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Hedgehog FAQ #5: Hedgehog Health Care and Understanding
Keywords: faq pet hedgehogs
Last-modified: 21 Dec 1995
HEDGEHOG FAQ (part 5 of 5) -- HEDGEHOG HEALTH CARE AND UNDERSTANDING
Compiled and edited by Brian MacNamara (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Additions, corrections, and suggestions for this file are welcomed
(in fact, desperately begged for, is probably closer to the truth)!
This document is copyright 1995 by Brian MacNamara. See section 0.5
for authorship information and redistribution rights. In short, you
can give it away, but you can't charge for it.
The basic Hedgehog FAQ has five parts, all of which should be available
from wherever you obtained this one. A complete table of contents for
all five parts is given in part I.
Please note: I am not a hedgehog expert (in fact I am a relative novice),
and I did not write, or verify, all the information in this FAQ. I have
done my best to include only accurate and useful information, but I cannot
guarantee the correctness of what is contained in this FAQ, regardless of
the source, or even that it will not be harmful to you or your hedgehog in
some way. For advice from an expert, I recommend you consult the books
listed in part 2 [2.1], or, especially in the case of a suspected medical
problem, a veterinarian who is familiar with hedgehogs.
Subject: CONTENTS OF THIS FILE
7. *** Things hedgehogs say and do ***
<7.1> Self-anointing. What is it? Why do hedgehogs do it?
<7.2> My hedgehog snuffles and hides a lot. Is that normal?
<7.3> Is he just asleep or hibernating?
<7.4> My hedgehog sneezes. What should I do?
<7.5> My hedgehog's gone ballistic? Is this normal?
<7.6> Basic hedgehog repertoire
8. *** Basic health care ***
<8.1> Do I need to spay/neuter my pet?
<8.2> What health risks should I worry about?
<8.3> Vaccinations, etc.
<8.4> Mites (or mites, not?)
9. *** Problems to watch for and related information ***
<9.1> What warning signs of disease should I watch for?
<9.2> My hedgehog's had funny-looking stools for a couple of days.
<9.3> My hedgehog's not eating. What should I do?
<9.4> How did I get fleas in my home? How can I get rid of
10. *** Wild hedgehogs ***
<10.1> Caring for visiting hedgehogs
<10.2> Hedgehog housing
<10.3> Hedgehogizing your garden
<10.4> Wild hedgehog health
<10.5> Watching out for hibernating hedgehogs
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7. *** Things hedgehogs say and do ***
Subject: <7.1> Self-anointing. What is it? Why do hedgehogs do it?
I have mentioned this repeatedly throughout the FAQ, so now it is time
to explore the hedgehog's one truly unique trait. Nathan Tenny provided
a good description of this interesting and perplexing hedgehog habit:
If you smell *really* interesting, your hedgehog will lick
or nibble on you, back off, and suddenly contort itself, start
foaming at the mouth, and lick the foam onto its spines. This
"self-anointing" has to be seen to be believed, but it's perfectly
normal. It's not known for sure why they do it, but it probably
has something to do with self-defence; hedgehogs are *highly*
resistant to most toxins, and when they encounter something that
might be toxic, they get it in their mouths, foam, and cover
themselves with the toxic mixture. The result is a toxic hedgehog,
which is really something to reckon with. (Incidentally, the toxin
resistance of hedgehogs is truly prodigious and has been the subject
of some research; they are one of the few animals that can safely eat
giant toads (_Bufo marinus_), for instance.)
One more last note: We don't know why this happens, but even without
the benefit of self-anointing, their spines seem to have a mild
toxic/irritant effect; when you prick yourself on one, even slightly,
it hurts more than it should, and for a little bit longer. No big deal,
just sort of strange.
One of the most effective ways to provoke a session of self-anointing is
to pick up your hedgehog when you have sweaty hands, or after having used
hand lotion, or a different type of soap.
In any case, once you have witnessed this entertaining act, and you have
calmed down enough to understand your little friend doesn't have rabies
after all, you will likely be convinced that hedgehogs do not have backbones.
It's really hard to believe something as round as a hedgehog can twist itself
into that contorted a position. It's also a bit disconcerting to learn just
how long that tongue is!
Subject: <7.2> My hedgehog snuffles and hides a lot. Is that normal?
Yep. If he doesn't, are you sure you have a hedgehog? The snuffling or
snorting (or snurfling, as my wife calls it), while having the head tucked
down is part of the defense mechanism that has kept hedgehogs around for a
very long time. It basically leaves them with their quills protecting every
bit of visible surface, but still allows the hedgehog to move. The snuffling
and snorting is usually accompanied by sudden lurches in the direction the
hedgehog believes its potential enemy is in, to try and give it a good
The more your hedgehog comes to know you, the less you will get the
sharp shoulder treatment. One exception to this is if your hedgehog is
sleepy. A sleepy hedgehog can be very insistent about not being disturbed
Getting your hedgehog to become familiar with you takes a lot of patience,
but it is worth it. If your hedgehog tends to be somewhat shy or unfriendly
towards you, try spending more time holding him -- chances are he just
doesn't associate your smell with being a friend, yet.
Subject: <7.3> Is he just asleep or hibernating?
A common concern is whether or not pet hedgehogs hibernate -- especially
as winter starts to arrive. The answer is generally no. However, if the
temperature where they are kept drops too low (below about 20 degrees C or
68 degrees F), they can start preparing for hibernation and will certainly
go into hibernation for brief periods, if the temperature drops much below
this -- at least until the temperature returns to a comfortable level. If
your hedgehog seems to be sleeping too soundly, and you are worried, any
kind of movement to his or her bed will usually earn you at least a brief
spate of unhappy snuffling. If this happens, then you can probably assume
you've just disturbed a sleepy hedgehog. If this and nudging at him don't
have any effect, and he's been in quite a cool (for a hedgehog) temperature,
he may have slipped into the beginnings of hibernation, and should be
Hedgehogs will also tend to slow down and get somewhat grumpy if they are
kept at a temperature that's too cool for their liking. If your finding
that your previously energetic hedgehog is acting a bit slow and grumpy,
and cool weather has started to arrive, then you may want to take steps
to warm up your hedgehog [5.6].
In general, the likelihood of hibernation happening is quite low, so if
your hedgehog isn't making its home in the refrigerator, and you don't
like living in subarctic conditions indoors, you probably shouldn't worry.
Probably more worrisome is the chance of pet hedgehogs going into
aestivation. This is similar to hibernation, but is done when things get
too warm, to let the hedgehog wait things out until cooler and/or damper
weather returns. African Pigmy hedgehogs are more likely to slip into
this state, especially in light of recent heatwaves in North America, than
they are to wind up hibernating. The problems and side effects are largely
the same as for hibernation.
You should not let a pet hedgehog hibernate, or aestivate. As pets, hedgehogs
do not stock up on food, nor put on the necessary extra body fat needed to get
through hibernation. A pet that is allowed to hibernate extensively will
likely wake up very sick and very weak -- if at all.
Subject: <7.4> My hedgehog sneezes. What should I do?
Occasional sneezes are normal. When you consider the amount of exploring
that hedgehogs like to do, in combination with just how busy that little
nose is, it's pretty easy to understand that the result will be an
Extended sneezing fits, or nasal discharge, however, indicates a problem,
and a trip to the vet is in order.
Subject: <7.5> My hedgehog's gone ballistic? Is this normal?
You've just introduced your hedgehog to a nice new big pen and all of a
sudden it's like he's going crazy, running madly around the cage, trying
to get out of every little nook and cranny, and generally driving you up
the wall. Yes, this is quite normal (for the hedgehog -- you being up the
wall, I can't comment on).
Hedgehogs appear to do this when they get into a new environment, and will
usually settle down in a while, once they decide that (a) they can't
actually get out (which given the slightest chance, they will), and (b) they
have decided this is now home. Some hedgehogs will literally climb the walls
just to check whether you remembered a roof or not.
Some things you can do to reduce the chaos and chances of reoccurrence are
to provide a familiar nest or burrow for your little beast, and to install
a wheel for exercise [5.6] (all that energy is pretty normal in hedgehogs
-- scary, huh?). Lots of active play times can help too.
Subject: <7.6> Basic hedgehog repertoire
As far as sounds go, officially, the only sounds that hedgehogs are
supposed to make is their snuffling and snorting when they are feeling
threatened, and some squeaking as babies. That said, I can tell you
hedgehogs have an amazing number of little sounds in their repertoire. I
have it on good advice and from personal experience that there are a number
of other hedgehog vocalizations that occur in both babies and adults.
One time that hedgehogs completely abandon their silent ways is when it
comes to mating. This is particularly true of males who will often end
up sounding like a video game gone wild with an amazing series of squeeks
and chips as they vie for the favours of the lady.
In addition, here some comments from other people on hedgehog sounds:
At least two of my younger ones have kept this ability [nursing
type squeaks] and can shriek quite loudly when startled or angry.
This will wake the deepest sleeper. -- Mike McGary
All the hedgehogs I've known have made a quiet twittering noise when
they were relaxed and exploring. -- Nathan Tenny
I'd like to thank Mike McGary, with some commentary from Nathan Tenny and
Znofyl, for sharing thoughts on the virtuoso singing of hedgehogs here to
give people an idea of some of the extremes that can be reached. I would
also like to note that the loudest thing that has ever come out of Velcro,
other than his nervous snufflings, is a contented slurp when he's buried
his nose in a container of cream.
The books all say that hedgehogs don't make much noise. They do squeak
for their mother when they are still nursing and make snorting and
snuffling noises as adults....one account says that they can snore quite
My young male (Adam) has been known to scream when frightened. This
isn't a small squeak, but a full-fledged rabbit-caught-in-a-trap
scream. But the real oddity has started recently. We have one of
those beep-beep-beep-beep alarm clocks. We normally set it for
6:00 am, but keep pushing the snooze button everytime it goes off
(sometimes for a long time). After the alarm goes off, Adam starts
to make this eeeeh-eeeeeh-eeeeeeh sound like he is imitating the
alarm clock. He does it every morning and you can get up and
watch him....he doesn't move....he just sings. -- Mike McGary
The following from Znofyl and Nathan are about as good an answer to this
mystery as we're likely to get without growing quills ourselves:
I wonder whether the hedgie isn't responding to this alarm noise
thinking it is another male. My males are VERY noisy when breeding.
This sounds really likely to me. My male's mating noise is a sort of
breathy "squeeEEEEEk-squeeEEEEEk"---is that the general tenor of Adam's
morning ditty? -- Nathan Tenny
From my own experience, when Velcro first learned about the recent arrival
of his soon to be girlfriend, Sprocket, he put on the most amazing little
session of barking and squeeking. She, in turn, will frequently squeek,
especially if she's trying to nudge her way out from between someone's
fingers to get to the rest of the world.
The gist of this whole section is really to let readers know that hedgehogs
are capable of making a wide range of sounds -- if and when they want.
At this rate, a hedgehog dictionary may be the next big addition to the
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8. *** Basic health care ***
Subject: <8.1> Do I need to spay/neuter my pet?
Given that hedgehogs do not get along well together except during mating,
it is unlikely that spaying/neutering is anything you need to worry about.
In addition to this, I suspect you would be hard pressed to find a
veterinary who could (let alone would) do the operation.
As a cautionary reminder, hedgehogs as young as 6 weeks old can, and will,
mate. If you do have babies, remember to separate them before this age,
or you will have even more hoglets on the way, and probably not as you would
In short, this is not a worry, although Velcro would have me believe that
it might be worthwhile -- he's made his desires towards Sprocket abundantly
clear, and would have me overrun with hoglets in no time given the
Subject: <8.2> What health risks should I worry about?
Hedgehogs have an amazing immunity to most things that are toxic.
Quantities of many toxins that would kill a human hundreds or even
thousands of times over will often have no noticeable effect on a
hedgehog at all. This trait has inspired both legends and scientific
research, with no conclusive results other than acknowledgment that
it is true.
This means that should your hedgehog accidentally encounter any of the
numerous poisons that exist within every modern home, chances are your
little friend will wander off none the worse for wear, while if it had
been another pet, it may have been in dire need of a visit to the vet.
However, just because hedgehogs are considered to be all but poison proof
is no reason for you to take chances. They are immune to many toxins,
but there could always be an exception. You should supervise your
hedgehog's wanderings and keep dangerous substances tucked safely away.
As I pointed out in [2.1], Pat Storer's books discuss blood chemistry and
what kinds and doses of various medicines have been used successfully to
treat hedgehogs. I strongly suggest you get a copy of one of these books, if
for no other reason than to bring with you to the veterinarian, in the case
of an emergency, so he or she knows what to expect and what to do about
They can get worms---it's probably a good idea to have them wormed
regularly, once or twice a year. Oral Ivermectin works; I don't know
what the dosage is, but the vet has indicated that it's a little higher
(per unit of body weight) than for most animals. -- Nathan Tenny
Hedgehogs are also susceptible to fleas, which you might want to be
concerned about if you have other pets, especially if they are
indoor/outdoor pets. Treatment of fleas is well described in the Flea and
Tick FAQ [2.4], [9.3], and most safe commercial flea treatments should work,
with the one caveat that bathing hedgehogs is something to be avoided if at
all possible. Fortunately, since most hedgehogs are likely to be indoor
only pets, this often greatly reduces the chances of them ever getting fleas.
I would also like to add a quick reminder here about using solid wheels,
and to pad the spokes to prevent injuries [5.6].
One other area of concern is obesity. Hedgehogs can easily become overweight,
partially due to teir potential to hibernate, they can, and will pack on
weight in preparation for a lengthy hibernation than never comes. Letting
them hibernate is NOT the answer -- a diet and exercise are. If your
hedgehog is getting too plump, just cut back on his food a bit, and try to
encourage activity by letting him run around, or giving him a wheel.
Subject: <8.3> Vaccinations, etc.
Although this could fit into the previous section, I felt it deserved a
section of its own. After taking my herd of cats in for their annual shots,
I found myself wondering about what shots, if any, a hedgehog should have.
Primarily, the biggest worry in North America is likely rabies, but there are
other potential fungal/bacterial/viral infections as well.
After talking with my (non-hedgehog oriented) vet, I took my questions to the
appropriate source (thanks Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM). It turns out the
answer is quite simple, yet complicated (don't you just love it when answers
are like that?).
As a general rule, for indoor hedgehogs that are not exposed to the dangers
of outdoors, there is no need to worry. What complicates this is that local
authorities may not see it that way, and especially in areas where diseases
such as rabies exist, and they might be VERY insistent on vaccination -- even
though no vaccine has been approved for hedgehogs yet. So, you don't need to
vaccinate your hedgehog, unless otherwise required -- clear as mud, right?
Here are some words of wisdom from Cathy to help clear things up a bit, and
to try and cover the problem areas of what to do when you DO need to vaccinate
a hedgehog, or get treatment otherwise. Remember, this is primarily her
opinion, and not a set of absolute truths.
At present, there are no vaccinations for pet hedgehogs. They are
not susceptible to dog/cat diseases, or as far as I know, really any
of the major agricultural/livestock disease problems (well in North
America anyway - we don't vax our livestock for Foot & Mouth, which
hedgies can get, but North America is FM free). Theoretically, they
can get sick with many of the bacterial diseases of livestock, but the
chances of them being exposed as indoor housepets is just about nil,
unless you take them outside and let them mingle with pigs, chickens,
cows, horses in breeding/dirty environments and let them feed on dung
(I think they would risk getting stepped on first).
The only exception to this might be if you were housing your hedgies
outdoors in caging part of the year and rabies was a threat in your
area - then I might recommend vaccinating with a killed rabies vax
(Imrab) as a precaution, like we do for pet bunnies housed outdoors
in rabies endemic areas. Realize that:
1. the vaxx is not approved for that species, no efficacy trials
have been done
2. since it is not a recognized vax and is a non-domestic species,
the FDA or Public Health Service/Dept/CDC (or Canada's
equivalent) will not recognize the animal as being vaccinated
so if the hedgie bites anyone, the animal will just be
euthanized and tested. NO if. ands, or buts....
So the best all round precaution is not to let others handle your
hedgie lest he bite someone, and that someone gets his/her physician,
public health dept, etc. involved.
The actual risk from rabies in an indoor pet hedgie is, in my
opinion, non-existent, but public health people have regulations and
hedgies fall into the blanket category of non-domestics so all rules
Another set of suggestions Cathy had was for sources for your veterinarian:
Your veterinarian needs to have the most current published vet lit
Journal of Small Exotic Animal Medicine: Vol 2, No 1: Husbandry and
medicine of African Hedgehogs by Anthony J. Smith DVM reprints -
contact JSEAM, back issues PO Box 618686 issue out of print, but
article itself avail for $5.00
J of Small Exotic Animal Med: Vol 3 No. 1 pgs 12-15 Neonatology of
the hedgehog (Atlerix albiventrix) by Anthony J. Smith, DVM (issue
just arrived today!!!!!!!!!) order above through JSEAM
Isenbugel, E. Baumgartner, RA 1993: Diseases of the Hedgehog. In:
Zoo and Wild Animal Med, Current Therapy III, WB Saunders, Phila PA
Chapter starting page 294
Hoefer, HL 1994. Hedgehogs. In: Quesenberry KE, HIllyer EV (eds).
The Vet Clin of No Amer, Sm Anim Pract, Exotic Pet Med II, Vol 24,
No 1, WB Saunders, Phila PA, Pp113-120.
I am working on a clinicians handbook for Wingers Publications that
we hope to have completed by fall. It will contain info on hedgies,
diets, formulary, etc. (even things like blood draws, radiographic
views, fluid therapy......)
Please pass the list of references to your veterinarian as sooner
or later he/she will need them. (Murphy's law says that if you do,
[your hedgehog] won't).
Subject: <8.4> Mites (or mites, not?)
One of the more common problems that pet hedgehogs can suffer from are
mites. Kathleen Close sent along a some thoughts from her veterinarian
regarding mites, and how common they can be:
He said 90% of the hogs he's seen do. It looks like a white crusty
coating on their quills. The doc just gives them a shot. It won't
bother the hhog, but will poison the mites when they bite.
How common mites are may be related to where you live. Also, it's quite
common for a hedgehog to arrive already having mites. Indeed, many breeders
may not even notice it, since it is rather easy to pass off as being
'normal' when it is not too bad.
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9. *** Problems to watch for and related information ***
Subject: <9.1> What warning signs of disease should I watch for?
NOTE: I am not a veterinarian. I haven't even owned (been owned by?)
a hedgehog very long. Hedgehogs tend to be very resistant to disease
once they reach adulthood, this makes for relatively easy care. As with
all pets, any change in normal behaviour, or eating, drinking, sleeping,
or litter habits may indicate a health problem that bears looking into.
At the moment there is little I can offer beyond this as far as warning
signs. Fortunately, Velcro and Sprocket have never exhibited any health
Hedgehogs are small. While they generally enjoy very good health, any
kind of disease or disorder can be fatal in only a couple of days, so
if you suspect a problem, see your vet immediately.
Subject: <9.2> My hedgehog's had funny-looking stools for a couple of days.
Normal hedgehog droppings can range from almost pellet-like to quite soft
and sticky. Colour is usually very dark brown, almost black. Depending
on diet, especially treats, they can vary quite a bit. If your hedgehog
is leaving unusual droppings after having had a treat or change in diet
a day or so before, then it is probably related to what he ate. If the
problem continues (assuming the hedgehog is back on his normal diet),
or if your hedgehog is suffering from severe diarrhea, see your vet,
As mentioned in section 6.2, some hedgehog food can affect the colour of
the droppings for a week or so. If you have just started feeding your
hedgehog food, the red coloured droppings are normal, and are not a sign
Subject: <9.3> My hedgehog's not eating. What should I do?
This is often the sign of either a sick or depressed hedgehog. You should
probably have a vet check for sickness, but clearly the thing that's needed
is to get your pet back on its dinner. About the only suggestion I can
offer is to attempt out and out bribery; offer you hedgehog his favorite
treats, and try some cooked chicken or turkey. If possible, make sure he
is drinking, and if necessary resort to using some thinned chicken broth,
or even something as exotic as Gatorade (to help restore electrolytes).
Other suggestions for bribery snacks are chopped hardboiled egg, and
Remember, given a hedgehog's small size, not eating can become deadly
in very short order. If the situation persists for more than a couple of
days, take your little friend to a vet.
Subject: <9.4> How did I get fleas in my home? How can I get rid of
Even if your hedgehog is never outdoors, you can bring in fleas or
flea eggs on your shoes or clothing.
There's a whole FAQ dedicated to ridding your pet and your home of
fleas and ticks. It's distributed in the Usenet newsgroup rec.pets.
You can also get it by FTP:
(that is, ftp to rtfm.mit.edu and get the indicated file) or by sending
email to email@example.com with the line
in the body of the message (with an empty subject line).
In general, most products which are safe for use on kittens are likely
safe for hedgehogs. Keeping in mind that bathing baby or young hedgehogs
can be dangerous and should be avoided if possible [3.4]. It is better
to spray on such products.
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10. *** Wild hedgehogs ***
Subject: <10.1> Caring for visiting hedgehogs
Many people throughout the world, especially in Europe, have the pleasure of
having native hedgehogs visit their backyards and gardens. In many places
an almost overpowering urge exists to try and help these little visitors --
after all, in many cases, they are doing their best to rid your garden of
undesirable pests, besides they are irresistibly cute.
You should probably be aware that there is an interesting side effect to
having visiting hedgehogs in your garden, as Peter Captijn puts it:
European hedgehogs are known to wake up people sleeping with
an open window, when they are mating. I'm NOT joking: people
usually think there are burglars around the house and call the
When it comes to providing food for visiting hedgehogs, the age old standard
of a saucer of milk is not particularly nutritious (and can bother hedgehog's
stomachs), although I have no doubt that the hedgehogs dearly love it. In
general, the same sorts of rules that apply to pet hedgehogs [6.2], also
apply for people wanting to feed wild hedgehogs. The biggest change probably
being the quantity -- European hedgehogs are MUCH larger than the African
Pigmy variety, and have larger appetites in corresponding to their size
(Something can have a bigger appetite than Sprocket? I'd have to see that
to believe it!). As with African Pigmy hedgehogs, straight dog/cat food is
not the ideal food either, unless as Peter Captijn put it "you find
You can feed them any kind of slugs. European hedgehogs eat
slugs, preferably by the kilo. I've heard and seen (in that
order) them eating snails, but Morris believes they leave
them [alone, given the choice of other foods]. (I'm not sure,
but they probably need the calcium from the snail's houses.)
Fritzsche warns about feeding weakened hedgehogs snails and
slugs. The snails can be infected with lungworms (Crenosoma
striatum), which can kill a diseased hedgehog. -- Peter Captijn
Again from Peter is the following on feeding:
Helga Fritzsche's recipe for hedgehog food:
500 g meager meatloaf (I'm not into cooking as you can tell
from the used words)
1 stroked of tablespoon lime for pets (Calcium stuff for
1 tablespoon of linseed-oil
1 handful dogdinner (the hard stuff)
1 handful oats with bearded wheat (spelt) (This comes right
out the dictionary.)
Mix it and make balls from about 35 grams, put them in alu-
kitchen-foil and keep them in the freezer. She recommends
giving food once or twice (preferably): in the morning a bit
and in the evening more. In the morning she gives 10 to 12
pieces of dogfood and 6 to 8 mealworms. (Fat ones only get
water), in the evening one ball of 35 grams of the above, 15
pieces of dogfood and 6 to 8 mealworms. Everything is
depending on the size of the hedgehog. Keep in mind that
European hedgehogs are bigger then African Pigmy. She uses a
vitamin-prep, 1 or 2 drips on the food. All food must be on
hedgehog temperature (at least room temperature). By the
way, she kills the mealworms prior to feeding so they can't
Subject: <10.2> Hedgehog housing
Most European countries are very protective about their native hedgehogs,
so this section does not refer to caging or keeping hedgehogs, but more
about providing shelter and protection for those that come to visit.
Here are some ideas from Peter Captijn on providing dens:
I have two daytime-sleeping-dens under some foliage. These are
open constructions which give protection against wind and rain.
And they like it, I may say. Every year there are some hedgehogs
in the garden, and sometimes, when I'm lucky, a pregnant female
likes it so much that she decides to have her hoglets in one of
the dens. I call it daytime-sleeping-dens but the hedgehogs
regularly hibernate in them.
The roof isn't attached permanently but can be removed by lifting
it. It fits tight by some wooden blocks. Hence I can clean it
once a year (when it is not in use: no fresh droppings). The
den is made of water-resistant multiplex (without formaldehyde!),
the roof is decked with asphalt-paper. Untreated wood can be
painted (use lead-free paint!) to give it a green-brownish look.
In the left top view: in the right under corner I drill some 1 cm
holes to let the piss drain away, but I'm not sure it's really
needed. Hedgehogs use these den's to sleep in and do not often
soil it. If they do, they choose a corner and use that always.
I fill this den with some fresh (petstore) hay, but the hedgehog
usually redecorates it with old leaves and such.
Peter also sent along some great drawings, which I will try to ASCIIize
and include in an upcoming revision of the FAQ.
Subject: <10.3> Hedgehogizing your garden
There are a lot of things you can do to make your garden more appealing
and safer for visiting hedgehogs -- all of which will encourage them to
visit. Of course, having a bumper crop of slugs is probably number one
on the hedgehog's list, but likely somewhere below the bottom of yours!
When it comes to protecting hedgehogs, there is usually little danger to them
in the garden from other animals or objects, as illustrated here by Peter
I have two cats (females), and the garden is frequently visited
by many others (males!), but I'm still in doubt whether I should
protect the cats from the hedgehog, or vise versa. The hedgehog
usually barges through, whether there is a cat lying in its way
or not. The only risk I probably have, is getting hedgehog-pests
contaminated cats. Hedgehogs aren't bothered easily, they have
repeatedly walked over my mother's feet.
That said, there are dangers lurking in many gardens. Again, here are some
words of wisdom from Peter Captijn:
Please note that ANY PESTICIDE you'll use in your garden is bound
to end up in your HEDGEHOG, which means in an alarming rate: NO
HEDGEHOG! Hedgehogs are resistant against animal poisons, not
man-made pesticides. Hedgehogs do not destroy gardens, they do
not dig, they only manure it. They (try to) keep your garden free
of pests and bugs.
Also, pools and ponds present a unique problem to visiting hedgehogs. Many
man-made pools and ponds have smooth sides, which are too slippery or steep
for a hedgehog, who has accidently fallen in, to climb out. One of the
easiest safeguards I have seen for this is to simply dangle a thick rope
into the water and tie the other end off to a stake. This is usually enough
for a hedgehog to climb out with. Hedgehogs can swim, and will follow
around the outside of the pool or pond looking for some way to get out. The
only time they tend to drown is in cases where they get too tired searching
-- when there is no way out. Another method some people use is to create a
wooden ramp, with one end floating in the water, and the other end safely
attached on dry land.
Subject: <10.4> Wild hedgehog health
For the most part, wild hedgehogs are quite able to look after themselves.
Here is a reminder from Peter Captijn that as friendly as wild hedgehogs are,
they are still wild animals and certain realities apply:
When a wild hedgehog has to be kept in house or with other
hedgehogs, it's a good idea to get rid of the fleas and ticks [9.4]
before you infect your clean house. Most people use catspray, but
ticks tend to live through that. Bathing in vermin killing stuff
will be the solution. It can be done (preferably once) in a little
warm water so the hedgehog can't drown. Never use sprays or
whatever on piglets/hoglets, and never spray something in the
eyes, you can blind the hedgehog. Please remind: a healthy wild
hedgehog has vermin, always! This is natural.
Also from Peter are some pointers on various other health problems:
Rabies: from various sources - European hedgehogs don't get
rabies. Whether that means they just die very quick, or that
they are immune, I don't know.
[Editor's note: hedgehogs 'can' get rabies, but due to the way they live, it
is relatively rare, at least as compared to other, more agressive or easily
Diseases: I can list the vermin hedgehogs usually get and
the remedy (using German medicine, but perhaps you can
get/use them in the US) if you're interested. About
lungworms; Fritzsche writes about German scientific study
regarding lungworms by hedgehogs. Lungworms are capsulated
in the lungs and die. If the hedgehog isn't healthy, this
apparently doesn't work [fast enough?], and the hedgehog dies.
I do have hedgehogs running free in the garden, and I hear and
see (in that order) eat snails and slugs, every day, and quite
a lot of them. I won't hesitate to offer a hedgehog a snail,
but I can't estimate the involved risk (if any).
Subject: <10.5> Watching out for hibernating hedgehogs
European hedgehogs hibernate during the winter months (unlike wild African
Pigmy hedgehogs who tend to do the opposite, aestivating during the hot dry
periods [7.3]). Hibernation is a tough time for hedgehogs. If they haven't
put on enough weight, or if it is a particularly long or cold winter, they
just might not make it. However, even well fed hedgehogs who think they've
found the ideal, snug, warm place to survive the winter can run into modern
problems, as described by Seabury Salmon:
About Fall time, they hibernate in piles of leaves and things at the
bottom of the garden. The British gardener is a tidy beast and likes to
burn the leaves. Hence, roast hedgehog.
Before you start burning your leaves, etc., give the pile a quick check in
case a friendly neighbourhood hedgehog has made a winter den in the middle
of your refuse.
European [hedgehogs] prepare for hibernation when it gets real
cold: 7 degrees Celsius and below (about 16 degrees Fahrenheit).
-- Peter Captijn
(Forgive me Peter, but I wish I lived with your idea of "real cold" -- that
sounds like a nice warm spring or autumn day!)
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