From providing enough space with many toys to play with, up to keeping your hedgehog warm and comfortable. In this article, we explore how to set up a good home for your prickly friend. We discuss all you need to know to properly set up a great hedgehog cage in 5 easy steps.
A hedgehog cage needs a minimum space of 60cm x 45cm (24″ x 18″), good bedding or layer of a substrate, heating to keep your hedgehog warm, and enough activities to keep your hedgehog busy and entertained. With these features, you keep your hedgehog healthy and happy.
Setting up a hedgehog cage is not difficult, but there are several important things to think about. With this guide, we deliver 5 easy steps to set up your hedgehog enclosure properly, so your new pet has a fantastic home. Find out below what you need to think of.
- How do you set up a hedgehog cage? — 5 easy steps
How do you set up a hedgehog cage? — 5 easy steps
You want to keep a hedgehog, but you wonder how to set up the perfect hedgehog enclosure. I can relate to that. You probably have many questions about what the best way is to do that. With these 5 steps, you will have a perfect home for your future friend in no time.
#1 Basics — What are the minimum requirements for a hedgehog cage?
We start off with the basics. And the basic backbone is, of course, the hedgehog cage. Now, there is a myriad of different cages that can be used for hedgehogs. There are 3 factors that you should take into account when searching for the perfect hedgehog cage:
- Size: Hedgehogs are small animals but require enough room to move around and all the necessary equipment. So you don’t want to have a cage that is too small. Choose a cage that is at least 60cm by 45cm by 45cm (24″ by 18″ by 18″), but preferably go larger when you have the room and budget. I always choose a cage that is at least 100cm (40″) wide.
- Durability: You probably want a cage that sustains for many years (remember that a hedgehog has a lifespan of up to 10 years). Therefore choose a cage of high-quality material and that is safe for pet animals. Plastic and metal cages are preferred over wood, because it is easier to clean, will not be destroyed by the animal quickly and can sustain urine and faeces better.
- Solid floor: Preferably, you choose a cage with a solid floor. Hedgehogs need substrate, and this will otherwise fall out. Besides that, hedgehogs are very adventurous and may get stuck with their foot if you choose a mesh floor cage.
While hedgehogs are a popular pet, there are still not many cages specifically designed for them. So probably you have to choose a cage that is actually sold for other pets instead. Generally, guinea pig, hamster or small mammal cages will suit best, at least if you consider the above three factors.
Wire cages are perfect for keeping hedgehogs. They are strong and durable cages and often have a solid floor tray. But choose cages that have the metal bars not further apart than 1.25cm (0.5″); otherwise, your hedgehog maybe tries to escape between them. Hedgehogs like to climb and will use the metal bars to climb up sometimes.
Good ventilation is also important, and a wire cage will have more than sufficient ventilation. If you choose another type of enclosure, like a glass aquarium or plastic bin, you need to make sure there is enough fresh air flowing. That means you sometimes need to adjust the enclosure so that there is enough ventilation.
With the above information, now it is time to search for your perfect hedgehog cage. You can start your search here on Amazon.
Are you pretty handy yourself? You can also choose to build your own cage for your hedgehog. When you do, try to avoid a cage entirely made out of wood. You can use wood as the base structure, but cover it with metal or plastic plates or use trays so the wood won’t damage and the enclosure will endure longer.
#2 Bedding — What do you put on the bottom of a hedgehog cage?
Once you found the perfect hedgehog home, it is time to set it up. The first step is to choose a bedding — also called a substrate. A proper hedgehog home has a good layer of soft bedding.
There is much debate on which bedding is best for hedgehogs, and it also depends on your preference as keeper and your individual hedgehog. Therefore, I will list the most used types of bedding, so you can choose which one suits you and your animal best.
- Small mammal granule bedding
This product is dust-free and has high absorbent properties. Many keepers like this bedding because it is soft and comfortable, and it is great for odour control. A wide variety of brands sell this type of bedding, and is widely available at many pet shops.
- Aspen shavings
Aspen bedding or aspen shavings is a more traditional used bedding but still works really well for small mammals like hedgehogs. It is a natural product without any additives. This product is great for a hedgehog to play in and burrow itself. But be aware, aspen shavings will more quickly escape the cage. So be prepared to do a bit of cleaning around the enclosure as well.
- Paper bedding
There are different types of paper bedding. Often it is based on paper pulp and sold in different shapes and colours. I prefer the one that doesn’t have colour in it and is free of inks. It works really well to control any odours and is free of dust. And most of all, it is also rather cheap.
You can also cover the cage with a cloth. Cloths are particularly comfortable for hedgehogs, and they really do like it. It is dust-free, but it can attract dust, and all other litter will get stuck on it. On the other hand, you can easily wash it and use it again. Hedgehogs tend to climb in or under the cloth, so they will still walk or lay on the cold cage floor. It depends on your hedgehog if cloths are suitable for you.
You can experiment with which bedding suits your hedgie best. If you want to try something else instead, that is just fine but be careful you use a suitable substrate. A good substrate must be:
- Easy to clean
- Low dust or dust-free
- Not attractive to eat
Bedding you should always avoid
There are some types of bedding you should always avoid. One of those is cedar shavings. Always stay away from cedar shavings because they have various toxins and acids that can cause serious health issues.
Another product you should avoid is gravel. It is rather hard, and some hedgehogs tend to eat the small pellets, causing an obstruction.
Sawdust is very dusty and not suitable for hedgehogs. It can cause respiratory problems (the same with most small mammal pets).
Avoid any product that stays wet, like garden soil. Garden soil contains too much moisture for your hedgehog and is also difficult to clean.
#3 Optimal environment — Do hedgehogs need heat lamps?
Hedgehogs need a warm environment, and unless you keep your room that warm, you need additional heating for your hedgehog cage. They need this because you want to avoid your hedgehog from going to hibernate.
Uncontrolled hibernation or estivation can cause serious health concerns, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing or new to keeping hedgehogs. So it is important to keep the enclosure warm all year round.
Heating can be done in four different ways:
- Using a (ceramic) heat lamp above the enclosure
- Using a heating pad below the enclosure
- Using a heater to heat the room
- A combination of two or more of the above
The optimal temperature to keep your hedgehog is between 23°C and 26°C (74°F and 80°F). This keeps them comfortable, and your hedgehog won’t start to hibernate.
It is pretty easy to set up and manage the temperature. Use on or 2 heat lamps and/or heat pads, and you are ready to go. Best would be to connect the heat pads to a thermostat. For heating lamps, use ceramic heating lamps so that it does not stay light during nights. They need a natural light cycle of 12h days and 12h night.
#4 Furniture — What should I put in my hedgehog cage?
Now, when you have done the previous steps, the basic setup is done. It is now time for the fun part: decorating your hedgehog cage. There are some essentials items you need to place in your hedgie’s enclosure. Hedgehogs will not be happy and comfortable without it.
Every hedgehog needs one or more hideouts for sleeping and resting. There are generally two types of hideouts: an igloo-shaped nestbox or a sleeping pouch. They come in many shapes, sizes and colours. The most important factor is that they are large enough for your hedgehog to climb in easily and have enough room to lay in it. A hideout can be filled with bedding or small cloths for them to sleep comfortably.
- Feeding and water bowls
Of course, you need a feeding bowl and water bowl to provide the nutrition they need. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but best would be if the bowls are heavy and have a flat bottom. Hedgehogs can be sometimes rough and will test if they can flip their food bowls over.
Start with a drinking bowl, but you can test if your hedgehog accepts a drinking bottle. Drinking bottles stay cleaner and don’t take any (floor) space in the enclosure.
- Litter tray
If you provide a litter tray, they can be trained to poop and pee most of the times there. Probably they don’t use it from day one, and sometimes you need to experiment where the best place is to put the litter tray. Once they use it, it will certainly make it easier to clean the cage.
GOOD PRACTICE TIP: If you have an exercise wheel (you should definitely buy one), you should try and place the litter tray beneath the exercise wheel. Oftentimes they do their needs when using the wheel.
- Activity and play items
Toys and activity items are essential to keep your hedgehog healthy and avoiding boredom. Hedgehogs like novel items and are curious creatures, always exploring and testing what is in their cage.
An exercise wheel — also called running wheel — is one of the most popular items to buy for them. But there is much more. You can buy little balls, fluffy toys, running pipes, digging boxes. There is so much available these days. When searching for items, don’t only look at “hedgehog items”. Items made for hamsters and rats can also be used for your hedgehog.
And it is not always necessary to buy an item. There are much items in your house that can be repurposed as a toy for your prickly friend. PVC pipes, old cloth, old stuffed animals, herbs. It is almost a never-ending list that you can use. But be aware: it is important that the items you provide are safe for your hedgie. So, make sure that the item you give:
- Entrap themself or body parts into the item;
- Get the item trapped in the mouth;
- Hang themself onto the item;
- Ingest or choke themself from (pieces of) the item;
- Cut or wound themself on the item;
- Not cause disease, or is toxic or irritating;
- Use the item to escape from the enclosure.
#5 Welcome home — Introduce your hedgehog to his new enclosure
When you followed every step above and everything is in place, it is now time to welcome your hedgehog to its new home. You can watch it enjoy its own space, playing and exploring the habitat you created.
It can be that the first few days or weeks, it will hide a lot or crawl away when you approach the cage. But hey, everything is new for him: new surroundings, new sounds, new smells. That can be a bit overwhelming. You will see that in a week, it will get more active and go exploring.
Now you can invest time to get to know each other and start bonding with your cute little hedgehog. Enjoy your new prickly friend!