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I would like to start off by saying
"please do your research on african pygmy hedgehogs before you decide to buy one"
"Buy from a breeder rather than a pet shop"
This is very very important if you are concerned about your pets health and behaviour.
I will go in to detail about this later in my post.
What are they?
I first found out about African Pygmy hedgehogs (APH) through an online article sent to me by a friend.
They are a hybrid of two other sorts of hedgehog, (i forget the names but its not that relevant) and are a relatively new domesticated house pet.
They live to about 4-7 years.
They grow up to around 8 inches long at most. (about the size of a large hamster)
I think they have been on the UK pet scene for around just over a decade. Compared to the syrian hamster which has been around about 40 years.
Pygmy hedgehogs are similar to hamsters in the way that they behave, and how they are are housed and looked after to a certain extent.
I would NOT recommend a hedgehog as a pet for a child. They may look cute, but hamsters are much more sociable and used to human interaction.
Pygmy hedgehogs are timid and take a lot of patience and careful handling.
How much? Where can i get them?
You can expect to pay £100 - £200 for an APH, the price being kept high so that people are less likely to impulse buy, or be bought at a whim or as presents for children.
The breeder should be registered and so should her/his animals. This is a way to lessen inbreeding which causes genetic problems for them and their offspring.
Often, pet stores are not properly trained to care for specialist creatures like APH's. They are bought in a litter, and can be left in overcrowded, far too small tanks, and left to pro-create between themselves, producing in-bred babies.
Being timmid creatures, a pet shop is not an ideal place for an APH to be - lots of people passing, prodding and scaring them. They have very bad sight so the slightest of noises or movement can make them puff up into a ball and hiss in fear.
Constant fear or neglect can cause an APH to be anti-social for the rest of their lives so if you buy from a pet store i would get a good exotic pet insurance policy and prepare to have a battle on your hands for months/years at bringing him/her around to be a little more sociable with you.
There are quite a few breeders around so there is no excuse to buy from a pet store. It will be worth travelling more of a distance to choose a breeder.
I travelled very far away from home to get my APH. A breeder in North Yorkshire who is registered and so are her APH's.
A google search on APH breeders will give you enough contact addresses/e-mails to start with.
How do i look after them?
They are fed on a basic diet of dry cat food - good brands are worth the buy as being little creatures they dont eat a lot so it still equates to value for money.
For treats, hedgies love mealworms! Live is always best, but if you cant handle the wriggling then dried ones are fine too. You can give them crickets too.
It is NOT advised to give them wild insects from the garden.
Hedgies are very prone to weight gain so try not to treat them too much - 3/4 times a week is fine. They like cooked chicken too and are said to like cooked egg, vegetables and fruit - but my hedgie wont touch any of it. Feel free to experiment but look it up before you try as they are allergic to certain foods, such as grape, milk, and unprocessed dairy products.
Temperature should be above 21 degrees, If you are comfortable in a t-shirt, that should be fine. If the temperature goes too low, they will attempt to hibernate which will cause death. If this happens, the best idea is to put them under your top on your belly so that they slowly heat up with your body heat. Do not attempt to heat them up too quickly using hot water or heat pads or anything else as it will shock their system.
Hedgies need a very large living space - they are extremely active during late night hours so they really need the space. You can get a zoozone 2 for around £50 i think, which is 100cm by about 50 cm. Any smaller would not be sufficient.
A large tank is also fine, as long as there are air vents.
Normal wire cages are not very good as although hedgies climb, they have poor eyesight and will fall at some point and this of course can cause injury, especially to a hedgie who can not see how high they are!
A wheel is compulsory, they are so active and can run miles and miles in a one night jog! A large bucket wheel is ideal for hedgies as they have long skinny legs/feet which can get trapped in the wire wheels - which can break their legs or rip their nails and make them bleed :(
Do NOT use cedar wood or any other oil coated woods. They are allergic and it will cause respiratory problems. Pine is supposed to be ok but im not sure - look it up. Aspen wood chippings are the best but you can also use plain old newspaper to line the cage, then shredded news paper for in their house to use as bedding.
I also put an old tshirt in there so that she is used to my smell and she seems to like sleeping under it! Be careful that there are no frays as they can end up wrapped around limbs causing amputation!
A water bottle is fine as long as you also leave a bowl of water as they more often than not will not even think to go to the bottle.
I put her wheel in the litter tray because she poo's ALOT and ALWAYS on her wheel!! It is much more manageable to keep it all to one section. I use dust-free, clump-free cat litter.
Hedgies like cat balls, teddies, tubes (as you will see on youtube home vids!) but you must make sure that the tubes in their cage are cut long-ways, especially whist not under supervision, as they do stick their heads in and get stuck! :)
This can range across the board but my hedgie was lucky enough to have had a breeder who regularly held her and interacted with her.
If a hedgie is scared their quills will rise and they will pull their "eyebrows" forward so that they look like a small prickly rug. If they are even more scared they will completely ball up so it is very hard to tell where her crease is. Sometimes they will hiss at you and shake if they are really scared, and some have been known to bite. If they do bite - it hurts! I havent been at the receiving end yet - but from what people say its pretty bad as they clamp down and wont release. The best way to make them release (apparently) is to actually slowly push into the hedgehog instead of pull away. You should try and expose their neck so that they instinctively let go to protect themselves. Other prone times for biting is when you have not washed your hand after eating or having some food on your fingers. They just think you are food :)
My hedgie does get startled when i take her out while she has been sleeping and she puffs up into a very sharp prickly ball! After around 30 secs max she'll stick her nose out and as long as you dont make sudden movements she will wriggle around and eat mealworms from you.
I find it so funny when she gets scared of silly things, like the other day i was watching her running around and she knocked her catball (with a bell in) she immediately puffed up and started hissing! Then slowly uncurled to look at the object then scuttled off!
They are such loveable little creatures, timid but curious, and very very cute.
I would recommend to any animal lover with lots of time in the night hours and lots of patience to get their hedgie to know them and likewise.
I will update if i can think of anything else.
Koosh is probably the most unusual out of all my pets. He's small, round, and is covered with a coat of spikes...yep, he's a hedgehog! Still fairly uncommon as pets, hedgehogs have had a surge in popularity due to some irresponsible journalism promoting them as children's pets. As a result, plenty of hedgehogs have ended up dying after being put in someone's garden in a hutch...surely the fact that they are AFRICAN hedgehogs would clue people in to the fact that they cant be kept outside?
The African pygmy is a hybridised breed of two African hedgehogs, that doesn't actually exist in the wild...so it is literally a species that only exists in captivity. Pet hedgehogs are no more likely to catch or carry fleas than any other animal, and you remove them in the same way as you would with most creatures...a good flea shampoo then a spray of some Frontline from the vets.
Caring for hedgehogs is actually very simple so long as you follow a few simple rules. It is a popular urban myth that dog food is good for hedgehogs...wrong. It isnt high enough in protein. However high quality adult light cat food (chicken, turkey or rabbit based, NOT fish) is excellent. You can also buy hedgehog food now. I feed mine three brands in rotation (a good idea as all brands are nutritionally different)...ProPlan adult light cat food, Science plan rabbit cat food, and Spike's Dinner hedgehog food. It is worth paying for high quality foods with hedgehogs, because they are so small they will eat very little...it wont cost a lot to feed them off even the best cat foods. It is also a good idea to get hold of a food called "Insectivore Fare" which is designed for captive insectivorous mammals like sugar gliders and hedgehogs. You can feed live or dried crickets, mealworms and locusts to your hedgehog maybe three times a week, but they are quite fatty so not too many. Chicken based baby food, cottage cheese, cooked chicken and pouched or tinned cat food are also all good treats. I have heard some people feed their hedgehogs fruit and veg, but mine only ate fruit on one occasion, and that was when I was bringing him home and I think he was thirsty. I have also heard that hedgehogs have problems digesting raw vegetable protein, so be careful.
Cage wise, a big plastic bunny tank is the best hedgehog home...the largest Duna and Zoozone cages are both suitable. Three foot long is the minimum, hedgehogs are actually very active animals. You can also use regular wire indoor rabbit cages, however it is a good idea to block off the bottom bars with stiff cardboard or wood, hedgehogs are rubbish climbers but will try anyway and probably fall and hurt themselves! Reptile vivariums and fish tanks are also fine, but the former will need extra holes drilled for ventilation and the latter sometimes dont provide enough. Avoid shavings and sawdust for the floor material, plain newspaper is fine with shredded paper for nesting material, or you can use compressed cardboard or Easibed, both of these were originally horse beddings but are becoming more popular with small animals.
The cage should have two nest boxes for the hedgehog, one at either side, stuffed with soft material like shredded paper or J cloth...both are available from pet shops, or you can shred your own paper. Hedgehogs will use a wheel, like a hamster, make sure and get a solid one though, no spokes. The Comfort Wheels, Silent Spinners and Wodent Wheels are all suitable brands for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs will pick up and carry soft toys, and roll bell toys, so get a soft toy cat ball and jingly cat bell balls for them.
Hedgehogs need to be kept around 70-80 degrees F to be comfortable. African species do not hibernate, and if they try to do so it will kill them, Most houses are warm enough but it is a good idea to have a reptile heat mat UNDER the tank (not inside the tank), with a reptile thermostat to measure the temperature. If you have an older or less mobile hedgehog you need to be careful they don't get too warm.
Unlike the other reviewer on this topic, I believe hedgehogs make excellent pets. The key is that you have to put the work in with taming them in the first place, otherwise there is not point. With any animal, there is no point in getting it in the first place if you aren't going to make the effort to raise and train it suitable.
One of the reasons hedgehogs make great pets is that they are unusual...an odd thing to say, you might think, but a lot of people hanker after a pet that isnt a hamster or a dog, and the hedgehog certainly fulfills that category! If you would like an exotic mammal pet that is also easy to care for, the hedgehog is a fine choice. They tend to be healthy little animals as they arent as inbred as many commonly kept pets, they eat simple food and are much easier to care for than creatures like sugar gliders.
Hedgehogs make great pets for small homes. They can be kept confined to a cage most of the day, and let out to run around for a few hours in the evening...they can be litter trained, don't take up a lot of space, and are not prone to tipping bedding out of their cage, so they are quite clean.
African Pygmies are adorably cute and funny animals. They have long snouts with little wet noses, and you can see tiny vampire-like teeth sticking out. Their eyes are black, shiny and beady, and they have cute expressions full of character. They come in a variety of colours, and usually have white tipped spikes so they look very cool. Watching them hedgehog about is very amusing too. If you pick them up on their backs they will roll up and make breathy "huffing" noises at you, and all you will see is the little nose peeking out. Then they will unroll and start doing a funny little dance to get you to turn them over. Its also hilarious watching them run because they have such stubby little legs attached to those fat, spiky bodies. You wouldnt believe how fast they run on their wheels. Have a look on Youtube if you want to see just how cute and funny hedgehogs are as pets.
If you put the work in hedgehogs become quite tame. They will learn to answer their names and quite happily sit and get stroked. As a bonus, hedgehogs dont really bite, rolling up in a ball is their defence of choice. Having said this, I have been bitten by my hedgehog by accident when I was handfeeding him. And it hurts...a lot!
Hedgehogs are cheap pet to keep...all you need is cat food, treats and bedding, which will run to maybe £2 a week when you spread it all out. Because they are exotic it is worth insuring your hedgehog for vet fees...exotic direct will insure them for about fifteen pounds a month.
On the other hand, buying an African pygmy is not cheap! They will cost you £150 at the least. This is partly due to the fact that they are hard animals to breed, the females are prone to eating their first litters. However, most exotic pets do cost a bundle, and the high cost of buying your hedgehog is offset by the low cost of keeping it.
When you first get your hedgehog, it will roll into a ball whenever you pick it up, and this hurts!!! Wearing gardening gloves can prevent you getting spiked, and once they get used to you they lay their spines flat when you stroke them, and it doesnt hurt at all.
Because they are wild animals, they can take a while to tame, and in the mean time they will huff and puff and roll up into a ball whenever they see you. And until your hedgehog is tame, it will be very secretive, only getting up in the dead of night once you have gone to bed. However, a few months of handling will tame them down into nice, loveable pets, and they will pick more sociable partying hours.
One of the hardest things about keeping hedgehogs will be finding a suitable vet. You may have to travel quite a while to find one, and possibly pay more for the vet. It is worth asking your local reptile and avian vets, as they may be more willing to see exotic mammals as well. If you read up on common hedgehog ailments, this will give you a head start with regards to veterinary care.
And finally, you must clean out your hedgehogs poop daily...especially if they are not litter trained, because it will get stuck in their little feet...and because it STINKS!!! Yep, one often overlooked fact of keeping hedgehogs is that their poo is VERY smelly, so daily clean up is required. On the plus side the hedgehogs have no smells themself, it is only the poo that is smelly!
Well, a bit unfortunate that the last downside I mentioned was poop, as I dont want to give you the wrong impression of hedgehogs! They really are lovely pets so long as you are willing to give them an hour of handling and free roaming time every day, to turn them into tame and loving pets. They are unusual in the exotic mammal world that they dont bite and are cheap and easy to care for, so if you are looking for an unusual pet that wont take up masses of your time, a hedgehog is a good bet, they are adorable and will keep you constantly amused with their antics!
These hedgehogs are so cute but not as easy to lookafter as people expect.
When i see these in pet shops i have got visions of people buying them and putting them in the garden like i have seen done to so many tortoises.
The word african in the name should give these idiots some idea that they are going to require a heat sorce greater than our weather offers so will need to be kept in the house, i also have a uv tube in with mine, purely as it was already in the viv i am keeping them in from its previous occupier so i thought a couple of hours a day wouldnt hurt it seen as it would get sun light naturally.
They have spikes on there backs which stick up if they are nervous but flatten if they are calm and soft velvety fur on there tummys.
They grow to 8 inches long and live for around 6 years.
I have got sawdust in the bottom of there viv and a litter box with wood based cat litter in which they use as a toilet.
They have a cardboard box to sleep in and eat a lot of crickets which is funny as they catch them with there feet then bite them to kill them before eating them.
They also enjoy fruit and mealworms.
I wouldnt recomend these as a pet as they are no more interesting than a hamster and are £180 for 1 which i think is extortionate, we have got 3 of them all girls so i have housed them together.
Some idiot dumped them on my doorstep in a box last august and they have been here ever since.