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What Do Pet Hedgehogs Eat? | Best Hedgehog Diet

By Eddie Chevrel


Updated on

Hedgehogs have become very popular in recent years. They are all part of the family order Erinaceinae and are among the first mammals that have adapted to a nocturnal lifestyle. They aren’t very picky eaters and will eat anything that is fed to them. But some guidelines will keep your hedgehog healthier in the long run.

List of Food Your Hedgehog Can Eat

1. Fruits

  • apples,
  • blueberry,
  • blackberry,
  • banana,
  • cherries (without pits),
  • cantaloupe,
  • cranberries,
  • honeydew,
  • mangoes,
  • papaya,
  • pears,
  • peaches,
  • plums,
  • pumpkin,
  • strawberries,
  • squash.

2. Vegetables

Different kinds of vegetables can be fed to a hedgehog as a healthy snack. The advantage to these is they can be cooked or raw and make no difference either way. Raw veggies are a better choice and they will be better to chew if they are chopped up. Here is the complete list of vegetables your pet hedgehog can eat:

  • arugula,
  • asparagus,
  • bell pepper,
  • Bok Choy,
  • broccoli,
  • cabbage,
  • carrot,
  • collard greens,
  • cucumber,
  • dandelion greens,
  • green pepper,
  • leafy greens,
  • lettuce,
  • microgreens (green beans),
  • kale,
  • radish,
  • red bell pepper,
  • romaine lettuce,
  • spinach,
  • sweet potato,
  • Swiss chard,
  • pumpkin,
  • turnip,
  • zucchini.

3. Meat and insects

  • chicken,
  • cooked egg,
  • boiled egg,
  • lean cooked meat,
  • salmon,
  • tuna,
  • baby mice,
  • slugs,
  • snails,
  • earthworms,
  • worms,
  • caterpillars,
  • millipedes,
  • mealworms,
  • ground beetles,
  • waxworms.

4. Pellets

At the pet store or through online sources, you can find hedgehog pellets. A good hedgehog pellet mix has a combination of different dried vegetables and meat products. These are mixed together so they give a better daily intake they can process and digest easier. These are pellets that are made from poultry, rice, and corn grounds. They are a good addition to their diet if you have no fruits and veggies to give to them.

Can Hedgehogs eat other pet foods?

When it comes to dog and cat foods, they can eat both wet and dry varieties of all kinds. Aside from that, these foods should have a good nutritional content that gives a hedgehog enough vitamins and added meat products.

What you should avoid are foods and pellet mixes that are meant for rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, and other rodents. These foods don’t help your hedgehog and aren’t their normal staple for their diet. There is an actual health concern since they cannot eat seeds or eat wheat products. This is why you can’t give them bread or leftover pizza crusts.

What can I give a baby hedgehog for food?

You’ll most likely get a young hedgehog that is no older than 6 weeks up to 12 weeks old. At this time they will be able to eat semi-hard food and cooked vegetables. You can mix together wet cat or dog food with crushed dog and cat kibble.

This combination can be given to them and include bits of veggies as well. You need to chop up the veggies and be sure they are cooked so they’ll be soft. Don’t give them fruits more than once a week in limited portions.

Feeding a hedgehog: How often, how much, and when?

1. How often do hedgehogs eat?

There isn’t a set schedule that you have to stick to but in general, you should feed them once or twice a day. Since they are often awake at night, they might prefer to have their food given at the time when they wake up. Put their food into a food dish and they’ll eat it right from the bowl.

They won’t try to hide or hoard their food and most of it will disappear pretty quickly. After that, they might try to get you to give them more, but you need to resist.

2. How much should I feed my hedgehog?

A hedgehog will eat about one tablespoon per day if they are from the pygmy breed. For normal sizes, you can give them at least two tablespoons. You can also create a feeding schedule that breaks up the servings so they get two feeding times when they are awake.

3. When should I feed my hedgehog?

There is no set time that you have to feed your hedgehog and is up to you and your schedule. Hedgehogs are nocturnal so they wake up more often at dusk, which can be a good feeding time. But if you put food in their cage at another time of the day, they may wake up just to eat their food and then go back to sleep.

Hedgehog diet Do’s and Don’ts

1. Avoid certain fruits and vegetables at all costs

There are certain vegetables and fruits and specific food you never want to feed to a hedgehog because many of these can be simply toxic for them to eat. Others can be from the level of sugar or high levels of citrus acids. Don’t give your hedgehog these items:

  • avocado,
  • citrus fruits (all of them),
  • chocolate,
  • corn,
  • dairy products,
  • fatty foods,
  • fatty red meat,
  • garlic,
  • grapes,
  • insects from bait shops,
  • mushrooms,
  • nuts (of any kind),
  • onions,
  • pineapple,
  • potatoes,
  • processed or canned meat,
  • raw meat,
  • seeds (any kind),
  • seasoned or fried meat,
  • tomatoes.

Herbs and flowers are items that should be avoided and most of these items can actually be toxic for them. They can eat dandelion greens but that’s about it. You shouldn’t give any kind of wheat or grain to your hedgehog because this isn’t part of their diet. Not nuts, grains, or things you would normally give to a rodent.

2. Give your hedgehog fresh veggies and fruits only

Just out of being kind to your pet, it’s a good idea to give them the freshest food possible. As long as a vegetable isn’t getting rubbery and fruit isn’t getting overly ripe, it should be fine. Any cooked lean meat or cooked egg needs to be fresh, not old and moldy.

A few typical diet-related issues in hedgehogs

1. Obesity

A hedgehog loves to eat and will eat all day if they have the opportunity to do this, which can lead to your hedgehog getting pretty plump. This comes from not knowing how much to feed them, and what is best for them in terms of calories. Not only does this cause health problems and a shorter lifespan, but it also makes it harder if you have to put them on a diet because they will have gotten used to being overfed.

2. Toxic foods

Be very careful about giving fruits that have pits or seeds, so these things need to be removed. Cherry pits and peach seeds must be discarded. Especially forget about grapes that are downright toxic to a hedgehog. Even when you are careful about giving certain foods, you also need to be cautious about giving certain insects from your backyard.

You might be unknowingly adding pesticides that can be in these insects that will harm your Heggie. The same goes for buying worms from bait shops since you don’t know where these insects come from. Only buy insects that are from pet stores that were raised without pesticides and are 100% natural.

3. Bite-sized portions

Because a hedgehog has a large mouth, that doesn’t mean they aren’t prone to choking. In fact, they are more likely to choke on food that they didn’t chew properly. That’s where you need to cut up foods that are too large for them to eat. The rule is that any piece should be at most sugar-cube-sized.

Hedgehog diet: some examples of hedgehog food recipes

Fish cracker

Take an ordinary Weetabix cracker and take a teaspoon of tuna-flavored cat food from a can. Use a knife to spread this onto the cracker and give this to your hedgehog. They will love the crunchy and fishy combo that is filled with flavor.

Banana crunch

Take a slice of fresh banana and mash it into a paste. Then add crushed unsalted peanuts into that mix. Even though you can’t give them peanuts regularly, crushed peanuts are fine as a treat. Smear this topping onto a thin slice of carrot or cucumber.

Source: The Primal Pack

Hedgehog treats

The best treats for a hedgehog are going to be kibble that is from the dog or cat food. This is very good for their teeth so they can be worn down naturally. The next best treat should be vegetables that have low moisture levels.

Treats that have high amounts of liquid are fine, but these do need to be limited to once a week. Strawberries or watermelon are also high in sugar and can make your hedgehog overweight. You can try giving unflavored yogurt, popcorn, and raisins that all make excellent occasional treats.

How often can I give hedgehogs a treat?

Sweets that are high in natural sugar are fine if you give them once a week. If you give them these treats more often, then you need to make the portion smaller. Fruits that are especially high in fruit juice need to be limited. Try giving fruits like pears and apples that have lower levels of liquid. This way their digestive system isn’t getting excessive amounts of calories from natural sugars.

What and how do hedgehogs drink?

When setting up your hedgehog cage, you will need to include either a bowl or a water dispenser. The water can be either bottled water or fresh tap water and can be served in either a steady bowl or a water dispenser.

  • Bowl: Having a bowl is fine but you’ll end up cleaning it more often if they step in it or walk over it. It should be a small dog or cat bowl that cannot be tipped over. You need to refresh the water each day.
  • Dispenser: A water bottle is a better way to give a hedgehog its daily amount of water. They will drink up to one or two tablespoons of water each day. If they are hot, they will drink more often. You don’t have to have a water bottle that exceeds 40 milliliters since this is more than enough for them. You should replace this water each day so it doesn’t get stale.

What do Hedgehogs eat in the wild?

Hedgehogs will eat anything they can find in the wild that comes in the form of insects, worms, beetles, larvae, and even baby mice. If they have access to fruits or vegetables that they can get to, they will also eat these foods. They might also be seen eating scraps of cooked meat that were left over from people who dropped cooked food scraps on the ground.

Wild hedgehogs will eat considerably more in the months leading to winter to prepare for hibernation. This time of the year is critical for them if they want to survive harsh winters when food will be scarce until March or April in the northern hemisphere.

How long can a hedgehog go without eating?

Hedgehogs need to eat at least every 24 hours which is a daily requirement for them. In the wild, they forage for anything that will give them a daily amount of food to survive. When they become a pet, they will need to eat every day so they don’t get underfed.

If they start getting less food, they can develop sicknesses in their livers or even become sick through dehydration. They rely on you to feed them so you have to make sure that they have enough food if you aren’t around for a day or more. If you go on vacation, you need to have someone look after them until you return.

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About Eddie Chevrel

Eddie Chevrel is an animal journalist and the founder of ThePetSavvy. He's very passionate about exotic pets and spends most of his free time doing research, meeting, and interviewing people working with animals. Learn more about The Pet Savvy's Editorial Process.