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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Hedgehogs are cute, cuddly, and generally low maintenance as a pet, but things can go terribly wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. Educating yourself before taking the dive into hedgehog parenthood can save you a load of headaches and heartaches down the road.
Hedgehogs are native to warmer climates found in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, so they need to be kept in an environment that mimics the same warmth. To help you out, we’ve put together a quick guide on how to keep hedgehogs warm, so your little guy or girl can stay happy and healthy.
How to Keep Hedgehogs Warm
As we just mentioned, hedgehogs originate from warm climates found in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and even Europe. You’ll never find one living out and about in a cooler climate, and that’s because what’s cold to them is much different than what’s cold to us.
Hedgehogs have a particular (and potentially life-threatening) sensitivity to cold air that needs to be addressed and monitored constantly if you’re an owner. Unlike dogs and cats, what you feel as warm may actually be cold to your hedgehog.
This is because hedgehogs are one of a few species of mammals who actually hibernate. Because of their origins, hedgehogs need to be kept warm. This means that you need to keep the temperature of your hedgehog’s cage between 73 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you allow their cages to get too hot, they can become inactive, lethargic, and even die from heat stroke. If you allow the temperature in the cage to get too low, your hedgehog will also become inactive and possibly slip into hibernation, which can also be lethal.
It’s your responsibility as a hedgehog owner to purchase and provide adequate housing and temperature control for your little friend. It’s not optional if you want your hedgehog to live a long, happy life.
So if you’re looking for the best ways to keep your hedgehog adequately warm, here’s how.
1 – Temperature Control of the Room
This might be the most expensive method of heating a hedgehog’s environment. Instead of purchasing a designated heater for the cage, you could simply use climate control for the room in which you keep your hedgehog in its cage.
Climate control is oftentimes reliable, especially if your room has its own thermostat. However, keeping a single room within the necessary temperature limits can drive your energy bill up. If this happens, this doesn’t mean that you can take a break from maintaining optimal temperatures for your hedgehog.
2 – Heating Pad for Small Animals
Heating pads for small animals are an effective, inexpensive way to keep your hedgehog sufficiently warm.
Some heating pads are designed to be kept beneath the cage, preventing your hedgehog from getting burned, while others can be placed directly inside the cage, giving your hedgehog a nice spot to cozy up.
3 – Heating Lamp
If you’ve ever owned a reptile, you probably already know about heating lamps. These can be used for more than just snakes and lizards. In fact, as long as your lamp doesn’t cause the cage to reach temperatures above 78 degrees Fahrenheit, it should be safe to use.
One obvious downside to a heating lamp is the bright light, which can confuse the hedgehog into thinking it’s daytime, resulting in it not eating when it needs to. Most heating lamps need to create a lot of light in order to generate enough heat, but some can do so without any light at all.
These particular lightless heating lamps are common among hedgehog owners. They’re called ceramic heat emitters, or CHEs. You can set up your CHE inside the hedgehog’s cage and not have to worry about burning brightness, as it uses infrared radiation to warm the surrounding environment.
4 – Space Heater
If you’re unable to get a heating lamp or heating pad for your hedgehog, you should consider purchasing a space heater. For those who live in colder climates, temperatures inside the house can drop drastically if you’re not paying attention.
Your hedgehog is at risk when there are sudden drops in temperature. A heating pad or heating lamp may not be enough to keep your hedgehog warm if the temperature drops suddenly (such as if your heat goes out during the middle of a snowstorm).
Keeping a space heater easy to access and on standby is a great way to ensure that your hedgehog will always have sufficient heat. Just remember that you need to keep the space heater close enough to provide the necessary warmth, but not too close that it begins to threaten overheating.
When using a space heater, it’s important to keep an eye on its heating cycle or rotation. Some space heaters are designed to produce lots of heat for a short period and then cycle down to create an average temperature.
To keep your hedgehog safe, make sure you know exactly how extreme the heating cycle is, and adjust placement near your hedgehog’s cage accordingly.
5 – Blankets
Sometimes emergencies happen. Maybe the power goes out and there’s no way for you to keep your space heater or heating pad running for your hedgehog. Don’t panic.
Gather a warm blanket or two and wrap it around your hedgehog’s cage to preserve any residual heat that’s present. Optionally, you can provide a miniature sleeping bag for your hedgehog to snuggle up inside of in case it needs to get warm as well.
How to Tell If Your Hedgehog Is Warm Enough
As we’ve already discussed, it’s imperative that your hedgehog stays warm, but how can you tell if it’s warm enough?
Hedgehogs are usually very active, especially at night. In the wild, hedgehogs will cover several miles in a single day. That’s more than many humans can say.
So if your hedgehog is active, eating regularly, and sometimes playful or cuddly, the chances are that you’re doing a good job at regulating the temperature in their cage.
If your hedgehog is unhappy with the temperature of its cage, you might notice it become more lethargic and possibly fall over. Hedgehogs will sleep longer than usual and lose their appetite when they find the temperature beginning to drop too low for them.
These are early signs of it slipping into hibernation, which is the opposite of what you want, and should be taken seriously.
Get a Thermometer and Check Regularly
Aside from knowing your hedgehog’s physical responses to uncomfortable temperatures, you can use a thermometer to gauge the temperature more readily.
A simple room thermometer is an inexpensive but highly effective way to make sure that the temperature in and around your hedgehog’s cage is sufficiently warm.
It’s important that the thermometer is placed close to or inside the cage, as the temperature in any room can vary drastically within just a few feet. So get the most accurate reading by placing it immediately next to or inside the cage.
Preventing Your Hedgehog From Hibernating
We touched on this point earlier, but if you allow the temperature in your room to drop below 72 degrees Fahrenheit, you run the risk of forcing your hedgehog into hibernation.
This is extremely unhealthy for the hedgehog, as it can’t control when it enters and exits the hibernating state. To more fully understand the risk associated with not keeping your hedgehog warm, let’s dive a little deeper into the science of hibernation.
Hedgehogs are one of the few mammals that truly hibernate by entering a state known as “torpor.” In this state, hedgehogs aren’t actually asleep; they’ve just dropped their body temperature to match the temperature of the room by slowing down all bodily functions.
In this state of torpor, the body temperature drops, the metabolism grinds to a halt, and all physiological activities are essentially suspended. If the animal in a state of torpor doesn’t have sufficient energy stores to wake back up, they risk death.
This is why most hibernating species eat more during late summer months, as they’re preparing their bodies for literal survival during hibernation.
What You Can Do in an Emergency
If you’ve come home from a long day to find that your power has gone out and the temperature inside the house has dropped significantly, you need to take action immediately.
Don’t worry; there should still be time to save your little friend. It will just take some warming up on your part.
If the temperature in your hedgehog’s cage has dropped significantly but it’s still awake, simply turn the heater or heaters back on but allow them to slowly return to normal temperature.
Remember that hedgehogs need a constant warm temperature, but drastic drops and increases in temperature can be harmful.
If your hedgehog has become inactive or slipped into hibernation due to the drop in temperature, refrain from using heating pads or heating lamps to warm it back to life. Heating devices can cause a sudden change in temperature, which can be harmful to your hedgehog.
Instead, warm your hedgehog with the most natural heat source available: your body heat. Simply cuddle with it, allowing your body heat to transfer into the hedgehog slowly and naturally. This is the best way to bring a hibernating hedgehog back to waking life.
Are Hedgehogs Warm-Blooded?
As with all mammals, hedgehogs are warm-blooded; however, this changes slightly when they go into hibernation. In hibernation, their metabolic rate, along with their body temperature, drops significantly as their bodies attempt to preserve energy.
Can Hedgehogs Go Outside?
The simple answer is, yes, hedgehogs can go outside. It’s likely that your hedgehog will love the change of scenery, as well as the fresh air.
Since you’ve taken the hedgehog out of its native environment and trained it to live in a cage though, there are some precautions you need to take so that your hedgehog has the best outdoor day trip it possibly can.
Don’t Leave it Unattended
This point should go without saying, but for the sake of safety, don’t leave your hedgehog unattended. Hedgehogs are tiny compared to the big world around them, and most of the time they’re far from any semblance of a native environment, so supervision is essential to ensure a safe outdoor play date.
Don’t Take Them Outside in Extreme Weather Conditions
At this point, you should already understand the dangers associated with extreme temperatures, so make sure that it’s a nice and warm sunny day for you to enjoy together.
Avoid going out when there’s a potential for thunderstorms or other types of severe weather, as lightning and thunder may frighten your hedgehog, causing it to panic and search for shelter. This could potentially lead to you losing track of where your hedgehog is, which is why it’s a good idea to follow the next tip.
Use a Playpen or Section Off a Play Area
Hedgehogs aren’t the fastest species of pets out there; you won’t find a “Sonic” in the real world, but they’re not slow either. Hedgehogs can run in short bursts of up to 4 mph, making them pretty slow when compared to a dog that can sprint up to 25 mph.
However, that’s no reason not to be cautious. Pet hedgehogs are small, quick, and curious, so you never know when they might disappear into a hole or take off after a beetle.
Feed Them Beforehand
Hedgehogs are insectivores, meaning that they only eat insects, and sometimes mice, frogs, or snakes when in the wild. This doesn’t mean that they can eat any insect out there. If your hedgehog is hungry, it will look for food when outdoors and can potentially eat something harmful.
Avoid this altogether by feeding them beforehand, so they’re less focused on their stomach and more focused on playtime.
Make Sure That the Ground Is Clean
Look out for hazard signs and trash piles. You don’t want to play with your hedgehog on ground that’s just been sprayed with fertilizer or pesticides. This can easily rub off on their feet and bellies, and make them extremely sick.
Always Wash Them Afterwards
Because you never know what bacteria and chemicals they can pick up from the ground, it’s very important to always wash them as soon as you get home.
Hedgehogs make great pets, but you need to know how to care for them properly. Make sure that you follow these simple guidelines to ensure that your hedgehog stays warm, healthy, and happy.