The four-Toed Hedgehog
The African pygmy hedgehog
Species: Atelerix albiventris
The four-toed hedgehog is native to central Africa (Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, southern Mauritania). It can be found as high as 1500 m above the sea level. It prefers open woodland and grassy savannahs.
The four-toed hedgehog reaches about 15-22 cm in length and its weight ranges from 350 to 700 gr. Females are normally bigger than males.
As its name implies, the four-toed hedgehog typically has only four toes on each foot. Its snout is oblong and it has dark round eyes. The ears are oval-shaped. The coat on the belly, cheeks and eyebrows is short and soft. The legs and the tail are very short. Short spines (2-03 cm) cover the back, the sides and the front side of the hedgehog’s head. The spines are brown and white or black and white. The coat on the belly and on the snout is light-colored. The ears are brown. The four-toed hedgehogs can vary in colorations, in recent years many different morphs have been bred: chocolate, salt and pepper, cinnamon etc.
Due to their relatively small size and cute looks the four-toed hedgehog is now the most popular species of domesticated hedgehogs in the world.
The four-toed hedgehog digs holes under driftwood, finds shelters among stones, between the tree roots, in abandoned termite nests. It is a solitary animal that mostly walks on the ground, but it is a fairly quick runner, a good climber and swimmer. It is a nocturnal species. The four-toed hedgehog has very good hearing and sense of smell. It can find insects up to 5 cm under the ground. The eyesight is not so good though.
It hibernates in summer, from June to September.
When threatened, the hedgehog rolls into a ball, protecting its limbs and head.
The four-toed hedgehogs can make certain sounds: snorts, hisses, and a quiet twittering sound. When attacked, the animal can scream loudly, and males also produce a birdlike call during courtship.
You can use a usual guinea pig or rabbit cage or otherwise a plastic tank for rodents. The minima; bottom area is 70x40 cm. Don’t forget that hedgehogs are good climbers and they can easily escape from a cage that has an opening in the roof. If you use an open-roof cage, the walls have to be slippery. The cage must be well-ventilated. You mustn’t use a cage with wire bottom: it will injure the hedgehog’s feet. The bottom has to be solid. Take care that the space between the wires of the walls is small enough: otherwise small hedgehogs can escape or get their heads stuck.
Place the cage in a warm and well-lit location free from draughts and direct sunlight. The best temperature range for your hedgehog is 20-26 degrees. The rule of the thumb is that if you feel comfortable in s short-sleeved T-shirt, your hedgehog is comfortable too.
Aspen or birch cuttings make the best bedding for your hedgehog. You mustn’t use cedar or pine tree cuttings, they contain essential oils that are poisonous for your hedgehog. Pressed corn cobs can also make good bedding, with the exception of young male hedgehogs. Another good option is paper pellets that are sold as litter for cat trays. Many people use fleece: it is a great absorber and the hedgehog’s claws don’t get stuck in it. It is easily washed and if it is light colored, you will easily notice any changes in your pet’s health. But it is difficult to keep in place, as the hedgehog will try to bury itself in it.
An exercise wheel is a must. It has to be at least 30 cm in diameter. Its surface should be solid, otherwise it can injure the hedgehog’s feet.
For shelter you can use chinchilla’s houses (igloo type) or wooden houses for guinea pigs. Some people sew kind of soft sleeping bags.
Normally hedgehogs love playing. You can offer them toys for cats – plastic squeaky balls, stuffed animals etc.
The food bowl should be wide and heavy, so that the hedgehog cannot turn it over. Small ceramic bowls for rodents are just fine. The bowl shouldn’t exceed 15 cm in diameter and it shouldn’t be higher than 5 cm.
For water you can use a sturdy ceramic bowl or a water bottle with nozzle (a far better solution, since it cannot be knocked over, and the hedgehog cannot throw litter into it).
The four-toed hedgehog is omnivore. It tends to eat a lot: in just one night it can eat up to 1/3 of its own weight.
In the wild it eats insects, insect larvae, snails, eggs, nestlings, small amphibians and reptiles, fruit, mushrooms, seeds and roots. It is not vulnerable to toxins and venoms, it can eat scorpions and small venomous snakes.
In order for your hedgehog to thrive, it will need a balanced and varied diet. A good quality dry cat food (meat based) can be great foundation for its menu. You can supplement it with occasional mealworms, boiled eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, lean minced chicken or lamb.
The hedgehogs are quite independent, solitary animals that enjoy exploring and foraging. They can be fun to watch. Sometimes they don’t develop affection for its owner. Hedgehogs can scratch quite painfully.
The hedgehogs are normally hardy animals that rarely get ill. Adult hedgehogs may be vulnerable to the growth of tumors, fatty liver diseases and wobbly hedgehog syndrome. Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is one of the most serious illnesses diseases found in hedgehogs. Unfortunately, much is still unknown about this relatively rare disease, it is believed to be a genetic disorder. The symptoms start with wobbly motion, typically starting with the hind legs. The hedgehog will then lose the ability to use its hind legs. From there the hedgehog might also lose function in the front limbs as the disease progresses until they no longer have any control of their motor functions.
Average lifespan is 4-6 years.