How To Care For An African Pygmy Hedgehog

These gorgeous little creatures first appeared on the scene a few years ago now and over time have become really popular pets. At one time people would queue to get their hands on these small and rather prickly “must have” cuter than cute creatures. People were willing to wait up to a year for the privilege of taking one home with them which meant waiting lists were very long.



The little hedgehogs are indeed around a quarter of the size of a normal, wild one. They don't carry fleas or the diseases their wild counterparts do either. On top of this, they adore being handled which means they rarely curl up into a ball, but they are by nature quite shy, so the more they are handled the more confidence they get in their owners.



Where Do Pygmy Hedgehogs Come From?



Pygmy hedgehogs were first bred in captivity in the United States around 20 years ago but have only been in England for a much shorter time. When they first appeared, they were considered as quite rare, as such people eager to own one would be willing to pay upwards of £190 for one Pygmy hedgehog. Even today, English breeders still have trouble keeping up with the demand for these delightful little pets, and often they have long waiting lists of people dying to own a Pygmy hedgehog.



Tiny Little Balls of Fun



Pygmy hedgehogs are extremely easy to handle, they're a cross between two breeds, namely the Algerian and the White Bellied hedgehog. When first born, these cute, tiny little creatures are totally pink. Pretty soon they get their true colours and quills with the most usual colour being chocolate brown. But you can find albino Pygmy hedgehogs too. As adults, they weigh a mere 2lbs and measure just a few inches long.



How Long do Pygmy Hedgehogs Live For?



Pygmy hedgehogs live anything from three to five years and unlike small pets like hamsters or guinea pigs, they are carnivorous. They love cat food and will devour chicken, cooked minced beef and are particularly fond of turkey.



When Are They Awake



Because Pygmy hedgehogs are nocturnal little beasties, they sleep all day and then come alive as the sun goes down. They may be tiny, but if left to their own devices, these little critters can cover quite a distance – up to eight miles in one night. They love their exercise wheels for this reason!



Male Pygmy hedgehogs are mature at five months old when they can start breeding. The gestation period is quite long for such tiny little creatures and can be anything from 32 to 50 days. Females usually give birth to three or four babies in any one litter.




Shy Little Creatures But Very Friendly



These little creatures can be quite shy, which means you have to put in the time to get to know them and vice versa. As soon as they trust someone, there's no turning back and they love being in the company of humans – they don't even roll up into a ball if they feel safe with their owners.



Creating a Lovely Environment



Like all pets that are kept indoors, Pygmy hedgehogs need a lovely environment to live in. Ideally, their cages or enclosures need to have about 1 metre of floor space, so they can roam around freely. They also need to have an exercise wheel – one without bars so the hedgehog doesn't get injured on them. It's really important for them to get as much exercise as possible because they are prone to putting on too much weight very quickly – this could lead to obesity, which is something to avoid at all costs as it can cause them to suffer from liver complaints.



When it comes to the right sort of bedding, recycled paper or even hemp bedding are both ideal choices for a Pygmy hedgehog. You also need to check there are no loose threads in the bedding which can cause nasty injuries to the little creature's legs if the thread gets wrapped around them.



You should never use any bedding made out of either pine or cedar wood because they contain strong smelling natural oils which can cause serious lung and respiratory problems to these tiny hedgehogs. This type of bedding may even be the cause of sores on their bodies too.



What Sort of Temperature Do Pygmy Hedgehogs Like?



When it comes to the temperature, ideally you would need to keep this above 70 °F (21 °C) otherwise the little creature might just try to go into hibernation. If you live in a centrally heated house, this is usually enough heat for Pygmy hedgehogs and therefore they would not need any kind of extra heat source. The rule of thumb is that if you feel cold, then your little pet hedgehog will feel cold too. Providing them with lots of fleece blankets in their bedding with a heat mat is one solution if you don't have central heating in your house.



Pygmy hedgehogs as mentioned before are carnivorous little beasties, they do well on a diet that's high in protein but lower in fat. Many owners feed their pets on cat food which they mix in with small portions of cooked chicken or turkey. These little hedgehogs are rather partial to pork but it has to be lean, and they also like cooked minced beef, vegetables as well as a bit of fruit. This ensures they are fed a well balanced diet. When it comes to giving Pygmy hedgehogs treats – they love mealy worms which you can pick up from most good pet stores.



Food You Should Never Give to Your Pygmy Hedgehog



There are certain foods you should never give to a Pygmy hedgehog which includes the following:




  • Any kind of nuts

  • Avocados

  • Onions

  • Grapes of raisins, sultanas etc

  • Chocolate

  • Fish

  • Raw meat

  • Egg yolks

  • Canned or processed foods



The thing you have to bear in mind is that all hedgehogs are lactose intolerant which means you must NEVER feed any sort of dairy product to them as it could prove fatal.



Conclusion



Pygmy hedgehogs make lovely little pets – they are easy to look after and because they sleep all day, you can really enjoy having them around when you are at home in the evenings. Like all small pets, the more you handle Pygmy hedgehogs and the more time you spend with them, the friendlier they will become which means you can have hours of fun just watching them get up to their nightly antics!


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