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General Hedgehog Care FAQ

Welcome to the world of the pet African Hedgehog! Please read the pinned topics in each section before asking a question. So, you've decided to get a hedgehog. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions on basic care.

-What supplies do I need for my hedgehog?-The main necessities for owning a hedgehog are a cage, method of heating, bedding (liners or shavings), exercise wheel, food and water dish/bottle, and food.

-What gender is my hedgehog?-Hedgehogs are easy to sex. Males have a prominent "belly button" (the penile sheath) located about half way up the abdomen, whereas females do not. Both genders have nipples, so that can't be used to help find your pet's gender.

-Are there differences between genders?-Besides anatomical differences, male and female hedgies are pretty much the same. Each individual hedgehog has its own personality. No particular gender is a better pet. Males also do not produce a stronger odor than females.

-How do I pick up my hedgie?-The best way to pick up a hedgie is to scoop him up with both hands under the belly, like a cradle. If the hedgie balls up quickly or already is in a ball, the best way to pick him up would be to use your hand or a blanket to roll him into your hands or the blanket.

-My hedgehog hates me. How do I get it to like me?-No hedgehog hates humans. They may be scared, or angry, or have had a bad experience. The first thing to do to get a hedgie comfortable around you is to put a worn shirt that smells like you in their cage to sleep with. If you've just gotten your hedgie, let it settle into its new home before handling too much. Then, you can start off by placing hedgie in a blanket in your lap. Usually quiet, dark rooms will help them relax. You can gradually build up handling time from there. Also, new smells (such as other animals) may frighten your hedgie. Make sure you wash your hands before handling, as hedgie may not recognize you if you smell like a big scary dog.

-My hedgehog is losing lots of quills. What does this mean?-Your hedgie most likely is quilling or has mites. If you know your hedgie is over a year old, it is most likely mites, or another insect/fungus related disease. Very flaky skin and bald spots indicate mites or a fungus. A vet can diagnose and treat mites. Quilling is perfectly healthy and all hedgies do it. They basically are shedding baby quills and getting adult ones, and is sometimes compared to human baby teething. It occurs at 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and sometimes again at a year. Your hedgie will most likely be a bit more temperamental and uncomfortable. You wouldn't like needles poking through your skin either! A warm oatmeal bath helps, and make sure you are extra gentle.

-My hedgie is foaming at the mouth and spreading on his quills! Does he have rabies?-Nope! This is called "self-annointing". No one knows why they do it, but it has been compared to "anting", a behavior done by some birds. When a hedgie finds a new smell, or one they just like, they will froth at the mouth, contort themselves, and spread the saliva mix on their quills. Some hedgies do this often, some, never at all. Hedgies especially like to do this with new food. Be careful if you are feeding strawberries or something similar, you may end up with a pink hedgehog!

-How do I trim my hedgehog's nails?- Nail trimming can be a challenge. If you have a well-behaved hedgie, you should be able to simply grab each foot and cut the nails. This can be done when hedgie is on his back, standing, however you find comfortable. Many hedgies don't like nail-trimming time, and will ball up. The best thing to try is to give his a warm bath, because they can't ball up in water. You should be able to grab each foot and trim from there. If you can't finish all the nails, don't worry! You got this far, and just try getting the rest later.

Knowing how far to cut can be a bit difficult as well. You should be able to see the small pink blood vessel (the quick) in the nail. You want to cut just after that. Be careful not to cut too close, you may cut the quick, which is extremely painful, or put pressure on it, which hurts as well. Here is a diagram of where it is best to cut:

-How do I give my hedgehog a bath?-Hedgies don't need baths very often, but do get dirty feet from running on their wheel. If this is the case, a foot bath is better than a whole bath. To give a foot bath, simply run an inch or 2 of warm (not hot) water in the sink or tub, and let hedgie walk around. This will loosen and wash off the residue.

To give a whole bath is only a bit different. Fill the sink or tub with warm water to about belly level, so they can wade but do not have to swim. Gently pour the water over hedgie, and lather some soap on the fur and quills. Recommended soaps would be Aveeno Creamy Oatmeal Wash (baby) or any unscented colloidal oatmeal product. Remember that there shouldn't be any drafts in the bathing area, and you should completely dry the hedgie before returning him to his cage.

-My hedgie is lethargic and unresponsive, and has a cool tummy. What's wrong?-Your hedgie is most likely beginning hibernation, which is very dangerous. Warm up your hedgie ASAP and keep the heat at least at 75* F. Read more on what to do here: http://hedgehogcentral.com/forums/viewt ... p?f=5&t=41

-What should I use for heating my hedgie's cage?-There are many ways to heat your hedgie's cage. The air temperature should always be 73-78 degrees F. Look here to find suggestions on how to keep the cage warm, and what to do if your hedgie gets too cold: http://hedgehogcentral.com/forums/viewt ... p?f=5&t=41

-What temperature should my hedgie be kept in?
-Proper temperature would be 73-78 degrees F. This needs to be consistent around the year.

-My hedgie's got a bald spot on his head! What's wrong?-Nothing is wrong! This is called a "reverse mohawk". There are no quills there because there are muscles which help the hedgie roll into a ball.

-Should I buy from a breeder or a pet store?
- Most will solidly say no to buying from a pet store. However, you have to realize that a hedgie in a pet store is going to be bought some time or another. You would be doing it a favor by being giving it an loving, educated home. However, by purchasing from a pet shop you are also encouraging them to get and sell more. The majority of pet store hedgies are sick and unhealthy, and many come from lines with genetic diseases and inbreeding. Buying from a breeder, you should be guaranteed a healthy baby with a lifetime warranty, pedigree, and post-sale support.

-Should I use a water bottle or a dish?-There is much debate over whether a dish or bottle is better for a hedgie. Here is some of the arguments on both sides.

Pros: Natural drinking position, hedgie will drink more than if using a bottle, no dangers from cut tongues or chipped teeth.
Cons: If you are using shavings or a paper product, hedgie might dirty the bowl.

Pros: Water stays clean.
Cons: Drinking from a bottle is an awkward position for a hedgie and may be uncomfortable. The nozzle of a bottle can cut a hedgie's tongue, and chewing on it to dispense water can chip teeth.

-Does my hedgie need light?-Hedgies need light daily to help keep their internal schedules in order. Natural or artificial light 12-14 hours a day. This should be consistent and start and end the same time every day.
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