It’s very important to know what foods are best for your African Pygmy pet hedgehog, and which ones can cause harm.
So, what is a good hedgehog’s diet?
To start with the basics, they are primarily insectivores.
In the wild, their diet is mainly composed of insects, however they will eat pretty much any food they can find appealing.
Luckily, domesticated hedgehogs do not necessarily require insects as part of their diet, although they will love you more if you provide them as a treat!.
An interesting fact is that commercial edibles suitable for hedgehogs are inexpensive.
The reason behind is that they only need between 1-2 tablespoons per day, depending on their size, with their primary intake being something very simple and easy to find… cat food!
Now, I’ll get into the details of dietary restrictions, hedgehog food guidelines, and the best types for your pet hedgehog.
Hedgehog Diet Restrictions
Hedgehogs have somewhat a sensitive digestive system and can become obese easily, so it’s important to know what types of meals can be harmful and what to avoid.
– They are lactose intolerant, so it’s important to avoid most dairy products. Nevertheless, they can have a very small amount of yogurt or cottage cheese but no more than once per week.
– Hedgehogs can eat most meats (e.g, chicken and tuna), however you should avoid red and fatty meats due to the low-fat requirements they need.
– Although they do eat mainly insects in the wild, avoid bait shop insects because they can contain toxic insecticides.
– Some fruits, including grapes and raisins, are harmful in the way that their tummy will be very upset.
– Do not feed them with nuts – they are not digested very well, and are very difficult to chew as well.
Hedgehog Food Guidelines
There are some basic guidelines to follow for a correct diet, therefore to make sure your pet hedgehog is being fed with the proper nutrients. This includes:
– Meals with high level of proteins and low percentage of fats. This is to replicate the intake ratio in the wild, where they feed primarily off insects.
– Hedgehogs love variety, so incorporate small amounts of safe snack (listed further below) into their meals from time to time.
Primary and Secondary Nutrition Sources
There are a few primary sources of nutrients for hedgehogs.
Again, while they eat mainly insects such as mealworms, the main portion on their diet should be dry meals that can have similar fat to protein ratio.
1. Hedgehog food formulas
Pet stores sell dry meals made specifically to meet the hedgehog’s insectivore diet requirements.
Some brands make a great option since it is prepared specifically for a balanced nutrition.
Despite of the above, many breeders do not recommend certain brands because some meals are not made with quality ingredients.
Keep the following points in mind when selecting a decent formula:
– Some formulas are a little bit harder to find that cat alternatives.
– As they are more specific for them, they are a little more expensive than other similar meals for pets.
– Not all meals are made for all types the species. Make sure the type you buy is appropriate for the species you have, which in most cases are African Pygmy).
In general, there are a couple of brands that are suggested as nutrition source:
2. High protein, low fat dry cat food
Cat food is a great choice for hedgehogs because the protein to fat ratio is very similar to that required by an insectivore’s diet.
Most breeders recommend using cat food though.
A couple points to keep in mind when selecting the right product:
– Choose the ones for adults. Although, the kibbles may be larger than kitten food, baby cat food is high in fat and is not healthy for hedgehogs.
– It should contain a minimum of 30% protein and more than 15% fat.
Many breeders recommend mixing a few different brands together to ensure that they receives a well-rounded diet.
Some brands that follow the guidelines above and come highly recommended by breeders are:
(For more options, check out a complete chart of acceptable cat foods from Hedgehog Central)
These foods can be fed to your hedgehog in addition to dry alternatives.
This is to ensure that they are getting a balanced diet and to add a little bit of variety into their meal time.
Please note that they should be served in small amounts (no more than a teaspoon per serving, according to the reputable breeders at Blissful Quills Hedgehogs), 3-4 days per week.
Fruits and vegetables
Hedgehogs love an occasional fruit treat. However, some fruits can be harmful to them.
Keep the following in mind when feeding your pet hedgehog with fruit:
– As discussed before, do not feed them with grapes or raisins.
– The amount of fruit should be minimal so that to keep the sugar levels low.
Hedgehogs can eat most types of meat. Here are a few guidelines of what to avoid:
– Never feed a hedgehog raw meat, no matter if it is even chicken.
– Meat should be cooked without seasoning, using any method other than frying.
– Do not feed your hedgehog processed or canned meat.
– Crickets, silkworms or mealworms are the best types of insects for pet hedgehogs.
– Ensure that the insects are farm-raised. You can find these types of insects at pet stores.
– Never feed them insects from your garden or from a bait shop. These insects can contain poisonous insecticides and chemicals.
Baby food makes an excellent treat for hedgehogs because they contained already-prepared and easy to digest ingredients.
They warn against feeding your pet hedgehog any baby food labeled above Stage 2, because of the added sugar content and other ingredients.