As a pet owner, the health and happiness of your pet are of the utmost importance to you. Hedgehog ownership is no different.
You want to know that your pet hedgehog is content living in your home and that you are providing everything that your hedgie needs to live a happy, healthy life, including the need for companionship.
It is rare to see more than one hedgehog at a time in the wild. When inquiring into pet hedgie ownership, you’ll find that most breeders recommend that you only have one hedgehog at a time.
Of course, you’re likely wondering, “Won’t my hedgehog get lonely?” and if you should bring a companion into the life of your hedgie.
Today, we’ll answer all your questions about the solitary nature of the hedgie, hedgehog companionship, and much more! Without further ado, let’s get this party started.
The Solitary Nature of Hedgies
Hedgehogs are naturally solitary animals. Let’s begin with a bit of information about hedgies in the wild.
In nature, wild males and females only socialize and interact during mating season. Hedgies do not mate for life like many other mammals and do not create bonds with other wild hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs do not live in colonies but choose to live independently of one another in the wild. Hedgies scavenge and forage for their own food and are not dependent upon the assistance of other hedgehogs to survive.
In the wild, male hedgehogs play no role in the rearing of their young (hoglets). Female hedgies will care for their hoglets for six to eight weeks before leaving the litter to venture out on their own.
The solitary and independent nature of the hedgie can make bonding a problematic, but wholly worthwhile, process. With time, persistence, and patience, you and your hedgehog can have an incredible connection.
Do Hedgehogs Get Lonely?
Mature hedgies are solitary animals by nature and actually prefer to live the ever-single life. You do not have to worry about your adult pet hedgie growing lonely.
On the other hand, hoglets (baby hedgehogs) can suffer from extreme separation anxiety if removed from their litter when they are still too young. Baby hedgies typically require the companionship of their littermates.
Hoglets become fully independent of their mother and each other around six to eight weeks of age. They no longer require the companionship of their littermates or their mother and will venture out independently to begin their solitary lives.
In nature, hedgies live a solo life and seem extremely content to do so. Their minds are kept sharp by constant activity, from evading predation to searching out their nightly dinner.
With that said, you might be wondering if your pet hedgie will experience loneliness due to the lack of activity that stimulates the minds of wild hedgehogs.
Does My Pet Hedgie Need a Companion?
Your pet hedgie isn’t all that different from a wild hedgehog in its natural habitat. Even though your hedgie doesn’t have to travel long distances or forage for food, it is still a solitary animal that prefers having its own area.
Your pet hedgehog doesn’t crave a cage companion. Adding a second hedgie can actually cause multiple issues, which we’ll cover.
After becoming acclimated to its enclosure, your pet hedgie can become highly territorial. It will even show dominant behavior (fighting) if forced to share its cage space.
Attempting to introduce a companion to your pet hedgehog can lead to increased levels of stress, a loss of appetite, and an overall decrease in your pet’s health and well-being.
Can Two Hedgehogs Live Together?
It is possible for two hedgies to live together without complications. Still, you need to remember that your pet hedgie (or hedgies) would not typically cohabitate in nature. A successful pairing of two hedgehogs requires strategic planning, processed introductions, and knowledge of hedgie interactions.
Under the right conditions, hedgehogs will accept companions. These conditions start with choosing the gender of the paired hedgies.
Pairing two female hedgehogs will be much more successful than attempting to pair two males. Males have a tendency to fight for dominance, which can get pretty rough and lead to severe injury.
Age is another condition to consider when attempting to pair two hedgies. A successful pairing is much more likely to occur if one hedgehog is younger than the other than if the hedgies are the same age.
Regardless, attempting to pair hedgies is a slow and arduous process that isn’t always successful.
Will My Hedgehog Become Lonely Without My Interaction?
The truth of the matter is that your hedgehog doesn’t need your company or interaction. Your pet hedgie only requires that you supply the necessities it needs to survive.
This is not to say that your pet hedgie will not enjoy interactions with you once you two have bonded. Playtime with your hedgie is vital for your hedgie’s mental well-being.
Your interactions with your pet hedgehog do not have anything to do with loneliness on the part of your pet. Still, they are integral in providing your pet hedgie with proper stimulation to prompt positive health and well-being.
Why Is Mental Stimulation Important for My Pet Hedgehog?
Mental stimulation is a critical aspect of hedgehog care. You should incorporate it into your pet’s daily and nightly routine.
Toys are an excellent way to supplement your pet hedgie’s environment and provide it with adequate mental stimulation. Hideaways, tubes, and tunnels are great for getting your hedgie’s mental gears turning.
Small, pushable, round toys can also provide your pet hedgehog (and you) with tons of entertainment and engagement.
A lack of mental stimulation for your hedgie won’t result in a lonely hedgie but a bored pet. You cannot remedy your pet hedgehog’s boredom by introducing a companion.
How to Provide Adequate Mental Stimulation for My Pet Hedgie
Mental stimulation is particularly important for your pet hedgehog. There are a number of ways to provide this to your pocket pincushion.
The size of your hedgie’s home can be the difference between a bored, unenthusiastic hedgehog and a lively, curious, happy hedgie.
Hedgie experts agree that bigger is better in terms of cage size. The minimum size recommended is six square feet (2’ x 3’), but a twelve-square-foot cage (3’ x 4’) is best.
Larger enclosures allow for more roaming, burrowing, and exploring space for your pet hedgehog.
Beyond a large cage, investing in an exercise wheel is the best form of mental stimulation you can provide to your pet hedgehog. The wheel will not only keep your pet hedgie in top physical shape but keep its mental gears grinding.
Just be sure to invest in a safe, high-quality, hedgehog-specific exercise wheel.
Toys and Balls
A simple, brightly colored ball will make a great toy and form of mental stimulation for your hedgie. Hedgehogs love rolling items around their enclosures or play areas.
Though hideaways/caves/snuggles/burrows aren’t technically an engaging toy, hedgies love being able to hide out (it is part of the hedgehog’s normal behavior).
Your pet hedgie will enjoy pulling bedding into their hideaways, which will aid in keeping it mentally stimulated.
One commonly overlooked activity is feeding your pet hedgie live insects.
Wild hedgies are constantly foraging for worms and bugs, thus being constantly stimulated.
Offering your pet hedgehog live worms and bugs will allow them to exhibit natural behaviors that they would in the wild. Plus, it’s kind of fun to watch your pet hedgie “hunt” for food!
Can I Leave My Pet Hedgehog Alone?
With proper planning and preparation, you can safely leave your pet hedgehog alone, but not for an extended period of time. As previously mentioned, hedgies are, by nature, solitary creatures who do not have a need for companionship.
As solitary as your hedgie may be, it still relies on you to meet its basic needs for water, food, and a clean, safe shelter.
With any other pet, you should never leave your hedgehog alone for too long. It is necessary for you to be able to monitor your pet hedgehog’s health, access to clean water and food, and general well-being.
How Long Can I Safely Leave My Pet Hedgie Alone?
Most breeders, veterinarians, and other animal professionals do not recommend leaving your pet hedgehog alone for more than six hours at a time without any type of supervision.
If you do have to leave your pet hedgehog alone due to work or other engagements, make sure that your pet has access to plenty of food and clean water before you go.
If you know that you will be gone for an extended period of time, you should find someone to assist you in regularly checking on your pet hedgie.
Tips for Properly Caring for Your Pet Hedgehog
Your pet hedgie needs proper care to be happy and healthy. These tips can help to ensure that you are providing the best environment for your pet hedgehog.
As mentioned before, the size of your hedgie’s enclosure matters. The minimum space requirement as recommended by professionals is six square feet, although twelve square feet is optimal.
Use bedding made from pulp or recycled paper.
Provide a “hiding” area for your pet and a small litter box.
Use non-tippable or attachable bowls for food and water (or a hanging water bottle, if you’d like).
Attach or secure an exercise wheel.
Provide toys, ramps, tunnels, tubes, balls, or bells for mental stimulation for your pet.
It is best to feed your pet hedgie a ration that is high in protein and low in fat. Commercially sold hedgehog-specific pelleted food is readily available at most pet stores.
Moist hedgehog-specific food should be fed to your pet in addition to the dry pellets.
You can give small amounts of vegetables and fruits.
Insect treats are great for your pet hedgie as well.
Cleaning and Care
Regardless of what Oscar the Grouch thinks, no one likes to stew in their own filth, including your pet hedgie.
Remove old food and waste from your pet’s enclosure daily.
Check and replenish water as needed.
Replace cage bedding and deep clean your hedgie’s enclosure with soap and water weekly.
Health and Wellness
Proper care, the correct nutrition, and a clean habitat will keep your hedgehog happy and generally healthy. Scheduling regular health check-ups with your veterinarian is one way to stay ahead of any health issues that could impact your hedgie.
Unfortunately, your hedgie could incur illness or injury even in the best care. A few common issues that plague hedgies are:
- Tumors and cancer
- Eye infections
- Swollen or bloody feet
- External pests such as ticks, fleas, or mites
- Upper respiratory infection
- Dental disease
- Gastrointestinal obstructions
If you see that your pet hedgehog is acting strangely or displaying pained/aggressive behavior, it is best that you take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Fascinating Fast Facts
Impress your friends with these tidbits of hedgie knowledge!
- Hedgehog quills are called spines
- Hedgies are lactose intolerant
- Hedgehogs are thought to be the planet’s oldest living mammal
- Hedgies are not indigenous to New Zealand and are considered invasive species
- Many Middle Eastern cultures believe that hedgehog meat has medicinal properties
- There are SEVENTEEN species of hedgehog
- Baby hedgies are called hoglets, piglets, or urchins
- A group of hedgies is called an array
- Hedgehogs regularly travel long distances in search of food
- Some hedgehogs snack on scorpions and poisonous snakes
- A hedgehog was nominated for New Zealand’s Parliament
Hedgehogs are, by nature, solitary little animals who relish independence.
Your pet hedgie will not experience loneliness without your interaction. It will not need a companion animal to share its space with.
Your pet hedgehog will not crave companionship in the way that other domesticated pets, such as dogs, do.
A lack of mental stimulation for your hedgehog will not result in a lonely hedgie but a bored hedgie. Boredom in a hedgehog can lead to a host of other issues, from obesity to depression.