There is quite a lot of variety in African Pygmy Hedgehogs, as the name doesn’t refer to an actual species but a group of small hedgehogs that originally come from Africa. The hedgehogs you find in the pet trade now are the result of years of selective breeding.
These fascinating animals make ideal exotic pets, and this African Pygmy Hedgehog care sheet should tell you everything you need to know when it comes to caring for your hog. Of course, buying a dedicated book on the subject will give you more detail and information than you’ll ever be able to find online. Hedgehogs: The Essential Guide and Hedgehogs (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual) are both superb books, while The Hedgehog: An Owner’s Guide is older but still well worth a look.
African Pygmy Hedgehog Size
These little hedgehogs will normally grow to be about 6″-8″ long. They’re smaller than most mammals commonly kept as pets, and they won’t completely take over the house.
African Pygmy Hedgehog Lifespan
With proper care and attention you can expect your African Pygmy Hedgehog to live for between 4-6 years, with some even surviving for a couple of years beyond that.
African Pygmy Hedgehog Enclosure
African Pygmy Hedgehogs should always be kept individually, as they will almost certainly fight if kept together. This is especially true if you have two males. Some breeders manage to keep a few females together without any problems, but that’s not always possible and of course requires a much larger enclosure.
The minimum floor size for an African Pygmy Hedgehog is around six square feet, but give them as much space as you can and they’ll thank you for it. These are active animals that need as much room as possible, despite their small size. There are plenty of suitable cages you can use, including aquariums, commercial guinea pig cages or rabbit cages and even plastic storage containers with holes drilled in the sides to provide ventilation.
For a single African Dwarf Hedgehog, we recommend the Midwest Guinea Habitat, available on Amazon by clicking the link. It’s designed for guinea pigs but it’s ideal for hogs as well. It is literally the perfect hedgehog cage, providing plenty of room and yet somehow it only costs $43 (at the time of writing). And don’t think it’s cheap because of poor workmanship or low quality – there are more than 2000 reviews on Amazon backing this cage!
If you want a cage that looks a little flashier, you can’t go wrong with the Living World Deluxe Habitat. This is another superb cage for African Pygmy Hedgehogs and this one looks amazing too. The only reason it’s not our first recommended cage is because the Living World Deluxe is more expensive, although $65 is still fantastic value for what you get.
If for some reason you choose a different cage, you must absolutely avoid wire floors, and if the sides are wired then make sure the gaps between wires are as small as possible to prevent any unfortunate little hedgehog limbs getting stuck. The cage should be kept out of direct sunlight and away from cold drafts in the house, and should be cleaned out once a week or so with products that don’t have strong odors.
For the bedding there are also lots of options. Aspen shavings are traditionally used, but many people have success with everything from bits of old fleece and snuggle sack to Astroturf (after sealing the edges with heat).
African Pygmy Hedgehog Cage Accessories
Your African Pygmy Hedgehog will need somewhere to hide away and sleep, which can be anything from a cardboard box to one of the plastic igloos designed for guinea pigs, depending on your budget and what you think looks best.
Also essential is an exercise wheel, as obesity can be a real problem with these hogs. Again, make sure the surface is solid, not wired, and the wheel should ideally be about 11″ or 12″. The Kaytee Giant Silent Spinner Wheel is excellent and widely used.
Optional but recommended are a litter tray and a few toys. Use standard dust-free cat litter in a shallow dish, but be aware that your hedgehog may choose to ignore any toilet you provide it with. Toys are just to keep your hedgehog entertained: tubes are a real favorite, and balls with bells (like you’d get for a cat) are also popular. Just put a variety of things that can’t harm your hog in the cage and see what he/she likes most.
African Pygmy Hedgehog Temperature and Lighting
African Pygmy Hedgehogs should be kept at warm room temperature – around 70F-75F. To maintain this temperature during the colder months you can use a small heat mat (with a regulator) under the cage, but be sure to monitor the temperature closely.
If the temperature drops much below 70F then you risk your hedgehog attempting to hibernate. This should generally be avoided in captivity, as hibernation can prove fatal to your hog. If the temperature does drop too low, you should raise it again gradually but immediately, either with a heat pad or even by holding your pet against your skin.
African Pygmy Hedgehog Food and Water
A varied diet is best for pygmy hogs. The staple food should be a mixture of two or three different high quality, meat rich, dry cat foods. African Pygmy Hedgehogs suffer digestive problems if fed fish, so make sure the cat food is chicken flavor or similar. Keep an eye on the fat content of the food you feed your hogs: 10% or under is best, but this can be hard to achieve. Obesity is a common health problem, as is fatty liver.
You can even get specially designed hedgehog food mixes now, which should be ideal for meeting your African Pygmy Hedgehog’s nutritional needs.
To supplement your hedgehog’s diet, live food such as crickets, cockroaches and mealworms will be gratefully received, as will many other foods that should only be given as occasional treats. These include egg (scrambled or boiled), peas, broccoli, apple, mashed potato, cooked lamb, chicken or mince, and possibly dog food.
Your hog will take water from a small bowl, which should be cleaned regularly. Some hedgehogs will also drink from a water bottle, but if you haven’t tried it before, you should also give them a water bowl until you’re certain your hog is drinking from the bottle.
You can read more on this topic by taking a look at our African Pygmy Hedgehog food page.
Handling African Pygmy Hedgehogs
Some hogs are more comfortable being handled than others, but most hedgehogs will get used to it if you pick them up frequently and are careful with them. At first, some will curl up into a ball, but will relax after a while and readily climb all over you. Even curled up in a ball, the spines don’t hurt too much, with the exception being if your hog curls up around your finger, which really does hurt.
Basically, be careful and patient, and you should soon be able to handle your African Pygmy Hedgehog without any problems.
Occasionally these hedgehogs will salivate heavily and spread the saliva all over their backs. This process, called self-anointing, seems to be triggered by one or two different smells, and involves some slightly bizarre contortions. It’s nothing to be worried about, but no one really knows why they do it.
If you’ve got any questions that we haven’t answered in this African Pygmy Hedgehog care sheet, please either get in touch or buy one of the dedicated hedgehog care books linked at the top of the page.