The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Adopting a hedgehog or buying one can be a big commitment. These animals might be small, but they require quite a bit of care. Of course, one look at the hedgehog and it’s going to melt your heart.
These are incredibly cute despite their spiny bodies. There are, in total, 17 species of the hedgehog and they are found in many parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, and New Zealand.
Many people like to keep hedgehogs as pets because they feel that these animals are similar to hamsters and are easy to keep. You can just buy a cage and keep the hedgehog inside.
However, despite their spiny appearance, it’s important to clear some important things about these animals.
They Are Spines, Not Quills
Many people tend to mistake hedgehogs with porcupines. The differences are quite obvious, and the two should never be compared together. While both of them have spikes on their body, you should know that the hedgehog has spines, whereas the porcupine has quills.
When threatened, the hedgehog is simply going to make the spines harden, and will turn into a ball. Needless to say, it’s difficult to attack something that is spiky from all directions. This is the default defense mechanism of the animal. Porcupines, on the other hand, are quite different.
Porcupines have quills on their back, and they are able to detach these quills from their body, thus using them to attack. Porcupines are able to shoot these quills from their back as well in a last-ditch attempt to save themselves.
So, while porcupines might be a bit difficult to raise, hedgehogs definitely aren’t.
They Like to Explore
If you simply leave the hedgehog in its cage, it won’t be long before the animal gets bored. The hedgehog likes to explore, and it’s important that you provide it with plenty of activity.
If left unsupervised, the animal has a tendency to get into dangerous places, which can be harmful for it. Therefore, arguably the best thing that you can do is to make sure that the hedgehog is always supervised when it’s out of its cage.
Most people who have kept hamsters before usually like to keep them in hamster balls. For those who don’t know, a hamster ball is simply a spherical ball that’s made of clear plastic. These balls can be used for placing gerbils and hamsters inside, and letting them run around.
This makes it easy for the animal to run around the house without being supervised all the time. The best thing about hamster balls is that you don’t need to worry about your pet getting stuck or lost under the furniture, or running away. Simply put, the hamster ball was designed to provide exercise for the hamster.
When the ball is being used across different surfaces, it creates a small rumble, thus making it easy for the owners to identify exactly where the animal is running about. This makes it considerably easy for the pet owners to identify the animal without even keeping it in sight.
Hamster balls aren’t new either, they have been around since the 1970s. They are made of incredibly durable plastic and have air holes in them to ensure that there’s plenty of air for the hamster to breathe.
There’s also a tiny door on the side from which you can put the hamster inside the ball.
But What About Hedgehogs?
One of the biggest issues that you are going to have with hamster balls and hedgehogs is that you won’t be able to figure out whether the animal is running around because it’s trying to get away from the ball, or if it’s simply enjoying it.
Some hedgehogs absolutely love the experience and the freedom provided by the hamster ball, while there are others that get visibly stressed from being put in a plastic dome.
An important thing that you should know about these animals is that they have very poor eyesight. As a result, hedgehogs generally use their heightened sense of smell and their ears to navigate around their surroundings.
Now, when you place the hedgehog in a closed plastic ball, they often get overwhelmed because of the constant rolling sound that is made by the ball.
The sound made when the plastic causes friction on the floor is also difficult for the hedgehog to understand. There are going to be cases where the hedgehog will start running about, and there are going to be instances where the animal will just sit quietly in the ball, waiting to be let out.
An important thing to keep in mind here is that you must never try to force the hedgehog because that’s just wrong. Since the animal is hardly able to see outside of the ball, it’s going to constantly bump into the ball, and this is just going to make things more difficult. It’s just unnecessary stress for the animal.
More importantly, you should know that hedgehogs like to poop. They poop a lot, and the worst part is that these animals will poop when they are running. These animals have the acute ability to defecate without even stopping, and it won’t be long before the poop gets on its paws and spreads all over the ball.
Before you know it, the entire interior of the hamster ball is going to turn brown. That’s the last thing that you would want. Hamster balls are made for hamsters, and these animals are generally smaller than the average hedgehog.
So, if you want to give the animal a comfortable experience, you might want to consider buying the largest size available.
Go for a hamster ball that has a 12” diameter at the very least. You can easily find a bunch of different pet stores, thus making it easy for you to pick one up. However, you should know that there are a few risk factors involved with putting a hedgehog in a hamster ball.
One of the biggest risk factors involved in putting a hedgehog in a hamster ball is that the animal’s feet might get caught in the tiny slits that are designed to allow air inside. If the animal gets its toe or its nail stuck in the slit, it could cause considerable pain, and a possible fracture.
It is of vital importance that you trim the hedgehog’s nails on a regular basis to ensure that this doesn’t happen. This is also one of the main reasons why hedgehog owners are generally quite particular about wheels or small toys that have tiny holes, as the hedgehog is likely to get stuck inside.
Preparing Your Hedgehog for the Ball
If you are going to put the hedgehog in the ball, there are a few things that you need to care for. First of all, it is important for you to make sure that you let the animal relieve itself in its cage. As mentioned above, hedgehogs like to poop a lot, and you definitely don’t want the ball turning a bad shade of brown.
When the animal has properly relieved itself, you should gently keep the animal in the ball and watch its reaction. Needless to say, it’s important for you to keep the doors closed and keep the animal away from any stairs, since a tumbling ball could definitely cause serious injuries to the animal.
There are going to be plenty of instances when the animal will relieve itself in the ball. This is an inevitable outcome, and it will happen. When it does, you should immediately stop the playtime and clean the ball properly. You are going to need a hose handy to wash not just the hedgehog, but the ball as well.
What Other Options Do You Have?
A hamster wheel might be a wise idea, and you can easily keep it in the hedgehog’s cage. The hamster wheel is quite popular among hedgehog owners, mainly because it offers considerable activity without requiring all that supervision. However, you should know that the wheel is also going to turn brown from time to time.
This is just a part of hedgehog maintenance, and it’s important for you to provide a sizeable litter for the animal to relieve itself. You can try and litter train the hedgehog, but there are going to be accidents from time to time. If you want, a wire playpen might be a much safer and a better alternative.
You can set up thewire playpen with tissues underneath to ensure that the animal doesn’t defecate on the floor. Put a few toys inside and let the hedgehog run around the playpen for an hour or two outside its cage on a daily basis. This is all that you need to keep the animal active in a safe and secure environment.
There are plastic bottomed playpens available as well if you want, but they will also need to be cleaned on a regular basis. These are just a few alternatives that you can choose from.