- Heat Sources
A heat source is an absolute must in owning a hedgehog, as the temperature of the enclosure must be kept at least 72F year-round, and in some climates this can be harder to accomplish. If you are unable to keep your hedgehog's enclosure at this minimum temperature (for instance, if your parents control the thermostat and you can't provide another source of heat), please consider an easier pet to care for than a hedgehog. When kept too cool, hedgehogs will attempt to hibernate, and even when caught early, hibernation attempts can reduce a hedgehogs ability to fight illness. When not caught early, they can be fatal
I keep my hedgehogs warm by using oil-radiator-type space heater to keep the hedgehogs' room warm during the long, cold Michigan winters.
I also keep heat sources that a hedgehog can lay on top of or next to in order to keep warm in case the electricity or furnace goes out, and for traveling during cold weather. I highly recommend having both of the following on hand in case of emergency:
Ceramic Heat Emitters are becoming more and more popular in the hedgehog community. They are basically a heat lamp that creates no light. They require as special heat lamp and a thermostat for proper temperature regulation. These units do get extremely hot, so special care must be taken to ensure that they are secure and will not come into contact with anything that may burn or melt.
- Snuggle Safe HeatPad: Heat this product in your microwave for 4 minutes and place underneath your pet's bedding. It contains Thermapol, a non-toxic and environmentally-friendly material, and never needs to be refilled. I have heard several owners say they place this product under their hedgehog's sleeping place and it works really well. While initially hard to find, these have become more readily available. Call your local pet stor or check online for sources.
- Hand warmers: hese are the hand warmers that involve bending to break an internal pouch, which creates a chemical reaction to produce heat for up to two hours. I highly recommend having a few of these on hand for emergencies when you have no other way of providing heat for your hedgehog. Care should be taken in their use. The hedgehog should not be able to come into direct with the hand warmer, and proper ventilation is a must. You can find these in the sporting goods section of your local department store.
- Water Bowls/Bottles
While early on water bottles were recommended for hedgehogs just like they were for pet rodents, I am firmly against their use, and for good reasons:
A better source of drinking water for your hedgehog is either a waterer or a water bowl. These provide a more natural approach to drinking, allowing your hedgehog to lap and swallow as nature intended it to. However, hedgehogs that burrow may get their bedding in their bowl or tip it over. Compared to the dangers presented by water bottles, I consider these problems to be minor, and with a little creativity they can be addressed.
For many years I have been using small tempered-glass condiment/dipping bowls. These work great, as they are intended for human use and glass, which eliminates any danger from lead used in some ceramic glazes; they are big enough to provide plenty of water, and yet shallow enough that a hedgehog can easily stand at the bowl and drink without tipping it over; and they are easily sanitized in the dishwasher.
- Hedgehog necks do not articulate to allow for a hedgehog to comfortably drink from them. Because of this unnatural position, it can be difficult for many hedgehogs to get enough water from their bottle. Because of this a hedgehog may bite at the nozzle.
- Bottles can become clogged, causing a hedgehog to either go without water, or to bite at the nozzle.
- Hedgehogs that bite on water bottle nozzles can break teeth. Hedgheogs are not rodents. Once a tooth is broken, it will not grow back and can become a health risk.
- Bottles can be difficult to clean properly and bacterial growth can quickly become a problem.
- It is easy for an owner to decide a bottle has plenty of water and neglect to clean and refill it. This promotes bacterial growth and is not a clean source of water.
- Water bottles have been known to spring leaks, which can soak the hedgehog's bedding. Wet bedding can increase the risk of your hedgehog becoming chilled and attempting hibernation.
- Some hedgehogs have gotten their tongues caught in the water bottle nozzle. The damage done to a caught tongue can result in permanent damage or even death of your hedgehog.
- Food Dishes
For the same reasons as for the water bowls, I use glass condiment bowls (although smaller-sized) as food bowls for my hedgehogs. Other ideas include using Pyrex dessert dishes (the Flash and Thelma Memorial Hedgehog Rescue recommends the 8-ounce size)
While many owners use the small ceramic crocks sold in pet stores, I advise against their use. Many are made in countries that still allow the use of lead in ceramic glazes, and the simple fact that they are intended for pet use and not human use may mean less care has been taken to ensure their safety.
- Bedding Types
Bedding is yet another topic where there are many opinions on what is the best approach. My recommendation is to use a fleece liner, which can be as simple as pieces of fleece cut to fit, or custom-made cage liners that include a combination of flannel or corduroy on the outside, with a layer of fleece inside. Here is a sample of the reasons to use fabric cage liners instead of substrate bedding materials:
- Wood chips have been known to harbor mites.
- Wood chips and splinters can get stuck in sensitive areas, including eyes (sometimes even leading to loss of the eye), mouths, and the penile sheath of male hedgehogs.
- Substrate beddings can be dusty and cause respiratory problems.
- Cloth liners are washable and reusable.
- Light colored liners allow for faster detection of health issues. In substrate bedding it can be diffcult to detect bloody urine, green or liquid feces, etc.
- No wood shavings on the floor.
- Cloth Liners
- Vellux Blankets: I used to use cage liners made from Vellux blankets, and they were very popular at the time. Many hedgehog owners would cut the blankets into cage size pieces and use them instead of substrate bedding. Since the edges of Vellux do not fray, you don't have to worry about loose threads getting wrapped around hedgehog legs, and the blankets held their shape for many washings. However, one major downside was discovered with hedgehogs that dig. These blankets can quickly be destroyed by a digging hedgehog. They also hold onto moisture quite well, and when wet, can become quite cold.
- Fleece/flannel/corduroy cage liners: Fleece and combination material cage liners have replaced Vellux as the cloth liner of choice. To use them, you can either simply cut pieces of anti-pill fleece to the size of your cage, or you can sew liners made from corduroy or flannel with a layer of fleece inside. I highly recommend selecting light colors (light tan or yellows are my preference). The lighter color liners allow for easy detection of off color stools, urine and/or blood. Care must be taken to only use fabrics that cannot fray and to eliminate loose threads, as these can become wrapped around hedgehog toes or legs, which if not discovered soon enough can lead to gangrene and necessary amputation.
- Substrate Bedding
- CareFresh Ultra (white): Out of the substrate bedding available this one at least comes in white. The color makes detection of green stools, and blood easier, however detection is not as easy as with cloth liners. Any substrate bedding cause be dusty and can cause respiratory problems in hedgehogs.
- Wood shavings should be avoided. Soft wood like cedar and pine emit poisonous fumes. Harder wood like aspen do not emit fumes, but still present real dangers to hedgehog eyes, ears, and other sensitive areas. In addition, wood shavings fresh from the store can contain mites, an infestation of which can be difficult and expensive to treat and eliminate. Just say no to wood bedding for hedgehogs.
- Newspapers: I also don't recommend newspaper, as while it is easy to find, it doesn't absorb liquid or dry out quickly.