African pygmy hedgehogs are becoming increasingly popular in the exotic pet world, and if you too are considering adding a hedgehog to your household, consider yourself in good company.
An estimated 40,000 Americans have found themselves smitten with these tiny, spiny creatures.
While African pygmy hedgehogs are considered to be a docile, low-maintenance animal, they’re not good pets for everyone.
In this article, we’ll learn about African pygmy hedgehogs in hopes of helping you decide whether or not they would make the right pet for you.
What Makes A Good Pet?
By society’s standards, a “good” pet is for the most part one that is temperamentally sound, is moderately easy to care for, and is going to be well-adjusted to a life consisting of constant human interaction.
The easiest way to know if a pet will be right for you is to first determine your expectations.
Why do you want a pet in the first place?
Are you interested in an animal you can easily play with or are you more intrigued by the prospect of watching the animal from a distance?
Are you looking for a pet that is low-maintenance or a pet that is going to require more time and care?
You should also keep in mind that not all pets are going to be “pet like” by society’s standards, and this can be especially true when considering an exotic animal as a pet.
By “pet-like” we are talking about pets who bond with their humans, enjoy being held, and adapt well to an environment outside of their natural habitat.
The truth is, many exotic pets can become stressed when handled too often.
Other exotic pets can be nocturnal, meaning you’ll hardly see them during the day and then, just as you’re turning off the light to get some sleep, they’ll be up and about keeping you awake.
But what about the African pygmy hedgehog? Will he make a good pet?
The answer is, it all depends on your situation. Read on to learn more.
What are African Pygmy Hedgehogs?
African pygmy hedgehogs are the most common type of domesticated hedgehog in the world.
While there are 23 species of hedgehog, the African pygmy is the type you’ll most likely see sold in pet stores and by breeders.
Hailing primarily from Nigeria, the African pygmy hedgehog is believed to be a cross between several hedgehog types that originated around the same area.
While the Romans began domesticating a variation of the hedgehog as early as the 4th century BC, modern domestication of pet hedgehogs is relatively new.
For this reason, most states in the U.S. require hedgehog breeders or those who sell pet hedgehogs to carry a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) license.
However, in states like Hawaii, Maine, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington D.C., owning a pet hedgehog is illegal.
This is likely because hedgehogs are considered to be exotic pets who have the potential to carry certain diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease.
For this reason, it’s incredibly important to take precautions when handling your pet hedgehog.
Temperamental Traits of African Pygmy Hedgehogs
If you’re looking for a nice, snuggly pet you can curl up with on the couch, you should probably look elsewhere!
African pygmy hedgehogs are covered in prickly spines that can give an unpleasant poke if handled incorrectly.
And like an armadillo, hedgehogs also have a habit of balling up when stressed. This action protects their soft underbelly, hides their face and limbs, and only allows their spikes to show.
This is a defense mechanism that is completely normal and should become less common as your hedgehog learns to trust you.
However, once he learns to trust you he can become affectionate and even cuddly!
Keep in mind that the African pygmy hedgehog is also nocturnal, which means he’ll be waking up as you’re getting ready for bed.
Luckily, he is said to be pretty quiet.
How Big Do African Pygmy Hedgehogs Get?
The African pygmy hedgehog is the smallest of the hedgehog species.
When fully grown, the African pygmy hedgehog will be anywhere from 6 to 11 inches long and weigh around 18 to 25 ounces.
How Do I Care for African Pygmy Hedgehogs?
In captivity, the domesticated African pygmy hedgehog can live up to ten years, however, it typically only averages about four to six.
While these are, for the most part, low-maintenance pets as far as exotic pets go, there are still some specific care requirements you should prepare for.
Always wash your hands before and after handling your hedgehog. Remember, these exotic pets have the potential to carry disease.
Hedgehogs are active animals who enjoy exercise.
African Pygmy Hedgehog Care
Aside from offering him an exercise wheel, we also recommend a large enough cage where he can burrow into his bedding.
Since hedgehogs are burrowers, we recommend soft bedding as opposed to wood chips.
You should also provide a hideout such as a pet igloo or an old shoe box of some sort since hedgehogs tend to feel safe in confined, dark areas.
You’ll want to clean their litter and bedding two to three times a week and do a full clean of the entire cage at least once a week.
This will help ensure both you and your hedgehog stay healthy.
Of course, fresh food and clean water should be offered every single day, and food bowls should be cleaned as necessary.
How Much Does a Pygmy Hedgehog Cost?
The average hedgehog can cost anywhere from $70-$300 depending on where you get it, its age, its color, and its temperament.
Since hedgehogs are solitary animals, you should be fine with purchasing just one.
There are some other costs involved in keeping these exotic cuties.
A Wire or Plastic Cage – $40 to $100
When looking for the right enclosure for your hedgehog, we recommend staying away from aquariums as they are difficult to keep clean and have poor ventilation.
Give your hedgehog the largest cage possible as he likes to exercise and be active.
A Small Animal Exercise Wheel – $5 to $10
Remember, hedgehogs are bigger than mice and hamsters. Be sure the wheel is the accurate size.
A Hiding Space – $5 to $20
Like most small animals, Hedgehogs feel safest in dark, burrow-like structures.
Anything from a PVC pipe to a shoebox will do.
You can also purchase specialty hideaways from pet stores just for hedgehogs.
Litter Tray – $5 to $10
Litter should be changed at least three times a week, while a full cage-cleaning (wipe down from floor to ceiling), should be done once a week.
Litter – $10 to $20
Experts agree that one bag of litter should last three to four months.
Hedgehogs are natural burrowers so be careful to get bedding that is soft and absorbent.
We don’t recommend wood chip bedding as the sharp wood shavings can injure your hedgehog as he burrows.
Always avoid cedar bedding, as it can be toxic to small animals.
Other essentials include:
- Food Bowl – $3 to $10
- Water Bottle – $5-$15
- Food – $10 to $20
Are African Pygmy Hedgehogs Expensive?
Since hedgehogs are relatively new as far as exotic pets go, there are very little options as far as specialized nutrition for them.
However, since they are known insect eaters and omnivores, you can opt for a high-quality cat food.
A four-pound bag of dry kibbles should last you about a month.
You can also feed your hedgehog insects.
Mealworms and crickets are consistent winners when it comes to hedgehog favorites, but they will also enjoy beetles, grasshoppers, and maggots.
Always get your insects from a pet store or specialty shop, as wild insects can carry pesticides and diseases transferable to your hedgehog.
Will the African Pygmy Hedgehog Make A Good Pet for Me?
As previously mentioned, African pygmy hedgehogs are illegal in some places.
Be sure to research your area and make sure you are in the clear before moving forward to purchase one of these spiky critters.
While it is relatively easy to find people who sell hedgehogs, it’s important to be sure you are getting your hedgehog from a responsible, reputable source.
Because sellers and breeders of hedgehogs are required by law to have certain licenses, they should be able to offer up health certificates proving their hedgehogs are adoptable.
Remember, hedgehogs are exotic pets that require special care from time to time.
But with caution, patience, and consistency, they have the potential to make a wonderful pet for the right person.
References and Further Reading
- Ellen S. Dierenfeld, PhD, CNS, Feeding Behavior and Nutrition of the African Pygmy Hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice
- Patricia Y. Riley, Bruno B. Chomel, Hedgehog Zoonoses, National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
- James Serpell, Guest Editor’s Introduction: Animals in Children’s Lives, University of Pennsylvania, Animals and Society
- D. McLauchlan, W. M. Henderson, The Occurrence of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in the Hedgehog Under Natural Conditions, Volume 45, Issue 4, Pages 474-479, Epidemiology & Infection
- Bruno B. Chomel, Albino Belotto, and Francois-Xavier Meslin, Wildlife, Exotic Pets, and Emerging Zoonoses, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health