When it comes to feeding hedgehogs, it's important to remember that "can" doesn't always mean "should." The jury is still out whether hedgehog diets should contain any vegetables, and you're likely to hear strong opinions on both sides in your career as a hedgehog caregiver. Unfortunately, their exact nutritional needs aren't fully understood.
Hedgehogs are insectivores. The vast bulk of their wild diet is bugs, but they also eat small mammal, bird and amphibian prey and carrion, as well as some vegetable matter. This doesn't mean pet hogs' diet should be mostly insects: It isn't safe to catch wild insects for your hog because they can be contaminated with insecticides, and only a few feeder insect species are available as pet food. Pet store feeder insects, frankly, are not the best staple foods. Their phosphorus and fat contents are very high, which can lead to nutritional imbalance; most have hard exoskeletons, which can lead to gut impaction; and the ones you buy in pet stores require several days of a high-quality diet themselves to be nutritious. Hedgehogs should get some feeder bugs, but their base diet should be high-quality dry kitten or cat food, or a zoo-quality packaged insectivore diet, plus treats of high-quality canned cat or dog food, cottage cheese and cooked egg. Some veterinarians and hedgehog enthusiasts include fresh fruit and vegetable mixtures in the "treat" category.
How Much Is a Treat?
Perhaps nothing causes so much confusion in pet feeding as what constitutes an appropriate amount of treat. It's common to hear the words "in moderation" a lot, without ever getting a definition of "moderation." Hedgehogs are very small -- an appropriate amount of hedgehog treat is similarly small: no more than one heaping teaspoon. That isn't the spoon you're eating ice cream with as you read this -- it means a measuring teaspoon, with a very slightly rounded amount inside it.
Dark, Green and Leafy
Veterinarian-recommended hedgehog fruit and veggie mixes are based on nutritious greens. Kale, romaine or leaf lettuces and collard greens are all good choices. Iceberg lettuce has no place in a pet's diet -- it's mostly water and has very low nutrient content. Spinach is recommended by many veterinarians but contains high levels of oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption in some species. Until more is known about hedgehogs' nutritional needs, it may be safest to avoid it.
More Substantial Vegetables
Carrots, peas, green beans and sweet corn are also recommended veggie treats for your hog. Hedgehogs have very small mouths and aren't terribly good at chewing hard veggies, so carrots should be shredded, and peas and beans can be steamed. These veggies can be mixed with chopped greens and fruits such as shredded apple or chopped banana, and the mix should be fed in 1-teaspoon increments.
- Hedgehog Central: Basic Hedgehog Facts
- Texas Technical University: Hedgehog Food
- Animal Health Clinic of Fargo, North Dakota: Hedgehog Care
- Hedgehog Care: Food and Diet
- Michigan Hedgehog Owners' Group: Hedgehog Products - Food and Treats
- Millermeade Farm's Hedgehog Headquarters: Diet Recommendations
- Exotic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Technician; Bonnie Ballard, DVM, Ryan Cheek, RVT
- Mazuri: Hedgehog
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Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.