Finding Time for Your Hedgehog
While some owners have no problem making room in their schedule for their hedgie, for others it can be hard to find the time to spend socializing each day. Ideally people say you should spend around a half hour with your pet daily for a healthy, well-bonded relationship. Realistically, many owners end up not sticking to that. While hedgies don’t need the constant interaction that, say, a ferret would require, they do need attention and handling. If you are cramped for time once in a while this can be easily remedied by fitting your hedgie in with something else you have to do. If you don’t always have time for one-on-one or supervised playtime (or if your hedgie isn’t the most active or outgoing), one of the below might suit your schedule.
TV and Computer Time
A great time for bonding is when you are preoccupied with a TV show, movie, or work on the computer. Grab hedgie along with a blanket or snuggle bag, and let him relax in your lap. Many hedgies enjoy this and will fall asleep on you. While this might not be considered “handling”, it gets your hedgie associated with your scent and helps them bond with you.
If your hedgie is comfortable with the car and driving around, you can take him with you shopping. This can be exciting and a curious hedgie would probably love to get out. More shy or grumpy hedgies, or ones that get carsick would not be the best to take on an outing. Understand the risks of taking your hedgie into public places before bringing him along.
Reading or Other Hobbies
If you read, knit, crochet, sew, write, etc. these are all good times to have your hedgie hang out with you. Same with TV and computer time, your hedgie will probably be content sitting in your lap or exploring a bit while you are busy. If you’re a student, you can bond during study or homework.
If you do have time to spend exclusively with your hedgie (and you should!) supervised playtime is a great option. It’s best to set up a playpen to avoid any escapes/disappearances, but you may decide to let your hedgie roam around a room. If you do, it would be a good idea to vacuum beforehand to hopefully remove all the hairs or strings that could get caught around a leg. You also may want to put something down in case hedgie decides that your carpet looks like a litter box, and block off any places your hedgie could squeeze into or under and not come out. Sitting on the couch and just letting your hedgehog explore is also a fine way to get him used to handling. Holding, petting, playing with his ears and feet are great for getting your hedgie more comfortable with you, and beneficial later in life when you need your hedgie to cooperate for such things.
Routines and Frequency
- Check on hedgie for any problems (hibernation, anything wrapped around legs, etc)
- Socialization for around 1⁄2 hour or so
- Refill water and give fresh food
- Clean wheel if needed, spot clean cage
- Change liners, spot clean cage
- Foot bath, if needed
- Clean wheel, if you aren’t cleaning it daily
- Do a full-body check for anything out of the ordinary, lumps, scratches, swelling, etc.
- Completely change bedding, clean cage, wash dishes
- Weigh hedgie at least weekly
- Vet wellness visit for older hedgies (3+)
- Vet wellness visit, make sure everything is going smoothly
- Buy new food or other supplies if expiration dates are coming up
- Trim nails
- Full bath
Traveling With or Without Your Hedgehog
There are many things to consider before deciding to take your hedgie with you on a trip, or leaving him behind. Whether he’s allowed at your destination, whether he’s easily stressed and wouldn’t handle it well, whether you’ll have time to care for him during the trip, whether you can keep him warm during travel and stays, whether you can find a good pet sitter or not, etc. are all concerns that should be addressed before taking your hedgie with you.
Travel by Car
Chances are, you will have to take your hedgie places with you during his lifetime. Vet trips, going to a relative’s, maybe even moving. Travel can be stressful, but doesn’t have to be. Before deciding to take your hedgie on anything but a short outing, you first need to get him accustomed to his carrier and know what is normal for his behavior. If you notice that even a quick drive causes him to get carsick, try not to take him out unless absolutely necessary. If your hedgie loves the attention they get when you are out and about, more frequent trips would be fine.
When traveling with a hedgehog in a vehicle, the best thing to use is a hard sided cat carrier. The carrier can be buckled into the vehicle to prevent injury in an accident. It won’t go flying and hedgie won’t be squished by flying objects. A carrier is easy for rescue workers to spot and know that there is an animal in the vehicle. Smaller pet carriers or plastic cages are not as suitable but will work in a pinch. You will want to find a way to secure the carrier to keep it from being tossed around and label it clearly in event of an emergency.
Travel cages are alternate housing when traveling overnight. This can be as simple as a plastic tub (with ventilation) or a pop-up dog crate. It should be a decent size so you can fit your hedgie’s wheel, dishes, and hiding place in it. If you are staying at a hotel and are worried about escapes, you can put the drain down and place the cage in the bathroom tub. If you are driving all night this is not absolutely critical. Your hedgie will be much safer in his carrier, so it’s best to leave him there.
Other supplies you should try to bring are a bottle of water, food to last a few days, and vet information for a clinic near your destination as well as your usual clinic. These are all excellent things to have in case you have to stop unexpectedly on your trip. If you are going for several days, bring enough food, water, blankets, and hand warmers to last your hedgie for at least a week longer than planned, just in case.
Be sure that hedgie is warm but also not too warm when traveling. Hedgehogs can and often do get carsick while traveling. If you have air conditioning in your car, try to keep it at 75°. If that’s too warm for you, you can keep it at normal temperature and use a hand warmer, SnuggleSafe disc, or other heating device to be sure your hedgie stays warm. Make sure whatever you use doesn’t get too hot, and that it can’t injure your hedgehog if he decides to chew on or dig at it. You can wrap the heating device with fleece to discourage this. Remember to never leave your hedgie unattended in the car! Temperatures can change inside drastically when you least expect it.
If you are traveling out of state, know the legal status of pet African hedgehogs in all other areas you will be traveling. The last thing you want is to have your hedgie confiscated from you.
Travel by Plane
There is a lot more to worry about when flying with your hedgie somewhere than driving. Your hedgie will likely have to fly in cargo, where you aren’t able to check on him. Most airlines will require a health certificate from your veterinarian issued within 10 days of travel to accept your hedgehog. As with car travel, make sure each place you go is legal to have a hedgehog. If you must go to a state or county where hedgies are illegal, it’s best to leave him home with someone you trust to care for him. You risk him getting confiscated and potentially euthanized, otherwise.
Hedgehogs are usually put in cargo if they have to travel by plane. While most do fine when shipped properly, some cases have ended badly. Understand the risks of shipping your hedgie before deciding to do so.
- Temperature: Airlines have “climate controlled” cargo areas for pets, which means that area is supposed to be kept in the same temperature range as the cabin. In reality, that can be very cold for a hedgehog. Make sure your hedgie has plenty of blankets as well as a hand warmer or two for additional heat.
- Handling: Your hedgie in his airline-approved carrier will be taken and loaded onto the plane the same as your regular luggage. Some owners worry over the initial getting onto and off of the plane. Once there, the cargo hold can be a loud, rattley place. Altitude changes and everything else going on can be very stressful. Some airlines have cards that are dropped off with the flight attendants after the carrier has been loaded. If you are worried about your hedgie not making it onto the plane, be sure to ask.
It is great if you are able to get permission to bring your hedgie in cabin with you. Remember that airlines will require that any animal stay inside its carrier, properly stowed, for the whole flight. The cost is usually about the same as sending him in cargo. The carrier will take up part of your passenger space (under the seat in front of you, so the carrier must be small).
Capturing an Escapee
At some point in time, you might go to check on your hedgie only to uncover the horror of... no hedgie! Hedgehogs aren’t the most agile of animals but they still do know how to escape. If your hedgie goes missing, stay calm but act quickly. Lots of things can go wrong outside the safety of his cage.
Dealing with escapes should begin before one even occurs. Escape-proofing the cage is much easier than attempting to find your hedgie after the fact. Check that all the doors close securely, the bars are not too far apart, the bars are blocked off if necessary (with a material such as corrugated plastic, cardboard, fabric, etc.) to prevent climbing, and that the cage doesn’t have an open top. Even if your hedgie can’t climb out of the cage, with an open top something could fall in and provide an escape route, or another pet could climb in and hurt your hedgie or eat his food or what not. If you have the cage sitting on something off the ground, be sure that it can’t slip off and fall to the ground.
Once you’ve escape proofed the cage, eliminating potential hiding places in the room is a good idea. There are lots of things in the average room that could function as hiding places, and removing those or blocking them off will make your search much easier in the event of an escape. Try not to leave piles of things all over the floor, which your hedgie might try to get into. Blocking off ways to get under furniture is smart, as well as keeping things like household cleaners or bait and traps for pests out of reach. Even just the residue on the outside of a spray bottle could be enough to make your hedgie sick if he decided to anoint with it.
Finally, leaving out his carrier full of blankets with the door open might save a lot of time and stress by giving your hedgie a safe and comfortable place to hide if he gets out. You can leave this out year round, and check there first if you have an escape. Keep it at ground level and preferably close to the cage.
If Your Hedgehog Escapes
- Double and triple check that he isn’t in the cage. Sometimes they sneak under liners in weird places and it takes a second glance to find them. If he isn’t there, look in places close to the cage. Oftentimes a hedgie will quickly turn up close to the cage. If you don’t find him within a few minutes of searching...
- Turn up the heat. Chances are it’s colder than 73o wherever your hedgie is hiding, and you want to minimize the chances of him attempting hibernation out there. In addition he’ll be more likely to be active and move around if it’s warmer, making it easier to find him. The colder it is, the more likely he’ll just huddle up and not move.
- Shut all the doors. If the room your hedgie was in is always closed, you have the benefit of knowing he’s contained to that room. If not, shut all the doors you can, and you’ll have to start the process of narrowing down what room he is in.
- In each room, carefully pick up everything off the floor. Hedgies frequently hide in fabric like laundry piles, and inside backpacks, bags, or shoes. They are also likely to hide under appliances where it’s dark and warm, like fridges, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, water heaters, etc. Avoid running any appliances until you’re sure your hedgie isn’t under or inside them. Moving machinery or hot air could squish or burn your hedgie. Be very careful if you move any furniture or appliances that you don’t crush your hedgie in the process. Furniture like reclining/ rocking chairs or pull-out sofas are notorious for injuring pets when they’re opened up to look underneath. Use extreme caution if you open up or move these types of furniture.
- If you haven’t found your hedgie after searching through everything on the ground, and you still don’t know what room he’s in, you can start leaving out strong smelling foods to try to lure him out. Wet cat food, canned tuna, or canned insects all work.
- Lay down some newspaper on the floor, sprinkle flour on it, and put the food in the middle of the newspaper. If you stay up listening, you might be able to hear the newspaper crinkle, and if your hedgie walks up to the food you’ll be able to see the footprints in the flour. Once you see evidence of your hedgie in one room, you can focus your search there.
- Look through everything you possibly can in the room, and make some noise in the process. If you thump on something that your hedgie is in, he might huff and give himself away.
- If you aren’t able to locate and retrieve your hedgie, you might have to try setting a live trap (rat or squirrel sized) and baiting it with food. If you set one, check it constantly so your hedgie doesn’t sit there long after being trapped. You can also just stay up waiting in the dark, listen for him, and quickly turn the lights on and grab him once he comes out. Fortunately most hedgies when frightened will freeze and ball up, making that process pretty straightforward. If your hedgie instead decides to book it for a hiding spot, at least you’ll know where he is!
Once you’ve recovered your sneaky pet, be sure to thoroughly look him over for injuries. If he fell from the cage, he could have seriously hurt himself, along with the chances of strings or hairs caught around limbs, bug bites, or getting cold enough to trigger hibernation. Keep a very close eye on him for the next several days. He could have eaten something bad out there that will cause digestive issues, or have a less obvious internal injury that he’ll need vet attention for. He may also be more prone to hibernation in those following weeks, so try bumping the temperature up a bit, just to be safe.
Finally, find out how he escaped so you can prevent it from happening again. Leaving the cage door open is an easy one, but if he got out even with the cage closed, be sure you go over your cage and make sure it is totally secure before trusting your hedgie to stay in it alone again. Make any modifications to be sure it’s safe as soon as possible.
Remember to be patient and not panic if an escape happens. While it is dangerous for your hedgie to be out and without heating, food, water, etc, some have still managed to live a long time in their owner’s homes. Don’t give up and be persistent and thorough!