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European Hedgehogs

Basic Hedgehog Care

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European Hedgehogs

European hedgehog

Photo © Flickr user Jorg Hempel

The pet European hedgehog has a more popular cousin, the African pygmy hedgehog, but you will still find this larger variety in some homes around the world.

European hedgehogs are from the western parts of Europe along with the southern parts of Scandinavia and east into Russia. They are also the largest variety of hedgehog in the world and are extremely active, traveling up to two miles in one night foraging for food in the wild.

European hedgehogs are currently protected in Denmark and Poland and are in severe decline in the UK. If you live in the United Kingdom (or anywhere else in the world), you should NEVER take any animal from the wild to keep as a pet. They are illegal to keep as pets in UK, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and many other countries. This article is intended for people who legally acquire pet European hedgehogs across the world, not for people who illegally take hedgehogs from the wild in the UK or other places. Please, check your local laws before getting any exotic pet to make sure they are legal to own where you live.

European Hedgehog

  • Name:Common hedgehog, European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus
  • Size:About 8-12 inches long and about 3.5 pounds
  • Lifespan:Up to 15 years

European Hedgehog Diet

European hedgehogs, like their smaller and more popular cousins African hedgehogs, are insectivores. They eat a variety of insects with younger hogs being more adventurous and less picky and the older hogs being a bit more choosy in what they will eat. Ask your breeder what your hog has been eating prior to bringing your new pet home.

Gut loaded prey such as crickets, mealworms, beetles, and other insects are typically offered to hedgehogs in addition to a prepackaged, formulated diet specifically designed for hedgehogs. Wild European hedgehogs have been known to eat some plant material as well as frogs, small mice, and even eggs, but these non-insect foods do not seem to be necessary to the captive hedgehog diet.

European Hedgehog Housing

Hedgehogs are active little mammals and need a good amount of space to move about. Smaller hogs will fit in large hamster wheels that are designed for large pocket pets but most European hedgehogs are too large for these wheels. This means you need to give your hog plenty of run around time outside of his cage.

His enclosure should be large enough to provide separate areas to eat, sleep, and eliminate. Cages built for rabbits and guinea pigs are usually appropriate for hedgehogs but I don't recommend cages with wire bottoms since they have small, fragile legs that can fall through some larger wire spacing.

European Hedgehog Health

Pet hedgehogs are prone to a variety of ailments.

  • Uterine Cancer - Female hedgehogs should be spayed to avoid this common type of cancer seen in pet hedgehogs.
  • Dental Disease - Hedgehogs have about 40 teeth and they are difficult to brush. They often get dental abscesses and need regular dental care to avoid infections and painful dental problems.
  • Mites and Lice - All bedding and prepackaged food should be frozen overnight to kill any potential mites or lice that can infect your hedgehog. Hedgehogs have about 7,000 spines but still have plenty of fur and skin cells that mites and lice love to hang out in.
  • Pododermatitis - European hedgehogs have tiny little feet (even though they are much larger than the smaller African Pygmy hedgehog) that like to get covered in feces and dirt. To keep them clean it is a good idea to let them walk on a warm, wet towel or give them a foot bath to walk through on a regular basis. This will prevent their feet from getting infected sores and developing pododermatitis.
  • Skin Tumors - Lipomas and more serious kinds of tumors can pop up in pet hedgehogs. These should be removed as soon as they are spotted to decrease the likelihood of their spreading and impeding mobility.

European hedgehogs are not for cuddling but they can become quite friendly if handled regularly from a young age (never take them from the wild). They make very unique little pets and are good alternatives to pet guinea pigs, ferrets, and other pocket pets when captive bred.

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