The most informative site for me has been http://kwhedgehogs.webs.com/ I would highly recommend you look at the information on Kay's site as I can only repeat what she says.
Here is a brief synopsis of relevant information gleaned from the internet.
There are two types of Hedgehogs: The European and African.
The African Pygmy hedgehog is the most common species of domesticated hedgehog. A hybrid of the White-bellied or Four-toed Hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) and the Algerian Hedgehog (A. algirus). It is smaller than the European Hedgehog,
The hedgehogs commonly kept as pets appear to be a mix of species, originally native to Africa. The term “African Pygmy Hedgehog” is a descriptive term
Pygmy Hedgehogs are small mammals about the size of a guinea pig grow between 6.7 and 9.5 inches (17-24cm). They generally live four to six years, but have been known to live up to nine or 10 years in captivity. They have a long pointy snout, wet nose, large eyes and ears, four digits on each foot and a short tail. They have soft white to dark brown or even black fur covering their face and under parts.
The Basics of Hedgehogs
Choosing a Hedgehog
- The hedgehogs commonly kept as pets in the UK appear to be a mix of species, originally native to Africa. The term "African Pygmy Hedgehog" is a descriptive term (coined by breeders), rather than a true species name.
- They are considered primarily insectivores (insects make up the largest part of their natural diet).Although as pets they eat mainly hard and soft good quality cat food.
- Their backs are covered with rows of short prickly spines and their bellies are covered with soft fur. When threatened, they roll in to a tight ball with just a mass of spines poking out. When relaxed, the spines lay almost flat.
- Thanks to selective breeding, hedgehogs are now available in a wide variety of colours
- They are quite compact, reaching a size of around 5-8 inches in length.
- Estimates of expected life span vary widely, anywhere from 3-8 years, although 4-6 years is probably most typical.
- Fairly low maintenance pets, and while they don't mind handling once used to it they don't really seem to "crave" human interaction.
Choosing a Hedgehog
- It is best to locate a reputable breeder who breeds for good temperament and makes sure young hedgehogs are handled regularly.
- Getting a young hedgehog (6-8 weeks) is the best way to make sure your hedgehog will get used to being handled.
- If possible, try to pick up the hedgehog to gauge its reaction - try to choose one that will allow itself to be picked up and maybe even turned on its back without rolling into a tight ball and staying there.
- Look for bright eyes, clear nostrils, and healthy looking skin, quills and fur. Watch out for flaky skin, missing quills, discharge around the eyes or nose, or evidence of diarrhea. Also make sure the hedgehog is in good body condition - neither too thin nor overweight (a good place to check is around the legs - watch out for rolls of fat as obesity is a common problem).
- Males and females generally are equally good pets.
- Plan on only one hedgehog to a cage. Most hedgehogs are perfectly happy to be kept alone and in fact often fight if kept with other hedgehogs.
- Allow a bare minimum of 2-3 square feet of floor space (bigger is better).
- Many types of cages can be used - but always avoid wire floors and be cautious about the spacing of wire sided cages - the narrower the better.
- Aquariums, plastic commercial cages or even modified plastic storage bins can be used. Clear plastic storage bins can be modified to allow adequate ventilation (a row of holes around the top of the bin and/or in the lid works okay).
- Bedding: wood shavings can be used, but avoid cedar shavings
- Litter box: a small shallow pan with dust free cat litter can be provided and may become the hedgehogs primary bathroom area. Do not use clumping litter though.
- House/Hide: a cardboard box or some other enclosed hiding place should be provided as a secure haven for your hedgehog.
- Exercise: a wheel provides great exercise and helpful in preventing obesity. An open sided, solid surface wheel is necessary, and should be quite large (greater than 10 inches, at a minimum)
- This is a controversial area in hedgehog care.
- For many years, high quality cat food has been the recommended food of choice, supplemented and mealworms or crickets and other treats.
- Commercial hedgehogs diets are now available, which are not ideal but are, for the most part, better formulated for hedgehogs than cat food (although some hedgehogs do not like them as much as cat food). These can still be difficult to find in pet stores, but are becoming more widely available online.
- Prepared insectivore diets (such as Zoo Fare) are another good alternative, often favored by exotic animal veterinarians and zoos.
- In any case, a mixture or variety of foods is probably the best choice, for both health and preventing diet boredom.
- Hedgehogs tend to love mealworms, and make a good occasional treat, but these should be fed nutritious foods such as fruit, vegetables and dog food before giving them to the hedgehog. Crickets can also be fed.
- Small amounts of hardboiled egg, baby foods or fruit can be given as occasional treats. Treats should be fed in moderation only, however.
- Careful handling is a necessity.
- Most hedgehogs do not particularly like to be cuddled, but most will allow themselves to be picked up and will readily climb over their people.
- Tame hedgehogs by handling gently and frequently, gently scooping up the hedgehog around the sides. If you get your hedgie from a good breeder who has been handling them, your hedgehog will most likely be quite tame already.
- Initially, your hedgehog may curl into a ball when you try to pick him or her up. However, if you just cradle the ball of hedgehog in your hands the spines do not really hurt, and usually the hedgehog will unroll within a few minutes and start exploring once it realizes you mean no harm. Be careful the hedgehog does not manage to coil into a ball over one of your fingers though - this is extremely painful!
- If your hedgehog is really resistant to handling at first, a thick towel should be all you need to be able to pick him or her up.
- When starting out with a new hedgie, try to practice handling at times the hedgehog is awake (e.g. early evening) as a sleepy hedgehog will understandable be more grumpy.
- You can also try hand feeding favorite treats such as mealworms to gain the trust of your hedgehog.
- Hedgehogs have a remarkable habit called "self-anointing" which can be somewhat startling the first time an owner sees it happening. Particular smells seem to send the hedgehog into a flurry contortions as it starts to salivate profusely and spread the saliva over its back. No one is entirely sure why hedgehogs do this and some seem more prone to it than others, but it is not a cause for concern