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The hedgehog is a territorial and solitary animal. As soon as they reach sexual maturity, both males and females may become aggressive towards their peers, which can lead to fights and injuries. It is best to keep a hedgehog alone.
When frightened, the hedgehog rolls into a ball and jumps with a loud intimidating spitting or growling sound, making it difficult to handle him. However if a hedgehog is handled daily from an early age, it becomes less fearful and more easily held.
As it is a nocturnal animal, bad vision is compensated by a well-developed sense of hearing and smell. This sensitivity sometimes causes the odd albeit normal behaviour of 'self-anointing': when presented with an unusual smelling object or substance, the hedgehog chews on it while producing a large amount of white foamy saliva which he then spreads onto his fore and back quills.
Originally from central and eastern Africa, the hedgehog is a small mammal whose popularity as a pet is on the rise in Quebec. Its unique appearance and engaging personality make hedgehogs interesting pets if properly cared for.
In the wild, the hedgehog is an insectivore-omnivore, that is to say, it feeds mainly on invertebrates and plants. In captivity, it is necessary to vary the diet by providing:
Hedgehogs do not tolerate the cold so ambient room temperature should be monitored. The hedgehog will be comfortable between 23-32 ° C, the optimum temperature varying between 24 and 30 °C. You can place a heating pad under the tank or cage, or use a heat lamp above it to provide more heat but be careful not to overheat the cage bottom which to avoid burns.
A chilled hedgehog will fall into a potentially life threatening state of torpor and present with tremors and a staggering and wavering gait. If this should occur, immediately warm the animal and consult a veterinarian.
Hedgehogs are good climbers and can scale the bars and escape. Ensure that the doors and openings are secured. It may be best to house hedgehogs in a smooth and high-walled enclosure, for instance plastic or glass, with a well-ventilated mesh or holed cover.
Anxious by nature, the hedgehog needs a hiding place to feel safe. A PVC tube, a cardboard box, a wooden hut or a cloth tent will do the trick!
The safest litter is made of recycled paper. Pine shavings and cedar are irritating to the respiratory tract and skin and should be avoided. The same goes for corncob and clumping kitty litter, which can cause gastrointestinal blockage if ingested. The substrate should be changed and the tank cleaned regularly. Some hedgehogs can be litter-trained so by providing a corner litter area and towelling on the floor to be washed as needed, you can keep the cage clean longer.
Hedgehogs need to move to maintain a healthy weight. An appropriately sized, solid bottom (no mesh to avoid injury) exercise wheel is essential. As many hedgehogs will tend to defecate in the wheel, it must be cleaned daily. If it is not possible to offer your hedgehog a wheel, then an alternative, or supplement to the wheel, is to allow the hedgehog to walk freely in the house, but under constant supervision.
Since sick hedgehogs typically mask their symptoms, an annual or bi-annual veterinary examination is strongly recommended. If you notice any of the following signs in your hedgehog consult a knowledgeable veterinarian immediately: weight loss, diarrhoea, decreased appetite, difficulty breathing, lethargy, or difficulty rolling into a ball, or any other atypical behaviours.
As mentioned, hedgehogs are prone to obesity. To avoid excessive weight gain, ensure proper nutrition, promote physical activity and weigh your hedgehog regularly. The weight of the male is usually between 400 and 600g and the female between 300 and 600g.
The external parasites most frequently encountered in hedgehogs are mites. An infected animal may be itchy, exude waxy debris on its skin, a whitish film on the face, ears or at the base of the quills and / or loss of quills. If your hedgehog has one of these signs, a veterinary examination is recommended to confirm the presence of the parasites and to prescribe appropriate the appropriate and safe treatment.
Many hedgehogs develop oral diseases. As they are prone to dental abscesses, offering an enzyme-based toothpaste (for animals) on a treat several times a week will improve their oral health. Tumours of soft tissue and bone in the jaw may also affect hedgehogs. Any sign of loss of appetite, weight loss, bloody oral discharge and odours can be a sign of periodontal disease.
From the age of three and a half years on 30% of hedgehogs will develop a tumour and 80% of these tumours will be malignant. In addition to oral tumours, they may develop mammary, uterine, bone tumours or lymphomas.
Some hedgehogs can carry the bacterium without symptoms of salmonellosis. As this disease is transmissible to humans, it is best to consider all hedgehogs as carriers and wash your hands after handling and avoid hedgehog contact with surfaces where foods are prepared.
Physical exams: recommended on acquisition and then annual or bi-annual examinations
Parasite exams: on acquisition
Nail clips: as needed to avoid ingrown or torn nails. If the hedgehog rolls into a ball, you can put it into a tank with less than 2 cm of water to facilitate handling.
Bathing: once a month or as needed, with a mild shampoo for animals and a toothbrush with soft bristles to clean between the quills.
Latin name: Atelerix albiventris
Other names: White-bellied Hedgehog, African Pygmy hedgehog
Longevity: 4-7 years
Male: 6-8 months,
Female: 2-6 months. Females should not be bred before the age of 6 months [immaturity
increases the risk of cannibalism or litter abandonment], nor later than 18 months to
avoid calving problems due to the fusion of the pubic symphysis.
Gestation: 34-37 days
Litter size: 1-7 (3-4 on average)
Small and virtually odourless, hedgehogs are pleasant companions for those who empathize with them and who are present in the evenings to give them attention. But they are timid and must be handled with care; they are not the perfect pets for young children.