Despite their prickly spines, hedgehogs are adorable, low-maintenance, and lovely creatures that can be excellent pets!
If you’re interested in having one, you might be wondering “how long do hedgehogs live?”, and that’s where this guide comes in handy!
On average, a hedgehog can live anywhere between 3 to 7 years whereas pet hedgehogs usually live longer than those who live in the wild. Some pet hedgehogs could live up to 8 to 10 years, although it’s still quite rare.
If you want to find out more about hedgehogs’ lifespan, stages of life, and factors that impact their longevity, keep on reading this guide!
While there are several species of hedgehogs out there, only a few of them are domesticated and can live as pets.
The most popular pet hedgehog species is the African Pygmy Hedgehog, also known as the “Four-toed hedgehog” or “Atelerix albiventris”. Other species include the “Long-eared hedgehog”, the Indian long-eared hedgehog, and the European hedgehog.
The average lifespan of these hedgehogs in captivity is usually between 4 to 7. Some pet owners report that their hedgehogs lived for as long as 10 to 11 years, although these are rare cases.
The reason why a hedgehog’s lifespan can vary dramatically is that there are many factors that can play a role in determining how long a hedgehog can live, but more about that in the following sections.
When it comes to hedgehogs living in the wild, the usual lifespan is a lot shorter. The typical hedgehog usually lives for around 2 to 3 years, which is significantly shorter than their pet counterparts.
The reason here is that they are always exposed to greater risks. This includes significant changes in weather, scarcity of food, diseases, and most of all, predators such as badgers, weasels, raptors, snakes, and foxes.
Even if they manage to escape predators, it usually costs them a great injury that gets infected and eventually cuts their lives short.
Like most pets with a relatively short lifespan, aging works differently when it comes to hedgehogs.
In the following section, we’ll take a closer look at the different stages of hedgehogs’ lives, so you can understand what is considered young or old in the hedgehog’s world!
The embryonic stage of a hedgehog lasts for only one month. A pregnant female hedgehog will give birth to an average litter of around 4 to 5 babies at a time, although in some rare cases, there can be up to 7 babies.
In the wild, it’s fairly common among mother hedgehogs to desert their litter, especially the first one. They might also eat their own babies if they’re disturbed, which is one of the reasons why some hedgehogs’ lives are cut short at that stage.
Newborn hedgehogs are known as “hoglets”, which remain in the infancy stage until they’re weaned at around 3 months old.
When babies are first born, their spines are covered with a soft membrane to protect their mothers while giving birth. Within the first day of birth, the membrane shrinks and dries out to reveal the soft quill underneath.
Hoglets are also born blind, and it should take around 12 to 24 days until they can open their eyes.
At that stage, they are most vulnerable and completely reliant on their mother. They gradually gain their independence and become fully grown in a relatively short time, which takes around 4 to 6 months.
Most hedgehogs will start maturing into adults between 6 to 12 months, depending on various factors such as the species, sex (females usually mature a lot faster than males), and climate.
When hedgehogs approach their second year of life, they’ll start reaching the final stages of sexual maturity. As of that time, hedgehogs will breed every year for the rest of their lives.
Ideally, hedgehogs will reproduce from mid-spring (April) to early fall (September), but the period of maximum sexual activity will vary depending on the climate (they prefer the warmest time possible).
Since most hedgehogs in the wild live up to 3 years, a 4-year-old hedgehog is considered an old one. This is equivalent to retirement age in human years.
As your hedgies grow older, they will become generally less active and slower than they used to be because it’ll be more difficult for them to get around as time goes by.
Now that you know more about the average lifespan of a hedgehog in the wild and as a pet, here’s a brief overview of the different aspects that can affect the longevity and life quality of your little prickly ball!
Almost all hedgehog species around the world have somewhat similar lifespans in the wild. This is because they all share huge similarities in their genetic codes.
With that being said, individual differences in the genetic makeup of individual hedgehogs can have a huge impact on how long they could live.
Better genetics means healthier growth and better immunity against aging, hereditary diseases, and infections.
One of the best ways to ensure that your hedgehog has fairly good genetics is to get them from a reputable breeder who is known for producing hedgehogs from healthy lineages.
Despite not being a guaranteed outcome, it gives your hedgehogs better odds of living a happier and longer life.
This factor plays a bigger role in determining the lifespan of a wild hedgehog than a pet one. The suitability of weather and availability of food sources around a hedgehog play a major role in their survival.
On the other hand, disturbed environments and lack of food push hedgehogs to venture more into open areas where they can be easily attacked by predators.
Hedgehogs will also need to build well-insulated shelters/nests for hibernation in the wild. The first attempts during juvenile stages are usually easily spotted.
A forgiving environment allows hedgehogs to build better shelters which greatly increases their chances of surviving harsh climates and hungry predators.
Ideally, both male and female hedgies have a similar lifespan, although males usually outlive females of the same age.
However, you should keep in mind that breeding a female hedgehog puts her under a lot of stress. During and shortly after pregnancy, the female’s immunity system is slightly weakened, which can make them prone to diseases and infections.
For that reason, if your main goal is to keep your female hedgehog alive for as long as possible, you might want to skip reproduction and breeding.
The living conditions inside the hedgehog’s habitat also have a huge impact on its lifespan because it directly affects its health and quality of life.
For example, a hedgehog living in a more spacious and comfortable habitat with good bedding material is more likely to live longer.
Choosing a good bedding material is also important for their health, such as absorbent pellets and shredding paper.
Softwood beddings like pine cause respiratory problems among small animals like rabbits, hamsters, and hedgehogs, so you should avoid them.
Nutrition is another essential aspect that you need to keep in mind if you want to keep your hedgehog healthy.
Ideally, a healthy hedgehog diet will contain all the necessary macronutrients, especially proteins, as well as important micronutrients, such as minerals and vitamins.
A healthy, balanced diet won’t only keep your hedgehog happy and fit, but it’ll also help avoid developmental issues as they grow up.
A healthy diet also helps them build a stronger immune system, which helps in fighting diseases and increases the survival chances of your little pet.
Hedgehogs mainly feed on insects, but you can also give them wet cat and dog food as a supplement.
Hedgehogs are active creatures that require plenty of physical and mental stimulation every day in order to stay healthy.
For that reason, it’s quite essential that you equip your hedgehog’s habitat with proper tools to keep them well-exercised, such as hedgehog wheels.
Toys like boxes, tube tunnels, and mazes are also fun activities that will keep your hedgie happy and engaged.
You can also allow them outside their cage in a safe, supervised environment to let them explore different experiences.
Lastly, one of the most important factors to keep your hedgehog alive and well is taking good care of his or her health.
Hedgehogs are prone to various diseases, such as ear infections, ringworms, obesity, cancer, and heart diseases.
Always keep an eye on your hedgie and bring them in for a checkup as soon as you notice any suspicious behaviors or symptoms. Also, remember to schedule a general health checkup every few months, even if they’re healthy.
Since hedgehogs reach their full size early in their lives, it can be a little tricky to estimate their ages just by looking at them.
Scientists might use a method called ventrobuccal sectioning to estimate their age, in which they count the periosteal growth rings in the teeth of their lower jaw.
Luckily, however, there are some methods that can help you roughly estimate whether a hedgehog is old or young.
For example, European hedgehog snouts and underskins are usually brown when they’re born but they lose pigmentation as they grow old, turning pink.
This also applies to their spikes, which turn ginger-brown as they grow older. With that being said, these changes are much harder to notice in the African Pygmy hedgehog.
This wraps it up for today’s guide that shows you everything you need to know about hedgehogs’ lifespans and all the factors that have an impact on how long hedgehogs live!
The average lifespan of hedgehogs is usually between 4 to 7 years. However, with proper care and good genetics, some hedgehogs can live up to 10 years.
While many factors are somewhat predetermined, keeping your hedgehog in a low-stress environment and providing them with proper living conditions, a good diet, and medical attention will help you extend their lifespan and improve their quality of life!
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.