What Do Hedgehogs Eat?


Indian Long-Eared Hedgehog

If you have found a hedgehog in the yard, you might be wondering what, if any food, you can provide for it. These nocturnal creatures usually consume a diet of small spiders and insects as well as plants. They will also eat birds’ eggs if they come across them.

If you are wanting to leave food out for any hedgehogs in your yard, try tinned cat or dog food or crushed up biscuits. However, avoid fish-based foods. In terms of liquid, hedgehogs should be given plain water but never milk. Milk causes diarrhea in hedgehogs.

If you have a pet hedgehog, the right diet is essential to its health and wellbeing. Hedgehogs do love eating and will pretty much eat anything that you put for them. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they can or should eat anything. These cute little mammals require specific foods to keep them healthy, so it is important that you understand their dietary needs.  

You can find food specifically for hedgehogs in some pet stores or online, but most hedgehog owners agree that cat food is a better choice. This is because there is a lot more choice, the quality of the ingredients is much higher, and it is cheaper to buy. Look for adult cat food as it has less fat in it than the kitten food. It is important not to feed the hedgehog too much fat. They require high protein, low fat food for a healthy diet.

Should You Give Hedgehogs Snacks?

Hedgehogs do have a varied diet in the wild, so sticking to cat food alone would not be very interesting or healthy for your pet. Treats are a good way to ensure the hedgehog is getting extra nutrition and it will naturally please your pet to have something different every so often. Remember though that treats should only be provided in moderation.

Fruits and vegetables are good treats for pet hedgehogs. You can provide fruits such as bananas, apples, blueberries, watermelon, and strawberries. Nevertheless, never feed grapes to your hedgehog as these are toxic to them and could potentially cause damage to the liver and kidneys.

Some good vegetable options include sweet potatoes, turnips, spinach, romaine lettuce, carrots, and broccoli.

Why is My Hedgehog Not Eating?

If your hedgehog is not eating, you are naturally going to be worried about the cause. It might be the case that the hedgehog is abstaining from food because it is in a new environment. Oftentimes, pets newly arrived in a home will lose their appetite due to the stress of the move.

If you have had your hedgehog for a while but have added something new to its enclosure, the same can apply. Hedgehogs can be uncomfortable with change and may stop eating as they try to adjust.

Unfortunately, a loss of appetite in a hedgehog can also be a sign of illness. In fact, it is usually the first sign that something is amiss so, if your hedgehog is refusing to eat and has not eaten for a number of days, call a vet. While some illnesses can be mild, others can end up being very severe and will require urgent attention.

How Long Can a Hedgehog Go Without Eating?

In the wild, hedgehogs will hibernate when temperatures get very low. They will slow down their metabolism and body functions and will stop eating while they ‘nest.’ Before hibernation, they will have built up their fat stores to help them survive. However, hedgehogs in captivity do not need to hibernate and so will rarely have enough fat stores to survive a long period without eating.

So while hedgehogs in the wild can survive for around ten weeks without eating, it is not the same for pet hedgehogs. If your hedgehog has not eaten for a number of days, contact your vet immediately for advice.

Long Eared Hedgehog
Long Eared Hedgehog

Signs of a Sick Hedgehog

A healthy hedgehog will be alert and responsive but be most active at night, so it can sometimes be difficult to spot the signs of illness immediately. When hedgehogs are awake, they will spend their time sniffing around their enclosure. If you have a wheel, the hedgehog could spend hours running on it, and you might find that it has moved items in its enclosure while you have been sleeping.

When you get up in the morning, you can expect to find both urine and feces in the enclosure and food will be gone.

A sick hedgehog will typically stop eating and may be far less active than normal. If they are not feeling well, they will usually forego running on their wheel. If you notice a difference in how you find the enclosure in the morning, with items left as they were and food untouched, your hedgehog might be ill.

Reduced stools and urine coupled with a loss of appetite and weight loss almost certainly points to an illness. If the hedgehog is also showing other symptoms, such as panting, difficulty breathing, mucus from the eyes and nose, or lethargy, it is crucial that you seek advice from your vet immediately. It could be the case that the hedgehog will improve with an antibiotic or another type of treatment. In the meantime, keep it warm and try to ensure that it is drinking water to avoid dehydration. You might find that using a syringe helps with this.

A vet will then advise on the best course of action after examination of the animal.

Video: Hedgehog Diet: Treats & Dangerous Foods

Photo Credits:

  • Featured Image (Indian Long-Eared Hedgehog): Kamal Yadav – https://www.projectnoah.org/spottings/26706044
  • Long-Eared Hedgehog: I.V. Korneev, Leningrad Zoo
  • Four-Toed Hedgehog: Pueri Michał Klimont – CC BY-SA 3.0
  • North African Hedgehog: Conselleria de Medi Ambient i Mobilitat, Govern des Illes Balears – CC BY-SA 3.0

Anthony

I am a content creator by profession but exotic animals are one of my great passions in life. Over the course of my adulthood, I have had the pleasure of looking after stick insects, terrapins, an Egyptian tortoise, giant African land snails, a crested gecko, a Chilean rose tarantula, a couple of curly-haired tarantulas, and a selection of millipedes, centipedes and worms!

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