Hedgehogs are small animals with spines all over their body. They belong to the Erinaceinae’s subfamily. Hedgehogs have habitations in New Zealand, Asia, Europe and Africa.
There are sixteen known species of hedgehog, out of which Algerian or African pygmy hedgehog, Indian long eared hedgehog, four toed or white bellied hedgehog and Egyptian long eared hedgehog are kept as domestic pets .They are also known as furze pig, hedge pig, and urchin.
Since they have been domesticated from the past few years, somewhere in the 1980s, they still have their wild instincts such as predator fear. This fear also makes them to fear humans. Therefore, it is highly recommended to buy a hedgehog which has been bred in captivity and has been bred by an experienced breeder. Because of the domestication, hedgehogs have been developing new colors which have resulted in pinto and albino hedgehogs.
They are nocturnal animals. In the wild they do not hibernate in the winter, but in captivity, they hibernate if the body temperature lowers drastically. This is an extremely dangerous situation. Their bodies are extremely sensitive to temperature changes. The temperature of the surroundings should be more than seventy-two degree Fahrenheit.
By Nature, hedgehogs are insectivorous and feed on insects majorly. They are also opportunistic feeders and can become obese easily. Their body is designed to extract chitin which is within the insect抯 exoskeleton. Chitin can also be substituted by fiber. In captivity, they can be fed with cat food which is low in fat and high in proteins. The fat content should be less than twelve percent, protein content must be more than thirty percent and fiber should be more than ten percent. The owners are advised to read the nutritional facts to give food rich in proteins and not carbohydrates. Cat food made out of meat and its byproducts are also recommended. Chicken food also can be given.
Their diet can also be supplemented by vegetables, fruits, unseasoned cooked meat, mealworms, crickets, and wax worms. Commercially food is also prepared specifically for hedgehogs which have insect components in them. Chitin sprinklers are also available which can be sprinkled on food. Baby food can be given as treats. Sugar shouldn抰 be added in any of the meals. They can also be given insects directly, but care should be taken that these insects shouldn抰 be sprayed with insecticides. Hedgehogs can put on weight easily and this is the case fat should be cut down and exercise activity should be increased. Exercise is also important to keep them away from liver problems.
They can be kept in cages. Hedgehogs travel very long distances everyday, so they should be provided with ample room for this purpose. A room or an isolated corner is a must; otherwise the pet will develop eating and sleeping disorders. The cage should be approximately five feet in both length and breadth. Multilevel cages give them extra space to walk. But care should be taken because hedgehogs have poor eyesight. They can climb easily, but they can fall while descending. Wheel, specifically bucket type wheels, should also be included so as to encourage them to exercise. Tubes such as toilet paper cylinders can also be kept inside the cage for them to play. Their bed should be made out of vellux blanket material. They can also be mingled with other pets such as dogs and cats.
In most of the countries, it is illegal to have a hedgehog as a pet unless a license has been taken to own them. The permit can be difficult to obtain, sometimes. Hedgehog lovers can communicate with the animal control agencies to keep them as pets. There are no laws in Europe against domesticating or breeding hedgehog. In some countries, it is strictly against the law to keep hedgehogs as pets. And in some countries, a specific species of hedgehog are allowed to be kept as pets. People are not prone to develop allergies directly from hedgehog, but they can develop allergies from their bedding and food.