As often happens with small animals such as the pygmy hedgehog, it may not show any symptoms of an illness until it is practically too late to do anything about it. If your hedgehog does become quite ill, it can sometimes be difficult to find a veterinarian that will know what to do unless that person specializes in small animals or exotics. If you should know of such a person, it could pay to take your pet in for an examination so the vet can become familiar with your pet, and vice versa.
If your pet suddenly seems weak or lethargic, the first thing to check for would be dehydration. In other words, first, check to see that the water bottle hasn’t gone unattended. You may have to force-feed the animal a little water at first until it recovers and can drink on its own. If the symptoms suggest something other than dehydration, take the hedgehog to the vet as soon as possible. Whenever a hedgehog appears to be ill, a visit to the vet is always the best choice.
A hedgehog can sometimes suffer from a bout of hypothermia if its environment has become too cold. Holding the animal, or putting it in a place where it can warm up is often the only treatment that is required.
Give Your Hedgehogs The Right Nutrition
Hedgehogs are carnivores. They will eat vegetables, but they will not remain healthy for very long if they are deprived of a meat-based diet. Vegetables or fruits, such as a small piece of a carrot, apple, or banana, can be offered as an occasional treat, but the portion should be kept small. Some hedgehogs take a liking to cottage cheese. Hedgehogs eat mostly insects when in the wild, and would certainly not mind a diet of crickets, or even mealworms. They will, however, get along quite nicely on a cat food-based diet, which is to say they are not particularly finicky eaters, although they will sometimes turn their noses up at vegetables. Dried cat food is best, if for no other reason than to help to keep tartar from forming on your pet’s teeth.
It would pay to get a powdered supplement from a breeder or a pet store that can be sprinkled over the pet’s food every other day or so to ensure it is getting any vitamins or other nutrients that may be lacking in its regular diet. Once your hedgehog’s diet has become fairly well established, you want to stick to it because its eating habits are often a good indication of its overall health.
Daily feeding is best done in the evening, particularly if your pet hedgehog is a typical hedgehog and does much of its roaming around after dark. An evening meal will help it keep active until the sun comes up and it’s time to go to bed.
Two Hedgehogs Are (Sometimes) Better Than One
A pet hedgehog does not need a playmate, although there are a few that seem to enjoy having one. Hedgehogs tend to be solitary creatures that will bond to a human just as easily, and perhaps more so, than they will bond to another hedgehog. If you do choose to own more than one hedgehog, each needs to have its own individual cage.
If you place two male hedgehogs in the same cage they will fight; almost always. In fact, if you put two male hedgehogs in the same room, once they discover one another they’ll be apt to start a fight. If you place two females together, they may or may not fight. You can’t always tell what they will do.
When you put a male and female together, they may fight, but they will most certainly reward you with baby hedgehogs, each about the size of half of your little finger. Before the babies are born, the parents need to be separated, and on occasion, a female will choose to eat her babies. You never know if she’s going to do that or not, and there’s not much you can do about it as it usually happens within a day of their birth, and not too many know how to care for a one-day-old hedgehog except another hedgehog.
Hedgehogs Need Grooming Too
If you are planning on keeping a hedgehog as a pet, you need to be aware of the fact that these little creatures need to be groomed every bit as much as a pet dog does, and perhaps even more. The first question that may come to mind is ‘How do you go about grooming a creature that has sharp spines?’ For one thing, you socialize your pet so it is used to being handled so you’re not trying to groom something that has chosen to take on the physical characteristics of a sea urchin.
Let’s start with the toenails. In the wild, hedgehogs do enough digging to keep their toenails worn down. In captivity, they sometimes need to have them clipped. The easiest way to go about it is to have one person hold the animal, while the other slowly extracts one leg at a time and uses conventional fingernail clippers to shorten the nails.
Most hedgehogs prefer having a bath to having their nails clipped. Instead of a sponge bath, however, give your hedgehog a toothbrush bath. If the animal is really dirty, you can put a little water in a bathtub or a sink, and either sprays it with lukewarm water or pour water over it from a cup. Once the bath has been completed and the animal has been rinsed off, place it in a nice, soft terrycloth towel and gently wipe it dry.
Eyes, ears, and teeth need to be checked on occasion as well. If a problem is observed in any of these areas, it’s usually best to let a veterinarian decide on the course of action to be taken.
Train The Hedgehogs To Be Sociable
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Pet owners socialize dogs and try to socialize their cats. Not all prospective hedgehog owners are aware of the fact that these exotic little animals need socializing as well. Not only will that make them better pets, but it will also make them happier pets as well. A hedgehog that is happy to be around humans can be a joy to both watch and to hold. A hedgehog that is afraid of people, or afraid of its own shadow, will spend most of the time curled up, hissing, and with its spines erect.
In the case of the hedgehog, socializing is usually accomplished by handling the animals when they’re still too small to think about being afraid. Once a hedgehog becomes comfortable being held in your hand, you have a friend for life, although there are those who are occasionally in a bad mood and may give you a nip with their tiny but sharp teeth.
If the new hedgehog happens to be an adult, a good way to get acquainted is to extend your hand to let it explore it. Once you can hold the hedgehog in your hand, it will usually be more comfortable sitting in your lap.
Another thing you want to do to socialize your pet is to give it plenty of opportunities for exercise. A used playpen with mesh siding and shredded newspaper on the floor is excellent. For that matter, you can let the animal run around the room as long as there are no safety hazards. Just make certain you know where it is at all times.
Hedgehogs enjoy being on the lawn or in a flower garden, but they need to be watched very carefully, especially in a garden. Hedgehogs have a habit of first finding a cozy hiding space and then becoming very still or taking a nap once they’ve found it, and there’s nothing a hedgehog enjoys more than burrowing around in a pile of dead leaves and then taking a nap. You can’t rely on one to always be on the move so you can keep track of it. If you take your hedgehog outside, dedicate yourself to watching it like a hawk. Then, you can enjoy its meanderings. You also need to keep in mind that these little animals can run surprisingly fast.
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