A Beginner’s Guide To Baby Hedgehog Care

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baby hedgehogWhen it comes to common household pets, a baby hedgehog might not be the most obvious choice.

However, baby hedgehogs are fast becoming one of the more popular exotic pet choices in the United States and around the world. In fact, it is estimated that more than 40,000 hedgehogs are kept as pets in the United States alone.

While some pet hedgehogs may start out a little grumpy, “hedgies” soon turn into friendly and inquisitive family members that are a delight to observe.

Low maintenance, fascinating to watch, non-aggressive, and quiet, baby hedgehogs as pets make an excellent choice for anyone with the desire and patience to care for these unique animals.

What Is A Hoglet Aka Baby Hedgehog?

Did you know that a baby hedgehog is called a hoglet?

Hedgehog litters are typically born in June or July, with an average litter size of four or five hoglets born to each mother.

Baby hedgehog in the green grass in the wild

In the wild, hedgehog babies tend to struggle to survive, with most litters generally producing only two or three successfully weaned babies. From there, even fewer will grow to reach adulthood.

Hoglets are quite high maintenance in the first few weeks of their life, and many pygmy hedgehogs and other breeds don’t survive past birth.

When raising baby hedgehogs care must be taken to ensure that all their needs are met, particularly in relation to maintaining a safe temperature, regular feeding of nutritionally correct hedgehog food, and even helping your pet hedgehog with their toileting in the first few weeks.

In the wild hedgehogs will stay in their mother’s nest for the first three or four weeks of life, before joining their mother on small foraging expeditions to find food.

These adventures will take place over the next ten days or so, before the now fully weaned hedgehog will wander off, never to return.

How Big Does A Hoglet Get? Hedgehog Size & Hedgehog Weight

By two weeks of age, a baby hedgehog will weigh between 30 and 85 grams. By the time they reach four weeks of age, the hedgehog typically weighs between 110 and 170 grams and up to 260 grams by their sixth week.

Living in a cage in captivity, hoglets gain weight much faster and easier. Of course, this is because the long-eared hedgehog or African pygmy hedgehog bred in captivity generally does not face the same struggles as hoglets born in the wild.

As such, baby hedgehogs bred in a safe environment in a cage with appropriate warm bedding can weigh as much a 600 grams by their eighth week.

5 Hedgehog Facts You Need To Know About Baby Hedgehogs

  1. In the wild, if a hedgehog mother is disturbed she may resort to deserting or even eating her new babies.
  2. Hedgehogs shed their spines, in a similar way to humans shedding hair.
  3. When baby hedgehogs leave their mother’s nest, they are very unlikely to ever meet their mother or siblings again, as hedgehogs are essentially solitary animals. If kept as a pet, a baby hedgehog must be kept alone. Male hedgehogs can fight to the death if kept in a cage together.
  4. When startled or exposed to an unfamiliar sensation, a hedgehog will roll its body into a tight ball, causing its quills to stand on end as a means of protection.
  5. Baby hedgehogs are born without visible spines and have pink bellies and faces with grey outer fur. A baby hedgehog’s spines will begin to emerge shortly after birth.

What Do Hedgehogs Eat: Baby Hedgehogs Nutrition!

A hedgehog’s diet is primarily made up of insects when in the wild, earning the hedgehog the title of “insectivore”.

When kept as a pet in captivity, however, hedgehogs can safely be fed some brands of cat food, provided it is not fish-based. Hedgehogs love small pieces of boiled eggs and can also be fed crushed dog or cat biscuits.

Hedgehogs must only be given clean, fresh water to drink, and must never be given milk.

Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so talk to a local hedgehog rescue group or hedgehog breeders, to find out more about the most appropriate milk substitute for your hedgehog.

Remember, milk can cause diarrhea and other intestinal concerns for hedgehogs and must be avoided. A proper milk substitute should only be given if, the hedgehog is a baby of a few days old.

Some pet stores will provide specialist hedgehog food, however, it is unnecessary to go to the trouble of seeking out specialist food for your hedgehog if you can provide them with high-quality protein sources like earthworms, mealworms, and crickets, wet cat food or cat kibble, and some vegetables.

Baby hedgehogs must never be fed plant matter, as their digestive tract lacks the cecum necessary to digest it. In addition, they cannot digestive nuts, seeds, raw meat, onion, tomatoes, bread, or honey.

Of importance is to ensure your baby hedgehog has continuous access to clean, fresh water from a water bottle. If your baby hedgehog seems to have trouble managing the water bottle, use a small, heavy water bowl that cannot easily be tipped over.

Got A Hedgehog As A Pet? Housing and Environment Requirements

Whether you obtained your hedgie from one of the many reputable breeders in the United States, from a rescue center, or by saving an orphaned pygmy or four-toed hedgehog from the wild, you will need to provide the perfect habitat for your new pet.

Start with a guinea pig cage with a solid base or even a large terrarium for your hedgehog’s home. Hedgehogs are naturally inquisitive and will love spending time exploring their home, so the larger the area, the better.

Ensure that the cage does not have a wire bottom which could cause a trapped leg or ripped toenail. A bed area can be created with wood shavings or pellets of recycled paper. Remember to include an appropriately-sized litter box for your hedgehog.

Keep The Hedgehog Baby Warm!

One of the biggest challenges of rearing baby hedgehogs is keeping them warm. A hot water bottle is an excellent means of maintaining a baby hedgehog’s body temperature.

Remember that hot water bottles lose their heat after a few hours, after which time they will have the opposite effect, drawing out any remaining heat from the hedgehog’s body.

For this reason, when rearing hedgehogs to ensure that you change the water in the hot water bottle every few hours, even overnight.

If a baby hedgehog ever feels cool to the touch, they must have access to a heat source immediately.

A heating pad or any other leakproof bottle can be used instead of a hot water bottle. Fill it with very hot (but not boiling) water then wrap it in a towel and place it very close to your baby hedgehog. Ensure that there is room for your hedgehog to move away from the heat source if they start to overheat.

Do Hedgehogs Need Grooming? Yes! But Very Little

And it comes to grooming, hedgehogs are extremely low maintenance. Apart from nail trimming, hedgehogs are very good at keeping themselves clean.

In fact, your hedgehog’s ability to keep itself clean directly relates to your ability to maintain a clean cage and bedding area for your hedgehog.

It is possible to give a hedgehog a bath using no more than an inch of water, a toothbrush for brushing the quills, and a few drops of cat shampoo.

However, if you regularly change your hedgehog’s cage and give them access to clean bedding, this shouldn’t be necessary.

Hedgehogs And Health: Does My Baby Hedgehog Need To See A Vet?

A vet examines a baby hedgehog inside a clinic

Like all animals kept as pets, hedgehogs benefit from regular visits to the vet.

Given that the majority of hedgehog health conditions are because of dental issues, obesity, digestive issues, and poor nutrition, hedgehog owners are advised to take their pets for regular check-ups at the vet, which will include routine dental exams, to ward off any problems with nutrition before they become major concerns.

In addition, hedgehogs need assistance with keeping their nails trimmed, and vets can provide this service if you don’t feel comfortable trimming your hedgehog’s nails yourself.

What Do I Do If I Find A Baby Hedgehog?

If you find a baby hedgehog in the wild, the first thing to do is to spend some time observing them before disturbing them. In some instances, it will be best to leave the baby hedgehog exactly where it is, while other circumstances will warrant immediate intervention.

If you find a baby hedgehog in a dangerous situation, such as on or near a road, or a baby hedgehog near its mother that has died, intervene as soon as possible.

Similarly, if the baby hedgehog is alone, weighing less than 300 grams or with their eyes closed, immediate intervention is likely to be necessary.

Small baby hedgehogs do not have the required fat reserves necessary to survive cold weather, and a baby hedgehog whose mother has died and who is not old enough to fend for themselves will benefit from human intervention.

Can Wild Baby Hedgehogs Spread Diseases To Me?

Like all wild animals, baby hedgehogs can potentially carry diseases that can spread to humans.

Hedgehogs have been linked to some bacterial microbial infections including mycobacteria and salmonella, in addition to viral and fungal diseases.

For example, the fungal skin infection tinea, also known as ringworm, has been linked to wild and pet hedgehogs.

Cases are rare, but people with compromised immune systems – such as those affected by HIV or taking chemotherapy or immunosuppressants – should speak to their doctor before inviting a baby hedgehog into their home.

Hedgehog Lifespan

Unfortunately, baby hedgehogs do not have long lifespans. Many baby hedgehogs do not survive their infant weeks, and those that do are unlikely to live longer than six years, even with the best of care in captivity.

In the wild, the average hedgehog lifespan is two or three years, with a rare hedgehog surviving in the wild past their fifth birthday.

Got A Hedgehog Pet? Here Are 5 Tips You Need To Know When Caring For A Pet Hedgehog

  1. Hedgehogs are happiest when they have an area they can go to hide, such as a small sleeping pouch or an igloo-shaped structure.
  2. Even beyond their infant weeks, hedgehogs require consistently warm temperatures. Use a thermometer to ensure that your hedgehog’s habitat is between 70 and 80 degrees, and always keep it out of direct sunlight and away from drafts.
  3. Just like dogs, cats, and guinea pigs, hedgehogs love to play with toys. Most toys designed for cats or small dogs will be suitable for hedgehogs, provided they don’t have any small areas or grooves in which their noses, nails, or feet could get caught.
  4. And just like rodents and other small mammals, hedgehogs love getting exercise from a spinning wheel. Again, ensure that the wheel is solid, without spokes that could harm your hedgehog’s nails, toes, or feet.
  5. Hedgehogs are notoriously grumpy and aloof when they first arrive in a new habitat. The best way to win your hedgehog’s affection in those first few days is by being gentle and speaking softly. You’ll soon find that your hedgehog will adapt to its new surroundings and take on it’s naturally friendly playful nature.

Hoglets: They Require Good Care

Remember, if you find a baby hoglet, then be prepared for a lot of work! Hoglets need a lot of care and will require their weight to be charted daily! So, make sure you talk to your local veterinarian or hedgehog breeder for more information!

Common Questions On A Baby Hedgehog

What do you feed a baby hedgehog?

How long do hedgehogs live as a pet?

Do pygmy hedgehogs carry disease?

Can a hedgehog climb a wall?

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