Hedgehog care is more complex than many of the other "pocket pets." Doing proper research before you decide to bring one home is extremely important. If you have ANY questions, feel free to ask me. I can be reached at email@example.com
My personal favorite is a clear plastic bin. They keep the heat in better and are better at preventing escape. The cage needs to provide a MINIMUM of 3 sq ft, preferably more. I use the Sterilite bins from Home Depot that have the navy lid and are 200 qt/50 Gallon. Another option is a C&C (Cube and Coroplast) cage. It has to have the 10" sides all the way around to keep the heat in and prevent climbing. I'm not sure how big you can make it with the sides that high, but as long as it's at least 3 sq ft, it's good. Some people use the wire cages with the plastic bottoms. I personally don't like these. Unless you're using a space heater, it's nearly impossible to keep it warm enough. Also, hedgehogs like to climb and many have fallen after climbing to the top of the cage and broken legs or worse. So I just don't recommend them. Aquariums aren't good because they hold heat less well than totes, have worse ventilation than totes (totes are skinnier at the bottom and wider at the top), and in order to have one big enough it would be extremely heavy.
Photo credit RatGirl44 on YouTube
African Pygmy Hedgehogs can go into hibernation if they get too cold. If they go into hibernation and you can't warm them back up and bring them out of it quickly, they will die! Their cage needs to be kept between 75-82 degrees Farenheit. That's ambient temp. They don't need a heat gradient like reptiles. This can be accomplished by using a space heater or a ceramic heat emitter. It is important that you don't use a basking bulb or a red or blue bulb. They don't like a lot of direct light, and it can actually hurt their eyes over time. If you decide to go the ceramic heat emitter route, there's three important things... Make sure the lamp has a ceramic base, not plastic. Plastic will melt and can cause a fire. Also, make sure it's rated for the wattage you're using. And lastly, you will need a good, reliable thermostat to keep the bulb from cooking your hog. You'll also want a digital reptile or aquarium thermometer AND temp gun to check the temps.
It is something I hope you never have to go through. I lost my 3 1/2 year old boy to it. His thermostat malfunctioned and wasn't heating the cage at all. It only dropped to 73, but he was the type of hog who needed his cage around 82. I brought him around, put him back in the cage with a different thermostat and he was gone a couple hours later. It is something you need to be aware that it can happen so you can prevent it. Don't listen to the people online that will swear up and down you don't need heat. I recommend a thermostat that sounds an alarm if temps get too hot or too cold.
So how do you know if your hog is trying to hibernate and what should you do if it is? A hedgehog that is trying to hibernate will be curled into a tight ball with all of its quills up. It'll be cold to the touch and likely not even pop or hiss if you pick it up. (If it does pop and hiss but was in a tight ball and almost immediately unballs, that usually means the temp needs to be bumped up.) If there's no response from it, try to stay calm. The best thing to do is skin to quill contact. Put him or her under your shirt and put a blanket on top. If you can't handle the quills on your skin, just put your hog on your chest and put the blanket over you. It is always a good idea to keep hand warmers (Hot Hands) on hand, mainly for power outages, but this would also be a good time to have them. NEVER DUNK THE HIBERNATING HEDGEHOG IN HOT WATER. A sudden change in temp like that is extremely dangerous. Usually it should only take 20 minutes or so to bring him or her around, but I've heard of some taking almost an hour. Just try to stay calm. And as always, when in doubt, the vet is always the best option.
NOTE: If a hedgehog goes into hibernation, it is likely to have another hibernation attempt within 48 hours of the first one. Keep the cage temp bumped up and keep an eye on them. They might have to have the cage temp higher from then on.
Unfortunately, the fact is that commercial hedgehog diets just aren't nutritionally complete for a hedgehog's dietary needs. Most are mainly grains with little to no protein. I feed most of my hedgehogs a mixture of Diamond Naturals Indoor, Chicken Soup for the Cat Lovers Soul Indoor (Chicken) food, and Solid Gold Katz-n-Flocken. I have a different food for my overweight rescue hog. Just keep in mind if you decide to switch to a different food, when choosing a kibble, peas aren't good for them (so try to get a food that either doesn't have it, which is hard, or has it further down the list of the ingredients. When that's not possible, just make sure it doesn't have it at the top of the list of ingredients). The protein should be around 30%, fat should be around 10% and fiber should be as high as possible. They need a fiber of about 15%, but you're not going to get that from kibble alone. That's why I feed superworms, frozen dubia roaches, cricket powder, earthworms (from the store, not outside), cooked egg, and plain cooked chicken. Remember, variety is best. Don't feed the same thing every day, except the kibble. How boring would that be?
NOTE: Feeding hedgehog specific food, Blue Buffalo, grocery store cat/kitten food, or something random like birdseed voids the lifetime guarantee against WHS.
Pretty much, as far as I'm aware, you can use any thing but cedar, corn cob (I think Kaytee calls it Kay Kob), and pine that isn't kiln dried (kiln dried is ok). A lot of people use fleece. That's what I usually use except for the moms with litters. Carefresh is another popular choice. I don't think it controls the odor well, but they do like to burrow in it.
Liner photo from ohiohollandlops.com
Grooming and Miscellaneous
You will need to get some human baby nail trimmers to do their nails. I find it easiest to do them when they're in the bath. Get some Quick Stop (Styptic powder) in case you get the nail too short. In a pinch you can use flour, but it doesn't work as well. For the bath I recommend Curaseb (the one shown). If they are quilling I do an oatmeal bath bomb (I'll tell you how to make one. I send them home with one). Of course you'll need a food dish, a water dish or bottle, and things to enrich their homes. You can use pouches for them to burrow in (they need something to hide in anyway, empty toilet paper rolls (cut it longways down the middle so they don't get stuck), rubber balls, matchbox cars, those little vinyl bath toys... Anything they can push around. Some people get an empty litter box and put pom poms or fleece scraps in there and let them dig (supervised). AND DON'T FORGET THE WHEEL!!! That is their favorite thing ever. The only safe wheels that I'm aware of are the largest comfort wheel and the Carolina Storm Bucket wheels. Which brings me to my final item... Baby wipes. They poop on their wheel when they run. Make sure you clean it every day.
Does my hedgehog need a friend?
No. They are solitary animals. Males will kill each other and females, while sometimes they'll get along, they can one day just decide they no longer like each other and you'll end up with a dead one that way too. They won't have to fight for resources and if you notice something abnormal in the cage like blood or diarrhea, you'll immediately know which hog it belongs to if you only have one in the cage.