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Do Hedgehogs Hibernate? (In the Wild and As Pets)

Do Hedgehogs Hibernate? (In the Wild and As Pets)

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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. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Are you trying to learn a bit more about hedgehogs? This is an important thing to do if you’re planning to buy one as a pet.

You want to have a good idea of what to expect when caring for these pets. Some small animals are known to hibernate when it gets cold outside.

Do hedgehogs hibernate? Are they going to need to hibernate even when being kept as pets in homes with temperature-controlled environments?

Read on to learn about hedgehogs and hibernation. After getting all of the facts, you’ll have a full understanding of the topic so that you can make good decisions.

Hedgehogs Do Hibernate

Hibernating is indeed something that hedgehogs do. They do this as a survival mechanism in the wild.

Hedgehogs are capable of slowing their metabolism so they can survive without eating as much food. When hedgehogs hibernate, they’re not really asleep.

They’re just lowering their body temperatures to such a degree that it makes their energy stores last a long time. This is technically referred to as a state of torpor.

They don’t use up much energy while they’re hibernating, but their bodily functions slow down substantially. It makes it so they can’t do the typical things that they do when they aren’t hibernating.

When Do They Hibernate?

Wild hedgehogs will typically hibernate starting in October or November. However, the exact time that hibernation starts will depend on the local climate.

In some areas, hedgehogs might not start hibernating until December. It just depends on how cold it is and whether hedgehogs need to hibernate early.

If a hedgehog can safely remain active during November, it’ll wait to hibernate until sometime in December. Conversely, some hedgehogs have to enter early hibernation in October in areas where it gets rather cold.

Usually, a hedgehog will come out of hibernation sometime in the spring. The hibernation period will likely end in either March or April.

When the hibernation period ends will also be impacted by the local weather conditions. Sometimes hedgies might stop hibernating a little earlier or a little later depending on how things are.

How Long Do They Hibernate?

The length of the hibernation period will differ a bit depending on the climate. If a hedgehog needs to hibernate earlier than normal, it might hibernate for a slightly longer period of time.

That being said, the average length of hibernation for hedgehogs is five to six months. Sometimes hedgehogs might hibernate for shorter periods of time than this.

For example, if a hedgehog doesn’t start hibernating until December, it might be able to stop in March. That would put the hedgehog at three months of hibernation or slightly longer, depending on which dates it started and stopped the hibernation.

Expect hedgehogs to hibernate for up to six months. Sometimes they might hibernate for three or four months if the climate doesn’t require them to hibernate for as long.

Why Do They Hibernate?

There’s a practical reason why hedgehogs hibernate. They do this so they can survive during the winter without having to eat a lot of food.

Food is scarce in the winter, and making it through this season alive isn’t always easy. Hibernation is a method that some animals use to get through the winter safely.

Bears famously hibernate after eating a lot of food. They find caves and hide out during the winter.

It’s not that different for hedgehogs, but they might relocate at least once during the hibernation period. Remember that hedgies don’t truly sleep while hibernating.

Commonly, hedgehogs will change nests every three weeks while hibernating. This is likely done to keep themselves from being discovered by predators.

Do Hedgehogs Hibernate in the Winter?

Yes, it’s common for hedgehogs to hibernate in the winter. They hibernate when it’s cold outside, and they need to reduce their metabolism to make food stretch further.

Without hibernation, hedgehogs would have a hard time making it through harsh winters. Wild hedgehogs have a difficult time finding food in the wild during the winter months.

Wild hedgehogs are known to eat various types of insects as well as plant matter. They’ll also eat small mammals such as mice if they get the chance.

All of these food sources will be scarce during the winter. It makes sense that they would need to use hibernation as a way to survive until the spring.

Do They Hibernate Alone?

You’ll find that hedgehogs are generally solitary creatures. They come together to mate, but they live out their lives alone otherwise.

A hedgehog isn’t going to partner up when it’s hibernating. Hedgehogs build a nest and hibernate by their lonesome selves.

Since hedgies are so used to living alone, it’s not recommended to keep them in pairs as pets either. They generally do better when kept in cages by themselves.

Do They Hibernate as Pets?

What about your pet hedgehog? Is a pet hedgehog going to hibernate in your home even if you’re keeping it nice and warm?

No, pet hedgehogs don’t need to enter a hibernation state. You’ll keep them warm by keeping the temperature between 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your hedgehog will have some type of heating lamp or heating pad. This will keep it warm and in good health.

It’s also worth noting that pet hedgehogs are generally descended from wild desert-roaming hedgehogs. These types of hedgehogs aren’t designed to hibernate.

Even if your hedgehog is designed to hibernate, it doesn’t need to when being kept as a pet. If the conditions aren’t right for hibernation, there will be no reason for a hedgehog to enter a hibernation state.

That being said, some pet hedgehogs will hibernate if you allow the conditions to be met. Only some types of hedgehogs can hibernate.

There’s no benefit to allowing a pet hedgehog to hibernate, though. In fact, a pet hedgehog could die during hibernation.

So it’d be safer to avoid hibernation entirely if you have a pet that has the potential to enter a hibernation state. Make good decisions so you can keep your pet safe.

Do Hedgehogs Play Dead?

Sometimes you might see a wild hedgehog that appears not to be moving. A wild hedgehog that isn’t moving could either be dead or it might be hibernating.

In a sense, you could say that a wild hedgie is playing dead if it does this. If you see a pet hedgehog not moving, you’ll want to check to see if it’s breathing.

If the hedgie isn’t breathing, it likely passed away. Remember that pet hedgehogs generally don’t hibernate.

This is especially true if the conditions aren’t right for hibernation in your home. It’d be unusual for the conditions to be right to hibernate inside a house occupied by humans.

How Long Do Hedgehogs Live?

Most pet hedgehogs will live for around five years. They have the potential to live for eight years or a little longer with excellent care.

Hibernation doesn’t have an impact on life expectancy, but pets can die during hibernation. So it’s best to avoid it if you can.

Final Thoughts

After reading more about hedgehogs and hibernation, you should have a much better idea of what’s going on. Hibernation isn’t generally anything you need to worry about as a pet owner.

As long as you keep the conditions normal for your pet, it’s not going to enter a hibernation state. Also, many types of pet hedgehogs aren’t meant to enter hibernation states.

Wild hedgehogs are a completely different story. For these animals, hibernation is simply a survival tool during the winter months.

Food is scarce during the winter, and hibernation is a way for hedgehogs to survive this tough time. They will usually hibernate from October to March or April.

The exact hibernation times can differ based on the climate. If it stays warm for a little longer, some hedgies might not hibernate until December.

Hedgehogs aren’t asleep when they’re hibernating. They’re just lowering their body temperatures so much that they will metabolize food slowly.

They use up far less energy during this time, and they’re also less capable of functioning normally. Hedgehogs can still move while hibernating, though.

A hedgehog will even move its nest during hibernation. On average, the hedgie will move its nest once every three weeks.

Now that you know more about hibernation in hedgehogs, it’ll be easier to move forward with confidence. It’s good to know that you don’t need to worry about this if caring for a pet hedgehog normally.

If you run across a hibernating hedgehog in the wild, it’s best to leave it alone. The little hedgie can fend for itself, and it’s capable of moving to a new nest even while hibernating.

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