Have you ever thought about adopting a pet hedgehog? It can be tempting because they’re cute and they don’t take a lot of space in the house. They’re also quite friendly by nature and can be lovely pet companions.
Can their odor cause an issue, though? In other words, do hedgehogs stink? Is a foul hedgehog odor indicative of an underlying health condition?
The short answer is no. Naturally, hedgehogs don’t have a foul odor because their bodies don’t have scent glands. If your hedgehog smells funny, it can be linked to reasons such as illness or poor hygiene.
General Info About Hedgehogs
Did you know that there are 17 hedgehog species in the world? They’re divided into five genera: Paraechinus, Erinaceus, Atelerix, Mesechinusand, and Hemiechinus.
Hedgehogs live across Central Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. They’re small mammals that adopt a nocturnal lifestyle. They have very short legs, a cone-like face, and their backs are covered with spike-like quills. Some hedgehogs can have over 6,000 quills, in fact.
Hedgehogs may resemble porcupines in their quills. However, unlike porcupines, the quills on a hedgehog aren’t poisonous and they don’t fall off so easily from their bodies.
A fun fact about hedgehogs is that when they’re in fear or sense a threat, they roll into a ball so that their quills can cover their whole body. This can act as protection from predators and can help them hide in plain sight in some cases.
Are Hedgehogs Naturally Smelly?
While it might come as a surprise, hedgehogs aren’t smelly by nature. On the contrary, they actually smell relatively pleasant.
The reason for that is hedgehogs don’t have scent glands, meaning they can’t sweat and can’t really produce a bad odor from their bodies.
So, if you’re thinking about adopting a hedgehog as a pet and you’re scared that their smell might be a bother, don’t worry! They’re pretty odor-free.
What Causes a Hedgehog to Smell Bad?
Even though hedgehogs are odor-free, there are a few things in the environment around them that can cause them to smell bad.
One of the things you should consider if your hedgehog smells bad out of the blue is its diet. An imbalanced diet can cause their stool to have a really strong, bad odor.
Foods rich in fats are especially troublesome for your pet, so make sure to always assess their diet and avoid fatty foods, even if it’s in small portions.
Dirty Cage or Bedding
Are you cleaning your hedgehog’s cage as often as you should?
Hedgehogs pee and poop inside the cages. The smell might not be very strong in the beginning, but over time, the accumulation of urine and stool can cause a bad odor that gets out of hand.
That said, you need to make sure to always check your pet’s cage for any hidden discharge. Checking on a daily basis would be ideal to make sure your hedgehog stays clean and healthy, and it only takes a few minutes!
Keep in mind that while the cage might seem clean, the bedding might not be so. There might be hidden pee or poop in the bedding and it could be causing the smell.
That’s why you must make sure to check it carefully and change it at least three times a week. You should also consider investing in high-quality bedding that can absorb moisture and odor.
Dirty Exercise Wheel
While you’ve been paying attention to keeping the cage clean, there’s something you probably have missed. Hedgehogs spend most of their time on their exercise wheels playing and killing time, and sometimes they might pee and poop on the wheel while they’re at it.
So if you’re keeping the cage spotless but can’t figure out where the smell is coming from, make sure to check and clean the exercise wheel as well because there’s a chance it’s the source.
Lack of Baths
In some cases, your hedgehog might simply need to be bathed more often.
Hedgehogs often tend to get food, pee, or poop stuck on their bellies by mistake, especially if they’re well-fed. This can cause them to smell bad over time.
That’s why you must bathe your hedgehog at least once every two weeks to make sure it stays clean and smells good.
However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t bathe them too much because they have dry skin. To add, you should use baby soap or a light shampoo as well.
Here’s how you should bathe your hedgehog:
You’ll need a soft towel, baby shampoo, a toothbrush (preferably a soft one), and a washcloth.
- Start by filling your sink with warm water. Check the temperature with your hand until you feel like it’s reasonably warm for you. That should work for your hedgehog too.
- Place the washcloth at the bottom of the sink so your hedgehog can stand on it during the bath. Standing on a soft material will make your hedgehog more comfortable and relaxed during the bath.
- Put your hedgehog in the water and give them a few minutes to adjust to the water’s temperature before you start washing them. This step is essential to avoid any sudden anxiety from your hedgehog.
- Put some shampoo and rub it on your hands, then slowly start to massage and wash the soft parts of your hedgehog’s body that aren’t covered in spines. Take your time and go slow so they don’t freak out in the middle
- Grab your toothbrush and put some shampoo on it and slowly start brushing the spines in different directions. Remember to be very gentle with this step because if you brush too hard or move the spines too much, you might irritate your hedgehog’s skin or injure it.
- Lastly, drain the skin and rinse off your hedgehog with lukewarm water. Make sure there isn’t any leftover shampoo anywhere on their body because it can cause skin dryness and irritation.
- Dry them off quickly with your towel. Hedgehogs don’t do well when they’re cold, so make sure to dry and warm them up quickly.
Sign of Illness
Are you already doing all of the above and your hedgehog still smells funny for some reason? If that’s the case, then you should contact your vet and have them take a look at your pet.
If you’re taking care of everything hygiene-wise, then the bad odor could possibly be a sign of illness. So, have your pet checked right away.
Lack of Litter Training
This might not be effective in all cases, but litter training your hedgehog can help with reducing any bad smell.
Here’s how you can litter train them:
- Set your hedgehog’s litter box in a certain corner in the cage and don’t change its position. Make sure to set it on the opposite corner of your pet’s food and water plates so that with time, your hedgehog will mark that corner as its bathroom.
- After your hedgehog pees or poops on the bedding, move the dirty part of the bedding on the litter box. You might have to leave the bedding for a couple of days so that your pet can learn from the smell that this is where it should go to the bathroom.
- It would be preferable if you use paper litter as it’s approved as a pet-safe litter and is ideal for small animals.
Tips for Keeping Your Hedgehog and Its Environment Clean
These are some tips that could be useful in keeping your pet nice and clean.
- Check the floor of your pet’s cage consistently because your hedgehog’s urine might seep in easily from the bedding onto the cage floor. You might not notice it and its accumulation can cause a bad odor to form.
- If poop or food pieces get stuck on the cage floor, use warm water mixed with a good amount of soap and pour it on the cage floor and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, get a hard bristle toothbrush that you don’t need and scrub the cage floor with it.
- Vacuum the cage with a mini handheld vacuum cleaner. Cleaning the cage with a vacuum can be more efficient than doing it manually because it helps take out hidden pieces of food, or stool that you might not notice at first.
However, it would be best to clean the hedgehog’s pouch manually, because the vacuum may cause it to rip. Keep in mind that you should keep your hedgehog out of the cage during cleaning because the vacuum can scare it or hurt it by accident.
- Check your hedgehog’s belly after every meal. Little bits of food might get stuck on their belly causing a bad smell, and they won’t be able to do anything about it.
Things to Avoid Doing If Your Hedgehog Stinks
Here are a couple of things to avoid doing if you notice a bad smell coming from your hedgehog or its cage:
Don’t Leave the Window Open at Night
You might think it would be a good idea to air out the room overnight to get rid of the smell, but that would actually backfire, especially during winter.
Hedgehogs need to live in a warm place and they can’t handle the cold well. By leaving the window near them open, you’re putting a great risk on their health.
Don’t Use Perfume or Other Scents
You might have an idea to just spray out some air freshener, use perfume, or use scented candles to mask the smell. However, these things will mean trouble for your hedgehogs.
Scented chemicals can cause your pet to become really stressed and can affect their breathing, so it’s better to avoid them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I feed my hedgehog?
High-quality hedgehog food from a pet store would be ideal. You can also get insects that are prepared for hedgehog feeding, which is usually a mixture of crickets and worms.
It’s not advised to offer your hedgehog insects picked from your garden, as they might be toxic from fertilizers in your soil.
Small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables are also allowed, but make sure to consult your vet about which fruits and veggies to offer.
Note that some fruits like avocados can be toxic to hedgehogs. Also, vegetables like lettuce have a low nutritional value and won’t be beneficial to them.
Any homemade fatty foods should be avoided because it gives their poop a strong, bad smell.
Can I bathe my hedgehog with regular shampoo?
No, your regular shampoo can damage your hedgehog’s skin. Hedgehogs have sensitive skin and it can dry very easily. The chemicals in our normal shampoos can be very harmful to them, which is why baby shampoo is the ideal pick.
If you don’t have baby shampoo available, you can use light, unscented hand wash, or castile soap as an alternative.
Make sure to be very gentle while bathing them because rough movements can damage their skin.
Is it okay for my hedgehog to sunbathe?
No. If your pet hedgehog smells bad and you notice it sunbathing, you might think that if they soak in the sun a bit it’ll help with the smell, but it’s quite the opposite.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and shouldn’t spend much time in the sun. If they have a bad odor and you notice them randomly standing in the sun, contact your vet immediately because it means something is wrong with them.
Even though there’s a general idea that hedgehogs are smelly by nature, the case is actually the opposite! Just remember to take care of their diet and avoid fatty foods, and remember to constantly check their cages, and keep them clean. Don’t forget to get high-quality bedding and change it constantly, and clean their exercise wheels as well!
Remember to bathe them with baby shampoo to preserve their skin, and always be on the lookout for any unusual behavior that comes with the bad smell because it might mean they need to see the vet.
If you keep all that in mind, your hedgehog will stay clean and healthy!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. I have a wife and two children and love taking them to the zoo to see all the animals. I grew up with dogs and fish and now have two dogs and two cats. I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.