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Hedgehogs

There are many different types of hedgehogs; the African and the European variety are the most common; the African hedgehog being the most common pet. Hedgehogs have external genitalia , which makes sexing easy. The penis of the male is external, contained within a prepuce (like a dog), and is located midway down the abdomen. The vulva of the female is very close to the anus, similar to other small animals.

Hedgehogs have small eyes, considering they are nocturnal. Their other senses, hearing and smell are well developed. They should be handled and played with in the evening or early morning, since they sleep during the day. Most hedgehogs bred in captivity have a fair temperament, and accept their handler after an adjustment period. The average lifespan of hedgehogs is 3 to 10 years.

Hedgehogs exhibit a unique self-anointing behavior called "anting", which means when stimulated by an odor or other stimulus they produce frothy saliva. The saliva is, in turn, rubbed onto the spines along the back and flanks. This occurs more frequently when new items or smells are introduced into their environment. This may be repulsive for humans to watch; however, is it normal behavior for hedgehogs.

These animals should be kept singly or in small groups, with no more than one male in the group due to the possibility of fights which can lead to injury. Ideal temperature should be kept between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the ambient temperature falls below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the animal may go into hibernation making it more susceptible to illness and infection. Temperatures higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit may lead to stress and should be avoided.

Several types of cages are acceptable for hedgehogs. Airline kennels (for temporary housing), large terrariums, glass aquariums, and homemade enclosures may be used. The walls and floor should be smooth, non-climbable, and easy to clean. Wire cages should be avoided because they may catch their toe or legs, causing serious injury. The height of the cage is
not critical, it should be tall enough to where the animal cannot climb out and so that it is properly ventilated. Ample floor space should be accessible for the animal to exercise and prevent obesity; you may even include wheels and balls (pet-approved) for exercise. Bedding should be a nontoxic, absorbent, low-dust substance. Shredded newspaper and wood shavings are most common. All bedding must be clean and free of mold and mildew. The cage should be 'spot cleaned ' daily and changed at least once weekly to prevent irritation or infection of the skin and airways of the animal. Hedgehogs prefer to sleep in some sort of 'den '; a wooden box, flower pot with hole cut in it, or similar dwelling with a hole in it will do. The house should be cleaned frequently. Please ensure all wood used for the cage or enclosure is NON-TREATED and NON-POISONOUS! If you are not sure, please ask before purchasing.

Exact nutritional requirements are unknown; recommendations for a balance diet come from the study of the hedgehog anatomy, diet in the wild, and diet in captivity. Insects are a large portion of the animal’s diet. Frogs, mice, bird eggs, small rodents, lizards, leaves, seeds, moss, roots, and fruits are common foods consumed in the wild. Pre-made and formulated hedgehog food in available for phase. Fruits, vegetables, live (pest-free) insects, pinkie mice, and hard boiled eggs may be fed, as well. Hedgehogs often develop a liking to certain foods, so ensure a balance diet is maintained.

Female hedgehogs reach maturity at 2-3 months of age and males at 5-8 months of age. Females should not be bred before 6 months of age, to ensure proper growth and maturity. These animals breed year round, so if you do not want babies keep males and females separate. If you do want to breed your hedgehog, females have to be separated from all other cage mates to prevent cannibalism of the babies. Gestation is 34 to 37 days, with litter sizes from 1 to 7 pups. Mother hedgehogs are very sensitive to disturbances around the delivery time and will not hesitate to abandon or kill newborns. Mothers should be left alone for the first 5 to 10 days after delivery & she should ONLY be handled by someone who she is accustomed to. Cleaning and feeding can be done in this manner and only when the mother leaves the nest to feed. The nest should be undisturbed unless it becomes extremely dirty. While t he mother nurses her pups, special attention needs to be given to her diet (ensuring it is balanced). Calcium intake should also be considered. If the diet is inappropriate, it may also cause the mother abandon her pups.

Hedgehogs get sick and because of their small size, illness can quickly become irreversible within a short period of time. Watch closely for any signs of illness which include but are not limited to the following: diarrhea, runny eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, raspy breathing, limping, lumps, bumps, or any abnormal skin conditions. Cancer and vestibular syndromes (frequently known as Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome) are also common; you r veterinarian can discuss these ailments with you. Most common hedgehog ailments such as obesity, quill loss, tattered ears, and foot injuries can be prevented through proper diet, exercise, and routine care. Routinely weighing your hedgehog may also point out potential problems.

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