Hello PAH family! Recent changes to Game and Fish legislature has amended the law previously restricting the ownership of a hedgehog in the state of Arizona, making them a popular new addition to many families. When Game and Fish adds or removes a species from the Restricted Wildlife List, the decision is based on a number of factors, including: human health and safety, the possible impact of the species on local ecosystems, consistency with federal regulations, and potential economic impacts. The decision to remove the hedgehog from the restricted list was primarily based on the low probability of an escaped or released hedgehog surviving in the Arizona wild; meaning they pose little threat to local habitat and wildlife.
There are approximately 17 species of hedgehog that are found around the world. The majority of hedgehogs available in the pet industry are African Pygmy hedgehogs. They typically weigh in at 1-1.5 pounds, with an average length of 6-8 inches. While they have decent eyesight, they rely primarily on hearing and sense of smell to forage and find food in their environment. In the wild their typical lifespan is approximately 3 years, however in captivity may live to 6 (and occasionally to 8!) years of age. They have a dense coating of spines over their back and sides, and when threatened are able to curl into a ball, protecting their face, feet and bellies with spikey armor.
Hedgehogs are omnivorous (eat a mixture of proteins and vegetables), nocturnal (sleep during the day and are active at night) mammals (warm blooded and give birth to live young). In the wild their diet consists of spiders, grubs, insects, carrion, roots, and berries. Domesticated hedgehogs are primarily fed a diet of cat food supplemented with meal worms and veggies. In captivity they are particularly prone to obesity, which often becomes evident in that they have difficulty completely tucking themselves into a protective ball. This is an indication that a reduction in food, and/or an increase in exercise are needed. Exercise wheels are a great tool to increase activity, as they allow for night-time jogging. Be sure to provide a solid wheel (not wire – spacing between bars creates risk for feet to get caught, leading to injury) and one that is easily cleanable.
Housing should allow for a decent amount of space to explore (shoot for at least 4 square feet of floor space), with pelleted or other soft substrate bedding. Wood chips are generally not preferred as they can have sharp edges and cause injury while your hedgie is burrowing. The habitat should be placed in a well ventilated (but not drafty!) area out of direct sunlight. They are also sensitive to noise, so placing the habitat away from TV’s or high traffic areas of the home is ideal. The temperature should be maintained in the low 70’s, keep in mind that low temperatures can be dangerous and induce hibernation. Fresh clean water should be available at all times, either in a dish or hanging bottle.
While hedgehogs can be fun, inquisitive, personable pets, they are not suitable for every family due to their nocturnal and prickly nature. Be sure to do your research prior to bringing home any new companions; and don’t hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns!
Ashley K. Joy, DVM
Prescott Animal Hospital