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Old 03-08-2013, 01:16 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default A few quesitons for a new hedgie owner

Hello ,

My family and I recently purchased a 8week old female hedgehog(she has been home about a week) . Her name is Gizmo. I wanted to ask a few questions pertaining to her behavior, cage, and quills falling out. I will try to give as much info as I can to spare you from needing to ask questions to clarify.

Her cage is a 18x30 Super Pet with a plastic base and wire top. Her bedding is a fleece liner. She was kept in pine shavings when we got her and we were given pine shaving as part of her cage set up. She has a 12" comfort wheel that is attached to side of cage and uses the base for maximum support. She has a ferret litter pan but she has difficulty getting in an out so I used a upside down ceramic dish as a "stair". She has a ceramic food dish, ceramic water dish and a water bottle. I have read the pros and cons of both have decided to let her decide what she likes best and remove the one she doesn't use after a short period. Her bed is a large plastic igloo that has a small ferret bed inside of it. They fit together snuggly and she really seems to like it. Got the idea from a post on this forum. I have put about 10 cut up strips of fleece inside for her to "burrow" into. She also has a flexible plastic tube similar to a dryer vent that we got at petsmart. This takes alot of room so we remove it periodically so she has more room to run. She is currently housed in my and my wifes bedroom as it is the quietest in the house and we can close the door behind us to keep our Shi-ztu out. Our AC is usually set to 70-72 for the house whether it is cold or warm outside. Her food mix is Pretty Pets hedgehog food (have since found out it is not ideal) and a high protein ferret food. This was given to us by the pet store.

My issues
She flat out does not use her wheel. She has no interest in it and even when I set her on it, she hops right off. Same for her litter pan. She likes to go in a certain corner and when I put her litter pan there she just moves the the opposite corner and does her business there. She has even pooped in her food bowl a few times.

She has no interest in toys either. She doesn't play with balls, critter toys, little stuffed animals or anything really. She does like papertowel rolls though. She gets her little head stuck so I cut it so she can still play but she doesn't get stuck.

She has no interest in any food but the dry food provided. We have tried live maelworms, apples, bananas and carrots. I intend to try cooked chicken tomorrow. She always eats the ferret food first before moving to the hedgie food. I am concerned she isn't getting all she needs from just the dry food. Especially since reading that pretty pets has a low nutritional value.

Every morning I clean her cage and provide fresh food and water. Every day I notice some quills in the cage and in her bed. Sometimes it is 5-6 and sometimes it is 20. I read here that they quill at 8 weeks and that if it has a bulb on the end, then it is naturally falling out. She seems to scratch a lot in the evenings and I find what I assume is dry skin (looks like dandruff flakes) in her bed. I don't know if this is natural or a product of dry skin or mites or bad nutrition. She does not have any bare spots or red spots on her skin and belly looks fine.

She sleeps for at least 20 hours a day. I read babies sleep a lot more and that most hedgies sleep for most of the day anyway. She may also be sleeping more trying to adjust to new environment. I am however concerned that this may be that it is too cold for her. We don't have a heat source for her as nothing recommended it. We read that if we are comfortable without a sweater she would be fine. But I see many people have heating sources. We live in south Texas so even the winter months the average temperature is 40-50 F . And as I said we always have the thermostat set at 70-72F so the heater or A/C comes on to regulate temperature. She is in a room with an A/C vent but is is about 6 feet higher and 10 feet away from her cage. Usually when the A/C is on I drape a light blanket over the back and sides of the cage to prevent any kind of draft from pushing thru but not so much it prevents ventilation.

To Long, Didn't read version-

Should I buy a different wheel? This one may be to large for her at such a small age?
Should I give up on the litter pan or keep trying?
Is they any certain toy you have luck with that maybe I could try?
Should I just keep trying different foods to find what she likes? or maybe try the same foods and see if she will eat them? And exactly how bad is "pretty pets" hedgehog food? Is she ok with that and the ferret food mix until I use up that supply and by a more highly recommended food?
Is the quills, scratching and "dry skin" in bed normal for her age? Or should I be more concerned?
Do I need to find a heating source?

She is a really cool pet. We take her out for a few minutes each day for some play and attention. She absolutely loves being held and petted. She adores my wife and likes to find places to snuggle on her. We try not to overdue the stimulation as she is still new to us and our house but want to give her some love and exploration time as well . She doesn't startle easily and doesn't mind the kids at all. We used to have gerbils that got frightened anytime my son walked by cage.

I appreciate your time and any advice you are willing to give.

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Old 03-08-2013, 02:20 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few quesitons for a new hedgie owner

Should I buy a different wheel? This one may be to large for her at such a small age? Are you absolutely certain that she's not running on it? A lot of hedgehogs won't run on their wheel in front of people. You can mark it with a sharpy and see if that's moved, or lightly flour the wheel to see if she is running on it at night. We use an odometer to verify. Also, make sure that the wheel is solidly supported. They tend not to run on them if they are shaky, and comfort wheels are known for that.

Should I give up on the litter pan or keep trying?
If you're going to continue to use the litter pan, I'd recommend getting one she can get in and out of without using a step. Hedgehogs are smart creatures, but that doesn't necessarily mean they look at problems like us. Whether you cut down the tray, or get something else to use for a tray there are things you can do. A lot of owners find that putting the tray beneath the wheel satisfies their hedgehogs. For actual training, you're going to want to start taking her poop and moving it into the tray. If she's out and poops, put her and the poop into the tray. You can also experiment with different types of litter. We use kiln pine because it's cheap, and he's comfortable with it.

Is they any certain toy you have luck with that maybe I could try? Not all hedgehogs play with toys. The key is to keep trying different things. Reginald's not much of a toy guy, though he seems to like his dingle ball, and we can occasionally get him to use a tube. Though it seems to me he likes the tube because he thinks it hides him.

Should I just keep trying different foods to find what she likes? or maybe try the same foods and see if she will eat them? And exactly how bad is "pretty pets" hedgehog food? Is she ok with that and the ferret food mix until I use up that supply and by a more highly recommended food?
If you want to try a new type of food, which I'd probably recommend, the key is to do it gradually. Hedgehogs can be pretty picky eaters, though most can be settled onto a kibble or mix of kibbles. There are a lot of different threads in the food section on that.

Is the quills, scratching and "dry skin" in bed normal for her age? Or should I be more concerned? "Quills" (technically spines) are like hair. Your hedgehog will lose them throughout life. If there's an uptick in quill loss (We log daily quill loss, but I'm pretty excited about quantifiable data) then it CAN be mites, but if they have the bulb on the end, and you're not seeing any large bald spots, you're probably good. As for scratching, some hogs are scratchers and others aren't. Dry Skin is a problem that a lot of hedgehogs have. Putting flax oil on their food, oil baths, Humilac topical spray, and a humidifier are all ways to help with dry skin.

Do I need to find a heating source? To answer that, get a thermometer and keep it on the floor of the cage. Hedgehogs generally need temperatures about 73 degrees. If you have less than that in the cage, you want anoter heating source.

As for holding her, I'd recommend far more than a few minutes each day. If she absolutely loves being held and pet, then you should do that as much as you have time in your schedule for. They'll generally let you know when they're ready to go back in their cage. Reginald has trained Maggie pretty well. She makes sure to take him out at least twice a day. It also really helps to get your hog on some sort of regular schedule. Hope all that helps.
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Old 03-08-2013, 02:45 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few quesitons for a new hedgie owner

There are a ton of questions in that post, which is cool, but you might get maximum benefit from posting individual questions. You might get more response, and certainly more in depth response.

I'm going to just run down your post and hit the highlights. (NOTE: Everything that follows is the way that I do things and reflect my preferences. This post would be crazy long if I tried compare and contrast choices or go into any depth at all.)

For me, more space is better and I usually recommend making a C&C cage.

You'll love the switch to fleece and your hedgie will also.

I'm a fan of using the biggest wheel possible and use the CSW.

I would use the ceramic water dish only.

The igloo with the ferret sack sounds good. I stuff Sophie's igloo with fleece strips and squares, creating a burrow. I only use hedgie sacks outside of her cage.

The flexible tube is good, but they are typically a lot harder to clean than smooth PVC pipe and fittings.

70 - 72 would generally be considered okayish but marginal. You don't have any room for a temperature drop. I aim for 75 degrees during the winter and 72 - 73 during the summer, which gives me a few degrees cushion for each season.

Most pooping and peeing happens on the wheel. I made a litter pan that goes under the wheel and extends out about 10". Sophie only poops and pees on the wheel or in the pan.

Give her time for the wheel. If you do make a wheel change, best to do it right away so that you don't have to worry about introducing a new one later.

Sophie has always gone on her wheel or in her litter pan which is under her wheel. Your hedgie is both young and new to you, so behaviors are still being formed. She will probably develop a set routine / place.

Sophie doesn't play with any toys - at all. She doesn't play at all. She has her house and three PVC tunnels. She loves her hiding places.

I'm going to skip the food question here; just way too complicated to throw into this list.

The quill loss is almost certainly from quilling. She is just the right age for it. If she is scratching a lot, it is probably from the discomfort of quilling and possibly dry skin as well. A light oatmeal bath might help sooth and moisturize; possibly with the addition of a touch of olive oil. If it is more than simply discomfort, if the skin is dry, you'll want to moisturize as quickly as possible and keep up with it. A combination of quilling and dry skin would be extremely uncomfortable for your hedgie.

Sophie also sleeps at least 20 hours a day and she is over a year old now. She likes her wheel, has her tunnels, and has lots of space, so has an excellent environment. Nevertheless, if she's not running, she's probably sleeping.

Temperature again: 70 - 72 degrees is marginal. You might want to increase to 75 degrees. You should have a good digital thermometer in the cage at all times. Do not trust anything else. You might be shocked at the temperature variances that can be found in a room. Sophie's room has its own heater, which keep it at 65 degrees. I use CHEs (Ceramic Heat Emitters) (with a thermostat) to boost the temperature in her cages to a consistent 75 degrees.

I put Sophie on the CSW on her first night, her 6 week birthday, and she turned 3 hours on it. It is the largest wheel that I know of and I wouldn't use anything else. I think that the larger wheel is healthier for her.

She's young and you've only had her a week - definitely don't quit on the litter pan. I would put it under the wheel and let it extend out some.

Again skipping a food question. The topic is too complex for this thread / post.

The quilling and scratching are perfectly normal. However, if the scratching is excessive you should begin moisturizing the skin immediately or find yourself with a difficult problem and a hedgie in quite a bit of pain.

Yes, you do need address the heating issue. First priority is to get a good digital thermometer inside the cage.

Don't be shy about getting her out and socializing her - even she only wants to snuggle up and sleep. Lifelong behaviors are best promoted early. More together time is usually a good thing.

See the link to Sophie's YouTube channel below. I've got videos on almost all of this stuff. (Most are pretty long and pretty boring, but there is a lot of information if you can stand them. Ha!)
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