a Hedgehog chewing on a mushroom

Hedgehogs are small, spiny mammals that have become increasingly popular as family pets in recent years. They are native to Europe, Africa and Asia, but can now be found all over the world. Hedgehogs make wonderful pets for those looking for a unique and low-maintenance companion.

Hedgehogs come in a variety of colors and sizes, ranging from white to brown to black. They have a lifespan of up to six years, and can grow up to 9 inches in length. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active at night.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals that are native to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. They are not venomous, but they can bite if hurt or threatened. They are solitary creatures, preferring to live alone, and are not particularly fond of human interaction. They are very territorial, and will defend themselves against intruders.

Hedgehogs are a very interesting and fun pet to have, but their needs are different from cats, dogs, and other animals most people are used to. Hedgehogs are wild animals that are not domesticated like dogs and cats, and they should always be considered wild, even when they are young.

They might look like a walking cactus, but that little thing is a Hedgehog. Hedgehogs are great for families with older children and either don’t have the space for a larger pet, or who don’t have the time that a larger pet can take.

Hedgehogs don’t need much of your time at all compared to other pets. Because they are solitary most Hedgehogs are happy to spend their day exploring their cage undisturbed.  If you do have some extra time then you have a number of different ways you can play with them if you are up late.

If you’ve ever wanted to stand out as someone with a unique pet then this one will do in most cases. Hedgehogs are not terribly popular within the US because they are not as sociable as other pets. Many families love having a low maintenance pet around to play with.  

If your family is too busy for other pets, and you have time in the evenings or weekends and want a pet, this one might be right for your family.

It’s important to provide your hedgehog with plenty of space to explore and play, as well as a variety of toys and hiding spots. Finally, Hedgehogs should never be handled roughly or picked up by their spines, as this can cause them serious injury.

Overall, Hedgehogs make great family pets for those looking for a low-maintenance companion. If you’re looking for a unique pet that doesn’t take up a lot of your time, a Hedgehog may be the perfect choice.

Information about Hedgehogs

  • Average Size: 6 to 9 inches
  • Average Weight: 12 to 17 ounces
  • Coat Colors: Deep Brown; Pale Brown; White and Black; Cinnamon and Snowflake
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No
  • Good Pet: No
  • Safe with Children: Not with children under 5 
  • Good with Other Hedgehogs: No
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: No
  • Training: Difficult
  • Exercise Needs: High 
  • Weight Gain: High
  • Health Concerns: Cancer, Ringworm, Obesity, Respiratory Diseases, Gastrointestinal problems and Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome.
  • Allergies: Hedgehogs are allergic to strong scents and dust which can lead to respiratory infections

Average Life Span: 5 to 6 years

Physical Appearance of Hedgehogs

a Hedgehog walking on some short grass

Hedgehogs are small compact mammals. The most unique feature of these animals is that they have quills on their back. The quills look similar to what the porcupines have but the quills on the Hedgehog’s body are softer and do not spike out in defense. They can have as many as 6,000 quills on their body!

The fur on their face, tail, stomach and neck is short and soft. They have 5 toes on each foot and their ears are short and snout.

They can have a variety of colors like deep brown, pale brown, white and black, cinnamon, and snowflake. Some Hedgehogs might also have deep brown or black markings on their face.

There are 17 different species of Hedgehogs but the African Pygmy Hedgehog is the most common one kept as a pet. They have white quills, but otherwise look mostly like the other types.

Temperament of Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are quiet, active and independent mammals. They don’t seem to have much interest in human interaction or with other pets. They are perfectly happy alone in their cage tunneling around.

Hedgehogs are not aggressive and will rarely bite. If they feel scared they will usually just roll themselves up in a ball with their quills expanded. If you pick them up expect to see this happen often.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals who will sleep during the day and will be most active during the night. They can sleep for up to 18 hours a day! The best time to play with them is in the evening or early morning. If your family isn’t available in the mornings or evenings, a Hedgehog may not be the best pet for your family.

Training Hedgehogs

a Hedgehog outside walking on grass

Since Hedgehogs are independent and do not like social interactions, training is largely limited to litter box training.

Your Hedgehog may not immediately start using their litter box but being persistent can help. To encourage them to use the litter box, place them inside their litter box when they wake up and after their meals. The goal is to place them inside the litter box when they are about to potty. Unless you are active during the times when they are, it will be almost impossible to potty train them.

Sometimes it may take months for the Hedgehog to start using the litter box but in some cases it can take upto a year! It will depend on your Hedgehog and how stubborn they are, but the important thing is to keep trying.

On a final note, even if you do potty train them you can still expect daily “accidents” outside of their litter box. This is especially true if you have something like an exercise wheel for them or some tubes. Expect to clean these out once a day.

Their Compatibility with Children

Hedgehogs are not recommended for families with children under 5. The fast movements and excitement of children can scare the Hedgehogs. They may roll themselves into a ball, causing their quills to raise which could hurt or scare the children.

Hedgehogs are not the cleanest animals to start with as they will usually go to the bathroom wherever they are, even while walking. They also carry salmonella, which can make people incredibly sick if they do not wash their hands after handling them, or rub them against their face.

a Hedgehog laying on bedding in their enclosure

Younger children are at an increased risk of getting a serious illness from the germs Hedgehogs carry. For older children, make sure there is an adult around to supervise when they play with the pet because their spikes may hurt the children. Make sure your child does not kiss the Hedgehog and always washes their hands after playing with them to prevent salmonella infections.

How to Handle a Hedgehog

Hedgehogs have prickly backs but their bellies are soft. To handle your Hedgehog scoop them from their belly. Keep one hand around their belly and the other to support their back. Avoid touching the quills while handling them and limit your touch to the fur on their body. 

Stay calm and allow your Hedgehog to get used to your touch. They may roll up into a ball when you first handle them but you need to be patient. The quills look sharp but they will not hurt. Wait for your Hedgehog to calm down. After a while they may start sniffing around and let you handle them. 

Some important things need to be followed while handling them. Hedgehogs are known to carry Salmonella, a bacterial disease that infects the human intestinal tracts. There have been several instances of the infection spreading through contact with a pet Hedgehog. While handling them:

  • Always wash your hands after handling or playing with your pet Hedgehog. For children, adults should make sure that children wash their hands after playing with them.
  • Avoid kissing your Hedgehog because it can cause a potential infection to spread to your face.

Best Habitat for Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs look small but like to stay active and need a lot of space. Their cage should be big enough for your Hedgehog to move around and exercise. It should also have space for hiding areas, litter boxes, a running wheel and food bowls.

Hedgehogs will spend most of their time inside their cage so make sure to give them lots of toys and accessories to keep them entertained.

a Hedgehog eating from a blue bowl outside


Your Hedgehogs cage should be at least 2’L x 3’W. If you can give them a bigger cage then that is even better. The best cage for Hedgehogs is a wire cage with a solid floor. Avoid using a cage with a wire floor because it can hurt their feet and make it difficult for them to walk properly.

Hedgehogs like to climb and multi-level cages are good because it gives them a lot more space. There are many different types and styles available at local pet and online stores.

Place their cage away from air conditioners, drafts, heaters, windows or any other location where the temperature can get too hot or cold. The best temperature for your Hedgehogs is between 75 to 80 degrees F.

Since the Hedgehogs are nocturnal, their cage should be placed in a location where they can experience both day and night.


For bedding shredded paper is cheap, easy and makes a great choice. They are cheap and easy to replace. Avoid using wood shavings because it can be harmful to your Hedgehogs.

Hiding Areas

Hedgehogs like to relax in covered spaces as it makes them feel safe. They need to be given hiding areas inside their cage. Wooden box, a hollow tube or a pet igloo all make good, safe hiding spots. It is important that the size of their hide is large enough for your Hedgehog to stretch and relax. This space is important for them because they feel safe and secure while hiding.

a Hedgehog outside looking at a red and white spotted mushroom

Toys and Wheels

Hedgehogs enjoy playing with toys and should be given a variety of toys. Balls, chew toys and bells are good toys for Hedgehogs. PVC pipes, ramps, tunnels and wooden shelves are all great because they give your Hedgehog different experiences while traveling. Exercise wheels are also great because it lets them exercise and keeps them busy and lets them burn off extra energy.


A Hedgehog needs to spend a few hours outside the cage. Because of the Hedgehogs anywhere anytime toilet habits, few people will want them running around on the floors of their house. Most families will get them a playpen to spend their time outside the cage. A playpen will ensure that your Hedgehog has enough space to explore and also prevent accidents from happening in your home.

Food and Water Bowls

Hedgehogs need access to clean water at all times. A bowl of water should always be inside their cage. Their cage should also have two food bowls – one for wet and the other for dry food. Hedgehogs like to run around the cage and may accidentally hit the bowl. A good way to prevent them from being tipped over is to attach the food bowls to their cage.

Litter Box

Hedgehogs can be trained to use a litter box. A small litter box in one corner of their cage. Use shredded paper as litter pellets. Avoid using clay or clumping cat litter because it can be harmful to your Hedgehog because it can stick to their body.

Habitat Maintenance

a Hedgehog balled up in someone's hands

To keep their cage clean, remove the poop and any uneaten food from their cage every day. The food and water bowls should be cleaned and replaced with fresh water every day.

Replace the bedding once a week. Look for, and replace any damaged toys and cage parts once a week.  

Disinfect their cage and anything else inside the cage once a month. Carefully clean the walls, floor and hiding areas inside their cage.

The Attention Requirements of Hedgehogs

The attention a Hedgehog needs depends on the individual pet you have. Most Hedgehogs don’t like a lot of human attention. While most don’t enjoy being handled by people, there are a few that either don’t mind or seem to enjoy it. You will know after a week or two if your pet Hedgehog likes being handled.

While handling them, be careful with them, they may curl themselves up with their quills puffed out without warning. This sudden curling can cause you to drop them.

Health Issues

A clean cage, a well-balanced diet and lots of exercise will help keep your Hedgehog healthy. They may still suffer from some health issues and you should take them to the vet immediately if you see any signs of illnesses or infection.

Some common health issues are listed below:


Cancer is a common health issue found in Hedgehogs. The disease generally affects Hedgehogs who are 3 years or older. Cancer mostly occurs in the mouth, stomach, intestinal tract but can also occur in any other part of the body. Symptoms can include a tumor or a simple illness like lethargy, lack of appetite or weight loss.


They are a fungus infection that can result in missing quills, hair loss and dryness or peeling of the skin. The condition can be treated with medication but owners need to be careful as it can be transmitted to humans and other pets.


Obesity is a serious health issue in pet Hedgehogs. The cause can be a lack of exercise, feeding them high-fat foods and excessive treats. Overweight Hedgehogs will have bulky legs, skin under the quills and armpits. Affected Hedgehogs may not be able to roll themselves into balls and develop weakened bones. If your Hedgehog is starting to become obese, reduce the amount of food you give to them and give them more toys to promote them exercising. You can encourage them to use the wheel inside the cage when they are awake at night.

an illustration of a sick hedgehog

Respiratory diseases

Some Hedgehogs may get respiratory diseases like pneumonia. The symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge and labored breathing. Respiratory diseases can even be caused if the cage is too cold or dirty. It is important to keep the temperature of the cage in the range to keep your Hedgehog healthy.

Gastrointestinal Problems

They can also have digestive infections from bacteria, the most common being Salmonella. Salmonella can be fatal as it can grow in their intestinal tracts without any symptoms. Some common signs of this disease are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy.

The disease is dangerous because it can be even transmitted to humans. Do not handle your pet Hedgehog if you see any of the above symptoms. Immediately take them to your vet and have them diagnosed with Salmonella so that they can be treated.

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome

It is a neurological disease that can lead to progressive paralysis. The exact cause of this disease is not known but it is suspected to arise from a genetic disorder. Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome will first affect the Hedgehog’s muscle control. It will start from the hind legs and then progress to the rest of the body. The muscles will lose mass and strength. There is no cure available for the disease and it will generally result in death within 18 to 24 months. The only remedy is to give them supportive care to make food and water easier for them to feed.

a Hedgehog outside near the woods

Grooming and Care Tips for Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are generally clean animals and do not need a lot of grooming. Sometimes their quills or fur may get dirty and will require you to bathe them.


To bathe them you need towels and a toothbrush. They can be bathed in a sink or bowl. Fill the bowl/sink with half-inch of water and make sure the water is not too warm. Wet your pet Hedgehog’s back with water but avoid getting water on their ears, eyes and face. Use the toothbrush to scrub their quills and use your hand to gently rub the fur on their belly and legs. Shampoo is not needed but if you want you can use a mild cat shampoo.

Once you are done bathing them, remove your Hedgehog from the bowl and place them on a towel. Use the towel to gently dry them and remove the remaining water from their body. Make sure that your Hedgehog is completely dry before placing them back inside their cage. 

Nail Trimming

Your Hedgehogs nails need to be trimmed every other week because there isn’t anything in their cage to naturally wear down their nails. Use a pet nail clipper to trim their nails. While trimming their nails it is important to be gentle and patient because your Hedgehog can sometimes become difficult and squirm or ball up while you trim their nails. Avoid clipping the nails too far because it can cut the blood vessels in their nails. If you accidentally hurt them and they start bleeding, use a styptic pencil or flour to cover their wound.

Dental Care

Check their teeth weekly for swollen gums or tartar build-up. If your pet is drooling excessively, has inflamed gums or any other signs of infection, take them to your vet. Sometimes your Hedgehog will be licking their quills and covering them with a foamy saliva. This behavior is completely normal and is known as Self-Anointing.

Feeding Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs love eating dog food

Hedgehogs primarily eat insects in the wild but pet Hedgehogs can be fed commercial cat or dog food. It is important to feed them a food that contains rich sources of protein like chicken or fish. 

Dry food should be the main source of food for Hedgehogs. Dry Hedgehog food is great for them, but if it’s not available at your local pet store, you can also give them dry cat or dog food. They should occasionally be fed wet food, either canned cat or dog food will be good for them. 

Small amounts of vegetables and fruits should be added to their diet. They can be fed beans, apples, carrots, peas and corn. Your Hedgehog may have a specific preference, you might try some foods out and see what they like. Try to give them a variety of vegetables and fruits rather than limiting it to one or two types.

For an occasional treat you can feed them insects like crickets and mealworms, boiled eggs or commercial cat treats. Treats should consist of a very small portion of their diet.

Ideally you should feed them at night because that is the time they are most active. 

1 to 2 tablespoons of dry and wet food should be fed to them daily. Fruits, vegetables and treats should not be more than one tablespoon. If you see your Hedgehog gaining weight, their diet should be reduced. 

Related Questions:

Is it Legal to Keep a Hedgehog as a Pet?

Just like Ferrets, Hedgehogs can be kept as pets in most states of the United States except for a few. States that have banned Hedgehogs include California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Georgia and the Five Boroughs of New York City. States like New Jersey and Wisconsin require a special permit for owners to keep Hedgehogs as pets. The reasons for banning them include concerns about the Hedgehogs being carriers of diseases like Salmonella, potential threat to local wildlife and establishing their own populations. Check with your local municipality before getting a Hedgehog as a pet.

Can we keep 2 Hedgehogs Together?

Hedgehogs are independent and should always be housed individually. Keeping same-sex Hedgehogs will result in frequent fighting and keeping a male and female will result in many baby Hedgehogs. If you want to keep more than one Hedgehog, it is best to have a separate cage for each.