How to Set Up a Hedgehog Habitat

Hedgehogs have a sweet and calm nature.
Hedgehogs have a sweet and calm nature. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

The International Hedgehog Association reports that their membership represents three continents. It's evident that hedgehogs are quickly becoming one of the most popular pets in America. In Tacoma Washington, on October 22, 1995 the first Hedgehog Show was presented. One hundred or more shows have been put on all across America since then. If one of these little critters calls your house home, you need to have the right habitat.

Things You'll Need

  • Medium-sized cage
  • Bedding
  • Hedgehog food
  • Small "house"
  • Small animal water bottle
  • Ceramic heat lamp
  • Hedgehog toys

Check with your family to be sure you are all ready to adopt a hedgehog. Though hedgehogs are small, low-maintenance pets, they still need consistent care. If your child wants a hedgehog pet, be sure he is responsible enough to be sure the hedgehog always has food, water, and clean bedding. Do some reading about hedgehog habits. They are diurnal, but they have very clear temperature and feeding needs. Do your homework to be sure you don't inadvertently kill your new pet -- they are delicate.

Purchase all the necessary equipment. A hedgehog breeder or websites with detailed information about hedgehogs can help you be sure you have the right items. Especially important are non-toxic bedding, food especially balanced for hedgehog nutrition, an exercise wheel, and a ceramic lamp to maintain the proper temperature for your hedgehog, so he won't go into torpor and become ill. A small pet "house" (a plastic igloo or something similar) is also important to keep your hedgehog feeling secure.

Arrange some toys and other enrichment in his cage. Some toys to consider are garden chews, sisal balls, rabbit and guinea pig toys, huts and hiding places. Toys made especially for small animals that like to chew are especially helpful for enriching your pet hedgehog's habitat.

Set up your hedgehog's cage and accessories in an area where it will be fairly easy to maintain a consistent temperature. The ceramic heat lamp ideally will keep your hedgehog warm enough to stay healthy, but if you put the cage in a drafty or overheated corner, the changes in temperature could make your hedgehog sick.

Add a small food dish and a water bottle. Hedgehogs don't eat a large amount of food, so the dish can be very small. Water bottles can be small as well, but be sure it's not so small that you have to fill it too frequently, or so large that the water gets "stale."

Hedgehogs are gaining in popularity because they are diurnal and do not have a rodent smell.
Hedgehogs are gaining in popularity because they are diurnal and do not have a rodent smell. (Image: Donna Day/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Introduce your hedgehog to his new home. It might take some time for him to feel comfortable enough to use his exercise wheel regularly, and be prepared to spend bonding time with him so he gets used to your voice and smell. If you take time to bond, hedgehogs can become a cuddly pet.

Tips & Warnings

  • Taking time before you purchase a hedgehog to be sure you have a temperature-stable area for his cage can help a great deal in the long run. Temperature stability is extremely important to hedgehog health.
  • Hedgehog food can be acquired at a breeder or online from specialty pet stores. If you can't find specialty hedgehog food, a high-quality kitten food will work as well.
  • Hedgehogs are insectivores in the wild, and so might enjoy a small amount of hard-boiled egg, hamburger, or other small high-protein snack. You can also feed them live insects if you so choose.
  • Hedgehogs can be trained to use a litter pan inside their cage if you wish to do so.
  • The importance of keeping your hedgehog warm can't be stressed enough. If your hedgehog's environment goes below about 65 degrees, the hedgehog can go into torpor, which can make him extremely ill or even be fatal
  • Don't use cedar bedding--it's toxic to hedgehogs. Soft bedding made from recycled paper is readily available at pet stores and is an excellent alternative.
  • Hedgehogs can be cranky, and their quills are sharp. Be prepared to take a few pokes in the fingers until your new pet warms up to you.

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