How to Care for Your Hedgehog

February 15, 2021



African pygmy hedgehogs are the most common type of hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) in captivity. They are 5”-7” long nocturnal mammals native to sub-Saharan Africa, and can be distinguished by the short spines (“quills”) which cover their bodies.

Hedgehogs have a 4-6 year lifespan in captivity, and are generally considered to be a beginner-level pet. However, they still have special care needs that must be met.


Hedgehogs are active and require an enclosure no smaller than 4’L x 2’W.  It’s best to use a 2-level cage with entertainment items like exercise wheels and other toys. Most hedgehog cages are made of wire, but it must have a solid floor.

The substrate should be soft and fluffy so the hedgehog can dig in it easily. Beddings made from recycled paper are popular. The cage should also contain a snug hiding place, plus a litter box. One of the nice things about hedgehogs is that they can easily be litter box trained! 

Hedgehog toys can be purchased commercially or DIY-ed. They can be anything that the hedgehog can roll or drag around, run through or dig into. Hedgehogs can also be trained to an extent, such as how open a simple enclosure to retrieve a treat.

Heating and Lighting

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and require only ambient light to enable them to establish a circadian rhythm, but unless the light in the room is kept on all day, it’s best to provide daylight lighting for 12 hours/day.

Hedgehogs are most comfortable at temperatures of 75-80°. The easiest way to maintain these temperatures is with a heating pad connected to a thermostat. 

Food and Supplementation

Hedgehogs are primarily insectivorous, which means that they eat insects for the majority of their diet. This means that they require a relatively low fat, high protein diet. 

Pet hedgehogs are usually fed primarily on a diet of both dry and moist chicken or beef cat food, although specially-formulated food for hedgehogs is available in some locations. In addition to these foods, hedgehogs should also get small amounts of fruits, vegetables, and insects to diversify their nutrition.

Insects can be live or canned, but keep in mind live are likely to escape from enclosures with wire walls. Appropriate insects include dubia roaches, crickets, and mealworms. 

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to hedgehogs, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.

Image by Amaya Eguizábal from Pixabay