Since they sleep during daylight hours, hedgehogs are accustomed to hiding when it’s time for them to sleep. In the wild, they’ll rest under leaves, shrubs, or rocks—pretty much in any crevice they can find. This means they won’t be especially picky about what you give them as a hiding area. Hedgehogs enter their burrows headfirst, so you need to make sure the area inside is big enough for the animal to comfortably turn around. The entrance should be wide enough for the hedgehog to enter but narrow enough to limit the light that comes in.
Hide boxes are one of the few hedgehog supplies you can find readily at any major pet store. Plastic “igloo”-style hiding areas are great—buy one sized for small rabbits or chinchillas; the hamster and gerbil sizes will be too small. Cork bark and hollowed-log hides designed for lizards can also work great for hedgehogs. All of these options cost $10-$20, depending on the shop and style.
There are also a lot of common household items that make excellent hedgehog hiding areas. A simple flipped over cardboard box with a hole cut in the side for entrance will work, though you won’t be able to clean it and will have to replace it when the cardboard gets wet or messy. A clay or ceramic flower pot turned on its side can also work, or a piece of PVC pipe with an interior diameter of at least 4 inches—pretty much anything that’s got a large enough interior and is made of non-toxic materials. Just like with the bedding, avoid anything made of cedar or pine, or metals containing zinc and lead.
You should provide your hedgehog with soft material inside the hide to let them sleep comfortably. If you’re using recycled paper as your main bedding, this should suffice—the hedgehog will mound up the recycled paper into a nest inside their hide box. If you’re using other bedding materials, a small pile of nesting material should be provided. Hay, straw, and grass work great for this, as does recycled paper or scraps of an approved cloth, like flannel, corduroy, or fleece. If you use disposable options (hay, recycled paper, etc) replace the nesting material once a month. Scraps of cloth can be cleaned and re-used so long as they’re not fraying on the edges. The frequency with which you’ll need to wash them largely depends on whether or not your hedgie is litter box trained, but these cloth items should be washed at the least once every month and perhaps as frequently as once a week.
Hedgehogs are naturally neat creatures, and even without a litter box you’ll probably find them using one area of their cage most often to go to the bathroom. Because of this, most hedgehogs adapt readily to litter box use with very little training. Work with your hedgehog’s natural instincts in this regard. Note where he is choosing to go to the bathroom (this will probably be on the lowest level of the cage in one of the corners) and put the litter box in that area. The majority of the time, the hedgehog will start using it without missing a beat. If your hedgehog seems confused or shows resistance, try cleaning his cage and replacing the bedding, then putting a small amount of soiled bedding inside the litter box. The smell of it should draw your hedgie in. Alternatively, if there are multiple hedgehogs in your household, you could put a small amount of another hedgehog’s soiled bedding in the litter box—male hedgehogs, especially, will be eager to cover up that scent with their own. Rarely, a hedgehog will reject litter box use. If you’re dedicated and patient, you can sometimes get the point across by regularly moving waste from the rest of the cage into the box and gently showing the hedgehog where it is, but there are individuals who will turn their nose up at the litter pan regardless of attempts at training.
The litter pan can be metal, plastic, or ceramic/terra cotta. It should be about two inches deep and at least six inches on each side. Avoid traditional kitty litter inside the pan, especially the clumping or clay-based varieties. Most hedgies will roll in fresh litter and these materials have a tendency to stick to the quills and feet or inside reproductive openings. They also produce a lot of dust which can cause dry skin and irritate the lungs. Pellet-shaped litters (either made from plant matter or newsprint) are great options; recycled paper bedding can also work well. Pick something relatively light in color so you can see any abnormalities in the color and consistency of waste. If you’re concerned about the odor, you can add a tablespoon of baking soda to the litter. Spot-clean the litter box daily with a litter scoop or designated slotted spoon, and clean the litter box—putting in completely fresh litter—once a week.
Food and water containers
You’ll need three separate containers for feeding and watering your hedgehog: One for the dry food, one for treats and wet food, and one for the water. We’ll deal with food dishes first because they’re the simplest. What you’re looking for is a low (no more than 3 inches tall) and bottom-heavy dish of about 3-6 inches in diameter. Ceramic and earthenware bowls work great for this. Metal and plastic are often less desirable—it’s almost guaranteed that your hedgehog will climb on the food area and lighter-weight dishes will be flipped over and used as toys. If your set-up allows it, attaching dishes to the side of the cage will also help prevent this.
Regarding water, you have a couple of options. Some keepers use a standard plastic water bottle from the small animal section. These bottles have the advantage of being unlikely to spill, though you may get drips directly below the water bottle. Since it is less likely to spill you’ll also get a more accurate sense of how much water your hedgehog is drinking, which can be helpful in tracking his health. Some hedgehogs don’t like water bottles, though—water in bottles can sometimes pick up the taste or smell of the plastic and be unappetizing to the hog. You also have to be careful of where you position the water bottle and its holder. Hedgehogs love to climb and may figure out how to use the bottle as a ladder to escape. You could also use a ceramic dish like you use for the food. The open surface of the dish means it won’t retain unusual odors or tastes that your hedgehog rejects. The main disadvantage is that it will almost certainly splash, and your pet will likely drag some bedding into the water, meaning the dish will need to be emptied and cleaned more often. Spilled water from a ceramic dish can raise the humidity inside the enclosure, as well, and if the cage isn’t especially well ventilated this could become an issue.
The main concern when placing food and water dishes inside the cage is to keep them as far as possible from the litter box or designated bathroom area. The water and dry food dishes should be cleaned and re-filled daily, but otherwise should be left in the cage full-time. The wet food/treats dish should be removed and cleaned after each use.
You can limit the amount of trimming your hedgehog’s nails require by providing him with a natural way to wear his nails down over the course of his day. You’re looking for a hard material without any jagged edges—something like a low, flat stone, a piece of patio tile, or a clean-sided brick would work wonderfully. Place it well away from the wheel so your pet doesn’t accidentally run into it during clumsy landings. A lot of keepers will put this piece of hard material under the food and water dishes. This allows it to serve multiple purposes—it elevates the dishes, making them less likely to become contaminated with bedding, and it provides another layer of protection between the food and the bedding to limit the mess from spills. Your hedgehog is also guaranteed to be walking in this area of his cage regularly so you’ll know the nails will get lots of chances to file down.
Changes to your hedgehog’s weight are one of the best early indicators of budding health issues, and it’s a great idea to get a digital kitchen scale so you can keep track of this. Buy a digital scale that measures in increments of 1-2 grams so you can get a truly accurate reading—you can find these for around $30-$40 at a department store or kitchen supply store. Weigh your hedgehog once a month and keep a record of his weights so you can notice any trends or changes.
Out of cage play time is necessary for a hedgehog’s physical and intellectual stimulation. When you’re going out to buy supplies for your new pet you should consider where they’ll go when they’re not in their cage. It should be noted that this is an optional expense. Many keepers have great success with letting their hedgehogs play in a closed-off room or stoppered bathtub. Those options, as well as safety considerations and toys, are discussed in more detail.
If you want to buy a playpen, you can get a metal or nylon model designed for rabbits, ferrets, or chinchillas. Just make sure the bars are spaced close enough together that the hedgehog can’t slip between them; if the metal is a mesh, you may need to line it with some kind of plastic sheeting so the hedgehog can’t climb up and out. These models are completely collapsible and adjustable and easy to set up or take down, making them great for homes with limited space. You can also find appealing options at a toy store. Hard plastic kiddie pools or sandboxes can work great. The advantage of these models is convenience—you can leave the toys in the space when you’re not using them and don’t have to set up and tear down the structure every time you want to play. The disadvantage is the amount of floor space they require.