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Old 01-10-2014, 09:22 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Need Help with Consistent Heating Please!

I apologize in advance for the long post, but I want to make sure I include enough information. Although this is my first post, I have been reading the forums for a very long time. I got my little guy, Mr. Waffles, about a month ago. He has been adjusting very well, eating, running on his wheel, bonding, etc. He has a naturally gregarious personality, which has been great for a first-time hedgie owner like me. I researched for almost a year before I got him, so I am very familiar with hedgehog care, or as familiar as I can be through research alone.

Here is what has finally concerned me enough to motivate me to post. We live in Florida, so our weather is usually pretty warm. We keep our apartment at 70 degrees (for human comfort) so I have a CHE setup for Mr. Waffles' cage. I have two 8.5 inch domes with 150 watt bulbs. I also have a thermostat and thermometer set up to control and monitor the temperature of his cage. He has been most comfortable at 74-75 degrees, and I have had almost no problems keeping his cage consistently at that temperature. (As an aside, he is on a consistent light schedule, getting 13.5 hours of light each day) Enter: polar vortex.

After the whole polar vortex incident on Monday, which caused our weather here to drop to 30 degrees during the night, I have struggled to control the temperature of his cage. It dropped to 71 degrees that first night, which sent me into a panic about whether he would hibernate. I inspected him and monitored him closely and he was eating and acting normal (for the most part), maybe slightly less hyper than usual. I tried wrapping his cage in a blanket, which did not seem to help. So I tried using a space heater, but that seemed to make his cage too hot, closer to 78-80 degrees. Plus, I did not feel comfortable leaving it unattended for safety purposes when I am at work. Finally, I found a better blanket to secure around his cage and got the temperature back to around 76 degrees. But it took some trial and error with settings on the thermostat. In fact, my boyfriend checked on him last night and he was splatted out in the middle of his cage and the temp was at 79, with some adjustments, I got him back down to a good 76 degrees.

However, now I am becoming increasingly paranoid about all the temperature fluctuations. I know how important it is for him to have a consistent temperature, but it has just been such a struggle with the fluctuating temperatures lately. Now I am reading into all of his behaviors. When his cage got a little cold the other morning, he did not come out to eat at 6 am like he normally does and he felt a little cool to me. When I woke him up, he was alert and ate some mealies, and I held him to warm him up. He has seemed normal since then, alert, wheeling, drinking, pooping, but it does seem like he has not been eating quite as much. For instance, he came out this morning at 6 am, but went back in his igloo. I uncovered him, and he ate a little, drank, and ran on his wheel. I held him for a bit, gave him a few mealies, which he gobbled up, and he went back into his igloo. This is pretty normal, except he only ate like 5 pieces, when he usually eats like ten or fifteen.

So, the purpose of this long explanation is to ask whether, based on all of his behavior, he seems like he is okay. Whenever I feel his belly, it always feels a little cool to me, or at least, cooler than I would expect it to be, but now I have become really paranoid that it means he is attempting or attempted hibernation. Does anyone have any advice that would just help to assuage my fears? He seems okay, not 100% normal, but not deviating far from his normal behavior. Should I just continue to monitor him or should I take him to the vet?

Also, does anyone have any advice on how to keep his cage at a more consistent temperature at these times of year when the temperatures in Florida vary so much? I feel like I am doing the absolute best I can, which is to monitor and make adjustments as necessary, but it just seems like it is not good enough.

Diana & Mr. Waffles
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Old 01-10-2014, 01:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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If he's still splatting occasionally, that could explain the slightly cooler belly. Is he still eating, drinking, and wheeling?

To keep the temp more consistent you can wrap a thick blanket around the sides of his cage, and even the top of his cage around the CHEs (giving the lamps an inch or two of space to avoid risk of fire). That should help keep drafts away.
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Old 01-10-2014, 01:54 PM   #3 (permalink)
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First, welcome to the forum! If you've seen other first-posts, you know what comes next: a link to The Awesome Care Book of Awesomeness.

Next: Which thermostat are you using (brand/model)? Are you sure it works? (You can test it by plugging a light-lamp into it, then cranking the temperature setting up or down to make sure it triggers turning the light off or on.) What temperature is it set to? (If it's a Zoo-Med, what colour on the adjustable-wheely-thing) Any chance it's been bumped from where you want it to be? Fiddling with the thermostat's probe-position can have a surprising impact on temperature.
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Old 01-13-2014, 08:27 AM   #4 (permalink)
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First, thanks for the replies. I have been monitoring him closely, and he seems to be back 100% to his normal self.

I am using the Zilla 1500 Watt thermostat. It seemed to work pretty well until that cold snap. I have it set at about 80, which normally keeps his cage around 74-75 degrees. But I will test it like you suggested to make sure.

I have wondered a little about the probe location. Because I have it secured just above the base of his cage (I did not want him to have access to it), I have often thought it might actually be a degree or two warmer than reflected on my thermometer. Maybe I will vary its location just to get a sense of the potential temperature variation.

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