Hedgehog Care 101

How to take care of a hedgehog, including dietary and habitat needs.


Skylar dePolo

9/23/20234 min read

Do hedgehogs make good pets?

A hedgehog can be a fun pet for experienced pet owners who have the ability to keep them happy and healthy. They are not rodents, and are not a pet for beginners. Hedgehogs require specific care, and are prone to many health issues. If you are thinking about getting a hedgie, be prepared for the high likelihood of having to take them to a vet and being able to afford to do so.

What conditions does a hedgie need?

Lighting: Hedgehogs are nocturnal, meaning they are asleep during the day and awake at night. You cannot change their sleep schedule. They must have 12-14 hours of daylight. A room with lots of natural light is best, and during parts of the year where there is less than 12 hours of light, turn on a ceiling light or lamp (warm light) to mimic sunlight.

Temperature: Hedgehogs are mammals, however, they are temperature sensitive animals. They should be kept at no less than 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and no more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 75 to 78 degrees (F) is the ideal temperature for a hedgehog. If they get too hot or too cold, they can become seriously ill.

What happens if lighting and temperature needs are not met?

When hedgehogs do not get the minimum of 12 hours of daylight, or if they get cold, they will go into hibernation. While in the wild this may be a survival benefit, hibernation can often be fatal for hedgehogs in captivity.

What type of cage does a hedgehog need?

Having a small body does not equal having a small cage. Hedgehogs need plenty of room to run and explore, and since they cannot jump or climb (they may try to climb, but will fall), hedgehogs need horizontal space, meaning their cage should only be one level. Exercise is very important for hedgehogs, especially since they are prone to obesity. They should always have an exercise wheel safely secured in their cage. A whisper wheel with no slits is best; if there are gaps in the wheel, your hedgie may get their leg stuck and severely injured.

What type of bedding should be used?

A soft, dust free bedding works well for hedgehogs. This allows for your hedgie to burrow, as well as bury their food. An alternative to this is using fleece liners. However, hedgehogs are burrowers, so give them a cozy cave/bed they can go in (or under) to feel safe and sleep.

Do not use wood shavings or chips; wood chips could physically harm your hedgehog, and the dust from shavings can gat stuck in their nose and/or lungs, causing major respiratory problems.

Remember temperature?

You must keep the room your hedgehog is in at between 72 and 80 degrees (F), preferably 75 to 78. In addition to this, you must also provide a heat source. Either a heat lamp above the cage, or a heating pad beneath the cage will work well. Only a portion of the cage should be heated, and this portion should also include a hidey house for your hedgie. You should also provide a second hideout for your hedgie, or one large enough so that half is heated, and half is not (a heating pad would be best for this), so that your hedgie can scooch over to one side or the other if they get hot or cold.

What do hedgehogs eat?

Hedgehogs are omnivores, but mainly insectivores. This means that they can eat both plants and other animals. As pets, it is best to feed them a pellet hedgehog food, supplements with a few mealworms a week. Mealworms can be fresh, or you can purchase freeze dried mealworms.

Feeding tip: Put your hedgie's food in a fleece snuffle mat! Hedgehogs are foragers, so this not only helps to fulfill natural instincts, but also makes dinner time fun for your pokey friend.

Do hedgehogs get sick?

Even if you follow the steps above and give your hedgie the happiest, healthiest life possible, there is still a high probability that they will have some kind of health issue. There are multiple health issues common among hedgehogs, many of which can be fatal.


Cancer is very common among hedgehogs, and there is a good chance it will appear in your hedgie. It can typically be removed by an exotic pet veterinarian, which can be very costly. Once cancer appears in a hedgehog, it is highly likely to return within their lifetime.


Hedgehogs are prone to obesity. Having a large enclosure with a wheel, and providing a diet that is high in protein and low in fat is the best way to keep your hedgie healthy.

Are hedgehogs friendly?

Hedgehogs are solitary animals, meaning it is typically best to only have one. They will usually pick one or two people that they like. A lot of patience is needed to own a hedgehog. Once your hedgie bonds to you, they usually like to be held. Each hedgehog is different: some may only stay pokey for a minute before letting you pet them/pick them up, while others may stay pokey every time you get near them. Either way, patience is key.

Should you get a hedgehog?

If you can provide a hedgehog with the proper care and cage environment needed to keep them healthy, they can make great pets. Just keep in mind the fact that you will probably have to take them to the vet at least once in their life, which can be very expensive (especially if it is to treat a major health issue). You also must have lots of patience; if you do not much have patience, do not get a hedgehog.