Hedgehogs are small, adorable, and spiky animals. Their diet is one major misconception people have about these lovable creatures. Malnutrition, improper care, and a lack of education has caused a severe decline in the population of hedgehogs in the US and UK.
In this article, you’ll find out how you can help to prevent these beautiful creatures from going into extinction by learning what they really eat and how to feed them.
Hedgehog Diet in the Wild
Hedgehogs are popularly recognized as potent allies in gardens, and you may wonder what these animals eat. Hedgehogs mainly feed on creepy crawlies.
They are generalists and can feed on many different things. The bulk of their diet consists of creepy crawlies (invertebrates). From scientific research that has looked in the guts of dead hedgehogs and analyzed their poo, we can tell what they eat.
The most essential invertebrates in hedgehogs’ diet are caterpillars, slugs, millipedes, earwigs, beetles, and worms. In addition to these, hedgehogs also feed on a wide range of other insects.
They will often take advantage of baby rodents, fallen fruit, birds’ eggs, baby birds, frogs, and carrion. When you’re providing food for your hedgehog pet, you can replicate their natural diet by offering a combination of meat-based cat or dog food, cat biscuits or hedgehog food.
Studies reveal that hedgehogs only consume food found in gardens to supplement their natural diet. Hence, there’s no proof to suggest you’re making your hedgehog become more dependent on you for its meals. That implies you can go on holiday without being worried about what your pet hedgehog will eat!
What Do Pet Hedgehogs Eat?
Pet hedgehogs are distinct in both their care and appearance as small pets. They are insectivores and will require nutrients that may be absent in several other pet foods.
These spiky pocket animals were often fed with cat food in the past, but there are now quality hedgehog foods with ideal nutritional components that hedgehogs need. Knowing what your hedgehog should eat can help you make better diet decisions for them.
Pet Hedgehog Diet
You can consider hedgehogs as either omnivorous or insectivorous animals, depending on the referenced source. Looking at the hedgehog’s actual diet, you’ll find out that there’s probably more accuracy in the omnivore description since wild hedgehogs cannot only eat insects, but will add various kinds of foods to their meals.
Different hedgehog species may have varied diets depending on their natural habitat where they originally come from, though most captive hedgehogs are the African Pygmy species. Since they’re a hybrid species, their diet is different from that of wild hedgehogs.
They have a peculiar ability to digest insect chitin. Chitin can be found in an insect’s hard exoskeleton and is mainly a protein source, though it also contains some fiber.
While chitin is an important component in a hedgehog’s diet, it’s not the only thing your hedgehog needs in its food. Other times you can feed your hedgehog in addition to insects are:
Also available freeze-dried or live, crickets provide chitin and mental stimulation for hedgehogs. As with several other insects, the crickets should be gut-loaded before being fed to your hedgehog to ensure your pet is loaded with nutrition.
A live waxworm contains lower chitin and higher fat content than a mealworm, so you can save this as a treat for your hedgehog.
Freeze-dried or live mealworms are a great chitin source for your hedgehog. Live worms can also be a great source of mental stimulation because they move around a lot, and your hedgehog has to work to catch its food.
While you can offer a small quantity of fresh fruit to hedgehogs as treats, you want to avoid feeding them dried fruit. Bananas, melons, berries, and apples are common choices among hedgehogs.
– Cooked Eggs
You can provide an occasional amount of hard-boiled or scrambled egg as a nice treat for your hedgehog. It’s a great protein source.
Cooked squash, fresh green beans, and fresh tomatoes are a few options that hedgehogs enjoy. You want to avoid starchy vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and corn as well as dried vegetables.
– Cat or Hedgehog Kibble
Make this the bulk of the hedgehog’s diet. A good cat kibble must have a minimum of 30 % protein and a maximum of 20 % fat.
If these nutritional requirements are met, hedgehog food is the perfect diet for your pet, though there are some formulated diets that don’t contain things like seeds and raisins, which aren’t recommended for hedgehogs.
– Cooked Meat
Low-fat, high-protein canned cat or dog food can be given in small quantities to your pet hedgehog.
– Pinky Mice
If you don’t mind your pet hedgehog eating baby mice, you can provide the occasional pinky mouse (pre-killed) as a treat.
How to Feed a Pet Hedgehog?
Hedgehogs are susceptible to obesity. Hence, it is very important to keep an eye on their food intake. The cat or hedgehog kibble can make up the bulk of their diet every day, and even though hedgehogs are more active at night and burn plenty of energy, you might want to control the quantity of kibble they get.
Offer 1 or 2 tablespoons of kibble to your adult hedgehog, adding a teaspoon of vegetables and fruits and some insects. Bigger and more active hedgehogs may require more food, though you need to monitor the hedgehog’s weight using a baby scale. If your hedgehog adds more than a 10 % weight gain, ensure to reduce the amount of food it gets.
Most hedgehogs eat more food at night when they are most active and running on their wheel. Hence you don’t need to worry if they are not eating well during the day. Dispose of all uneaten foods the next day to prevent spoilage, and always provide fresh water for your pets.
Foods You Should Avoid Feeding to Hedgehogs
Your pet hedgehog’s safety depends on the kind of food it eats. So, it’s important to pay keen attention on what goes into the hedgehog’s mouth. Here are some things you shouldn’t feed your hedgehog:
- Sugary food (with the exception of a little fruit)
- Dried fruit (stocky foods that contain high sugar can result in tooth decay)
- Small seeds (difficult to pick up and these animals can’t remove the seed case, making the seed essentially indigestible)
- Nuts (a very choking hazard)
- Salty foods (including processed meats)
- High-fat food like fried food
- Highly processed carbs (these will increase the hedgehog’s weight)
- Raw meats (with the exception of part of a well sourced raw diet (pre-frozen)
- Processed human food
There are some foods that are sometimes mentioned as potentially harmful to hedgehogs due to their toxic effects on other species, and the toxic level isn’t clean enough. These foods include:
- Raw potatoes (avoid completely as they contain toxin solanine)
- Apple seeds (they contain a compound that will convert to cyanide after intake)
Can Hedgehogs Eat Fruits?
Fruits can be delicious treats for hedgehogs as they surely love scaring down a wide variety of fruits.
As we’ve previously mentioned, fruits are great for hedgehogs, but ensure not to overdo it! It’s one of the quickest ways to feed your hedgehog with excess sugar, which can result in various health conditions over time.
You might also need to peel off the skin from any fruits that have them. Fruit skins are a choking hazard for hedgehogs! Here’s a list of fruits you can offer your pet hedgehog:
Apples, mangoes, squash & pumpkin, plums, pears, peaches, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, cranberries, honeydew, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and strawberries.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Meats?
Your hedgehog can enjoy some meat as occasional treats. Here are some great options. They are high in protein and low in fat, which is ideal for your pet hedgehog.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Cat or Dog Food?
Just like several furry animals, hedgehogs need diets that contain high animal protein. Proteinous cat food contains the vital nutrients to keep your hedgehog healthy and happy.
Dog foods are also ideal for hedgehogs. However, you might need to check the ingredients used, as some pet foods might contain added salts or sugars.
Just like with dogs and cats, no one wants their hedgehog being overweight! They are very little creatures, so you want to avoid overfeeding them. You can leave out some dry cat food in a dish, but we advise avoiding wet cat food for your hedgehog as it can spoil after some time.
What do Baby Hedgehogs Eat?
Baby hedgehogs, also known as hoglets, may struggle without their mum’s first feed. Depending on their age, they can feed on milk substitute (1-2 ml) every hour.
Avoid feeding them lactose milk. They can start eating solid food as soon as they grow teeth. From eight weeks old, they can start eating adult hedgehog food.
Tinned cat or dog food (avoid fish-based) and crushed cat or dog biscuits make great foods for baby hedgehogs. You can also offer them specialist hedgehog foods purchased from wildlife food sellers. Never offer cow’s milk to baby hedgehogs as it might cause diarrhea.
Now you’ve seen that hedgehogs can eat several kinds of foods. This makes getting them a well-balanced diet stress-free and simple once you understand the basics.