Hedgehogs are some of the popular spiny-mammal species, first discovered around 15 million years ago. These small-bodied mammals are native to various parts of the continental Europe, Middle East, Central Asia and parts of Northern Africa. Hedgehogs have been introduced in several parts of the world including the United States, New Zealand, and Iceland. If you’re a hedgehog owner you’re probably wondering what do hedgehogs eat? You’ve definitely come to the right place. This article will walk you through the different types of food you can feed your hedgehog pet.
The history of hedgehogs is rich and colorful, with 17 species being documented to date. While these animals have changed slightly over the years, there are still a lot of similarities between the wild hedgehogs and the ones adopted as pets. The chest, face, legs, and throat are all covered in fur, giving them that unique appearance of having the tough-guy haircut. In certain parts of the United States, hedgehogs are considered wild animals and adopting them as pets come with a lot of regulations. In the UK, these species are found both in the wild and in homes as pets.
What Do Hedgehogs Eat?
As a rule of thumb, hedgehogs will eat nearly everything they catch a taste of. These include but not limited to insects, birds, worms, frogs, certain fruits and selected vegetables. Depending on the species of hedgehog, some will develop taste for varies insects, cooked meat and cat foods. Hedgehogs adopted as pets are often more discipline in terms of their feeding patterns due to the availability of decent foods, treats, and supplements. This puts them on the edge of living with humans without having to hunt for survival.
Due to the several species of hedgehogs available, it has been proven that certain types have evolved more than others and their feeding habits have also changed. Such species will feed on fruits, cooked meat, canned and freeze-dried insects. This doesn’t, however, mean that they won’t feed on live insects; it’s only that they will eat what is readily available instead of hunting in the field.
What Do Baby Hedgehogs Eat?
In the wild, baby hedgehogs struggle for survival and very few survive past birth. This makes it a challenge for the mother hedgehogs to care for their young ones. During the first week after birth, high-maintenance is necessary after which they can adapt to the adverse environmental conditions. For the pets, however, things are a little bit different. Baby hedgehogs enjoy better chances of growing to adulthood without the risks of being preyed on in the wild.
Although there are inevitable challenges in raising the young hedgehogs, it’s up to the homeowner to ensure that all needs are met. The rearing patterns for hedgehog pets and those in the wild differ greatly.
In a natural setting, wild baby hedgehogs will stay in the mother’s nest for the first 3 to 4 weeks before joining the seniors on a small foraging expedition. The adventure lasts for no more than two weeks before the now-fully weaned hedgehog wanders off to live by him/herself- never to return.
Raising baby hedgehogs can be a daunting task, especially for beginners. As a household pet, proper care is necessary to ensure that they grow to full maturity. Since they are generally low-maintenance pets, you won’t have to invest heavily in some expensive supplements and treats. All you need to do is understand their feeding habits, their favorite foods and give them just that.
Proper feeding is necessary to ensure that the young hedgehog is getting enough energy for the developing body parts. Nutritionally correct foods will help your pet grow fast and strong with fewer risks of developing diseases. If you’re planning on raising a baby hedgehog, here is what you need to incorporate in the feeding or dietary schedule:
- Insects – when starting off with the weaning process, make sure to give your pet more insect foods; live insects or canned ones into the dieting schedule.
- Incorporate safe cat-foods – what this means is adding a portion of cat food to your hedgehog diet. Small pieces of cat biscuits and boiled eggs won’t do any harm. Just make sure to refrain from fish-based foods.
- Give only clean water – if you must provide your pet with any drink, it got to be clean water. Never, ever give milk to your pet. This is because they are lactose-intolerant and could lead to stomach problems. For the days-old babies, choose a milk substitute instead.
- Choose high-quality protein sources – instead of buying the specialist hedgehog food that could be very costly, prioritize on the locally available high-protein earthworms, crickets, and mealworms.
- Refrain from plant matter – Baby hedgehogs have poorly developed digestive system and feeding them with plant matter could be a spoiler. This is because they lack cecum that’s necessary for their digestion. They also can’t digest raw meat, honey, tomatoes, seeds, nuts, onions, and bread.
- Optimal temperatures – apart from feeding them correctly, it’s necessary to ensure that they are kept in a warm and comfortable environment. During the first two weeks, makes sure they are staying in a well-conditioned room with safe temperatures slightly above the room temperatures.
How Much to Feed a Hedgehog?
Since hedgehogs are considered somewhat sensitive pets, it’s important to understand the perfect feeding routine. The question of how much and when to feed your pet is very crucial.
A lot of special care is necessary for a number of hedgehog species since they can easily become obese and this is the last thing you would hope for. This means that the food given to them should be measured and given at specific times.
According to studies on Hedgehog feeding habits, it’s reported that they can eat up to 33 percent of their body weight if allowed. This could lead to obesity and associated diseases such as fatty liver disease. To avoid these, it’s best to feed your pet at most twice a day; in the morning and in the evening.
Many people feed theirs, only once a day- at night. Regardless of the feeding frequency, the food consumed shouldn’t exceed 10 percent of their body weight. More often, a half-cup of food is enough to keep your hedgehog full, till the next day. Enough of clean water in a clean water bottle is also necessary for proper digestion and absorption.
What Do Hedgehogs Eat In The Wild?
When it comes to feeding habits, especially in the wild, hedgehogs can be considered both insectivores and omnivores. They feed on a wide array of insects and tiny wild species of birds, reptiles, etc.
They can live for 4 to 7 years in the wild- longer than most mammals of their size. The smaller species of hedgehogs, however, manages only up to four years in the wild. Below is what they feed on.
- Insects – they feed on different insect species from worms to crickets, beetles, millipedes, maggots, grasshoppers, etc. Their favorite meal is mealworms and hornworms.
- Snails and slugs – Snails and slugs aren’t true insects but are among the hedgehogs’ favorite prey. They often feed on snails at night or during the rainy seasons when they come out of their hiding places.
- Amphibians – hedgehogs don’t feed on all amphibians but they prefer the small-bodied and easily available ones like frogs and toads.
- Reptiles – soft-bodied reptiles such as snakes are among their prey. Since certain snakes have poisonous venom, hedgehogs are often very careful when preying on them. Many times, the venom from the less-poisonous types doesn’t affect them since they have a strong immune system.
- Birds and other mammals – An opportunistic hedgehog at the verge of starvation won’t have time to select or sort out their favorite meal. During such times, they will feed on abandoned baby birds, carrion, mice, and eggs.
Do Hedgehogs Eat Fruit?
To avoid causing digestive problems to your hedgehog it’s advisable to avoid giving large quantities of fruits. The fact that they lack cecum means that they can’t handle plant matter well and this could lead to belly aches.
Small quantities of soft fruits (such as melons and berries) can, however be given occasionally as treats and not as part of the main diet.
Studies show that hedgehogs don’t need to eat fruits and vegetables as a source of fiber. This means that having fruits or veggies in the diet is totally uncalled for. So, for the issue on whether they can eat fruits or not, is a no brainer; they can eat, but it’s on their best interest.
What Not to Feed your Hedgehog?
Below are some of the forbidden foods that you shouldn’t feed your hedgehogs. Most of them are fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
- High-lactose dairy products such as milk and cheese
- Raw meat
- Grapes or raisins
Hedgehogs are well adapted to their adjacent environment. In the wild, they build a nest of leaves, moss under vegetation around farmland, parks, and gardens. They also have five toes with short nails on the front paws and four toes with longer nails on the back paws.
The forefoot with short claws is, however, very powerful. These adaptations give them the ability to burrow efficiently. While their spines don’t come out anyhow, they can lose them when under adverse stress or when shading to grow new ones. Apart from digging holes, hedgehogs can climb, swim and even sprint at an amazingly fast speed- up to six miles per hour.
For Hedgehogs pets, proper care and maintenance are necessary to ensure they remain as lovely, smart and adorable as they should. Cleaning their habits on a regular basis motivates them to take care of themselves even better.