Last Updated on February 28, 2024.

Instinctual Habit

  • In the wild, hedgehogs dig dens in the ground, both for protection from predators and as shelter from the elements.
  • Hedgehogs have powerful forefeet and claws designed specifically for digging.
  • While digging habits vary between species, the overwhelming majority of hedgehogs have a digging instinct that needs to be satisfied.
  • Hedgehogs are very active and need lots of exercise to avoid becoming obese in captivity. Digging can help with this!

Digging at Home

  • To satisfy the digging instinct, hedgehogs will try to burrow into anything: food bowls, litter, carpet, or whatever’s around.
  • Because they are nocturnal, hedgehogs often dig at night.
  • Digging can be messy for owners with wire or open cages, as hedgehogs tend to fling litter or other beddings around as they attempt to burrow.

Safe Suggestions and Solutions

  • Not only can digging make an inconvenient mess, it can also be dangerous for your spiky buddy if you don’t take the proper precautions to prevent injury and irritation to its skin, lungs, genitals, and eyes.
  • Two excellent ways to protect your hedgehog and offer a safe and enjoyable place to dig are to provide a hedgehog sleeping bag, a hedgehog dig box, or both.
  • A large sleeping bag filled with strips of fleece or small toys can provide the perfect hideaway for your hedgehog to alternate cuddle and play time.
  • If you’d like to provide a bigger place for your hedgie to dig and play, line a large plastic box with fleece strips. This dig box makes a clean and safe space where your hedgehog can dig. You can even add some yummy treats for your hedgehog to enjoy while it’s burrowing around!

Beware: What to Avoid

While it’s important for you to provide a place for your hedgehog to dig, unsuitable bedding or digging materials, or allowing your hedgehog to dig outside present quite a few dangers. Here are a few things to avoid when it’s time to dig:

  • Hedgehogs have been known to dig in hair, so pull long hair back before handling your pet.  You should also be careful of hedgehogs anointing the product in your hair as some may contain things such as tea tree oil which is toxic to hedgehogs.
  • The loops of terrycloth towels caught on a hedgehog’s toenails can cause pain or injury, or even rip them out! Keep your pet’s cage free of towels or materials with loose threads, which 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 irritating to the moist areas of a hedgehog’s body, including the lungs, eyes, and genitals. Try to avoid using sand or cat litter as a bedding, or at least make sure it’s low on dust. For more information on bedding, click here
  • Should you decide to use commercial sand for your hedgehog, heat it in the oven to kill any parasites it may contain. 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, make a dig box lined with fleece to keep your pet both safe and happily digging!
  • Be sure to clean your dig box materials before introducing them to your hedgehog.

VIDEO.:  Dig Box Options and Setting Up


Primary Author: Gail Smith, Millermeade Farm’s Critter Connection

Contributors:  Melissa Ramos, Coley Emde

Last Updated 2/18/2013

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