubby" condition and obesity can be somewhat difficult. Since there is such a wide variety of size in domestic stock these days, an obese hedgehog can be as little as 8 ounces to as much as 2 pounds in weight, so weight guidelines are of little use in identifying a fat hedgehog!
Of far more use to you than a set of scales is a weekly or monthly visual inspection of your pet's front legs and chin. While a hedgehog in its normal trim will be a bit chubby in these two locations, an obese specimen will have a double chin and "ham-hocks" for legs and sometimes even rolls of fat under the arm-pits. Such animals will be so fat that they will even be incapable of rolling themselves into a ball!
If your pet should become this fat eliminate all treats from its diet but do not reduce the amount of dry food - the primary source of necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals. If after a month you see no evidence of weight loss, change the type of dry food that you are feeding to one that has a fat content of at least 20 percent. The theory is that the added fat will cause your pet to "bulk-up" and eat less and will actually help it to lose weight.
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Created by: admin Last Modification: Sunday 22 of March, 2009 23:16:32 EDT by