As omnivores, hedgehogs benefit from a diverse, well-balanced diet. While the amount of food you should offer at each feeding varies with the size and age of your pet, as well as the nutritional content of the food, a good rule of thumb is to provide your hedgehog with only as much food as he can eat in one night. When you change your hedgehog’s diet, do so gradually.
Diet of Wild Hedgehogs
In the wild, hedgehogs are opportunistic omnivores, who may eat virtually any small animal they encounter, although they exhibit a distinct preference for insects and other invertebrates. Beetles, butterflies, moths and earwigs are common targets, although they will even eat some stinging and biting insects, such as ants and wasps. Occasionally, hedgehogs even eat vertebrates, such as snakes, lizards and frogs. At times, hedgehogs eat plant material, such as nuts, fruit and seeds.
You can feed your pet commercial foods, specifically designed for hedgehogs. Try to select a product that contains ample protein, but little fat. Consult your veterinarian, who can help you select an appropriate variety for your individual pet. As a treat, or if you cannot find commercial hedgehog food, you can offer your pet low-fat cat food. Never feed your hedgehog fatty, fried, spicy or salty table foods or scraps, and use caution when offering hard food items, such as nuts, which may choke a hedgehog.
Fruits and Vegetables
While hedgehogs enjoy fruits and vegetables, they should not form a large portion of their diet; instead, offer them two or three times per week, as a treat. You can offer fruits raw if they are small or you cut them into bite-size pieces, but vegetables should be cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked thoroughly to make them softer. Hedgehogs often relish fruits such as strawberries, apples, watermelon and blueberries, and they often eagerly accept vegetables like asparagus, carrots, radishes and green beans. Avoid leaving wet fruits or vegetables in the cage for more than about four hours, as they may spoil.
Like their wild counterparts, pet hedgehogs relish insects. Crickets, mealworms, wax worms, roaches, silkworms and superworms are all acceptable species, and you should try to offer the greatest variety of these insects possible. Earthworms are also suitable prey for these spiny mammals. Acquire commercially produced worms and insects, rather than collecting them from the wild, to reduce the chances of transmitting pathogens or parasites to your pet.
Ensure that your hedgehog has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Hedgehogs are often sensitive to strong chlorine odors, so it is advisable to offer bottled water to your pet. It is especially important to keep your hedgehog well hydrated during the first few days after you bring him home, as dehydration may exacerbate the symptoms of stress.