Only African pygmy hedgehogs are kept as pets in the United States, although other countries have many different types of these little spiky creatures. In the UK, a lot of people have hedgehogs who come every night to their gardens and the cat food outdoors to scrounge for crumbs. The hungry hedgehogs receive food from well-meaning humans in the form of dried fruit and raw meat, but can they also eat fruit? Many of you could be surprised by their diet!
What is a Hedgehog?
Due to introduction, hedgehogs can be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. The quillled members of the Erinaceinae subfamily are known as hedgehogs. Despite not being related, the spiky protection around their upper section mimics that of a porcupine.
The small mammals’ only protection against danger is to roll into a tight ball and raise their needle-like quills. Some hedgehog species found in desert regions, on the other hand, lack quills and are known to flee or attack potential threats with their quills. They are all renowned for being fiercely territorial and for fighting till the very end. During mating season, this is far more common. It is common for men to assault one another even in the absence of a threat.
Facts About a Hedgehog’s Diet
1. Hedgehogs Are Omnivores
The little spikey balls are highly opportunistic in their choice of food. Hedgehogs in the wild will devour nearly anything they come upon. Sadly, a lot of the food that humans leave out for them is unsafe or unhealthy for them to consume. Pet African pygmy hedgehogs in the US are frequently fed “hedgehog food,” which is available at pet stores and online. Unfortunately, most don’t give the hedgehog the right quantity of protein, minerals, and vitamins. Many hedgehogs die young as a result of this. A lot of knowledgeable hedgehog keepers feed their pets a nightly mix of premium dry cat food, black army fly larvae, and some dried insects. Hedgehogs can have very little servings of vegetables, unsalted eggs, and wet cat food once or twice a week.
2. They Love Insects
Almost any insect or other creature that they come upon will be eaten by hedgehogs. Eighty to ninety percent of their food consists of invertebrates, or insects! The tiny, gregarious animals adore whatever invertebrate they come across, including worms, beetles, caterpillars, snails, slugs, grasshoppers, and bees. A hedgehog may eat up to 100 invertebrates in one night! They enjoy being in gardens, so it seems sense that humans like having them there.
In addition, hedgehogs relish chowing down on carrion, eggs, frogs, voles, and newborn birds. Any kind of small dead animal, even other hedgehogs, will be consumed by them. Unfortunately, if the animal or bug being eaten has parasites or has been poisoned, then any of these options could result in death.
3. Hedgehogs Are Prone to Serious Dental Issues
It is crucial that hedgehogs avoid consuming large amounts of soft food, particularly anything sticky. Soft food can accumulate and eventually cause decay since they are unable to wash their teeth. A hedgehog with excruciating tooth discomfort will stop eating and die of starvation. A hedgehog will experience the same fate if its teeth have fractured, decayed, or fallen off.
4. Phosphorus Can Cause Bone Problems
Prepackaged food marketed as a hedgehog diet can pose a significant risk to hedgehogs due to its potential to include excessive amounts of phosphorus and calcium, either in excess or insufficient. Excessive phosphorus can cause major bone problems, particularly metabolic bone disease, by obstructing the absorption of calcium. Consult a hedgehog diet specialist before combining any meals. Metabolic bone disease cannot be reversed. Mealworms should be avoided due to their high phosphorus content.
5. Hedgehogs Are Lactose Intolerant
Although they shouldn’t, hedgehogs will gladly consume ice cream and other dairy items. Due to their lactose intolerance, dairy products can cause them to become extremely bloated, experience constipation or diarrhea, or temporarily stop eating. They won’t die if you occasionally give them a tiny bit of yogurt or cheese, but make sure it’s only done as a treat. Keep these foods away from wild hedgehogs as their conditions are very different.
6. They Are Called Hedge “hogs” for a Reason
For survival, wild hedgehogs require about 75 grams (three ounces) of food and 130 calories per night. They will feed twice that night, filling their bellies twice over. Thus, each day, they consume 8% of their body weight in food. To stay alive, a 200-pound human would require 16 pounds of food every day! To be fair, these tiny animals also walk 1.2 miles or so each night in quest of food. The males can cover two miles in a night during mating season. That’s quite a distance, given how little they are!
Can a Hedgehog Eat Fruit?
Hedgehogs have occasionally been observed by humans consuming certain melons, cherries, and strawberries in the wild. Hedgehogs can benefit from fruit, albeit it can rot and swell their teeth. They stop searching for insects when they have too much fruit. Meat-based calories and protein should comprise eighty percent of their diet. Fruit is good to give occasionally as a treat in moderation; but, too much fruit can lead to diarrhea in hedgehogs and other small animals, which can be harmful.
Make sure to properly wash the fruit before serving it, even if you just want to provide a small quantity to your outside guests or your pet hedgehog. Offer only organic fruit, as pesticides can penetrate the fruit’s flesh as well as its exterior layer. To ensure that your little pal doesn’t choke, chop the fruit into tiny pieces the size of a cent. Apples, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, honeydew, mango, papaya, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon are a few safe fruits to feed your hedgehog. Never offer raisins or dried fruits. They can result in severe diarrhea and have an excessive sugar content.