African Pygmy Hedgehog Care – The Ultimate Guide

African Pygmy hedgehog can be a great pet. However, you must understand what are the steps to the perfect African Pygmy hedgehog care if you want to raise a happy and healthy hedgie.

These animals are full of personality and low maintenance if cared for properly. If you follow the 8 steps in this article, you’ll feel ready and more confident on what to expect along the way.

To raise and care for a happy and healthy African Pygmy hedgehog, you must be fully prepared and know what to expect before and after you bring your new pet home.

African Pygmy Characteristics

The most popular hedgehog species for pets is the African Pygmy. This type of hedgehog is a hybrid of white-bellied and the Algerian hedgehog.

Moreover, the name “pygmy” is because of its small size.

Appearance: The African pygmy hedgehogs have long, pointy pink/brown snouts, with dark noses. In addition, they have round, dark eyes, oval brownish ears, and short, white hair on their brows, cheeks, and bellies.

Adult Size: They can grow 5 to 8 inches long and weigh between 1/2 to 1 1/2 pounds
Scientific Name‎: ‎Atelerix albiventris
Life Expectancy‎: ‎They can live up to 3 to 6 years in captivity

What to do before getting a hedgehog

What To Look For Before Getting African Pygmy Hedgehog

If you have decided to get African Pygmy hedgehog as a pet, it’s important to know what to look for before buying or adopting one.


If you’re buying African Pygmy hedgehog from a pet store, there is a higher chance of it falling ill but that still depend on the environment you’re going to care for it. Before picking your hedgehog, make sure you check if it’s in good condition.

Some of the things you must check for are the following:

  • Build up of dirt around the fur and quills
  • Scabs or injuries
  • If the hedgehog looks lethargic and not responsive
  • Hazy eyes
  • Look for signs that the hedgehog is overweight such as rolls around its armpits
  • Also, check for signs if your hedgehog is underweight
  • Signs of diarrhea in the cage. You’ll see green droppings.
  • Continuous scratching and itching

Is Owning Hedgehog Legal In My State

One of the first things you need to do before getting a hedgehog is to check if it’s legal to own one in the state you live in. In the United States hedgehogs are illegal in the following states

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Pennsylvania

Even if you don’t live in the mentioned states, you should still research if there are any legal restrictions.

Always Look For A Licensed Breeder

When getting hedgehog there are a different options available. One of them is getting it from a breeder. It’s important you do your research beforehand.

The reason for finding a reputable breeder is that the hedgehog is more likely to be well socialised and it will have higher chances of being healthy as the breeder will be familiar with the medical history of the hedgehog’s  parents.

Therefore finding a good and responsible breeder is essential if you want to avoid ending up with a sick hedgehog.

Follow these steps to make sure you make the right choices when it comes to a selecting a breeder:

  • Make  sure the breeder has, pedigree hedgehogs with no Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) or cancer in their medical history.
  • Check if they hold a license as breeder in US are required to hold a USDA license
  • There is available paperwork for you to sign when purchasing the hedgehog where you can view the breeder’s license number.
  • Try to avoid responding to ads on Craigslist and similar sites
  • Ask your breeder questions regarding the medical history of the hedgehog you’ve chosen and it’s parents.
    Take notice of his providing you with any guarantees and giving you the option of returning the hedgehog in the case of an early health problem.

What To Do After I Get A Hedgehog

If you want to know how to look after African Pygmy hedgehog successfully, make sure to follow the advice below. This way you’d be fully prepared before bringing your hedgehog into your home.

With that said, all the essentials must be set up and ready to go. Although, there are a few things that you can get at a later date, there are things that cannot wait.

  • Cage or enclosure
  • Bedding
  • Food and water bowl
  • Litter tray
  • Food

As your African Pygmy hedgehog will experience change of environment and a lot to adjust to, you need to make sure you give it at least a month to settle in and familiarise itself with yourself and the new surroundings.

You can do the following in order to bond with your African Pygmy hedgehog:

  • It’s recommended to hold your hedgehog every day in order to get used to being handled and to your scent.
  • Although, you don’t need to necessarily hold it near your chest, you can just place it on your lap and gently rub its belly or paws.
  • You shouldn’t try to feed it treats by holding them in your hand as this would build trust.
  • In addition to that, you can put an old shirt or sweater in its cage so it can get used to your scent and feel safe around it.

Where Will My Hedgehog Sleep

For your African Pygmy hedgehog care, you must provide it with a suitable enclosure or cage. This is extremely important for their well being.

By having this space, they would be able to roam around freely. In addition, it would also remove the risk of escaping and hurting themselves around your house, for example ingesting something that can kill them or make them feel unwell.

Look for the following when picking your African Pygmy hedgehog’s cage:

  • At least 1 metre of floor space is needed for your hedgehog to be able to move around comfortably.
  • Guinea pig enclosures are suitable to be used.
    At the same time, you should avoid getting wired cage bottoms as their feet can get caught and the hedgehog can get hurt and panicked.

In addition to the cage or enclosure, you must provide the following:

  • Suitable bedding would be soft such as an old sweater or fleece. Nevertheless, stay away from using pine aspen chips as begging because this can cause respiratory problems in your hedgehog.
    Similar to that, avoid wood chip bedding to prevent your hedgehog getting splinters in its soft areas.
  • Keep your hedgehog warm by selecting suitable bedding such as fleece. Avoid using clothing with holes in it as your hedgehog can get stuck.
  • Placement of the cage/enclosure it’s equally important. Avoid placing it in loud areas of your house such as above/below TV or stereo, away from vacuums. Be aware of your hedgehog’s sensitive hearing as loud noises can make them anxious and stressed.
    In addition, this anxiety can cause them to be afraid and not want to come out to play or eat.
  • Cleanliness. Make sure you keep their cage/enclosure clean. The reason for that is to minimise the risk of disease such as bacterial infections and quill mites. Additionally, it will prevent bad smells in your house.

Room Temperature

In addition to providing your hedgehog with appropriate enclosure and bedding, you must ensure the temperature in your house is also appropriate.

Hedgehogs feel the most comfortable at around 72ºF (22.2ºC) to 80ºF (26.6ºC).

Unlike the European hedgehog species, African Pygmy’s cannot survive during hibernation period due to their small size and not enough body fat.

Therefore, if they start showing signs of hibernation such as lethargy and not waking up, they must be warmed up.

On the other hand if it’s too hot, your hedgehog might experience stress and anxiety. Therefore the position of the cage should be out of direct sunlight to avoid extreme temperatures.

To summarise, if you notice your hedgehog trying to spread out in the cage, it might be too hot. On the other hand, if you notice it becoming lethargic, you should warm it up by using your own body heat.

That’s why it’s important to keep an eye for any changes in behaviour, so you can act promptly.

Hedgehog Diet

To know how to look after a hedgehog who is healthy and happy, you must have all the information on the correct diet for your new pet.

Usually, African Pygmy hedgehog’s diet consists of fruits, insects in the form of mealworms and dry cat food. Unfortunately, some cat foods can be high in fats which can result in your hedgehog gaining weight. With that said, incorrect diet can result in your hedgehog either becoming overweight or underweight.

Overall, your hedgehog’s diet should be low in fat and sugar content to prevent weight problems, such as Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome.

Another thing to look out for is foods that can be potentially toxic to your hedgehog. Some of those foods you should avoid are the following:

  • Grapes
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Chocolate
  • dairy products, any kind of junk food
  • citrus fruits
  • Breads
  • Raw carrots and Tomatoes
  • Honey

As a result, these toxic foods can lead to various health problems such as GI distress and death. Always do research first before you feed something to your hedgehog.

On the other hand, including live insects to your hedgehog’s diet can be very beneficial to maintaining their natural feeding and hunting habits.

Another important thing when it comes to their care and diet, is the time and frequency they should be fed.

African Pygmy hedgehogs should be fed once a day around twilight time as they are nocturnal animals and that’s their most active time.

Activities, Toys and More

Regardless of how little hedgehog’s eat, they should still stay active and be provided with the tools to exercise.

In order to do that, it’s recommended to add the following to their enclosure or cage:

  • Exercise wheel is vital to their exercise and keeping physically healthy. Running is the main source of a hedgehog’s exercise and they can run up to 20km per night.
    Therefore, providing them with an exercise wheel will keep them happy and engaged.
  • A hiding spot. Hedgehog’s are nocturnal animals and that’s when they hunt for their food.

    It’s recommended to build them a small fort from clothing or papers for them to be able to hide and relax.
  • A must for their cage is a litter tray to use as a toilet. This should be no more than ½ inch in size order to be easily accessible and so they can get their little legs over it.
    In addition, purchase kitty litter that’s non clumping and make sure you clean the litter tray daily.

African Pygmy Hedgehog Care And Grooming

In order to provide your African Pygmy hedgehog with the appropriate care, you must put time aside to “pamper” them. With that said, your hedgehog will need the following grooming:

  • Make sure you give them gentle baths regularly. To do this, use lukewarm water and avoid getting water in their ears to prevent ear infections.

    In addition, you should use a toothbrush to clean its quills. After bath, make sure you dry it and keep it warm to prevent hibernation
  • Trim their nails. Normally, when in their natural habitat, hedgehogs will wear down their claws. As this isn’t possible as pets, you must trim their nails when they get too long.

    It’s recommended to place the hedgehog in your lap and hold their paw gently by spreading their nails. Lastly, you must only clip the white tip of the nail to avoid causing injury

Hedgehog’s Behaviours – What’s Normal?

In order to keep a happy and healthy African Pygmy hedgehog as a pet, you must pay attention to its behaviours and know when something is out of the ordinary.

There are a range of the normal behaviours to be expected. Some of those are the following:

  • As all other hedgehogs, African Pygmy hedgehog’s quills can change their shape depending on your pet’s emotions. For example, if they are calm the quills would be flat, if curious or unsure – the spikes might raise slightly and when frightened, the quills will go fully up and act as protection.
  • Once you build your relationship with your new pet and they trust you, you might experience shoelaces, socks being stolen as a form of play.
  • Self-anointing is a normal behaviour for a hedgehog and it acts as a defence mechanism.
  • New scents. Normally, when hedgehogs smell something new or something they particularly like, they would lick or bite the source of that scent. This might be a bit worrying to see at first, but don’t be alarmed as it’s a normal behaviour.
  • Hedgehogs shed their quills twice in its life. This is process is similar to us losing our baby teeth. Usually this occurs at around 6 to 8 weeks old.
  • As mentioned before, hedgehogs are nocturnal. Therefore they exercise and eat at night. This is part of their biology and you need to adjust to their body clock.

African Pygmy Hedgehog Care And Health

Overall, most health problems can be prevented by providing the appropriate care for your African Pygmy hedgehog. However, there is a list of illnesses that can occur. Some of those are the following:

  • Obesity
  • Parasites
  • Respiratory infections
  • Eye injury or irritation
  • Salmonella infection
  • Dental disease and gum disease. This can be prevented by feeding your hedgehog the correct diet, routine brushing and scaling
  • Fungal skin disease
  • Leg and foot injuries
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is not common in domesticated hedgehogs but it can occur

As hedgehogs are considered exotic animals, it’s important to find a vet with the relevant experience. You must take your hedgehog for physical examination every 6 to 12 months.

In addition, you should also include the following in the your hedgehog’s health care:

  • Annual faecal examination for parasites
  • Any necessary blood tests


African Pygmy hedgehog care is low maintenance if done properly. Hedgehogs have great personality and are easy to care for! Things to remember from this article are the following:

  • Select a reputable breeder and ask about medical history
  • Pick the correct cage or enclosure along with bedding, feeding bowls and exercise wheel
  • Find an exotic pet’s vet with the relevant experience
  • Know your African Pygmy hedgehog’s normal behaviours
  • Your hedgehog diet should be low fat, low diet. Some cat foods are appropriate. They love live insects!
  • Don’t forget to wash them and clip their nails

And lastly, don’t forget to give them a lot of love and affection!

Find out more about what are suitable Types Of Hedgehogs For Pets


My name is Iliyana and I'm a passionate animal lover and pet owner. As there is significantly less information online about unusual and exotic pets, I decided to found this website and recruit expert writers to help pet owners.

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