This mammal is about the size of a small rabbit. Covered in short, sharp spines, the solitary hedgehog has become a popular pet in some parts of the world. 17 species of hedgehog can be found in Europe, Asia and Africa.
In a word
Hedgehogs are sometimes called pincushions with legs. They like to root around in hedges and undergrowth while snorting and grunting much like a hog — which is why they are called hedgehogs.
Dinner in the wild
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and hunt at night. Their diet consists largely of insects, worms, centipedes, snails, bird eggs, frogs, snakes, and mice, but they also feed on roots, grasses, berries, and mushrooms. They can eat one-third of their body weight in an evening.
Where in the world?
Hedgehogs are related to moles and shrews. They are native to Asia, Europe and Africa, and have been introduced in New Zealand. They live in many kinds of habitats, thriving in forests, deserts, savannas, scrublands and suburban gardens.
Life as a pet
Owning a hedgehog is restricted in some places, so you need to make sure they are legal to own where you live. Also, hedgehogs live a long time and require special care; adopting one as a pet should be carefully considered as a long-term commitment.
A pet hedgehog should always be treated gently, as a frightened hedgehog will roll into a ball and deploy its very sharp quills — ouch.
Hedgehogs need a large, clean cage, at least 4 square feet (0.37 square metres). Choose one without wire, as little hedgehog feet can get stuck in wire spaces. They also need a lot of exercise, so a running wheel is a must — remember to choose a solid one, not a wire one.
One of the most challenging aspects of keeping a pet hedgehog is making sure it gets a proper diet. Pet hedgehogs can be fed dry cat food, ferret food and cooked chicken. As a treat once or twice a week, you can feed them mealworms, crickets, fruit or vegetables. And, of course, your hedgehog needs a fresh and plentiful source of water.
The African pygmy hedgehog is a domestic hybrid combination of the white-bellied hedgehog and the Algerian hedgehog. It was bred to be smaller and more tame than its wild cousins. This little critter weighs in at 1 to 1.5 pounds (0.5 to 0.7kg) and grows to 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20cm) long. Hedgehogs hibernate in cold weather. In deserts, they sleep through heat in a process called estivation. They are active all year round in temperate climates.
European Hedgehogs are found in woodlands, farmlands and suburban areas throughout Europe. They are sometimes seen rooting around in gardens.
Hedgehogs have very poor eyesight. They rely on their senses of hearing and smell to find food.
Scientific name: Erinaceus europaeus
Weight: 1 to 2lb. (400 to 1,000g)
Length: 7 to 9 in. (16 to 35 cm)
Life span: 4 to 7 years in the wild, or up to 10 years in captivity