Hedgehogs are primarily insectivores. Their most preferred diet being insects as they can easily digest chitin (part of the hard exoskeleton) extracted from insects. The food adds high protein content to their diet giving them more energy. However, for the pet hedgehog, their diet is more of that of an omnivore.
They feed on multiple foods groups including protein, low-fat carbs, fruits, vegetables, and water, which is very essential to them. From fish and chicken, Asparagus and green collards, watermelons, and berries, their diet is wholehearted.
For a deeper understanding of what foods are essential, harmful, healthy, and most preferred, read the following subsections for an even deeper understanding.
Foods they Eat – Natural & Treats
As mentioned above, hedgies feed on just about anything. Even though they will be more inclined to feed on insects, there is a variety of food choices open to your pet. Let’s have a look at them.
First up is proteins. For the highest protein value, hedgehogs should primarily feed on insects such as mealworms, crickets, and waxworms. You can choose between live or freeze-dried. Live is most preferred as the chitin is fresh and offers the best mental stimulation for the hedgie to work towards getting more.
Insects are relatively safe for them to feed on however, there are a few considerations. One, waxworms are very high in fat and low in chitin and should, therefore, be more of a treat than a natural food they eat on a daily. Two, getting insects can be difficult because you wouldn’t know, which one is free from insecticides or other deadly or poisonous chemicals. Hence, without the access to clean and safe to eat insects, feed your hedgie other sources of proteins such as;
- Fish – Salmon or Tuna
- Cooked meat – either low-fat canned dog or cat food.
- Cooked eggs – scrambled or hard-boiled eggs are packed with proteins.
Avoid seasoned, dried, or fried meats.
Vegetables offer some variety and difference in taste, controlled sugar, and low in fat. You can feed your hedgie proteins daily as a meal or even a snack. Here’s an exhaustive list of vegetable hedgehogs can eat;
- Collard greens
- Cooked squash
- Dandelion greens
- Green beans
- Green peppers
- Romaine lettuce
- Sweet potatoes
Fruits are high in vitamins and minerals. They aid keep your hedgehog healthy for longer, allowing them to love for longer. However, fruits can be high in sugar content like, therefore, fruits should be ingested with moderation. Peel of any skin from the fruit before giving it to you hedgie. The skin more often than not is bitter and can be a choking hazard to them.
Here are fruits acceptable for your hedgehog;
- Squash & Pumpkin
Avoid dried fruit
Hedgehog/cat kibble is also a common food component in your hedgies diet. It contains moderate levels of protein, fat, and starch. It’s ideal only if it meets the right nutritional requirements and doesn’t include food allergens not advisable to feed hedgies.
Pets love treats and snacking on delicious fatty foods occasionally. Every once in a while, you should feed them a treat outside their normal diet just to make them feel special. Furthermore, this small gesture can strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Allowing your hedgie to feel comfortable and loved around you. This trick often works when you’re trying to win over their heart.
The treat is also a good way to offer more than just nutritional benefits. You all know sugar and fat goes a long way when it comes to getting you excited. There isn’t an expansive list of treats to feed your pet because mostly it’s all about preference. Just simply ensure you stay within its good feeding habits that don’t include milky chocolates, raisins, or nuts.
A common treat is pinky mice. Where the hedgie feeds on a tiny mouse as it would in the wild. This really does it for them and if you could, make it a weekly treat. Otherwise, the intervals of including treats in daily, weekly, or monthly routines are entirely up to you.
The number one drink is water. Endeavor to always refill their water bottle with clean fresh water as they drink it just as much as humans do. Other than that, hedgehogs are not big on drinks. Occasional yogurt isn’t harmful but it should be taken with moderation as the pets are lactose intolerant.
Tips to Ensure Their Nutritional Requirements are Met
After going through the overview of the best foods to feed your hedgie, here are a few tips to guide you on fulfilling the nutritional requirements of your hedgehog.
- It’s vital to understand the fundamentals of your pet’s diet as a guide for nutritional fulfillment. Master the dos and donts plus acceptable and unacceptable foods.
- A healthy hedgehog diet should be very high in protein, low in fat, and moderate in sugar. Sticking to these guidelines would keep your hedgie happy and healthy.
- A variety of foods should also be included in their diet. Just because they love and prefer high protein-low fat content doesn’t mean they can’t incorporate other options to their diet. So include a variety of foods.
- It’s okay to feed you hedgehog cat food. Cat foods have the same nutrients as that of hedgehog foods. Besides, cat food is readily available in the store and isn’t hard to prepare. Cat food will have the essential nutritional requirements needed for your hedgie’s diet.
- Rely on your own doods rather than store items for high willing ingredients. Store-bought items are often dry and the nutritional benefits aren’t the same as that of a fresh vegetable. Therefore, don’t invest much in that.
- Avoid hedgehog formulas stocked in stores. If you have to choose a store-bought item go for cat food since is cheaper, has better high-quality ingredients, and has numerous availability options.
- Always go for hard food rather than moist. Hard foods have more fiber which is essential for their diet. Hard foods also help hedgies with their teeth. At least they will have something to crunch on.
- If you have to choose between adult and baby food, go for adult food because baby food will have high-fat content. Exactly what we are trying to avoid. Regardless of how easy baby food will be to chew on, their health is more important.
- Use the right food percentages when shopping for food. This means, keep the food within these parameters over 20% protein and between 5-15% fat. This will help you keep their diet safe and healthy.
- Dairy and dairy products is a very sensitive area since you all know hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. However, dairy products have high protein content therefore you can feed the hedgie some dairy products occasionally. Foods like cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, and cooked eggs. Incorporating into the meals once a week is adequate
Foods You Shouldn’t Give Pet Hedgehogs
As exhaustive as the list above is, there are specific foods you should give hedgehogs. Here’s a list of the most common foods to avoid;
- Grapes – these are toxic to hedgehogs and can cause them liver, renal, or even organ failure even when consumed in low quantities.
- Citrus fruits like pineapples
- Dairy products – foods such as cheese should also be avoided as hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and the foods could upset their tummies.
- Insects from bait shops – these have already been exposed to harsh chemicals that could harm them.
- Meat – red, over-processed, seasoned, and fried.
- Specific treats – raisins, chocolates, nuts, and other edible seeds.
- Fatty foods
- Garlic and onions
- Dried vegetables
These are just but a few of the foods you should avoid. The list may change from time to time as preference also plays a role in this. You could find your hedgehog enjoys fresh tomatoes, feed it in moderation.
More about Hedgehogs