One of the most interesting and exotic pets that can be purchased is the African Pygmy Hedgehog. This charismatic critter is a joy to have around if he is taken care of properly. This is a guide to owning a pet African Pygmy Hedgehog and taking care of him properly.
Selecting a Hedgehog
This is the first step to owning this delightful pet. It is very important that you should never purchase this type of pet if it is illegal in your state or country. There are some states that do not allow the purchase of an African Pygmy Hedgehog, and it is very important that you abide by the rules so that you or your new friend do not get into any legal trouble.
Once legality of the purchase of the hedgehog is established you need to go to the right location to pick out and buy a healthy African Pygmy. You should use these general guidelines when it comes to purchasing your hedgehog from a seller.
1. The cage of the animal should be very clean. If the seller hasn’t taken the time to clean the cage, there are cracked food or water containers, or there is little or no food in the cage, then you should really consider not purchasing the animal from them. These are signs of neglect. In this case the hedgehog could be sick or unsuitable for purchase.
2. You should also be precautious of hedgehogs that are of selling age and they are housed in the same cage as hedgehogs of the opposite sex. You may be unaware, but after a week or two of purchase you may have a new litter of hedgehog babies to take care of. If the seller has hedgehogs in the same cage as the opposite sex, then it is very likely that they were taking care of the animal with very poor management.
3. You should always ask the sex of the hedgehog that you would like to purchase. If the sales associate does not know the sex, then you should ask if they could find someone who does. If you are set on having a male or female hedgehog then you should really do the research and get straight answers.
4. You should ask the seller what foods the animal has been fed. The seller should be able to give you full instructions on the diet, general care, sexing, and other potential problems that may occur with your pet. Take very serious precautions with this.
5. Make sure that the hedgehog’s temperament is good. You want to make sure that your new friend adjusts well to humans handling him and that he is not nervous or defensive when you try to pick him up. When you lift the young hedgehog, it is likely that it will either remain in a relaxed non-defensive position, or it will curl into a ball. If this happens then you will know that the hedgehog is used to being handled by humans. If it curls into a ball and it spikes spring upwards, this is still ok behavior, only if he comes out of the ball within a minute. If he remains in a ball and does not come out of it, it is very likely that he hasn’t been handled very often or he is very nervous. These situations should improve with regular handling; however, it is best to find a nice and friendly hedgehog that will not give you any problems.
6. You should ask the seller if the hedgehog is pedigreed. This is important because a pedigreed hedgehog is more desirable than one that isn’t. If the seller has maintained a record of the hedgehog’s ancestry then this is great. However, a pedigreed hedgehog may be more expensive then one that isn’t.
Best Age to Purchase:
The best age to purchase a hedgehog would be when they are at least eight weeks old. This is because they are usually weaned at the age of five to eight weeks. You should not purchase a hedgehog before this time because they will become stressed if they are taken away from their mother before the weaning process is over. They are more likely to die due to illness than if they are weaned and more confident about leaving their mother.
Purchasing a Male or Female:
If you just want a cute new pet then it really won’t matter if you purchase a male or a female (sows). However, if you want to purchase two of them, then it is best to go with two females. The reason being is that if two male hedgehogs are in the same cage, they will more than likely fight each other. If you purchase a male and a female hedgehog then they will produce new offspring. Two or more female sows will live happily together as friends.
The most common color pattern of African Pygmy Hedgehog would be agouti. The genetic base of these types of hedgehog has not been determined. The albino African Pygmy does not have any pigment, and has white spines, pink skin, and red eyes. If the eyes are dark and there are some areas of the African Pygmy that is pigmented, then know that this is not considered albino. The variant color ranges include cinnamon cream, chocolate, and bicolor. Other colors of Pygmy include polka dot, salt and pepper, and a variety of other names.
To start your assessment of your new pet, you have to begin by daily observation of the creature. You should pay careful attention to make sure it is not limping. If it is limping then this lameness could be due to a minor sprain, a genetic deficiency, or a permanent or temporary problem with the leg or joints. It is best to make sure that the African Pygmy that you pick out is not lame at the time of purchase. The eyes of the Pygmy should be round and clear and not bulging or sunken in. The ears should be small and erect with no apparent signs of scaling. The nose of the animal should be dry to just moist and not running excessively or dripping.
It is also important to make sure that the nose is not swollen. The anal region of the animal should be clean with no apparent signs of swelling, congealed fecal matter, or staining from diarrhea. You should very carefully inspect the underbelly and the facial fur for any apparent signs of parasites. The most common parasite in African Pygmy is mites. They appear mostly in hot climate. You should also check the base of the spine for any parasites. Make sure that there aren’t any bald or reddened areas as well as missing spines, or swellings on the body. African Pygmies have five toes on each foot and it is possible that this animal the rear big toe may be rudimentary or missing. Last but not least, if two hedgehogs are going to be sharing the same cage. You want to make sure that each animal has been checked out and are in good condition.
Feeding the Pygmy:
This omnivorous creature’s diet is mostly insects and invertebrates as well as plants. There are three basic forms of food that should be given to your Pygmy. 1. Dry: This is the best food for shelf life. You want to make sure that if you give your Pygmy dry food then they have enough water to compensate for the lack of moisture in their food. These types of foods are very convenient and will more than likely have all of the essential nutrients your Pygmy will need in order to stay healthy. 2. Moist foods: Believe it or not your Pygmy can eat commercial canned foods for cats. This type of food contains a high-moisture content including: fresh meats, their byproducts, fruits, eggs, and vegetables.
Your hedgehog will drink less water when moist food is available but you always want to make sure that your pet has a sufficient supply anyways. You have to be aware that moist foods do not last as long as dry foods and should be changed out frequently. You can feed your pet either raw or cooked meat, however, both are suggested. You should always cut the meat into small pieces so that they are convenient for your pet. If you give your pet chicken then make sure that you remove the skin. Hedgehogs cannot digest fats very well, so make sure that you give your animal a lean piece of meat to eat or else he will become very fat. Make sure to feed your pet fruits and vegetables as well as cottage cheese, gravy stocks poured on dried food, and low fat milk.
3. Live foods: Small invertebrates make a tasty treat for hedgehogs. It is recommended that you feed your pet mealworms followed by crickets. The only problem with feeding your hedgehog crickets are that they can escape and can become a problem inside of your home. You can also feed your pet spiders, earthworms, and beetles. You can even allow your pet to wander around your home and find little house bugs to snack on.
Keeping Your Pygmy Healthy:
You always want to make sure that your hedgehog is in excellent health. There are several ways that you can ensure yourself to having a healthy pet.
1. Always keep your pet’s cage clean. This means cleaning out the water and feeding bowls, as well as removing and replacing soiled floor covering. You will probably want to do this at least once a week. If you have an expecting mother hedgehog then make sure that you keep the food and water vessels clean as well as cleaning all feces. However, try not to clean the cage too well for the first two weeks that the babies are born because this can be very disturbing to them. To prevent pathogens and parasites from entering your pet’s mouth you should keep the cage bars very clean. Hedgehogs love rubbing their noses on them.
2. You should make sure to clean all cage furnishings once a week during the weekly cleaning. This includes: logs, rocks, or other furnishings.
3. If you spot any chipped or broken food or water containers, make sure to replace them.
4. You should remove soiled floor covering daily. You should try hard to keep the bottom of the cage clean, especially if the cage is sealed.
5. Always make sure to wash your hands before and after handling your hedgehog. It is very easy for pathogens and parasites to transfer if you don’t wash.
6. Keep all of your pet’s food in sealed containers.
7. Make sure your temperature is suitable during winter months. You want to keep your temperature as stable as possible with these pets. If they get too cold then it is possible for them to become more susceptible to parasites and pathogens.
8. Make sure to examine your pet’s soft fur and the base of its’ spines, while handling him. You can look for any sores, bald areas or any other parasitic action. If you do come across any of these problems, make sure to wipe the infected area with antiseptic lotion.
How to Tell if Your Pet is Sick:
There are many ways to tell if your pet is sick. You should always pay close attention to any behavioral changes in your pet so that you stay on top of their health. Ways in which you can tell if your hedgehog is sick include: he has a loss in appetite, he is spending more time sleeping, he is displaying abnormal behavior, he does not seem averse to be handled when this has never happened in the past, he is displaying a reduced activity level. You can also indicate if your pet is sick by observing if he has a runny nose, swellings, runny eyes, diarrhea, blood-streaked face, coughing, skin abrasions, bald spots, flaky encrustations on the face or body fur, powdery dust on the base of the spines, excessive scratching, hard of breathing, involuntary muscle twitching, and the inability to walk normally. If any of these indications stay for more than 24 hours, you should write down all of the symptoms, record the most recent bowel movement and gather a few samples, make sure the room temperature is suitable. You should thoroughly clean the cage. If your pet seems to be worsening within 12 hours, you should really consider calling the vet.
Enjoy your new pet, or love your old pet even more. I hope that this guide will help you care for your African Pygmy Hedgehog in the right manner God willing.