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Old 11-14-2015, 09:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Wet cat food?

So basially I was out of town for a few days, and my younger sister (who's 13) said she'd take care of my hedgie for me. I thought it'd be okay because she's usually pretty mature, and I was about that age when I got my first hedgie. Well when I got back and went to pick him up, I knew something was wrong. He was extremely cold, wouldn't uncurl, and I legitimately thought he was dead at first.

She swore up and down that she fed him and gave him water every day, as well as kept a blanket over his cage at night, when the temperature dropped.

I immediately warmed him up as best I could and offered him dry cat food and meal worms (what I usually feed him) to try and get him to uncurl. When he still wouldn't, I was desperate so I tried a few other things. I offered him some wet cat food and he almost immediately uncurled, and although he was a little lethargic and and unbalanced, he started wolfing it down. I didn't want to take it away and replace it with the dry food he'd turned down earlier, and after a few minutes, he drank a bunch of water and went back to the food.

As of right now, he seems pretty back to his usual bright eyed, grumpy self, although I will, of course, be keeping an eye on him, and my sister will not, under any circumstances, be left to watch him again. I would like to take him to a vet, as there is one in our area that will treat hedgehogs, but they're non-emergency and have been closed for a few hours now.

What I want to know though is will giving him the wet food hurt him? It's Fancy Feast, which is the same brand as the dry food he's eaten for years, but I don't know if that makes a difference. Google is being entirely unhelpful, and the people here seem to know better anyway. I'm just really worried about him. Was this a hibernation attempt? I mean, our house almost never gets below 77-78, so I don't know how it could've happened, but the symptoms seem to fit.
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Old 11-15-2015, 12:17 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Yup, it was a hibernation attempt. You say your house never gets below 77-78F, but a) you mention it gets colder at night, so does that mean the house/cage temp is also dipping? Would it be going under the mentioned temperature? and b) house temperature doesn't mean the cage temperature is necessarily the same. Make sure you have a digital thermometer in the cage so you know the cage temp as well. This a must no matter how you heat (or don't heat) the cage, to make sure things are staying where they need to be.

There are a couple possibilities for the attempt. First, the temperature dipped more than usual & caused it. Second, the temperature was warmer than usual during the day, and even if it dipped down to 77-78 at night, if it was a larger than usual dip (such as going from 83 down to 77 instead of 80 down to 77), that can trigger an attempt. Third, how old is your hedgie? Some can get more temperature sensitive as they get older, and this could be your first indication of it. And finally, do you have a lighting schedule for him so that he gets 12-14 hours of light during the day (not dependent on natural light, which is decreasing for most places this time of year).

I would recommend making sure he's getting the right amount of light, and keep an extra careful eye on his cage temp for the next week or two. It's possible that you'll need to heat his cage further if he's becoming more temperature sensitive, or if it's not staying stable enough. Also keep an eye on him for a week or two - hibernation attempts impact the immune system and can lead to illnesses flaring up, especially URIs.

And last thing, about the food. Wet food won't hurt him, but double check the percentages. Wet food tends to be higher in protein & fat. The extra moisture helps with the protein, but it's still best to try & keep it lower (the recommended % for dry food is no more than 35%, lower is better). Fat is a concern either way though, as most hedgies don't need more than 15% and most wet foods are higher than that.

I would recommend, though, finding a better quality food, wet or dry. Fancy Feast isn't good quality at all in terms of ingredients. There's a lot of information in the stickies (posts found at the top of the forum section) in the Nutrition section, such as the Beginner's Guide and Recommended Brands.
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Old 11-15-2015, 12:46 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Lilysmommy View Post
Yup, it was a hibernation attempt. You say your house never gets below 77-78F, but a) you mention it gets colder at night, so does that mean the house/cage temp is also dipping? Would it be going under the mentioned temperature? and b) house temperature doesn't mean the cage temperature is necessarily the same. Make sure you have a digital thermometer in the cage so you know the cage temp as well. This a must no matter how you heat (or don't heat) the cage, to make sure things are staying where they need to be.

There are a couple possibilities for the attempt. First, the temperature dipped more than usual & caused it. Second, the temperature was warmer than usual during the day, and even if it dipped down to 77-78 at night, if it was a larger than usual dip (such as going from 83 down to 77 instead of 80 down to 77), that can trigger an attempt. Third, how old is your hedgie? Some can get more temperature sensitive as they get older, and this could be your first indication of it. And finally, do you have a lighting schedule for him so that he gets 12-14 hours of light during the day (not dependent on natural light, which is decreasing for most places this time of year).

I would recommend making sure he's getting the right amount of light, and keep an extra careful eye on his cage temp for the next week or two. It's possible that you'll need to heat his cage further if he's becoming more temperature sensitive, or if it's not staying stable enough. Also keep an eye on him for a week or two - hibernation attempts impact the immune system and can lead to illnesses flaring up, especially URIs.

And last thing, about the food. Wet food won't hurt him, but double check the percentages. Wet food tends to be higher in protein & fat. The extra moisture helps with the protein, but it's still best to try & keep it lower (the recommended % for dry food is no more than 35%, lower is better). Fat is a concern either way though, as most hedgies don't need more than 15% and most wet foods are higher than that.

I would recommend, though, finding a better quality food, wet or dry. Fancy Feast isn't good quality at all in terms of ingredients. There's a lot of information in the stickies (posts found at the top of the forum section) in the Nutrition section, such as the Beginner's Guide and Recommended Brands.
Okay, so as of right now, the two things on my to-do list are: a) go get a digital thermometer, b) keep an extra close eye on him, and c, research different food brands.

He's not old, a year and eight months, so I kind of don't think it'd be the age factor, but the temperature in our area did drop lower than usual the other night, according to a few people I've talked to. So it could've just been that it was a bigger drop than he was used to?

Honestly, I've never really had a 'light schedule' for any of my hedgehogs, (Crowley's my third one) but that's something I'll be changing.

He's actually the first hedgehog we've fed cat food to. With our previous two, we fed them a hedgehog food we got from an exotics store, and I'm a little ashamed to admit that we never fed them mealworms because the lady who ran the store insisted that the food had all the protein they needed, though we haven't made that mistake with Crowley. Shortly after we got Crowley though, our financial situation changed, and getting cat food and supplementing with meal worms was the more affordable option, and Fancy Feast was what a friend of mine, and fellow hedgie owner, said she used with hers. I'll let her know that it's not so great for them.

God, now I'm so worried about him. I keep going in every few minutes just to check on him. I think he's getting annoyed with me.

Thank you for the advice.
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Old 11-15-2015, 02:17 AM   #4 (permalink)
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They can start to become more temperature sensitive even as young as he is - I think Lily started around a year. But her temperature was lower than yours too, and we worked our way up to 78-81 being the temp she wouldn't attempt hibernation at.

Sounds like the unusual drop might've been the culprit though, or at least that sounds most likely to me. Doesn't hurt to double check the other things too though, just in case. Some hedgies are more sensitive to these things than others.

And hey, we learn as we go. There's so much more information about hedgehogs than there was five years ago, ten years ago, etc. The community as a whole is learning more and more, and sharing information as we do. It's unlikely the food is going to do anything drastic like kill him, but it's also one of those things that is pretty easy to upgrade once you read a little, so it's kind of a "why not" type of thing. My biggest concern with the cheaper cat foods is many of them have preservatives that are linked to cancer and our little guys already have enough trouble with that.

Try not to stress yourself out too badly! I know that's easier said than done, but I'm sure he'll be fine. Hibernation attempts are scary (even with as many as I went through with Lily, they still made my heart stop for a second each time I found her cold), but if you catch them in time & find the reason, there usually aren't any major issues.
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