Pygmy hedgehog setup

From keeping your hedgehog warm to providing enough exercise, we explore what you need for a great Pygmy hedgehog setup.

The best hedgehog house | What setup do you need | What temperature do hedgehogs need? | How to setup temperature for your hedgehog | Distance between heating and hedgehog | What bedding for my hedgehog house? | Toxic bedding and substrate | Best foraging substrate | Hedgehog wheels | Hedgehog not using her wheel | Hedgehogs and pooping | What do you clean out a hedgehog house with? | When should I clean the house? | Can hedgehogs see infra red light?

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What is the best pygmy hedgehog house?

Vivariums make a popular house for hedgehogs. They’re easy to clean, and keep the heat in. You can also place your heating in or above it easily.

You can also use a rabbit hutch or a large plastic Zoo Zone. Be aware that you won’t be able to use a Ceramic Heat Emitter with Zoo Zone, as it’ll melt the plastic. In this case, you’d need to find a different heat source.

Your Pygmy hedgehog’s house should measure around 4ft x 2ft. You can opt for a slightly smaller house if space is an issue, at 4ft x 1.5ft.

Your Pygmy Hedgehog’s cage should be on one level, and you should avoid a cage that has a wire mesh base as these can damage their feet.

If you do decide to provide a multi level cage for your hedgehog then an owner in the African Pygmy Hedgehog club Facebook group recommends that steps are shallow, with sides, so that your hedgehog doesn’t fall off.

The cage should be very secure, as Pygmy hedgehogs are very good at escaping.

pygmy hedgehog sitting in its hideYour hedgehog should be given a hide to snuggle into

What to put in a hedgehog house

You’ll need:

  • A ceramic heat emitter (CHE) or a suitable heat source
  • Heat mat (not required if using a CHE)
  • Bedding/substrate
  • A nest box
  • A wheel
  • Toys
  • Water bowl or bottle
  • A litter tray

Can two Pygmy hedgehogs live together?

Pygmy hedgehogs are solitary animals and they prefer their own company. They shouldn’t be kept together, because this could lead to fights.

Males particularly will fight, as they try to exert dominance over each other. And they can fight to the death.

Females may be able to get on, but it is not always guaranteed.

Keeping a male and female together also isn’t a good idea, due to the risk of mating.

pygmy hedgehog walking on the kitchen floorPygmy hedgehogs like to get a lot of exercise

What temperature do Pygmy hedgehogs need?

Hedgehogs need their cage to be kept between 23 – 25 degrees Celsius. The temperature should never drop below 18 degrees Celsius or rise above 28 degrees Celsius.

If a Pygmy hedgehog gets too cold, she may attempt to hibernate. This is very dangerous as hibernation can cause health problems including infection, dehydration and organ failure.

African Pygmy hedgehog heating

Ceramic heat emitter: A Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE) is an effective way of heating your Pygmy hedgehogs house.

A Ceramic Heat Emitter emits heat and no light and is an effective source of warmth for your Hedgehog. 100 – 150 w is suitable for your hedgehog according to the Reptile Forums.

You’ll also need a Ceramic Lamp holder, to hold the bulb. Check to make sure that its suitable for your wattage of lamp.

Finally, don’t forget to buy a guard for your lamp. This will protect you, surrounding items and your hedgehog from burns.

Heat mat: Heat mats are not the best source of heating for your hedgehog, as they only heat the ground where they are, and not the air.

Additionally, if you use a reptile heat mat it be quite fierce, and their temperature needs to be monitored. Some hedgehog owners have commented that their heat mat has burnt their hedgehog’s enclosure.

If you do decide to heat your hedgehog’s housing using a heat mat, then Petnap make a hedgehog specific heat mat. This is mentioned in the Pygmy Hedgehog Facebook club UK.

These are weight activated so will need to be placed inside your Pygmy hedgehogs enclosure.

pymy hedgehog setupPygmy hedgehogs need their house to be between 23 - 25 degrees Celsius

How to set up a temperature for your hedgehog

You’ll need to use a thermostat to control the temperature inside your hedgehogs house. A Pulse Thermostat is best for a CHE, as it releases just enough energy in ‘bursts’ quickly and effectively to maintain the required heat level.

If you choose to purchase a heat mat, you may need to buy a thermostat for that too, although some do come with one built in. A pulse thermostat is best and they’re available from the Northampton Reptile Centre.

How much distance should there be between the heat bulb and my hedgehog?

Your heat bulb can placed above your Pygmy hedgehogs home, either sitting on top of the enclosure (if it's made of metal), or suspended from the ceiling of the room the enclosure is in. Don’t forget to use a guard with the heat bulb to prevent burns.

Do Pygmy hedgehogs need lighting?

Yes they do. However you don’t need to buy anything fancy to meet this need. You can provide the right lighting simply by ensuring the room receives natural daylight, and leaving the lights on when it drops dark.

You should ensure that your hedgehog is exposed to around 12 hours of light during the day, and that its dark for around 12 hours at night.

Pygmy Hedgehogs are related to the Algerian Hedgehog, which originates from North Africa. The Pygmy Hedgehog hasn’t acclimatised to the UK climate in any way. If she doesn’t receive enough daylight, she’ll attempt to hibernate.

Pygmy hedgehogs aren’t built for hibernation and it can cause a lot of health problems including infection, dehydration and organ failure. You shouldn’t let your Pygmy hedgehog hibernate.

pygmy hedgehog setupCardboard pellets and shredded paper make good bedding for Pygmy hedgehogs

What bedding is best for my hedgehog house?

Cardboard pellets and shredded paper both make good bedding and foraging choices. Popular choices for Pygmy hedgehogs include Finagard cardboard pellets and Carefresh shredded paper.

When picking bedding and foraging substrate you should ensure its dust free or low dust. There’s also a small risk of it containing parasites, so try and pick a trusted brand.

Check it for mites before you give it to your hedgehog. Mites can also be picked up in transit and whilst in the shop or depot.

Toxic bedding and substrate for Pygmy hedgehogs

Hedgehogs have a sensitive respiratory tract, and dust can irritate this and their eyes. Additionally some woods can be toxic to hedgehogs, leading to skin irritation and allergies.

You should avoid the following substrate/bedding:

  • Wood shavings, as these can be dusty, causing both skin and eye irritation
  • Corn cob shavings as these can cause skin irritation and allergies
  • Cedar shavings as cedar contains Plicatic acid which is linked to respiratory problems, allergic reactions and liver problems. and the hydrocarbons in Cedar that give it its smell are also linked to health problems.
  • Pine shavings as these contain alphapinene that can irritate the liver in small mammals, as well as cause allergies.
  • Towelling: Its best not to use towels as bedding for your hedgehog as she could snag them with her claws and hurt herself.

With thanks to Hello Hedgehog.

Best foraging substrate for my hedgehog

The best foraging substrates are the same that you would use for bedding; cardboard pellets and shredded paper are the best options. Ensure they’re dust free as far as possible.

African Pygmy hedgehog playpens

You can move your hedgehog to a playpen for extra enrichment, or while you clean her cage.

You should make sure that she can’t escape by squeezing through the metal wire, or by lifting it with her nose (Hedgies do this!). If there’s a way out, she’s be likely to find it.

You can put whatever your hedgehog likes into the playpen – floor coverings, a hide, litter tray and some toys.

Don’t forget your hedgie will probably poop and pee quite a lot, so floor coverings will protect your carpet. But be prepared to change those coverings regularly.

Hedgehog hides and igloos

Hedgies like to hide away in a burrow. Time to relax and chill out. Without this, they can become distressed, and stop eating.

A hide can be anything, a small box, an upturned flower pot, a nest box, or an igloo. As long as your hedgehog can easily get in and out, and its non-toxic, it should be fine.

Hedgehog toys

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to keep your Pygmy hedgehog entertained. They can play with a ping pong ball, other small balls, toilet roll, or a kitchen paper roll, or even toy cars (they like to push them around).

Ensure all toys are safe, with no parts likely to detach, and no cracks. If your hedgehog is playing with a toilet roll, it's suggested you make a cut in the roll, so that your hedgehog doesn’t get her head stuck in it.

Hedgehog wheels and Storm wheels

In the wild your hedgehog will run between three to five miles a night, so its essential you let her get enough exercise.

A wheel will allow her to run to her hearts content. It should be made of a plastic based material and be wide enough for your hedgehog to run comfortably, otherwise she may slip off. Around 12.5 or 15 cm running tread is generally recommended, with 10 cm being the minimum.

You should never provide a wheel with wire struts as she could catch her feet causing a lot of damage. Also avoid wheels with frame supports on either side, as she could get stuck in the frame.

The Carolina Storm Bucket wheel is something which members of the Hedgehogcentral.com forum recommend. UK Hedgie owners won’t be able to buy one from the standard Caroline Storm website, but will instead need to visit the UK Facebook page, where you can message them.

You can also buy wheels from some UK retailers. The Comfort wheel is designed for small animals, however the largest size available, 12 inches, can be used for Pygmy Hedgehogs.

The downside is, is that the grooves could hurt your hedgehog's feet if she runs for a long time.

If you’re a bit of a DIY expert you may prefer to make your own wheel using a bucket. The bucket diameter should be 12 inches, and you should cut the base off, in order to create the ‘wheel’ part. You can attach the base to a bearing, and then a frame.

Hedgehog not using wheel

If your hedgehog isn’t using her wheel, it could be because the room isn’t dark enough. Hedgehogs often like it to be pitch black, and even the faintest light can stop them running on it.

Also, if you’re in the room, or if they don’t like the style, tilt or size of the wheel they can be put off.

How to stop your hedgehog from pooping on you

Baby hedgehogs tend to poop and pee a lot, including when they’re picked up by their owners, say owners on the Hedgehog Central Forum.

Owners on the Hedgehog Central forum state that they will have tissues at the ready to catch poop, and let their hedgehog play on a plastic mat at playtime.

You can also learn to recognise the signs – hedgehogs sometimes push their bottom out when they’re about to poop, so you should be ready to catch it.

You could also try learning how soon after getting your hedgehog out she goes for a poop. And put her back in her litter tray at that point.

Hedgehogs also poop and pee a lot when they’re running. So if she's running around your house, beware! They can’t help this, as it’s a natural thing for them.

You’ll find its usually all over their wheel as well.

As your hedgehog gets older, she will poop on you less.

What do you clean out a hedgehog house with?

To keep the inside of the vivarium or house clean, you can use baby wipes to remove loose residue, and then F10 disinfectant to kill any germs.

Antibacterial spray can also be used. You can spray these around the vivarium, wiping down with paper towels.

White wine vinegar diluted with water is also recommended as a cleaner, by hedgehog owners as is Clean n Safe from Jollyes or Pets at Home. 

To keep your hedgehog’s wheel clean, African Pygmy Hedgehog Facebook club members recommend Safe4Pets disinfectant spray, hot water and washing up liquid, vinegar with lemon oil and water (the lemon will mask the smell of the vinegar) or F10 spray.

To wash bedding you should use a non biological powder. Avoid using fabric conditioner, as it prevents the bedding from absorbing liquid.

When do you clean out a hedgehog house?

It’s advised to thoroughly clean the cage once a week and do a spot clean every day. This would involve also cleaning her wheel and emptying her litter tray.

If your Pygmy hedgehog tends to be messy, it may be a good idea to thoroughly wash her house, toys and bedding more regularly.

Can hedgehogs see infra red light?

Yes, they can see infra red light, and according to hedgehog owners on the Hedgehog Central Forum, the light could put your hedgehog off from coming out at night.

Those owners say that their Pygmy Hedgehogs only like to play on their wheel when it’s very dark, and any light at all puts them off.

Where should I put my African Pygmy hedgehog’s enclosure?

As with any pet enclosure you should locate it away from direct sunlight, sunlight that shines through windows or other heat sources. These could cause your hedgehog to over heat.

Get a quote to insure your hedgehog or find out more about our pygmy hedgehog insurance.