What do you Feed a Hedgehog

To some people, owning an animal other than a dog or cat seems like a real conundrum. The simple process of feeding a hedgehog is a mystery to most people and they’re often surprised to learn that what a hedgehog eats can be strikingly similar to what you feed your pet cat, right down to the brand. Here I’ll give a little background info, debunk some of the myths surrounding the hedgie’s diet and recommend some foods for your own pet hedgehog.

Hedgehogs in their natural setting are insectivores; they feed on insects, and at times plants. However in captivity they can be classified more as omnivores. The main suggested staple of a hedgehog’s diet is something that satisfies all its nutritional needs and will act as a filler so your animal won’t feel hungry. Cat food just so happens to do that. Like rabbits and horses, hedgehogs need this filler so they don’t feel chronically hungry even when their nutritional needs are being met. Although different brands can be used so long as they provide adequate nutrients, Purina One: Chicken and Rice Formula Dry Cat or Kitten Food is the most popular choice and one recommended by many breeders. The only other thing to make sure of with this food is corn or cornmeal is NOT one of the first three ingredients. If corn is the first, second, or third ingredient, chances are it won’t have enough protein for your hedgie. For a more specialized feed you can research the exact requirements for hedgehogs and mix your own food out of several types. This is a choice many owners make.

Some owners and breeders also suggest adding wet cat food to your hedgehog’s diet as well. It should probably be used as a treat; wet food will have a lot more protein than the dry food. Keep in mind while generally not very smelly, wet food can cause your hedgehog’s poop to become more messy and fragrant, to put it nicely.

The fact that they’re omnivores doesn’t change everything; many hedgehogs still enjoy a crunchy mealworm or cricket now and again. Care should be given, as too many treats will cause weight gain as it will with any animal. Mealworms are the most popular choice and come in freeze dried, wet, and live forms. If you’re squeamish of bugs I would suggest the freeze dried variety, they aren’t slimy and are not unpleasant to touch. Not altogether pleasant, but not too bad.

Hedgehogs enjoy numerous other treats and actually require fresh foods in their diet. Like humans, they have tastes and preferences that differ from animal to animal. A few examples are; grapes, strawberries, tuna, salmon, both cooked and raw peas or corn, romaine lettuce, apples and for a protein boost try unseasoned, cooked, lean chicken breast. When making dinner just set aside a few ounces of cooked chicken to feed to them later. Experiment a bit to see exactly what your hedgie favors and still remember to remove any uneaten treats from the cage.

Keep in mind these are treats and shouldn’t be given every day. Offer them up to a few times a week for 15 minute periods, leaving them in the cage for long periods of time risks mold and possibly a sick hedgehog. This is something you would much rather avoid.

There’s also the occasion where you’ve maybe found a wild hedgehog and you’re wondering what to feed the little guy or gal. On the occasion where releasing the animal isn’t possible and it’s necessary to keep them for any period of time you’ll need to take care of their nutritional needs. If at all possible, don’t keep it. Release it back into your garden or wherever it was found. If it was injured, call your local vet’s office or humane society. Also, if you already have a domesticated hedgehog, don’t bring a wild one into your house, it can transmit diseases and fleas.

As stated above, wild hedgehogs are insectivores and mealworms of the freeze-dried form won’t cut it if that’s the only thing you’ll be feeding it. Feed them a diet of live mealworms and crickets. You can also use the domesticated diet of cat food; they’ll just be less accustomed to eating it

Never feed your hedgehog a food you’re unsure of. There aren’t many foods that will have an adverse effect but always be safe rather than sorry. If you come to a point where you’re stumped search some of the online hedgehog communities or if all else fails, contact your vet, which you should have yearly contact already for your hedgehog’s checkups.