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The hedgehog is so-named because of its unusual foraging methods. Unlike most animals, it roots through hedges and other types of undergrowth looking for small creatures that comprise the bulk of its diet.
These include centipedes, frogs, mice, snails, snakes, and worms. Moreover, while picking through these hedges, the animal makes a pig-like grunting sound hence its name, hedgehog.
For some time, hedgehogs were only considered beneficial to farmers because they prey on the common pests in gardens. Nowadays, the animals are also popular pets because they are non-aggressive, quiet, curious, intelligent, and fairly clean. They also do not need a lot of human interaction to keep them tame and have minimal care needs.
One of the primary questions when keeping a hedgehog is how long it will live. Hedgehogs live for 2-7 years in the wild but can live for 8-10 with optimal care as pets. A wild hedgehog is exposed to predators and has a higher risk of diseases as well as injuries compared to a pet hedgehog.
This explains the big difference in the potential lifespan between the two hedgehogs. The following post will help you understand how long a hedgehog lives and what impacts its lifespan.
Factors Which Impact a Hedgehog’s Lifespan
Despite your best efforts, your pet hedgehog might not live for as long as you expect it to live owing to different factors. While some are beyond your control, you can control most of them to guarantee your hedgehog enjoys a full, healthy life.
Below is some information to help you understand the typical elements that affect a hedgehog’s lifespan.
Good genetics are the foundation of a hedgehog’s healthy and long life. Most pet owners will erroneously assume that they have little control over the genetics of their hedgehogs. The breeder choice you make will play a huge part in your hedgehog’s genetic makeup.
Responsible breeders use ethical and smart breeding techniques to ensure their animals are healthy. Get recommendations on the best breeders from pet owners and animal experts.
If you are not diligent in your choice of a breeder, you might end up with an animal that falls ill frequently and has a higher risk of contracting certain conditions because of its genetic makeup.
The cage environment you have for your hedgehog also determines how long it will live. The most important element in the cage is its bedding because your pet will breathe next to it for most of its life.
Suboptimal or unsafe bedding can thus quickly become an issue with its prolonged exposure to the hedgehog. Avoid softwood beddings like those made of cedar and pine since these have aromatic hydrocarbons that can lead to respiratory issues.
The hedgehog’s environment should also be conducive for exercising to mirror its natural enviornment since the animal walks long distances in the wild. This means having ample space for play in the cage, buying an exercise wheel, and taking the hedgehog out of its cage periodically to play.
– Food and Diet
If your hedgehog does not get enough nutrients from the food you give it, it has a high risk of contracting developmental and diet-related conditions. Moreover, its immunity system will often be weakened, meaning there are high chances of the hedgehog becoming sick and dying prematurely.
Unfortunately, there is no exact diet that has been proven to be the perfect one for hedgehogs. Your best choice is a diet plan that has worked for most hedgehogs for years. You can find this on one of the online groups for hedgehog owners or an expert’s website for hedgehog care.
Even so, it is best to tweak the diet and experiment with different things to get the best diet plan for your hedgehog.
In the past, cat food supplemented with crickets and mealworms, among other treats, was the best diet for hedgehogs. Nowadays, pet stores stock quality hedgehog feeds with the precise nutrients that will help your prickly friend thrive.
As nocturnal animals, it is best to feed your hedgehog in the evenings so that it burns the food at night when it is active. One feed per day is often enough for it.
Stress will significantly shorten your hedgehog’s lifespan if left unchecked. Stress in a hedgehog can be evidenced by constant grumpiness, nervousness, and sadness. Constantly keep an eye on your hedgehog’s mood so that you can pick the times it is stressed quickly and get professional help.
Stress in a hedgehog is often caused by constant sleep disturbance, noise, and cruel handling. Fortunately, it is easy to pick the early signs of stress in a hedgehog.
In the wild, hedgehogs are prey for badgers and foxes. Unfortunately, predation for them does not end when they become pets. Cats and dogs are the main predators of pet hedgehogs. As such, it is best to get rid of your cat or dog if you plan to keep a hedgehog.
Keeping the cat and dog in separate quarters from your hedgehog might also be beneficial to guarantee your hedgehog’s safety. Even so, the knowledge of a cat’s or dog’s presence in the same surroundings might stress your hedgehog.
Rats, golden eagles, weasels, tawny owls, and pine martens can also harm a young hedgehog at times.
If you are planning to breed your hedgehog, you should know that this might impact its lifespan. The body of a female hedgehog goes through significant changes and stress during pregnancy.
These make it highly susceptible to diseases. There is also a risk that your hedgehog might suffer different pregnancy-related complications.
While you are not discouraged from breeding your hedgehog, you should keep in mind the risks associated with this step. If you want to maximize your hedgehog’s lifespan, it is best to reconsider breeding.
– Diseases and Sickness
Ensuring you monitor the health of your hedgehog is essential when aiming for its long life. Do not just take it to the vet when it is sick but stick to routine appointments so that you can pick the early signs of disease.
Your hedgehog is exposed to bacteria, parasites, viruses, and other pathogens that impact its life in different ways. While you might not protect it from all these so that it is disease-free, you can take a few steps to guarantee your pet is strong enough to fight infection.
These include boosting its immunity with good food, always washing your hands before handling the animal, and ensuring the animal’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
Urinary tract, respiratory and digestive disorders are the common ones that might affect your hedgehog. Though most animals do not show clinical signs of disease, hedgehogs often have flaky skin, crusts, and spine loss when sick.
Hedgehogs that are above three years old are also at risk of cancer. Although cancer can affect all their body parts, the mouth, intestinal tract, and stomach are the most commonly affected.
Which One Between Male And Female Hedgehogs Live Longer?
According to many pet experts, the sex of a hedgehog does not determine its lifespan. As such, neither a male nor a female hedgehog will live longer than the other.
Even so, the breeding of a female hedgehog might affect its lifespan. Female hedgehogs are ready for breeding when they turn eight weeks old.
However, it is not advisable to breed yours at this age because this increases the risk of pregnancy-related complications and early death.
As with a human’s lifespan, different factors will determine how long a hedgehog will live. The best housing, love, and attention are no doubt essential elements when caring for a hedgehog.
While you might be intent on providing these and more, a knowledge of the above factors that affect your hedgehog’s lifespan is essential. With an understanding of these factors, you are well-placed as a pet owner to pay attention to them and lengthen the life of your hedgehog.Hedgehogs