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Old 10-06-2013, 04:24 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Surprise Hedgie

Hey Everyone,

I am here because a friend of mine is going through personal issues and couldn't keep her hedgie anymore...so I took him in. In about 3 hours I went from knowing nothing about them, to having one. Oy, vey!

I have been doing lots of research. From what I know now, this hedgie needs a better tank and way more enrichment!! He currently has 2.5 sq. feet in a terrarium tank (that I would use for a baby bearded dragon or something small). His litter box and hut take up most of the room, plus water/food bowls, and he only has a piece of cloth and a teddy bear to play with =(

I went to the pet store today, and the enclosure I want to pick up has about 7 or 8 square feet of space. It will have to wait...but he is getting a better tank soon. In the meantime I have a 4 square foot terrarium I am not currently using . I will be rehousing him in this next week, once he has settled down a little.

If anyone has advice or links for someone thrown into small animal care? I have lots of reptile experience... I have a little rabbit experience.

I admit I didn't immediately fall in love with the little dude but I'm hoping in time I will notice his personality and quirks and fall in love with his spiny self.

Thanks in advance!
~Cassie

Last edited by Deathmetal; 10-06-2013 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:33 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Best starting reference: http://www.westcoasthedgehogs.com/fi.../download.html

Will write a longer post in just a few minutes!
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm sure someone will come along with a much more detailed and well-written post (they're very good about that here ) but in the interim I can tell you that a large plastic storage bin is a better home than an terrarium but moving him until you can get one (they're cheap at places like Walmart/Target usually around $10-20) is a good idea, 4 sq ft. is the minimum recommended area so the previous home was indeed pretty small.

Another absolute MUST is a wheel. That's the only "toy" they will ever need. They will run all night. It's good for health and enrichment, it's a real shame he hasn't had one (thought you wouldn't be able to fit a good one in there anyways). He'll love you for providing him with one Just make sure it is solid surfaced (not one of the metal ones for rats or the "silent spinner" brand which has caused injury). The only good ones you'll find at a store are Comfort Wheels (make sure it's the largest size) or a flying saucer. For a little bit more you can get the Mercedes Benz of hedgehog wheels - a homemade bucket wheel. Carolina Storm bucket wheels are the most well-known but there are lots of breeders who make their own

Have fun!
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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1. Glass-sided tanks are usually not awesome for hedgehogs. The solid sides keep fumes in (ewww...), and they're typically tall instead of long & wide. Trying to find something with net sides, modifying bins, or building cages out of those wire grids from storage stores are all popular ideas. You can check out the Cage Setup Examples for lots of ideas & feedback on setups. A few store-bought cages are pretty popular -- user Tom just went through evaluating a bunch of them and usually stops by to answer questions.

2. Light & heat is a huge deal for hedgehogs. It sounds ridiculous, but you need to keep a light on them (even a table-lamp will do) for 12-14 hours a day. The easiest way is to grab a timer from a hardware store ($5-$15). Heat should be around 74-80F, but steady, not fluctuating, and needs to heat the air, not just the cage-base. If you're in Canada, I can give you links to suppliers since it's more tricky than the US. Heating overwhelms a lot of people, so read the sticky, and don't feel silly asking questions! Your reptile experience will probably help you here, but the difference is no heat pads, and using CHEs that emit zero light (black bulbs, not the red heat lamps)

3. Hedgehog food is generally not-good stuff. Most people feed cat kibble, with a bunch of varieties of treats like fresh fruit, veg, baked meat, or mealworms. If you're used to doing a natural raw diet with your reptiles, a few people here have ideas for raw-diets for hedgehogs. Lilysmommy is really curious about them and maintains a sticky of the possibilities.

4. Hedgehogs are shy! Give him (or her) some of your dirty laundry to hide in today, get used to your smell. ...it might get pooped on, so don't give her your very favourite shirt. An alternative is to sleep with a bit of fleece fabric to get it nice & smelly, then give it to him (or her) as a blankie.

5. Bedding: it can get stuck in their bits (especially with pee), and can bring mites. Make sure anything you use is baked, stay away from cedar, and consider maybe switching to fleece.

6. Hedgehogs NEED wheels. Mine runs between 5-10km a night; footstep-for-footstep, that's longer than a marathon! They need to be solid surface, preferably 12" diameter. You can DIY a bucket or cake-topper wheel, store-buy a Comfort or Flying Saucer wheel, or pick up a bucket wheel (like the CSW, a forum-favourite) from several of the members.

Congratulations! I know, they're very weird animals to get started with, but if you're quiet and gentle with them, they can open up and have way more personality than I expected from something so tiny.
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Last edited by Annie&Tibbers; 10-06-2013 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks everyone!

I looked at the wheels while I was at the petstore, and alas none of them would fit in the current enclosure...I saw one that looked flat, with a slight curve to it? It looked to me though like it would fall over on him, are these more stable than they look?I will look into the plastic storage bins and see if I can find anything suitable before placing him in another terrarium.

I have about 3 bags of hedgie food and I've read that BB cat food was the best for these guys. Should I toss the hedgie food outright? The bedding given to me is called carefresh. I read this is okay for him? With fleece being the best. I have bags of fleece sheets (I make toys for my dogs for fun) but figure I should use the substrate? Seems a waste...

I am in the GTA, ontario, canada. Sorry if my reply is short but my mind is kind of reeling right now. I am going to reread everything now!
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Old 10-06-2013, 05:00 PM   #6 (permalink)
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And more nice-to-know things, that are more fun than ESSENTIAL TO KNOW!!

Gender-checking your hedgehog: You're saying "he". You can check for sure by looking at his belly (which may take a while before he lets you do that!). If he has a "bellybutton," that's his penis. He keeps it tucked away, but male hedgehogs will engage in "boy time" by arching their backs up like a cat, and rocking back and forth. If you peek underneath, you'll see he's extremely well-endowed (like, the size of his leg!), and he'll leave behind clear or white goo. Some hedgehogs are very shy and even hide the evidence, others will blatantly get off on your hand while you're talking to someone. Abby's Pig and my little friend are both gossip-worthy performers.

Explorers vs. Snugglers: Hedgehog personality ranges quite a bit, from ones who just want to explore their human and take naps together to unstoppable explorers mapping their apartments, one interesting-smelling shoe at a time. You'll get to know yours over a few months; if you end up with an uber-explorer, you can still steal cuddles if you wake them up early or late (evening or morning) for a snuggle while they sleep.

Annoiting: It looks psychotic, so check out some videos before it happens. Hedgehogs annoint when something is the COOLEST SMELL EVAR! and need to smear it on themselves. Mine only does with musical instruments. Someone else recently posted about one who annoints over every interesting food they ever find.

Illness: Hedgehogs are prey animals (although they eat bugs, baby frogs, eggs, etc, it's not exactly challenging enough to make them predators!), so they hide illness & injury really well. The most common problem in the winter is hibernation attempts (identified by cool belly, lethargy) from inadequate light & heat, or upper respiratory infections (URI) (identified by wheezing, sneezing, runny nose) from dusty bedding, chills, etc. Hibernation attempts need to be warmed up slowly (cuddles or low heat pad, do NOT temperature shock with water!); URIs need to go to the vet ASAP.

Cleanliness: Between the wheel and annointing, hedgehogs can get pretty dirty. Yet, most hate baths, and using soap too frequently can dry out their skin something fierce. Most people do daily foot-baths (run around in a half-inch of warm water, or on a wet towel), with periodic full-baths. If you need to give full-baths frequently, do it water-only to scrub the quills without drying out the skin. A lot of hedgehogs are so grateful you rescued them from the horror of bathtime that they might even cuddle while you get them dry (wrap in towel, lend your body heat).

Handling: While you're a scary stranger, this might be difficult. A hedgehog will try to scare you off by huffing, puffing, and imitating a cactus. If he's really annoyed, he might even pop. But lucky you, you're not scared! If he's too intimidating to pick up bare-handed, use the sleeves of a long shirt, or a piece of cloth. Try not to use gloves. (If you really need gloves, go for fabric ones and sleep with them so they get nicely human-stinky). Aim to have the hedgehog out for playtime (sometimes napping on you, sometimes running around exploring, whatever works) for at least a half-hour a night. If you skip a night, expect to be set back at least a few days in the bonding process, with an extra-scared hedgehog the next night. :\
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Old 10-06-2013, 05:09 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Of course you're overwhelmed! But that you're willing to learn is a total good sign.

Pets & Pond is a good Canadian mail-order for heating supplies. No customs duties! Here's a thread with a sample shopping list.

Hedgehog food is like the junk food for hedgies. It probably won't cause immediate problems, but it also isn't very nutritious. If you can manage to return it, that's probably the best option (most chain stores will even take open packages!) I have little experience with this so please listen to anyone overruling me, but I suspect on the short term it isn't the biggest concern.

Carefresh is hedgehog-safe and used by several forum-members. I have no direct experience with it, but I think the only cons are that it can be dusty (sneezing), it can occasionally have mites (less likely than wood), is messy, and is more expensive over the long-term. I'd say use it up, then switch to fleece later. If you do notice sneezing/runny nose, make the switch sooner.

The store-bought wheels are exactly as flimsy as they look. You sometimes need to either weight the bottom of the base, or attach to the side of the cage (tricky with glass!)

Take your time, read lots, learn lots, ask lots of questions! Clearly, you can expect to get fairly fast answers and help if you run into something you don't understand or want more opinions on.
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Old 10-06-2013, 05:40 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Do you know what kind of hedgehog food it is? That'll factor in whether it's a good idea to switch sooner rather than later. The two foods that are worst are Vitakraft (Vitacrap!) and Pretty Pets. If it's either of those, I wouldn't wait to run out of the hedgehog food - I'd return what you can (if you can), and get some cat food to start switching him to in the next couple of days. Hedgehogs on those foods tend to do an immediate switch themselves, eating only the cat food and rejecting the hedgehog food completely. If he does that, you can roll with it, just expect some green poops from the sudden change. Usually though, it's best to switch foods over at least a week, two weeks being better.

However, if it's something like Sunseed, 8 in 1, etc. you would probably be okay to wait a few weeks before switching. Personally, I'd still return the closed bags if you can and just get through one - but that's more of a personal opinion than anything. I agree with Annie though, and would still definitely switch over to a high quality cat food sooner or later. Blue Buffalo is definitely a good choice, and pretty popular. There's numerous other good brands though, and it's nice to do a mix of two or more foods, and use different brands if possible, in case of a recall. Here's some more threads on diets/recommended brands of cat food - https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...nutrition.html https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...oods-list.html and https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...food-list.html
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Old 10-06-2013, 05:45 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Also, since you're kind of on information overload right now...

The most important things to keep in mind at the moment are heating and lighting, and that he's in good health. Annie already gave the info on the heating and lighting. Both of those are pretty important any time, but especially now as the seasons are changing & days getting shorter.

Health - make sure his eyes and nose are clear, no sneezing, no cuts or other issues, nails aren't so long they're digging in anywhere, and nothing caught in privates. I know those things may not be a huge problem, but just wanted to mention in case your friend hasn't been able to keep an eye out for those things recently, or didn't know to look for them (since it doesn't seem like they did a ton of research with his housing).

Past that, the next important things are wheel, bigger cage, and (maybe) food. Lower down on the list would be the bonding, settling in, all of that stuff. No need to repeat info for any of those things either, I know! I just thought it might help if you had kind of a scale on most important to least important, since you're diving into all of this headfirst.

(Sorry if I've repeated anything Annie already said! She did a great job with info, I should probably stop trying to add. )
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Old 10-06-2013, 06:06 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Everything helps!
I will focus on heating and lighting for now. He's in the warmest room in the house (the spare bedroom. My hubby likes to be cold...)I have an extra light and heat lamp...the kind used for reptiles. Should I rig a way to hang these over his tank? He has an under tank pad, but they're evil...and I would prefer not to use it. I worry the light and lamp will be too close to him, as the tank is only a foot in height.
I feel so bad for him. Nothing was done right for him the first 2 years. I guess I have the rest of it to make happy though. I'm pretty sure its a boy. Before she left she was handling him and telling me all about him (but most of what she said I've already read otherwise...) and I asked if he was missing a nipple since i only saw the one...well I was pointing at his penis. Goes to show I am a NEWB =)

ETA I was given 3 bags of vita exotics hedgehog formula, 1 bag of pretty pets hedgehog and a 1/4 bag of nutrience kitten formula. I currently feed my cat orijen 6 fish...maybe ill give him that instead...=(

Last edited by Deathmetal; 10-06-2013 at 06:13 PM.
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