So in this post I'm going to talk about all the care, attention & cleaning they need!
I don't want to say 'worry' (as I'm sure everyone has a brain in their head, or another half/friend/family member that may put you off getting one) but I do get slightly concerned that there may be a couple of unwanted pygmy hedgies after the initial novelty of owning a hedgehog wears off - it hasn't with me, but everyone is different!
Before getting Herbert, we did a lot of research. Like with any pet - they are not something you should ever get on a whim or before knowing you can honestly care to their needs and give them a good life with you. Although pygmy hedgehogs are fairly low maintenance; with respect that they are quite solitary animals & are pretty happy on their own, however when it comes to caring, cleaning & bonding with them you do need a lot time and patience.
I'm going to list a couple of hints, tips and facts for anyone considering getting a pygmy hedgehog. If you still want one at the end of it all - then a hedgehog is for you :)
- Do your research - its a HEDGEHOG and so classed as an exotic pet. They are very different to cats & dogs and similarly there are no hedgehog 'kennels'... Where would your pet live if you went away on holiday? Do you have a vet nearby that could help if your hoglet became sick? An average hedgehog life span is anywhere between 3-6 years so it is quite a long commitment!
- They aren't cuddly - Hedgehogs are nocturnal and solitary animals. They really do prefer being alone. You cannot have more than one hog in a cage and you will have to really work to earn their trust! They are grumpy and will try prickle you if they're not happy - not exactly painful, but not nice. When they are 'flat' they feel like stroking a hairbrush!
- O-dear - they come with a slight smell. If you're a clean, clean person you will notice a certain stench about your pet. Herbert loves his wheel, and will go to the toilet while doing so - put two and two together and you have a poopy covered hog. Although, this goes with the saying - a pet is as clean as you keep them. As much as we clean Herberts cage, we can't stop him getting 'poo boots!'
- Spacey - unlike hamsters & rats, hedgehogs tend not to climb. When given the chance, I guess they would, however it normally results in injury! A large indoor rabbit cage is essential for the hog to have enough 'floor space' to run around in. Keep that in mind when deciding if you want a hedgehog and if you have enough space for something that size. Popular ones are Zoozone 2 & Savic Rody Rabbit cages.
- Pricey - Herbert himself cost around £125. His cage alone was £65, plus four x £20 cage liners from eBay; we haven't even got to the toys, food, litter substrate and food pots that they need. Obviously, after the initial 'buy everything you need' faze, buying monthly cat biscuits/litter substrate isn't too bad, but do keep it in mind :)
- Choosing a hog - Please, please find a reputable breeder when choosing your hog. Avoid pet shops. A hedgehog can very quickly get used to not being handled and so in a pet shop the hog will already be used to being left alone and not being interfered with. If you want a friendly hog, please search around and find a private breeder who perhaps keeps other hedgehogs as pets so you know it is well loved and will be sociable! Hoglets leave their mum around 8 weeks old. We found Herbert through a private breeder listing on Preloved.co.uk.
- Attention - it's really important, as mentioned above, to hold/interact with your hoglet for an hour minimum every day. This works for us as he can sleep through the day and we get him out for nighttime 'cuddles' (I lay down with a cover over me, while he sleeps under his pouch, occasionally eating biscuits) while watching tv at night. If you're a busy person and can't afford to spend the time with your hedgie, they will soon become accustomed to being on their own and will not enjoy being held.
- Noms - contrarie to popular belief, hedgehogs cannot eat quite a few things; this includes milk & fish. They are lactose intolerant and cannot digest fish. Their staple diet is cat biscuits (meat flavours - we use Go Cat Indoor & Purina) so again its important to take note of what they can & can't eat.
- Behaviour - every hedgehog is different. Much like people, most hogs have very different personalities and it isn't a one size fits all situation for how the hog will bond with you (if at all). Some hedgehogs bite, some really don't like being picked up, some are more nervous than others etc. Herbert is quite nervous, huffy and can be grumpy if he hasn't had enough sleep! :) although others will love being held, tickled and interacted with; its not always the case!
- Cleaning - finally the last thing that does need daily care is cleaning. Hedgehogs can be litter trained (Herbert managed to train himself in the early weeks, however as soon as he got his wheel - all cleanliness went out of the window!) however they will need daily 'poo picks' and cleaned at least once a week. We personally clean Herberts cage every other day, because he seems to like getting mess everywhere!
Those are some of the basics! There are more things like heating, treats & health issues that you should look into. I don't want to put anyone off, but I do want to make people aware that this is similar to any other pet you would get and deserves the same amount of research! I love Herbert to bits and couldn't be happier with my little prickly friend, they're just not for everyone. I'd also point any perspective hedgie owners over to pygmyhogsuk.com site as the forum is fantastic for finding out more info on hedgehogs & their needs!
* the first picture is his old cage set up! he now has a much bigger litter tray (actually a B&Q paint roller tray with Yesterdays News substrate) & his flying saucer wheel!