Hedgehogs are widely recognized woodland animals due to their cute, prickly appearance and timid temperament, making them safe to hang out in your yard or even keep as pets.
But, very few know much else about them, apart from the fact that sometimes people leave cat food out for them to eat from time to time.
So, if they’re not domesticated, and they aren’t being fed by a friendly neighbor, what do they actually eat out in the wild? And what is safe to feed them if one makes his way into your yard looking for some lunch?
If you’re looking to keep a hedgehog as a pet, you’re probably wondering how you would go about feeding them. Well, you came to the right place, this article will discuss all things hedgehog food, what they can eat and what they definitely shouldn’t eat.
Keep reading to find out!
Hedgehog lifestyle and eating behaviors
They may seem timid and slow, but Hedgehogs actually have a pretty greedy eating style as a result of their high energy lifestyle when living in the wild. Did you know they can cover up to 12 miles a night? That’s a lot of foraging!
Generally, research suggests hedgehogs are better suited to digesting insects than plants. This is probably why they have 36 teeth! 22 of which are sharp molars and premolars, perfect for crunching and chewing their food.
Hedgehogs hibernateduring the cold months in colder climates, so they rely on fat reserves during the hot seasons. So, they gain weight very easily, this is something to take into consideration when it comes to feeding them.
What do wild hedgehogs eat?
Hedgehogs living in the wild will feed on a range of things and tend to survive on a ‘whatever they can get their claws on’ basis.
As a result, they are well adapted to experiencing lots of different textures, tastes and smells.
Lots of their diet consists of invertebrates (insects) such as slugs, caterpillars, worms, beetles and earwigs.
But, hedgehogs thrive on lots of protein, so some of their diet will come from vertebrates like baby rodents, frogs, and baby birds, if they’re able to catch them.
They have also been known to feed on fungi, vegetation, eggs and some fruit.
On top of their natural diet, hedgehogs also get some of their food from friendly humans that leave food out for them in their yard. They make use of this to fill up whenever they struggle to find enough of their own food in the wild. They don’t tend to rely on humans for food, though, like lots of people tend to believe.
Like we said, some hedgehogs can travel as far as 12 miles in one night and are actually good runners, so they don’t usually struggle to find food.
What do domesticated hedgehogs eat?
Lots of people tend to think the only thing you can feed hedgehogs is cat food, but there are actually lots of things you can feed them.
Those who keep hedgehogs as pets tend to feed them a variety of things to give them all the nutrients they need to grow healthily. Plus, hedgehogs naturally have a varied diet, so owners should try to replicate it as best they can.
Hedgehog owners also need to take into consideration what kinds of foods will best suit their pet hog throughout each stage of his life cycle. So, there may be times when he’s more active and requires more energy, there may be times when he is ill and needs more fat to fight off the illness, climate and season may also come into play as well.
If you were to feed a fully grown hob that is prone to weight gain, you should look into food that is lower in fat and protein, for example.
A good tip if you’re feeding an overweight hedgehog, take into consideration the fact that they find it easier to digest insects so try feeding them some fibrous vegetables, this will allow your hog to eat more without consuming a high amount of calories.
That being said, hedgehogs have a lot of flexibility in their diet and are very well adapted to eating whatever is available to them depending on their habitat. So, they’re more than capable of consuming proteins and fats, too.
It’s important that owners feed their hogs a good variety of tastes, textures and smells because that’s what they would be getting out in the wild. Simply feeding them dry cat kibble won’t give them the nutrients or eating experience they need.
Let’s take a look at the types of food pet hedgehogs feed on.
Cat kibble (or other protein sources)
Cat or dog food like kibble as their main food source. You can actually purchase special hedgehog food, but cat kibble will do fine.
When giving a hedgehog sources of protein, make sure you don’t overdo it, as this can cause excessive weight gain.
You also need to make sure the protein source is suitable for hogs to digest, so something like chicken is a good option.
If you opt for store-bought hedgehog food, just make sure the ingredients list predominantly fresh meat and not artificial ingredients. This will add no nutritional value to your hedgehogs diet.
Certain fruits and vegetables
Including some safe to eat fruits and veggies is a great way to include different tastes and textures and some lower calorie nibbles for your hog.
There are plenty to choose from that a good for hedgehogs, these include:
- Apples – eaten in moderation, apples are a deliciously crunchy treat for hedgehogs. They are high in natural sugars, so they should only be given as a treat now and again
- Leafy greens – hedgehogs love veggies like broccoli, cucumber, lettuce and more. You might have to cook some of the tougher veggies to make them easier for hogs to eat. Just make sure you feed them bite-size pieces
- Berries – organic blueberries and raspberries in particular are okay for hedgehogs to eat, opt for organic if you can because these will less likely have been sprayed with possibly harmful chemicals
- Strawberries – a top choice for hogs, they are nice and sweet but don’t contain as much sugar as other fruits. Just make sure you cut them up into bite-size pieces for your little prickly friend
If owners are able to purchase some from pet stores or online, this can be a nice treat for hogs.
Obviously, if they were living in the wild, insects would be a major source of nutrients for your hog.
When purchasing insects for feeding hedgehogs, you can either buy them, dead, alive, or canned. It doesn’t really matter which option you go for, your hog will appreciate you for it either way.
It is important to note though that you must not feed your hog insects that you yourself have collected from your yard or in a woodland area, as you don’t know if those insects have any parasites that could harm your hog.
Just like other household pets like cats and dogs, hedgehogs need a constant source of clean water available to them to drink as and when they please.
What can’t hedgehogs eat?
Despite hedgehogs’ varied diet, there are of course things you shouldn’t feed them. Some things are bad just because they contain too much fat or sugars, but other things are completely no-go foods because they could seriously harm them.
Let’s take a look at what you shouldn’t give to hedgehogs:
- Large, hard-to-chew foods – hedgehogs may have plenty of sharp teeth to crunch and chew their food, but their mouth are still pretty small, so they need to be given food in small, bite-size chunks
- Pork & beef – these proteins are much harder for the little hogs to digest
- Artificial preservatives – certain ones have been linked to tumor growth in hedgehogs
- Grapes – grapes can be toxic for hedgehogs and can damage their liver and kidneys. Do not feed your hog grapes under any circumstances
- Oranges – oranges are another no-go fruit. In fact, all citrus fruits including lemons and limes are too acidic for hogs. Over time, they can do damage to his digestive tract and put your hog at risk
- Processed foods – don’t be tempted to feed your hog some of your leftover dinner, this could be toxic or just increase weight gain
How much food should hedgehogs eat?
This will depend on the external factors mentioned earlier such as the climate, age, health etc. of your hog.
It’s a good idea to keep weight records of your hog to keep an eye on unhealthy weight gain and make sure you are providing him with the correct ratio of nutrients as to not give him too much protein, fats or sugars.
Don’t be tempted to overfeed your hog as a sign of your love for them, start off with small portions of each food group and monitor their weight and make adjustments accordingly.