African Pygmy Hedgehog. Pet Hegehog Info

Sleepy Hollow Hedgehogs
Breeder & RSPCA Approved Rescue

Information is UK Specific & Must Be Adhered To

CARE GUIDE

First of all though what is an African Pygmy Hedgehog?

The African Pygmy Hedgehog or APH as it is often abbreviated to, is an insectivore. Some believe they are a hybrid of the four toed hedgehog and the Algerian hedgehog and they are the most popular species of domesticated hedgehog in the world. I personally do not hold to this theory and it is actually looking more and more unlikely. For further reading Bente at Hedgehogs of Asgard has a very informative blog on this subject. The huge size difference between the 2 species makes it seem logistically improbable.  Further research is required as yet others claim a species very similar to our own pet hedgehog is living in Algeria and our's are not a hybrid at all.

 

The Canary Islands have hedgehogs so similar to our pet hedgehogs their remains no doubt at all in my mind that the hybrid theory is now completely debunked. Whatever you want to believe the variety of pet hedgehogs here in UK sold as African Pygmy Hedgehogs are bred specifically for the pet market and the species we will be discussing throughout this website. Our pet hedgehogs cannot survive outdoors or even without adequate heating here in the Northern Hemisphere and to release one into the great outdoors because it was no longer wanted would be an act of cruelty and result in certain death unless found and rescued by myself or other APH Rescue or handed in to the Stubbington Arc RSPCA centre who would then bring it to me. Keeping wild hedgehogs or European hedgehogs as a pet is illegal.

As hedgehogs are becoming more popular as pets here in the UK so are the many myths that abound about good husbandry and how best to care for them. Here is some essential information to help you learn what is required to keep you and your pets happy and healthy. All information in this care guide is reviewed and updated regularly and where contradictions between countries about common practices are known they will be pointed out and discussed with any known evidence and source material cited.

No hedgehog leaves Sleepy Hollow to go to their new home without me seeing photos of the setup you have prepared for them and confirmation of the temperature. I must be confident you have sufficient knowledge, time and the commitment required to look after a hedgehog properly.

APH are not really suitable as pets for children. For all their adorable cuteness hedgehogs quills are very sharp and can hurt or even make soft, tender or very young hands bleed and I am constantly surprised by the amount of people that visit us that have not considered this. Hedgehogs are very shy and need gentle, patient handling and you must be willing to spend a minimum of 20 minutes each and every day with your hedgehog in addition to cleaning time or they become unsociable, grumpy and huffy. APH like our native European hedgehogs are nocturnal so the first question we need to ask is.......is a hedgehog a suitable  pet for me?

Pet hedgehogs are a solitary animal and need a constant and stable temperature kept at a minimum of 24 degrees so unlike a Guinea pig or hamster your own living temperature may not be enough and additional heat will be required. I keep mine at a minimum 25 degrees and babies at 26 degrees.  As insectivores it would be unreasonable to never feed them any live insects.

Images by kind permission of Bente

Photographs of wild hedgehogs living in The Canary Islands courtesy of Daniel Stevens

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The information on this website is a work in progress and information is UK based. We are learning about these amazing animals all the time so I update it as and when new information is brought to my attention and as regularly as I can. There is very little hedgehog specific equipment and so the reptile/guinea-pig/chinchilla/cat specific items we do use have all been tried and tested by experienced owners and breeders and are known to be both safe and suitable for hedgehogs. I do not sanction or approve any equipment I do not have personal experience with. Deviating from any of the recommendations in this care guide and choosing instead to follow suggestions from another website or reptile/pet shop however well meaning could endanger the life of your prickle baby. At best they are out of date and at worst completely wrong.

There are currently some very disreputable breeders selling hedgehogs using on-line classified ads and sadly, they have very little regard for hedgehog welfare or their safety but are concerned only with making as much profit as they can. Further down is a paragraph to help identify hedgehog farmers, hedgehog brokers and unethical back yard breeders.

Housing

I use the Vivexotic style  4ft vivariums  as they have enough space for a 12 inch bucket  wheel, litter tray, house, feeding bowls and a few balls, a tunnel, toys and teddys. A standard 3ft vivarium is only 15 inches wide and therefore does not meet the required minimum standard for a hedgehog which is  4.5 square feet (0.40 sq m) but an 18 inch wide one will be big enough but the more space you can provide the better. I only accept applications from owners prepared to house their hedgehog in one of these style vivariums.

 
Correct Housing For African Pygmy Hedgehogs (APH)

A stable temperature is much easier to maintain inside a vivarium and although they are fully enclosed ventilation vents at the back ensures humidity levels do not get so high condensation forms making bedding damp or biscuits soggy or the risk of any moulds growing which could lead to respiratory problems, mites, quill loss or fungal infections. 

A fully enclosed glass fish tank is not suitable at all and barred cages are not recommended either as hedgehogs love to climb up but cannot climb back down so risk falling and injuring themselves. Maintaining a stable temperature and keeping out draughts would be difficult in an open cage also.

Unethical breeders sell zoozone 2 as par

Zoozone 1s are far too small for an adult hedgehog.

Cages like this need far  too much modification to make them suitable for hedgehogs and therefore not acceptable for  a hedgehog from me.

A zoozone 2 is too hard to maintain a stable temperature especially now heat mats are no longer an option and a Che would melt the plastic. Unethical breeders often sell these with a baby hedgehog to people who think "you can keep a hedgehog like a hamster" with no advice on temperature other than "keep it warm". I used to accept zoozones for housing but I will only accept applications for those using a vivarium for housing now.

 

Plastic tubs or Ikea type RUBs are not suitable homes for hedgehogs kept in UK, nor are tortoise tables.

Equipment

A small litter tray lined with kitchen roll is an easy, cheap and convenient way to keep your hedgehog clean. Nothing could be simpler. Just roll it up every morning and put it in the bin. As the wheel is placed inside the litter tray any urine or poop passed by your hedgehog whilst running then drains off onto the paper. Any type of cat litter that advertises odour elimination may have chemicals added and any chemical in an enclosed space like a vivarium could be dangerous for a hedgehog. Little silica gel balls in some cat litter could be accidentally ingested and although not known to be toxic to hedgehogs could be a choking hazard.

Digital scales are a necessity to keep an accurate record of your hedgehog's weight gain and if the worse came to the worse weight loss. A weekly weigh in for adults is enough but babies need to be weighed daily until at least 6 months old. Keeping a written record of your hedgehog's weight in a little notepad, calendar or on a spreadsheet will immediately alert you to any change or irregularity. A healthy hedgehog once full grown has weight fluctuations of up to 30 grams quite regularly and these are nothing to worry about. If weight loss is greater than 30 grams in 2 consecutive weeks and nothing else has changed then your hedgehog needs a trip to the vets. There should never be weight loss if your hedgehog is a baby and 2 consecutive days of even a few grams of weight loss must be investigated immediately and 3 consecutive days of weight loss will need an urgent vet appointment. Weight loss is often the only symptom of a serious condition only your vet will be able to diagnose. Checking temperatures daily will rule out a hibernation attempt which sometimes has a symptom of weight loss rather than a full blown hibernation attempt when wobbliness also occurs.

Current UK APH Club guidelines stipulate hedgehogs must not have an exercise wheel until they reach 12 weeks of age. This is contradictory to advice given by American, Danish and German breeders and the UK reasoning is any earlier is considered detrimental to their growth and bone development. My own personal research has led me to believe the UK APH Club is wrong and when asked for evidence for their 12 week rule were unable to produce any. Hedgehogs  can very quickly become obese if fed the wrong food and if they do not have enough exercise. A minimum wheel size of 30cms is required. Anything smaller could harm your hedgehog's spine.

 

Exercise Wheels. Hedgehogs MUST have a wheel. In the wild they would cover many miles hunting for food so need to be able to run to maintain fitness and health. Sadly there are some UK sellers of wheels whose wheels are so bad they are actually dangerous and so inferior they could kill your hedgehog. An identifying factor for one of these sellers is they use a "tie dye" effect bowl amongst their other colours.  The cheaply found Savic Roly which is available in most pet shops is very difficult to clean, smashes if you drop it and if you have an avid wheeler the ridges cut their feet. Silent Spinners have little holes that could trap tiny toes and are definitely not silent.

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I only recommend Carolina Storm Wheels (CSW) or the SHHWheels (Sleepy Hollow Hedgehog Wheels) and these can be purchased in the UK through Facebook or me. 

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Through sheer desperation and after 3 months of trial and error I am now building my own wheels which I hope will be comparable in quality and durability to the Caroline Storm Wheel but much lower in price. If you see this style of bucket wheel for sale from any-one other than me, although they look the same and the bucket is perfectly fine and still better than the efforts of some of the other exceptionally bad wheels about, unfortunately, within weeks they start to squeak, fall apart, go rusty or cease up completely.

 
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Travelling

As with all small animals a trip to the vets may be necessary even if it is just for a nail trim if you cannot manage them yourself so for any journey a small pet carrier is essential and needs to be large enough to accommodate a hot water bottle, snuggle safe or similar microwaveable heat mat that may be necessary in colder weather. Some petnaps come with a handy cigar lighter adaptor.

Please do not turn up to collect your hedgehog with a shoe-box and holes punched in it for a carrier. If financial constraints mean a £10 carrier is not affordable then perhaps a hedgehog is not the right pet for you.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs are classed as an “exotic pet” and many small animal practice vets are unfamiliar with APHs so a vet specialising in exotic pets needs to be located. Ask if your vet has a monthly payment plan for routine care as this can reduce costs. Being an “exotic” many vets will also apply an “exotic” price tag for each consultation so be prepared for bills much higher than for example a Guinea pig or rabbit. 

Bedding 

I recommend fleece liners on the floor of the vivarium with a fleece pouch inside their house and plain white kitchen roll in their litter trays.

Fleece is safe, washable, soft and cosy, looks nice, comes in multiple colours and patterns, lasts for many years and hedgehogs like it.

Kitchen Roll is cheap, easily available and can be changed, rolled up and thrown away daily plus any abnormality in either urine or faeces is immediately obvious. I expect all new owners of a Sleepy Hollow hedgehog to use the same as me as it is what their hedgehog is already used to.

 

No wood-shavings, sawdust or aspen

Pine shavings are cheap, available in bulk and convenient but sadly not at all suitable for hedgehogs. Pine wood shavings contain abietic acid which is a toxic irritant and phenols which are detrimental to your hedgehog's respiratory system causing fluid on the lungs. Shavings have sharp pieces that can cut feet and faces if they forage in it, the little cuts then abscessing and needing costly veterinary treatment. Tthere are also multiple reports of small pieces being caught up inside the penile shaft of male hedgehogs.

Cedar shavings should NEVER be used for hedgehogs. They too are cheap, available in bulk and convenient but they are even more toxic than pine wood-shavings because as well as phenols which cause respiratory problems and allergic reactions they also contain a toxin called plicatic acid which studies have shown can cause dramatic changes in liver enzymes which can then alter the effectiveness of any medications or anaesthetic your hedgehog may need and plicatic acid can even cause some types of cancer.

Aspen shavings are a finer wood shaving than pine and cedar but very dusty and the texture is still too course and rough and therefore very uncomfortable for hedgehogs. Some aspen has sharp splinters which can injure their feet, their eyes when they are curling into a ball or even scrape their underbelly when walking on it.

All shavings and litter can cause a bowel impaction if they eat it. You may see some of the more prolific/unethical breeders of hedgehogs using substrates but this is often purely because the volume of hedgehogs they have is so many it makes the washing of hedgehog bedding impractical.

 

Fleece blankets or cage liners with a sleeping pouch placed inside a wood or plastic house is best for hedgehogs and the ONLY type of bedding I accept for my prickle babies. Shredded paper or newspaper (they may ingest the ink  as hedgehogs lick new items and smells) is not suitable nor is hay or straw because as well as harbouring mites they can also damage their eyes or get caught round a limb cutting off the blood supply subsequently causing the hedgehog to lose a limb. I also do not recommend puppy training pads as these are often impregnated with chemicals to encourage dog toileting which in an enclosed space like a vivarium would be breathed in by the hedgehog and potentially cause respiratory problems to which hedgehogs are particularly prone.

 

Bedding needs to be checked daily for loose threads and your hedgehog needs to be checked every single morning without fail before work, college, Uni or school runs for anything that may have wound round a leg or toe in the night. Not checking your hedgehog first thing in the morning could mean  a minor situation turning  into a very major and expensive  emergency trip to the vet to carry out an amputation as the blood supply was lost for too long while that thread or hair was left a further 12 hours until the evening playtime before it was spotted. Hedgehogs do not chew so would not attempt to remove the thread or hair themselves, it is up to us their human guardians to do things like that for them. If you do not have the time to check your hedgehog in the mornings then perhaps a hedgehog is not the right pet for you. Below are two sewers of hedgehog bedding I have used myself and they both fulfil the safety criteria necessary for hedgehogs.
 

 

Here is a link to Jayne's Facebook page Hoggie Togs

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Here is a link to Claire's Facebook page The HogHouse

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Heating

There are numerous different types of thermostats with varying  function capabilities and accuracy. Dimming or on/off type thermostats are not suitable for hedgehogs as our prickle babies need a stable, ambient temperature which only the Pulse-Proportional style thermostat can achieve. A fluctuating temperature even if within the recommended parameters will cause unnecessary stress to your hedgehog.  Choosing different  types of bulbs or thermostats to the ones shown here may result in a grumpy, undernourished and underweight hedgehog potentially causing  future health issues and a shortened life-span. Alternative thermostats often cause the CHE to fail.

You will need a Habistat Pulse-Proportional Thermostat  and a Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE) with a ceramic (plastic will melt) holder.  Optional is a CHE guard to protect your hands when cleaning the viv. Most good reptile shops supply all these items, ignore advice to place the CHE at one end, as a pet hedgehog needs the CHE  to go in the middle of the vivarium for an even distribution of heat.  CHEs are measured in wattage per gallon and a 100 watt Che is usually sufficient to heat to 26 degrees a 4ft vivarium (or 100 gallons in a reasonably warm 20-23 degrees living area. A cooler room kept 20 degrees or below may need 150 watts). Often equipment is available much cheaper on-line at Swell Reptiles, eBay and Amazon rather  than high street shops. Don't forget a digital thermometer so you can see at a glance the correct temperature is being maintained at all times by your thermostat which controls the CHE  and never dips below 24 degrees. 24  degrees is the minimum temperature to keep your hedgehogs. I keep mine at 25 unless they have experienced a hibernation attempt when they then will live at a constant 26 degrees to avoid a second attempt. Don't plug the CHE directly into an electric socket as it will just stay on full all the time. Please do not let your local pet shop, reptile shop or a web-site persuade you pulse-proportional is not necessary. They may even try to "highly recommend" something wrong, something unsuitable or even inferior because their job is to make a sale and move stock, not hedgehog welfare. The welfare of your hedgehog is your responsibility.  A thermostatically controlled CHE is the only means of heating I accept.

 

Buy cheap buy twice is definitely true of thermostats as even if they don't fail they are often not robust enough to regulate a CHE and so the bulb fails leaving you with a cold hedgehog and you won't be happy if your hedgehog dies because you were persuaded by a clever sales pitch to ignore the years of collective advice and experience from breeders and owners who use these tried and tested products knowing they are the safest, most reliable and most suitable for the well-being of our hedgehogs. All the links go to Swell Reptiles as this is usually the cheapest place (they also offer a price promise but more important for me is how helpful their after sales team is)  but it is always a good idea to shop around for a better  price but do not look for alternative products.  If it is not not listed on this website then do not buy it. Saving the odd tenner because something is similar or "looks as good" or comes "highly recommended" by the shop selling it is not worth risking the life of your prickle baby.

 

ALL MY RECOMMENDATIONS MUST BE FOLLOWED IN EVERY DETAIL OR YOU WILL NOT GET A SLEEPY HOLLOW HEDGEHOG AND YOU RISK LOSING YOUR DEPOSIT. IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT ANY PRODUCTS  JUST ASK ME BUT DO NOT EVER ARGUE WITH ME BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU SAW ON FACEBOOK.

Prior to bringing your new prickle baby home your temperatures should be monitored to ensure they are stable with no fluctuations and never go below 24 degrees for at least 24 hours or longer. The hoglet should have been living away from Mum for their last week with the breeder and be fully weaned, eating and pooping independently.  

 

A good quality, accurate,  easy to read and understand digital thermometer (a thermometer is NOT a thermostat. Please check you know the difference) is essential so checking the correct temperature (minimum 24 degrees) can be done with a quick glance.

Petnaps are proving to be unreliable when used as a continuous heat source as the transformer fails regularly leaving the hedgehog with no warmth. Still great for the car tho.

Sadly, many people take on a hedgehog with no knowledge of their heating requirements and too often bring them to the rescue severely under-weight or in a state of  semi-hibernation. Once a hedgehog's core temperature has dropped too low for too long the hedgehog cannot survive as the internal organs have already shut down and are unable to recover.

Most people could not live comfortably in the high temperatures necessary (minimum 24 degrees but I set all my thermostats to 25)  to maintain a healthy environment for a hedgehog. (See image below)  Our pet hedgehogs originally came from Africa, the hottest continent on the planet so this is the temperature they need to survive here in captivity and it is necessary for us to imitate that tropical climate the best we can.

 

The English climate is never going to mimic African living conditions even inside our homes so they must have additional heating inside their vivarium to survive.

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HEDGEHOGS NEED A STABLE THERMOSTATICALLY CONTROLLED TEMPERATURE BETWEEN 24-26 DEGREES AT ALL TIMES.

There are far too many different types and makes of thermostats that are not suitable for African Pygmy hedgehogs so unless it has PULSE PROPORTIONAL written on the front it will probably be either  a dimming thermostat or an on/off thermostat,  so walk away.

WARNING ABOUT HEATMATS

Heatmats catching fire even when controlled by thermostats are being reported amongst both reptile and hedgehog owners. New mats have a label stating they must not be covered so heat mats can no longer be used for hedgehogs. I only recommend using a CHE (Ceramic Heat Emitter) in conjunction with a Pulse Proportional Thermostat for maintaining a stable temperature for your hedgehog.

It is always sad when a hedgehog dies especially a young one. If your hedgehog shows any signs of illness a vet should be consulted immediately, preferably the same day. Do not wait 2 weeks after symptoms first appear as this could be fatal.  They must always be checked every morning without fail for any injury sustained during the night before leaving them for the day alone.

 

Loss of appetite, not running on their wheel, reduced poo or wee, not eating or weight loss are all causes for concern and your hedgehog needs to be examined properly by a veterinary surgeon, not you on Google or Facebook. Paralysis or weakness of any limbs is a medical emergency as this may indicate a fall or injury and should never be left untreated. Leaving an injured or sick animal without veterinary care here in UK is considered neglect. All vets in the UK have to offer a 24 hour emergency service by law. Leaving any sick or injured pet untreated is a criminal offence.

 

Mild hibernation attempts are often confused with WHS (wobbly hedgehog syndrome) symptoms and will typically present as loss of appetite, not using their wheel and a lethargic inactive hedgehog that wobbles when they walk.

 

WHS however, usually presents as a fully alert hedgehog but balance and weakness is apparent on just one side gradually progressing over a period of several months to both sides and eventually the hedgehog needs help to eat or drink as the neck muscles also decline and sadly they will eventually need to be put to sleep.

How Much Will It All Cost

This is an example of how your shopping basket from Swell Reptiles should look if purchasing everything new from them. They have a price promise guarantee and it is worth asking on hedgehog groups if anyone is aware of a Swell Reptile voucher code too as they often issue these to us "frequent buyers" and that could reduce your total by 10% - 20%. Vivariums come in different colours but must be minimum 115cm in length. There are hundreds of different thermostats but for one of my hedgehogs it must be a Pulse Proportional Thermostat.

A Carolina Storm Wheel is about £40, a SHH Wheel £25, a basic guinea pig house is between £10 and £35 depending on if you choose plastic or wood , a cat litter tray is under £5 and the rest is personal choice for liners, food bowls and toys.

Allow £15 a month for food and I advise saving £15 - £20 a month towards future vet fees but which hopefully you will never need. ExoticDirect Pet Insurance has been taken out by several of my hedgehog owners with  claims  paid promptly.

Starting from scratch with everything brand new will be approximately £275 but finding second hand items in classified ads can reduce the initial cost significantly. Sleepy Hollow babies come with a wheel and various other items in their care pack.

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Keeping your hedgehog at the correct temperature cannot be stressed strongly enough. It is vitally important and using a cheap non digital stick-on analogue thermometer may cost you the life of your hedgehog as a 2 degree variation in accuracy can be the difference between a happy healthy hedgehog and a dead one. A battery operated digital thermometer will always be more reliable and accurate.

Never let your hedgehog hibernate, it could be fatal.

Hibernation Attempts

This is a very urgent situation which needs your immediate attention Typical symptoms will include your hedgehog not using their wheel, loss of appetite, (no poos) weight loss, cool tummy and wobbliness and if not remedied immediately will ultimately lead to total unconsciousness and death.

 

If you suspect a hibernation attempt, YOU MUST NEVER BATH YOUR HEDGEHOG TO WARM THEM UP!

This is the worst thing you could do and could kill them. They need to be brought back up to their normal temperature slowly and steadily. Do not rush this process. It can take up to 4 hours before you see an improvement so I recommend getting a good book or film to watch. The safest way to bring your hedgehog out of hibernation is to place them on your chest skin to skin in a warm environment and wait. After a couple of hours although they may still be displaying some signs of wobbliness hopefully their body temperature should be noticeably warmer. If not fully recovered stay on the sofa maintaining skin to skin contact a bit longer. If remaining with your hedgehog for the duration of their recovery is not possible then increase the temperature in the viv to 28 degrees or place them on a snuggle-safe inside a fleece pouch and check regularly. After a first hibernation attempt unfortunately  your hedgehog will likely be predisposed to further attempts so I recommend raising the viv temperature to a slightly warmer 26c permanently. Hibernation attempts can be frightening and these instructions are also repeated on the "Common Ailments" page so they can be found quickly if ever you find yourself in this situation.

 

Toys & Enrichment

Hedgehogs love to play so to enrich their lives they need to have somewhere other than their vivarium or zoo-zone in which to play. A child's ball pit is cheap and ideal. Cardboard tubes, cuddly toys, crinkle or plastic balls to play with and a firm favourite with mine is a forage tray which consists of either small pompoms, finacard, dried leaves or even fleece strips in a cat litter tray. Meal-worms hidden amongst it all makes a great game. Most cat balls are safe just watch out for those containing catnip or which have gaps tiny toes could get caught in. Putting your hedgehog in an enclosed ball of any size is considered cruel. Hedgehogs are good climbers but have no depth awareness so cannot then get back down again other than by falling so no ladders, bars or access to anything higher than a few inches unless there are sides or a barrier all round to prevent falling.

 

Feeding

Biscuits/Kibble: Your hedgehog needs a minimum of 3 different brands of cat biscuits in their daily mix of which protein should be 30% to 40% and fat content no more than 10% to 15% as this can cause fatty liver disease. I don't generally use light varieties unless it is necessary to reduce the weight of an overweight hedgehog. MEAT must be the FIRST or main ingredient NOT CEREAL and not meat by-products. Manufacturers often change a recipe or discontinue a non-profitable variety and any sudden change to their normal diet  can cause a tummy upset and a hedgehog fed exclusively only one brand may refuse an alternative if that brand was no longer available.  I use Applaws as my premium brand and other brands are James Wellbeloved House Cat or Duck, Royal Canin Indoor and Purina One both Sensitive and Indoor varieties are acceptable to use as part of their mix. Deviating from these recommendations may result in a poorly or undernourished hedgehog. Supermarket own brands, Whiskas or Go-cat are not suitable for hedgehogs as their main ingredient is cereal and Iams seems to make poop very smelly as does fish and contrary to the UK belief (I have no idea of the origin of this myth) it won't actually kill them. Hedgehog owners abroad have been safely feeding fish for years. The only supermarket brand that is acceptable as part of a premium mix is Harringtons rice and chicken. Never buy pre-mixed hedgehog foods. They are produced for profit not hedgehog welfare and only contain "filler" brands not premium brands which they then sell for £15 per kilo but if you made them yourself would cost £2.90 per kilo. All mixes should have at  least one  brand containing minimum 70% meat,

Insects: Hedgehogs are insectivores so live food such as meal worms, morio worms, calci worms, wax worms, locusts, cockroaches, hoppers or crickets MUST be fed daily. Insects are not a treat, they are an ESSENTIAL part of your hedgehog's diet. Some would even go so far as to say not feeding insects daily is cruel. If your hedgehog seems reluctant to eat insects you must persevere as they are necessary as part of a balanced and healthy diet. Most hedgehogs will even enjoy the odd pinkie, a great way to aid weight gain.

We do not know definitively absolutely everything a hedgehog needs in their diet so I sprinkle a tortoise vitamin supplement onto the live meal worms 3 times a week. Gut loading (feeding) the meal-worms prior to feeding to your hedgehog is a good idea too. I use fresh vegetables and porridge oats plus I also keep a cuttlefish in with the meal-worms because although hedgehogs need calcium all the calcium supplements currently on the market are too strong so meal worms naturally fed on cuttlefish is ideal. Spikes hedgehog food should be avoided as the fat content is too high and the same for dried mealworms as they have no nutritional value and should never be used as a substitute for live ones. Never give your hedgehog cow's milk as they are intolerant to the proteins in lactose in cow’s milk but goat's milk is fine.

 
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A typical breakfast here at Sleepy Hollow will include 10 mealworms, 4 each of crickets,  wax-worms and calci worms, a couple of Dubia roaches and locusts and a morio worm then meat and veg or scrambled egg in the evening.
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Other food can be minced beef, chicken or scrambled egg (no milk) with vegetables. If feeding mince raw I always portion it up and then freeze it for a minimum 48 hours as a precaution against poor hygiene standards, contamination or parasites.

Hedgehogs need shallow tip-proof feeding bowls similar to baking ramekin dishes or empty Gu dishes. If you decide to make up a mix different to the food your hedgehog came with it must be done gradually to avoid an upset tum.

Animal water bottles are not suitable for hedgehogs as they can damage their teeth or trap their tongues and are an unnatural angle for them to drink from.

When collecting your new prickle baby you will need to bring a small pet carrier, (not an old shoebox,  paint pot or reptile feeder) a pouch plus a  heat source for the carrier.

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Spike's hedgehog food is not suitable for  APH. I would not recommend any pre-mixed hedgehog food sold on-line either. Once the cost of postage, packaging, eBay/Paypal fees have been accounted for the cost of the actual food is minimal. The brands/quality and preparatory hygiene conditions are also unknown so I always recommend making your own mix using a minimum of 4 of the recommended listed brands. The kitten varieties however are not suitable as the fat content is too high and would lead to fatty liver disease.  I use Zooplus as my supplier.

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All Sleepy Hollow babies leave with one month supply of biscuits, a teddy bear, a towel, a wheel, a quill saver, a toothbrush, wet wipes, aveeno and a notebook for recording your new baby's weight each day & lifetime support.

Fresh water must be available at all times

Few advances have been made in APH nutrition since Dr. Graffam’s pioneering research

 

In the wild hedgehogs are insectivores and like many other insectivores they can eat one third of their body weight in insects and food every night. Hedgehogs eat the whole insect including the hard exoskeleton.  This exoskeleton or chitin is necessary in a hedgehog's diet  as it aids digestion in the same way fiber does in humans. Hedgehogs digest their food with the aid of chitinase and not enzymes as humans and some other mammals. Wild hedgehogs seem to have a preference for soft-bodied insects such as centipedes and millipedes when available. They are also opportunistic omnivores and will feed on small vertebrates such as mice or baby birds if they can catch them or even any carrion they encounter. 

 

Things to AVOID in foods:

Hedgehogs do not have a cecum, which is the lower end of the colon in other animals. Their body is not designed to digest plant matter. 

Dried fruits and vegetables sound good in theory but are actually more harmful than good as they pose a choking hazard.

Always read hedgehog food labels carefully. A couple of brands contain dried fruit and vegetables in with their biscuits. Dried fruit is very high in sugar and acid so should not be included in a hedgehogs diet as both sugar and acid is very bad for their teeth and sugar is also very calorific and as obesity is a common problem in hedgehogs absolutely to be avoided. (Fresh apple contains approximately 10% sugar but once dried a whopping 57% and a,  whole apple contains approximately 52 calories but once dried 359 calories).   Breeders abroad advocate no dried fruit and veg to be included as part of a hedgehog's diet as it is recognised as being a choking hazard and  listed as un-safe food.   Wild hedgehogs in UK have been reported to have had peanuts stuck in the roof of their mouths. Providing a variety of foods will help to prevent your hedgehog from becoming attached to only one food. You could have a serious problem with your hedgehog not eating if they get  attached to one food and that food becomes unavailable or you run out.

Meat protein sources should be the top ingredient. Chicken, chicken meal, and lamb are the best protein sources for insectivores because they are the most easily digested. Pork and beef are cheaper sources of protein but not as easily digested.Foods that contain several protein sources tend to be more beneficial because they provide a wider variety of amino acids that are the building blocks of all cells. Lite forms of cat foods are traditionally used at the maintenance level.

Sadly some hedgehogs whether from a rescue or approved breeder may never be friendly no matter how well handled as a baby or how friendly it's parents are. It is always best to meet your hedgehog before purchasing and see how the breeder looks after their hogs, are the hedgehogs clean, is the breeder helpful, will they spend time helping you prepare for your new prickle baby or are they only interested in the money.

I am not a prolific breeder and operate a waiting list which gets very long. I actually have more unwanted hedgehogs come into my rescue than I have babies so if you have completed an application form and been approved to have a Sleepy Hollow baby as soon as a hoglet is available I will contact you via the email address on the application form. Once a baby has been offered and you have said you wish to purchase that baby I will invite you to pay a deposit to secure that baby for you and send details of how to pay it. If after 24 hours of supplying these details no deposit has arrived the offer will be withdrawn. Only paying a deposit secures the baby of your choice.

WARNING. Do not be tempted to buy your hedgehog from a pet shop, garden centre or anyone else who did not breed the hoglets themselves such as  a hedgehog broker or farmer. (People who buy up entire litters at a time usually from unscrupulous breeders who are unethical and over-breed their females with no thought or care to where these hedgehogs end up and who do not put hedgehog welfare first because their priority is to rake in as much cash as they can with minimum effort handling and socialising the babies). Sadly these hedgehogs are often sold underweight, malnourished, sickly or the young females already pregnant from their brothers.  Even if you do not having a Sleepy Hollow hedgehog I am always available to answer questions and give advice.

   WARNING!  WARNING! WARNING!

HERE ARE SOME VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR BREEDER 

  • How old is the hedgehog? They should be 8 weeks old or over 180 grams minimum in weight.

  • How long has baby been separated from Mum and siblings? Boys must be separated from Mum and sisters by 6 weeks of age or your baby girl hedgehog may already be pregnant! A week of living separate from Mum prior to going to their new home is also necessary to confirm your baby can feed, poop and wee independently.

  • What compensation does the breeder offer if after a post mortem (the only way to verify WHS) your hedgehog is proven to have died from the disease?

  • If your circumstances change is your breeder prepared to take your adult hedgehog back? Sadly, too many breeders who seem lovely at the point of sale are blinded by £ signs and once money has exchanged hands relinquish all responsibility or care for the life they brought into the world leaving APH rescues to pick up the pieces. 

  • Does your breeder offer lifetime support for you and your hedgehog? Ask other buyers if they are still in contact with their breeder or were all calls or messages disregarded and ignored after their purchase.

How To Spot An Unethical Breeder

BEWARE any breeder who demands a deposit before your baby is even born, refuses to let you visit and see their own setups or  see the actual hoglet you are purchasing or see your baby's Mum and most breeders have Dad as well. Has the breeder checked you have adequate knowledge yourself to care for their hedgehog and that your set-up is suitable or are they prepared to just accept payment and sell the hedgehog immediately or ship it off anywhere in the country via a courier no questions asked? Do they know the lineage of your baby? All babies should be over 180 grams in weight and living independently from their Mum before leaving the breeder. Unethical breeders will sell babies too young and underweight for a quick turnover. A mother over-bred without being sufficiently rested will produce sickly, small hoglets.

 

A deposit is to secure the baby of your choice at least from photos if not in the flesh and should never be used as a requirement to ensure entry onto a waiting list to "see if you are serious" or "to deter time wasters". This is a known practice of disreputable breeders who are only breeding for money with no care for hedgehog health, welfare or safety.  If deposits taken exceed the hoglets they have available they trawl the classified adverts looking for babies they can claim as bred by themselves. They charge a higher price than ethical breeders so they are still guaranteed a profit.

 

A hedgehog should be carefully planned and prepared for and an ethical breeder will ask for photos to check your housing is suitable and at the correct temperature.

 

AVOID any breeder who at first point of contact offers to sell you "everything you need" the same day and "everything" consists of a zoozone  and a  small quantity of unspecified cat biscuits.

 

There are some breeders who opt not to become "approved" for various reasons but they still breed ethically. If in doubt ask lots of questions or walk away. A tell tale sign of an unethical breeder or trafficker of hedgehogs is requesting a deposit before the hedgehog is born or not being able to provide a photograph of even the parents or send you regular updates.  Do they pay for commercial advertising, the type which appears on websites unrelated to hedgehogs because it is a website funded by advertisement revenue. How many hedgehogs would they need to sell to justify and afford such an expense? Probably more than any true lover of hedgehogs  could ever produce.

Cleaning

Spot cleaning probably needs to be done daily if you use fleece and the litter tray needs fresh kitchen roll every day and the wheel will almost definitely need cleaning every day as hedgehogs tend to poo while running and then run the poo into a big mess all round the wheel. I use a little anti-bac washing up liquid diluted into a spray bottle and squirt all round the inside. This method avoids getting the bearings on the back wet so lengthens the life span of your wheel. I leave it to soak while I replenish water and food bowls etc. and then it wipes off very easily ready to be put back .

The interior of the viv will only need cleaning once a week if you have a nice clean hedgehog. I use F10  and then once a month I do a deep clean using a steam cleaner. Glass I find easier to remove from their runners and do in the sink then dry using a clean, soft cloth each week.

The following should become your routine if you decide a hedgehog is the right pet for you, and it does eventually become second nature.

Daily

Every morning without fail check the thermometer to confirm the vivarium is the correct temperature and the thermostat and Che were fully functioning throughout the night maintaining the correct living temperature for your hedgehog.

 

Empty their water bowl and re fill it. Discard any left over biscuits and refill that bowl, feed live mealworms or other insects. Take out the exercise wheel and tray. Remove soiled kitchen roll, (always note, was poo normal and no signs of blood in urine?) wash the litter tray, dry it and then reline with kitchen roll and put back. Clean wheel making sure not to get the bearings at the back wet and place back in tray. Spot clean any "misses" from fleece liner or substrate and remove any lost quills. One or 2 is normal any more needs further investigation. Check for mites. Hopefully hedgie has woken for worms so now is the ideal time to take them out of the viv and while having cuddles examine them thoroughly. Check their eyes (no damage) check their nose (no discharge) check legs and feet for threads and hair that may have entangled around them during the night, check their tummy is nice and toasty warm and that your hedgie is fully alert and responding to you. Skin should not be flaky. If it is check for mites. If all looks well they can finish breakfast and go back to bed. DO NOT leave checking the welfare of your hedgehog until the evening. You must make check your hedgehog every morning WITHOUT FAIL and make sure they made it safely through the night with no mishaps. Anything different or unusual needs immediate attention. Lethargy or loss of balance or leg weakness, wobbliness etc double check temperatures and if they are correct seek immediate veterinary attention.  This is likely a medical emergency. Do not wait until the evening  "to see if they improve".

 

Weekly 

Remove all items from vivarium and wipe all over  using F10, diluted Milton sterilising fluid or other pet cleaning product. Dry thoroughly before replacing the liner bedding toys etc. If your hedgehog is less than 6 months old weigh them daily and once a week after that. Keep a note of it in a little book so any weight loss is immediately apparent. Poo boots need to be dealt with weekly.

 

Monthly/6 weeks

Deep clean viv. I use a steamer. £14 for a basic one from Amazon and you can use it to clean a million other things around the home too. They are a great investment and ideal way to clean thoroughly in nooks and crannies wiping alone won't reach. If your hedgehog is over a year a monthly weigh in is sufficient but still write it down. A hedgehog may not show any outward signs of ill health but any drop in weight will immediately alert you something is wrong. Nail trims which need doing roughly every 6 weeks are always best after a bath although some hedgehogs never need their nails done. Bathing more often than every 6 weeks can dry out the skin so poo boots are done on their own in just plain water as part of their weekly routine, not a complete bath each time. Please use either Colloidal Oats or Aveeno for bathing as porridge and  breakfast oats have sugar and starch in them which could cause a fungal infection.

 

 After reading all this and you know that a hedgehog is the right pet for you please read the guideline points to look for in choosing your breeder.  

Taking Your Hedgehog Home

Once home (suitable pet carriers and snuggle safes are covered in a previous paragraph) your baby should be placed in their vivarium and left to settle. 48 hours prior to collection your breeder should have confirmed their living temperature with you was stable and the same as they are already used to.  They may explore so make sure food water and meal-worms are available but then they will probably sleep. Babies sleep a lot. Their first toilet may be slightly runny or green and this is perfectly normal and should be back to a normal consistency and colour within 24-48 hours. Hedgehogs are little poo machines when babies so mine usually have a packet of wet ones included in their care packs.

At first they will most likely huff at you as everything is new and strange for them. They will often lick and "taste" everything new. Your hedgehog should be eating live insects  before they come to you and this will help to gain their confidence in you if you feed them a few by hand each time you get them out. It takes approximately 2 weeks for a hedgehog to become familiar with their new surroundings and start to bond with you. The more time you spend handling your hedgehog the sooner they will settle and bond with you.

 

Pet Shops and reptile shops no matter how well intentioned, how long established or how "reputable" will often give out-dated and inaccurate advice on heating requirements and basic hedgehog care. A hedgehog needs a stable, constant temperature throughout their environment and unlike for a reptile a hot area and cool area would be detrimental to the well being of the hedgehog. Reptile shops  will tell you to place the Che (ceramic heating element) at one end and this is most definitely wrong advice.

The Heat Source Must Be In The Centre 

Do Not Buy A Hedgehog From A Pet/Reptile Shop Or Take Advice From Them

If you have read this Care Guide thoroughly you will already have more knowledge about how to care for hedgehogs correctly than any sales assistant working in a pet shop.


Pet shops are supplied by unethical breeders who also often lack or ignore knowledge about the correct care of hedgehogs and feed the hedgehogs on a poor cheap diet resulting in a weak and sickly hedgehog. Buying from pet shops (very tempting especially when you can see the hedgehog is in bad living conditions and you understandably feel sorry for it so feel you are rescuing it) will only encourage them. They are supplied by breeders who sell in bulk but cheap because their sole aim is monetary gain and takes precedence over hedgehog welfare. Caring breeders try to keep track of all their babies and would also never ever abandon them to the care of a rescue. Unfortunately some "respected" and even Club "approved" breeders have been known to do this and all events surrounding one particular breeder  have been twisted to attempt to discredit the rescue and not the breeder who made no attempt to get her hedgehog and actually thwarted all attempts by the rescue and others to re-unite her with the hedgehog in question which annuls the previous good reputation of the Club all the time she remains "approved".  The facts about the whole 10 month saga of this poor hedgehog is freely available with screen shots as evidence if required.

 

Visiting Your Breeder

Responsible and caring breeders like to meet potential owners at least once before selling a hedgehog and while visiting they can observe how confident or not confident you are handling hedgehogs and advise accordingly. It is also a good time to ask your breeder  any questions you may still have even after reading this care guide and actually see a working vivarium set up and explained. Meeting their hedgehogs will also confirm whether a hedgehog is the right pet for you or not. Better to find out before spending any money. Whilst there look to see how their own hedgehogs are housed and cared for, how clean are they and very importantly judge for yourself if hedgehog welfare is their priority.

Please, do not treat your breeder's home as if it is a public petting zoo, allowing your children to wander about or go into other rooms, touch their things, tap or open vivarium doors or even poke their fingers into the cages of any other pets the breeder may have. While chatting be mindful of what your children are up to and prior to visiting explain they have to sit quietly and not run around. It is not our job to control your children and if you can't, please don't bring them.

Handling

Hopefully you will have fully bonded with your new spikey baby after a couple of weeks which is roughly how long it takes for a hedgehog to settle into a new home. Some are settled immediately and some take a little longer but what if your friendly, confident hedgehog turns into a jumping, clicking, huffing ball of hatred every time you get them out, what then? Do not despair. There is much you can do to earn their trust and you do have to earn it with most hedgehogs. I have rescued a few older ones like this and they have become sociable with calm, quiet, patient handling. If your hedgie eats live food then start by feeding these by hand only. Associating you with treats is a great way to start. Pop a t.shirt with your smell on it in the viv so they get familiar with your scent. A bath is a great way to bond as they climb up the bowl to be "rescued" by you and they are less likely to ball as well. This method of bonding has great success so I recommend a bath within the  first 2 or 3 days to all new owners. Once a bond and trust has been established it is like nothing else on earth but it needs to be maintained or your hedgie will quickly revert back to being grumpy and unsociable.

Bonding bags which you can pop your hedgehog in and carry around with you will acclimatise them to all the new  household noises and smells and give them confidence. I have also had great success with cuddle cups placed on the sofa next to me and just sitting quietly with them while watching TV. Curiosity usually gets the better of them and they soon decide to have a little look about and sniff around.

Some hedgehogs may never be fully comfortable being cuddled and instead prefer to free roam and explore. I have found allowing them to do this has then helped them to be less huffy when being picked up. Make sure the room is warm and hog proof and they cannot squeeze into a place where you cannot then retrieve them from if they decide to stay. Never ever think less handling will improve their confidence. It will have the exact opposite effect. The more you handle your hedgehog and introduce them to new sounds and smells the more likely they are to gain in confidence and become more relaxed when being handled.

 
 

Anointing

A most unusual phenomenon to experience. After discovering something new your hedgehog may lick or bite the object and then proceed to make a froth which he will then proceed to place on his back using his extra long tongue contorting himself into the most peculiar positions in order to achieve maximum coverage. If the object bleeds colour when wet then the same colour will appear on light coloured quills. Pink cat crinkle balls, blackberries or strawberries all have the capacity for this.

Allergies

Quite a few people new to hedgehogs may experience itching, a rash or even in severe cases, blisters. Some, with perseverance can become tolerant of their own hedgehog but break out once again if handling a new one. Anti-histamines are known to help while resistance is acquired but sadly some may never be able to have skin to skin contact and will always need to use fleece as a barrier.

 

Quilling

Young hedgehogs have to go though a minimum of 4 episodes of “quilling”. Some sail through and others suffer so badly bathing every 3 days and sudocrem on sore patches may be necessary to alleviate the scratching. Normal quilling occurs at approximately 4-6 weeks old, 8-12 weeks old, 6 months and a year. Your hedgehog may display unusual huffiness and grumpiness whilst going through it. Handling should be continued as normal just be aware that the hedgehog is uncomfortable so avoid stroking the quills and a few extra meal-worms will probably be appreciated. Giving a nice bath with Aveeno will help soothe irritated skin. If quill loss occurs outside usual quilling times it may be mites and there is a section on how to determine the difference and treatment in the Common Ailments page.

 
 

Bathing

Hedgehogs do not wash themselves and if a lump of poo sticks onto one of their quills while running on their wheel they will not clean it off themselves. Their feet and nails get full of poo and need to be cleaned at least once a week in a couple of millimetres of luke warm water. Prepare everything prior to waking your hedgehog. Have the water already collected in a bowl or jug and at the correct temperature. Test the temperature with your elbow the same as for a baby. Never hold your hedgehog under the tap  as a sudden increase in temperature could severely scald them. I use their litter tray with a cloth in the bottom  to make them feel more secure. Soap is not usually necessary. Stubborn pieces can be teased of gently using a toothbrush. Be aware, all mammals including us humans can carry salmonella so always practice good hygiene after handling especially as you know your little spikey friend will probably have been running in poo all night.

To clean their quills Aveeno Bath and Shower Oil is completely safe and is made from Colloidal Oats. Repeated use of breakfast oats has been known to cause fungal infections. Ground breakfast oats are not Colloidal. 

After a bath is the best time to attempt a nail trim as the quick will be visible as the nail is clean.

 

15

Nail Trims

I have never got on with the clippers that are specifically designed for dogs or small animals and prefer to use an ordinary pair of human nail scissors. After a bath when they are clean of poop and the little blood vessel is more easily visible is the best time I find. I don't endeavour to do all in one go if the hedgehog is resisting and will do a few and do the rest another time. If you never make it a big deal your hedgehog's nail trims he will hopefully use less and less resistence each subsequent time you do it.

Never use sand paper or budgie cage liners in your viv to "keep nails short".

Pet Hedgehog

If after reading through this care guide you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me but if you feel my recommendations are too restrictive and you are not willing to follow them, do not argue with me as all these recommendations are tried and tested. I want all hedgehogs to have the best life possible and if you don't then please don't bother applying for one of my precious babies.