Over the past few years, African pygmy hedgehogs have experienced a massive surge in popularity. Given their adorable appearances, big personalities and pocket-friendly size, it's easy to see the undeniable appeal.
However, hedgehogs are very unique animals that require special care and consideration. Here are six things you need to know before buying a hedgehog.
THEY HAVE UNUSUAL TEMPERAMENTS
Hedgehogs have a lot of character. They love to explore. They throw tantrums. They huff incessantly if you wake them up or refuse to give them treats. Sometimes, they'll even cuddle up in your pocket, or end their adventures by rolling up in the palm of your hand. However, hedgehogs are not particularly affectionate and they definitely aren't cuddly. If you're looking for a solitary, independent and resourceful pet, you'll love a hedgehog. If you want an affectionate, docile companion animal, hedgehogs probably aren't for you.
THEY REQUIRE A STRICT DIET
Hedgehogs are insectivores, which means they require a varied, high-protein diet. Quality cat food can form the basis of a healthy diet. Be sure to add crickets, freeze-dried meal worms, cooked meats and other treats to keep your hedgehog healthy and happy.
THEY HAVE A LOT OF HEALTH PROBLEMS
African pygmy hedgehogs are prone to a variety of illnesses and health conditions. In addition to upper respiratory infections, weight problems and skin issues, they’re especially susceptible to tumors, cancers and a degenerative condition called Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. If you don't have the time or resources to dedicate to veterinary care, a hedgehog isn't the right pet for you.
THEIR HYGIENE IS NOTICEABLY LACKING
Hedgehogs generate a lot of waste. In order to keep you hedgehog healthy, hygienic and happy, you have to clean their cage at least once every three days. Dirty litter causes a host of health issues, including upper respiratory problems and skin infections.
Hedgehogs also require baths. Once a week, fill your tub with an inch of warm, soapy water and scrub your hedgehog's quills with a soft-bristled toothbrush. This keeps your hedgehog clean and healthy.
THEY NEED SPECIAL BEDDING
Pet African pygmy hedgehogs also require specific bedding. Do not, under any circumstances, purchase bedding made of clay pellets, wood chips or paper pulp with lots of splinters. Broken pellets and splinters pierce the hedgehog's skin, irritate the eyes, and end up lodged between toes and up penile shafts. In addition to being painful, this cause potentially life-threatening infections. Avoid these problems by investing in paper bedding, like CareFresh or Yesterday's News.
STIMULATION IS VITAL TO THEIR HEALTH AND HAPPINESS
Make sure you provide your hedgehog with a running wheel, brightly-colored toys and deep, burrow-ready bedding. Hedgehogs become lethargic and depressed without mental stimulation, so it's important to provide and maintain a healthy, playful environment for your pet.
African pygmy hedgehogs are fascinating, intelligent and resourceful animals. As long as you provide proper care, close attention and a lot of love, it'll be a truly wonderful experience. If you’re up to the challenge, a pet African pygmy hedgehog will truly enrich your life.