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PostSubject: Getting Ready for a Pet Hedgehog   Sun Oct 30, 2011 4:35 pm

Before bring any new animal into your household, it is important to invest the time and money in preparation as to avoid danger to the animal's health and happiness and to avoid disappointment for you.

The following should help you to prepare for your hedgehog's arrival.

Housing

Finding a proper cage is extremely important - your hedgehogs cage will be its home and the place where it needs to feel safe and secure. There are a few bare minimum requirements for a hedgehog cage as follows:-

Solid Flooring - Hedgehogs do not have feet that are equipped for wire flooring - they require a floor that is sold to avoid potential injury.

Space - Hedgehogs require a bare minimum of about 2 - 2.5 square feet of floor space - more is better when it comes to providing space. To calculate the square footage of a cage, measure the length and width in inches. Multiply the length time the width and then divide by 144. For example a 25" x 18" cage would be 450 square inches or 3.125 square feet. You also need to make sure that the cage layout is sufficient to fit all of the cage furnishings and accessories that you plan to include.

Ventilation - The cage must provide adequate ventilation without being too draughty. If moisture collects inside the cage, it is not sufficiently ventilated. If a hegehog becomes chilled frequently, this may be a sign that it is too draughty.

Security - Hedgehogs are masters of escape. The cage should be secure enough so that the hedgehog cannot escape by squeezing out or scaling the walls.

There a a wide variety of acceptable cages that meet these criteria and one of the most favoured is the Zoozone 2 - more commonly used as an indoor plastic cage for rabbits/guinea pigs. Another example is a hand made wooden cage - the bonus to this option is that your own imagination is the limit. If you are building your own remember to finish all wood surfaces with waterproofing and allow the waterproofing adequate time to dry in a ventilated area before putting your hedgego in the cage. Waterproofing is extremely important because urine can soak into the wood if it is unprotected creating a permanent odour and creating the risk of bacterial growth. Linoleum flooring can be installed for ease of cleaning.

Reptile vivariums can also be used but additonal vents should be added to aid better ventilation.

It is generally accepted that glass aquariums and wired cages are not suitable environments to keep your hedgehog in and should be avoided.

Environment

Once you have chosen your hedgehog's home it is important to thik about the environment where you will keep it. The primary considerations are light, temperature and noise. Hedgehogs do need a light cycle, a room with a window that allows natural light works well though you do not want to place the cage in direct sunlight. A dark closet is not a uitable place for a hedgehog cage though hedgehogs kept under completely artificial lighting with a 12 - 14 hour daylight cycle do not appear to fare any differently than those who receive natural lighting.

Temperature is an extremely important consideration for hedgehog care. African Hedgehogs are desert animals who come from a warm climate. They should be housed indoors, in a temperature controlled environment and should never be left outside in a garage or other unheated area. Ideally a temperature between 72 and 85 fahrenheit is optimal (22 - 29 centigrade) Hedgehogs appear to tolerate greater heat than greater cold. Long term exposure to cool temperatures can lead to hibernation attempts which can be fatal as well as decreased immune functioning which is associated with increased change of respiratory infections and susceptibility to mite outbreaks. While hedgehogs can tolerate very warm temperatures, they should never be left in a hot area that is unventilated or in direct sunlight.

Noise is also an important consideration and will depend somewhat on your hedgehog's temperament. If your hedgehog is outgoing and people oriented, it will probably enjoy being located in a busy area of your home where it will receive a lot of notice and interaction. If your hedgehog is a scaredy cat, then it will benefit from a cage location that is quiet and out of the line of traffic. Care should be taken to place your hedgehog's cage where it will not be in danger of undue harrassment by other household pets.




There are several cage accessories that are absolutely necessary for your hedgehog.

These include a place to hide, a source of clean water and a food dish.

There are many options available for suitable hedgehog hiding places - cloth pouches with finished edges, old t-shirts, small cardboard boxes, wooden nest boxes, large half logs, flower pots and plastic igloos.

If using cloth with your hedgehog, it is extremely important to make sure there are not loose threads because these can get wrapped around a limb, creating a tourniquet effect that can lead to loss of circulation and loss of limb. It should also be noted that half logs are quite difficult to clean and sanitise and will likely need to be disposed of if your hedgehog contracts mites.

A sample of a snuggle sack

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The loose threads are a danger to your hedgehog

In addition to the necessary cage items, hedgehogs also enjoy environmental stimulation. Any kind of toy that can be pushed, climbed or manipulated is fair game as a hedgehog toy. The toy should be checked to make sure that is has no sharp edges, hedgehog cannot get stuck in it, it has no loose threads, and it will not be lethal if ingested. Favourite hedgehog toys include toilet paper tubes (cut lengthways), cat balls, plastic eggs with food or a bell inside, small boxes that can be climbed in or on, small cars, small stuffed toys, squeaky toys and toy dumper trucks large enough for the hedgehog to climb on.

There are reports of people who have been told that the hedgehog would need a large water bathing dish, this is not appropriate for an african pygmy hedgehog. They are generally not particularly fond of bathing in water and would likely just spill or spoil it. Further, it could present a drowing danger to young hedgehogs.

Choosing A Bedding

Published on 05-27-2010 10:25 AM

There are many bedding choices on the market for cages. Some of these are completely acceptable, others are not recommended for use with hedgehogs. The decision on what to use should be based on your cleaning requirements, any allergies, hedgehog's behaviors and preferences, and the availability in your community.


Shavings-

This product comes in a variety of different textures and materials. Cedar in NO INSTANCES should be used on hedgehogs or other small animals. It contains harmful levels of aromatic oils that can cause respiratory or skin issues, organ damage, and in some cases, severe chemical burns. Pine can be acceptable, but you must make sure it is kiln dried and not just natural. Natural pine contains the same chemicals as Cedar, though in smaller quantities. Kiln dried pine has been treated with heat to reduce the content, and brings the levels into safe ranges. Aspen is a pretty popular choice, as it does not cause the same issues as the other wood products. Sawdust from any wood should not be used, as the dust can make it hard for hedgehogs to breathe. Wood chips are coarser textured, often containing chunks and long slivers that can be very uncomfortable for hedgehogs, and the slivers have in some circumstances become lodged in hedgehog's genitals, mouths, or eyes. Soft shavings are preferable, with the texture of the shavings produced when pencils are sharpened. These are the most comfortable for the hedgehogs to live on. Be aware that there is some concern that shavings can occasionally be contaminated with mites that can make hedgehogs very uncomfortable.


Recycled Newspaper Beddings-

There are several companies that produce recycled newspaper beddings in a variety of textures, from small granules to fluffy pulp to various sized pellets. I personally do not like the small granules, due to their tendency to get stuck to damp areas such as genitals, eyes, and mouths. The fluffy stuff works well, and can be spot-cleaned as needed instead of completely replaced, but the odor control properties are still not very good. The pellets are also acceptable, but tend to turn to mush if damp, which can be rather nasty to clean up. This is a good bedding for people with respiratory allergies, as it is usually not an allergen.

Processed Hay Beddings-


This is usually found in pellet form. It usually does a great job of odor control, and is mostly dust free. It is harmless if a small quantity is eaten, and has not been seen to cause any blockages when consumed. The biggest drawback in my opinion is that in any areas where it gets damp and is not frequently cleaned such as under the water bottle or dish can mold, which is quite unpleasant. This bedding is usually easier than shavings for people with allergies, but is not allergen free.

Clay Litters-

These are strongly discouraged for use in hedgehogs, due to the potential for them to get stuck to damp areas, and can cause urinary blockages in female hedgehogs, and severely impacted sheaths in male hedgehogs.

Corn Cob Litter-

Strongly discouraged for hedgehogs due to the same reasons as Clay litters.

Fabric cage liners-

These are not commonly available in pet stores for small pet cages, but can be made either very simply out of a vellux blanket cut to cage size or out of custom sewn mats of one or more types of fabric. There are a couple of online retailers who will make these liners specifically for the size of your cage. These beddings solve the issues completely of allergies, dust, messy bedding on the floor and all over the house, and large amounts of trash. They are also cheap after the initial investment, due to them being washable instead of disposable. These are great if you have a hedgehog who is willing to litter box train, because that keeps them quite tidy, and they only need to be washed once or twice per week. However, if your hedgehog is not litter box trained, then it makes it necessary for a complete cage switch and liner wash every day, and if you have multiple hedgehogs, this can create a LOT of extra laundry which can be very inconvenient if you rely on a laundromat or community laundry room.

Hopefully this will help you make a more informed choice when you examine different hedgehog beddings. There are many theoretically acceptable choices, but which one is most practical for your life is up to only you.



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Lou

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PostSubject: Re: Getting Ready for a Pet Hedgehog   Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:28 pm

Choosing a wheel

Wheels are an important accessory for hedgehog cages. There are many styles and sizes available for purchase, and even some that can be made at home with a bit of tool know-how.

When considering a new wheel purchase or build, there are some factors that can help you rule out inappropriate wheels very rapidly.

Size

Anything below a 10 inch wheel is going to be TOO SMALL for almost all adult hedgehogs. 10 inch wheels are only appropriate for small adults, or if you are going to consistently have youngsters that can pass the wheel down to. 12 inch diameter wheels are appropriate for MOST adult hedgehogs, though if your hedgehog is larger than average, a 15 inch wheel is going to be necessary.


Running Surface

Hedgehogs MUST have a solid running surface. Wire rodent style wheels are definitely not acceptable in the form that they are manufactured in, due to the hedgehogs' inability to place their feet specifically on the rungs.

A mis-step can result in the hedgehog stepping into a gap, which can cause a leg to be bruised, skinned, or even severely broken.

There are some hedgehog wheels that I see occasionally that are lined with sand paper. These are also not acceptable, due to the harshness on the soles of the feet. Some hedgehogs will develop calluses to cope, while others will end up with raw and bloody feet every time they get in the mood to run. A slightly textured surface can be convenient for traction control, but make sure that you can run your fingers across the surface a couple of times without experiencing any discomfort or rasping of skin.

Ease of Cleaning

An easy to clean wheel is going to be very important when dealing with a species to naturally defecates while moving. Hedgehogs are VERY prone to pooping and peeing on their wheels, which will create some very nasty messes that need to be cleaned regularly.

Screen wire, wood, highly textured surfaces, and in some cases, metal surfaces are going to be difficult to clean frequently, and may not hold up to the often daily scrubbing. Many wheels are available that have a plastic surface, with minimal texturing, that work great. You also need to make sure that the axle assembly is going to hold up to washing, if it is metal, it may end up rusting and needing frequently replaced. There are also some wheels out there that have a front panel that you have to remove to clean the wheel, which can increase difficulty of cleaning.


Silent operation

Some hedgehog wheels squeak, some rasp, some squeal, some thump, and some end up removed from the cage due to the neighbors complaining about the racket. Check the stands to make sure they are sturdy and aren't going to rock back and forth banging against the side of the cage, and check the axle to make sure it is going to run smoothly and quietly.

Some wheels are available that use an inline roller skate wheel for the axle, and they tend to be among the quietest.

Design

A wheel with no side bars is preferable for safety. Many hedgehogs tend to look out the side to see if they have got

ten anywhere while running, and a sidebar has been known to whack faces and cause severe injuries especially to eyes for the watchers.

With these characteristics in mind, lets look at a few of the wheel options available.

Wire Rodent Wheels-

Basically, without adaptations, these wheels rank VERY poorly. The wire surface is unsafe, and must be covered with something like craft foam or plastic canvas to be useable, which makes it harder to clean. Finding a wheel large enough is going to be difficult, especially in small stores. These wheels tend to squeak or squeal VERY badly, and so far, I don't know of anyone who has found a way to prevent it. The side bars on these wheels are especially tough on hedgehog faces, especially when the hedgehog gets their face caught between the sidebar and the stand leg.

Wobust Wodent Wheels-

These wheels have a front plate that must be removed for cleaning, or for removing an uncooperative hedgehog, which makes them a real pain in the tush. The front panel has holes cut in it that are supposedly for the hedgehog (or other animal) to go in and out of, but the holes are often too small for larger bodied hedgehogs, making it dififcult for them to go in and out of, and in some cases, causing quill breakage. They can also be damaging to the hedgehog faces when looking and running. These wheels can also be hard to clean, partially because of the hassle of removing the front panel, and partially because ALL poops and pees are trapped inside, instead of running out of the open front.

Bucket style wheels-

These are made by a variety of different people and companies, in a variety of sizes. Basically, they have a wheel surface that resembles a bucket, with the flat side at the back of the wheel, providing a completely open front. However, not all bucket wheels are the same, so each needs to be evaluated individually. The ones with wire stands tend to be more unstable, while those with glued joint PVC stands can be quite solid, depending on the style of hte base. The axle assemblies can be anything from roller blade wheels to basically plastic pegs. The buckets can be anywhere from thin flimsy plastic to cut down 5 gallon buckets that are VERY sturdy.

There are other styles of wheels available too, hopefully after reading this article it will be easier to evaluate them on a practicality basis.

Recommended - Carolina Storm Wheels by Larry T

Alternatives - Silent Spinners and Flying Saucers

I have all of these and my favourite has to be the Carolina Storm Wheel - silent and easy to clean

[u]

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PostSubject: Re: Getting Ready for a Pet Hedgehog   Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:30 pm

There has been varying opinions on whether or not to use water bottles- personally, mine all have low drinking bowls and this article is to give a little further insight into the different alternatives



Published on 05-27-2010 11:36 AM

There are several different waterer choices available for hedgehog cages. Each has it's own benefits and drawbacks. The choice is up to you, depending on which of these options is the most suitable for your lifestyle.


Water bottles- Available in a variety of sizes, styles, colors, and brands, bottles are a popular choice for many small animals. They are commonly available in 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, and 32 oz. sizes. 4-8 oz sizes are best for single hedgehogs, 8 oz. is preferable for multiple hedgehogs in a single cage. Bottles are good for providing a contaminant proof source, that can be secured to the wall of the cage. The main drawback of water bottles is that they eventually will probably leak, making a replacement necessary. They also can be used by some hedgehogs as a ladder to escape with, if they are secured to the inside of the cage. There is some
discussion of hedgehogs who have broken teeth by biting at the water bottle, and while I suppose it is quite possible, I have never personally experienced this. Bottles should be checked daily for leaks, flow blockages, and lowered water levels.

Water bowls- There is a completely endless source of water bowl options. There are companies who make them with holders to secure them to the sides of cages, or free standing bowls. Glass, plastic, ceramic, metal, clear, colored, something to suit every cage decorator's dream. These provide the more natural drinking position, in comparison to bottles. They also prevent the possibility of tooth damage. However, it is almost impossible to keep hedgehogs from dumping these bowls, which leave them without water until refilled and dampen bedding choices. They also tend to become easily contaminated by bedding, food, droppings, and other debris. Bowls must be checked very frequently, up to 3-4 times per day, to keep the water clean and readily available, which is not always practical. It also can be hard to keep track of your hedgehog's water consumption when the bowl is frequently dumped.

Freestanding waterers- These are a bit harder to find in some small areas, but are available in most major pet stores. They consist of a water bowl type base, with a reservior that screws into the base. These combine some of the best features of both styles, but also the drawbacks of both. The base provides the natural drinking position of the bowl, but is also easily contaminated with debris. The reservoir provides a larger amount of available water, which helps prevent the hedgehog's bowl from going dry, however, it provides that much more water to flood the cage if tipped or a fabric cage accessory is placed into the base. These must be checked at least a couple of times per day for contamination and spilling.

Automatic water systems- These are usually made of an out of cage water source of any size, often a gallon or more, with piping run to each cage and ending at a valve type nozzle. These are obviously unsuitable for single hedgehog households, but can be adapted to water multiple cages very conveniently. They are basically impossible to contaminate, and cut down time of filling water bottles for each cage. However, they do occasionally leak, and the large water source can make a cage very uncomfortable very quickly. The nozzles can become jammed, though these systems have usually been tested and designed to prevent this. One of my major issues with this type of system is that it is impossible to track individual hedgehog's water consumption, making it hard to catch quickly if a hedgehog stops drinking for any reason. The watering system must be checked at least daily to make sure that all nozzles are in working order, none are leaking, and the water levels are maintained.



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