African Pygmy Hedgehog

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Other name(s): Hedgie; African White-Bellied Hedgehog; Pruner's Hedgehog

Scientific name: Atelerix albiventris x Atelerix algirus

The basics:
The small African Pygmy Hedgehog is the hedgehog most commonly kept as a pet. Though disposition varies hedgie to hedgie, the African Pygmy Hedgehog is the species most likely to have a pleasant and friendly disposition. Most African Pygmies are actually a mix of two separate African species: the Four-toed Hedgehog and the Algerian Hedgehog.

Hedgehogs can make unusual and fun pets. They’re relatively low maintenance, low-odor, and they don’t have the destructive chewing habits that rodents do. In addition, hedgehogs produce very little dander which may make them ideal for people who have pet allergies.

Like with any pet, it’s not all fun and games. Hedgehogs don’t require a lot of care, but they do have very specific needs when it comes to food and habitat. In addition, while some hedgehogs are quite sociable towards people, they’re not exactly cuddly. They’re also nocturnal, so if you’re early to bed, you may not get to fully enjoy the antics of your hedgehog.

Finally, there are many laws and restrictions governing hedgehog ownership. In some U.S. states, Canadian municipalities, and in Australia it is illegal to have a hedgehog. These restrictions are largely due to concerns about non-native hedgehogs being released into the wild and having a negative impact on local ecosystems. In some places hedgehogs are considered wild animals and owners must have a special exotic pet license to keep them, and in other regions, only certain species are restricted. There is also some concern that certain hedgehog species may be carriers of foot-and-mouth-disease.

Appearance / health:
The African Pygmy Hedgehog averages 6-8 inches in length, with females larger than males. Its oval-shaped body is covered in rows of ½ - 1 inch prickly spines, except for a soft fur-covered belly and face. An adult hedgehog will have an average of 6,000 spines – but unlike a porcupine’s quills, a hedgehog’s spines are blunt-tipped and do not easily detach. The African Pygmy Hedgehog has a long and pointed snout, small beady eyes, and relatively large, oval-shaped ears. Their legs are very short, and the hind feet have four toes.

The wild African Pygmy Hedgehog generally has brown or grey spines with whitish tips, a white belly, speckled grey fur with a white face and a brown snout. Domestic African Pygmy’s have a wider variety of colors, with spines varying in shades and banding of brown, black, grey, white, and pale orange-beige.

Hedgehogs are prone to a few unique conditions and ailments. It’s important to make sure the temperature of your hedgehog’s environment is well-regulated. When a hedgehog becomes too cold they can slip into hibernation state. Hibernation can be dangerous or even deadly to your hedgehog and should be prevented. Some hedgehogs also have a genetic predisposition to Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, a progressive neurological disorder which leads to paralysis.

Other ailments common in hedgehogs are obesity, ear infections, diarrhea or “green poops” (caused by diet or stress), tooth loss (from food that is too hard), and cancer. Hedgehogs will lose some spines throughout their lives, and young hedgehogs will undergo “quilling” in which they lose their “baby spines” and grow in new ones. If an adult hedgehog is losing quills, it can be a sign of stress, malnutrition, or illness and your hedgie should be seen by a veterinarian.

African Pygmy Hedgehog have a lifespan of about 3-6 years.

Behavior / temperament:
The African Pygmy Hedgehog has a reputation for having a gentle and quiet disposition. They are less likely than others to have a negative reaction when being picked up and held. While hedgehogs don’t generally crave human interaction, the African Pygmy Hedgehog may be more inclined towards affection and may even enjoy being held or sitting on your lap. Though occasionally female African Pygmy Hedgehogs can live together, in general they are territorial and aggressive towards others, and prefer solitary living.

Hedgehogs, including the African Pygmy Hedgehog, are incredibly active and energetic. In the wild they may traverse miles of ground in search of food. For domestic hedgehogs, this manifests as a desire to wander their environment and to run on a wheel. Hedgehogs are playful, and easily entertained with random objects you leave for them in their cage. African Pygmy Hedgehogs are nocturnal, and the majority of their activity will take place from dusk until dawn.

When frightened or threatened, hedgehogs will curl themselves into a tight ball, tucking face and limbs inside and presenting a sphere of pokey spines. And angry or grumpy hedgehog may growl or hiss. A contented hedgehog may purr, chuff, or chirp. Another unique behavior of the African Pygmy Hedgehog is a behavior called “self-anointing”. This happens when a hedgehog encounters an unfamiliar or bothersome object or substance. They will chew on the object or substance resulting in frothy saliva that they then spread over their spines. It is thought this behavior is used to deter predators and to camouflage their scent.

Your African Pygmy Hedgehog’s cage will be the most important investment you make for your new pet. You should choose the biggest cage possible, with a minimum of 4 square feet of floor space. The floor should be solid (no wire or mesh) and the cage should have high, slick walls or a secure top to keep your hedgehog from climbing out! Some options are wire cages (usually designed for rabbits or guinea pigs), glass aquariums (a minimum of 20-gallons, and long rather than tall), or even wading pools or modified clear plastic storage bins. The cage should be placed out of direct sunlight and away from drafts. The ideal temperature range for a hedgehog is 72-80 degrees F (21-27 degrees C).

Bedding should be non-toxic, low-dust, and absorbent. Some popular options are paper-based bedding, aspen shavings, wood or paper pellets, and even fleece. Cedar and pine shavings can cause health problems and shouldn’t be used.

A wheel is an essential addition to your hedgehog’s cage. It should have a solid running surface – bars and mesh can cause discomfort and injury. It should also be big enough that your hedgehog can run with a level back. You should also provide your hedgehog with hide-away for sleeping. There are a variety of huts and houses to choose from. Fleece sacks are also a popular choice, and also give your hedgie somewhere warm to snuggle. Some hedgehogs will use a littlerbox, so you might consider adding a small pan with low sides to the corner of the cage.

In addition to a food dish and a water bottle, your hedgehog should be given a variety of items to play with. Cardboard or fleece tunnels are a favorite. Some hedgehogs enjoy small plastic balls (cat toys are good), plush toys, leather or rawhide, or even small plastic children’s toys. Rotate toys frequently and introduce new toys regularly to keep your hedgehog active and entertained.

Hedgehogs are insectivores and opportunistic omnivores – which means in the wild, they would consume a lot of bugs, as well as carrion, eggs, seeds, and some fruit and vegetation. Your domestic hedgehog’s diet should strive for similar variety. Commercial dry food diets have been developed for hedgehogs, but avoid those containing seeds, nuts, or dried fruits and vegetables, as well as those with high levels of fat and low levels of protein. If hedgehog-specific food is unavailable, you may feed your hedgehog a high protein, low-fat, meat-based dry cat food or ferret food. Take care that kibble is not too big or too hard for your hedgehog to eat, or you may need to crush it for them! Hedgehogs are prone to developing obesity so selecting a low-fat food is important.

In addition to their dry food, your hedgehog’s diet should be supplemented with insects, fruits and vegetables, cooked egg, and even a little canned cat food or cooked meat. Insects can be purchased live, freeze-dried, or frozen, and hedgehogs seem particularly fond of mealworms and crickets. Mealworms are high in fat, so should only be given as a special treat a couple of times a week.


intelligent animal, cutie, friendly hedgehog, fantastic pet, adorable face, quiet exotic pets


grumpy hedgehog, little nails, small children, nocturnal, fierce spikes, cat food everyday, reclusive


big wheel, fruits, mealworms, warm temperatures, hedgehog colorations, wheel substrate bedding

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