- In the wild, hedgehogs dig dens in the ground, both for protection from predators and also shelter from the elements.
- Hedgehogs have a powerful forefoot and claws designed specifically for digging.
- While digging habits may vary between different species of hedgehogs; the overwhelming majority of hedgehogs have a digging instinct that needs to be satisfied.
- Hedgehogs are also very active and need lots of exercise to avoid becoming obese in captivity. Digging can help with this! http://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-Hedgehog-Dig-Box
Digging at Home
- In order to satisfy the digging instinct, hedgehogs tend to try and burrow into anything they find available. This includes food bowls, litter, carpet, and anything else that happens to be around when they feel like digging.
- Because they are nocturnal creatures, hedgehogs often dig at night.
- This digging can be messy for owners with wire or open cages, as hedgehogs tend to fling litter or other beddings all over the place as they attempt to burrow.
- Not only can digging make an inconvenient mess, it can also be dangerous for your spikey buddy if the proper precautions aren’t taken to prevent injury and irritation to your hedgehog’s skin, lungs, genitals, and eyes.
Safe Suggestions and Solutions
- Two excellent ways to protect your hedgehog and provide a safe and enjoyable place to dig are to provide a hedgehog sleeping bag, a hedgehog dig box, or both.
- Large sleeping bags filled with strips of fleece may provide a perfect opportunity for your hedgehog to alternate cuddle and play time.
- If you’re looking to provide a bigger place for your spikey friend to dig and play, a hedgehog dig box is the way to go. This option involves getting a large plastic box and lining it with fleece strips. This provides a clean and safe place for your hedgehog to dig, while free from any of the dangers of other digging options. You can even put some yummy treats for your hedgehog to enjoy while they’re burrowing around!
Beware: What to Avoid
While it’s important for you to provide a place for your hedgehog to dig, there are quite a few dangers presented by unsuitable bedding or digging materials, or by allowing your hedgehog to dig outside. Here are a few things to avoid when allowing your hedgehog to dig:
- Hedgehogs have been known to dig in hair so pull long hair back before handling your pet.
- The loops of bath or hand towels can easily catch a hedgehog’s toenails causing pain, injury or even ripping them out! It’s best to keep your hedgehog’s cage free of towels or materials with loose threads, as a thread can wrap around a hedgehog’s leg and require it to be amputated.
- Many types of sand or substrate bedding are dusty, hard to clean, and can irritate moist areas of a hedgehog’s body, including the lungs, eyes, and genitals. Try to avoid using sand or cat litter as a bedding if possible, or at least make sure it’s not very dusty to avoid irritation. For more information on bedding, click here.
- Should you decide to use commercial sand for your hedgehog, make sure to heat it in the oven to kill any parasites that may have found their way into the soil. Parasites can kill your hedgehog, so take precautions!
- If you’re keen on letting your hedgehog dig outside, be aware that outside dirt or sand can be too hot or too cold. Instead of letting your hedgehog dig outside, try making a dig box lined with fleece to keep it both safe and happily digging!
Primary Author: Gail Dick, Millermeade Farm’s Critter Connection
Last Updated 2/18/2013
List of References:
Animal Corner. (2012).Hedgehogs. Retrieved from http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/britishwildlife/hedgehog.html
Instructables. (2011). Simple Hedgehog Dig Box. Retrieved from http://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-Hedgehog-Dig-Box/
Hedgehog Noises. (2009). Retrieved from http://happy-hedgehog-secrets.com/hedgehog-noises/
MacNamara, B. (2012, March 31). Hedgehog FAQ [4/7] – Hedgehogs as pets [Usenet Post]. Retrieved from http://hedgehoghollow.com/faq/part4.html
Pet Info Packets. (2007). Hedgehogs: What is a hedgehog? Retrieved from http://www.petinfopackets.com/hedgehogs/hedgehoginfopacket.html
Moxieberry. (2012, June 10). Reversible Fleece Hedgie Bag [Online forum].
Retrieved from http://hedgehogcentral.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=57&p=142904
Harasblas. (2010, January 09). Re: Hedgie Sleeping Bags [Online forum]. Retrieved from http://hedgehogcentral.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=8&p=31379
Hedgielover. (2009, October 28). Re: Hedgie Sleeping Bags [Online forum]. Retrieved from http://hedgehogcentral.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=8&p=31379
Haynes, J (2012). Ideas for Hedgehog Housing and Accessories. In Michigan Hedgehog Owners Group. Retrieved from http://www.mihog.org/cages/index.phtml
Essortment. (2011). Hedghogs: External Parasites. Retrieved from http://www.essortment.com/hedgehogs-external-parasites-23501.html