Most domesticated animals need some help with cleaning and grooming, and African Pygmy Hedgehogs are no exception. Hedgehogs do not clean themselves, so you will need to bathe your hedgehog occasionally.
Bathing Your Hedgehog
In order to give your hedgehog a bath, you will need the following supplies:
- A shallow plastic tub or sink
- Gentle shampoo (I like Aveeno)
- A toothbrush
- One or more towels
The frequency with which you need to bathe your hedgehog will vary depending up on how dirty it gets. Most of the reason it gets dirty is from stepping in its own droppings, so keeping its cage clean will help minimize the number of baths you need to give.
When choosing where to bathe your hedgehog, keep in mind that the hedgehog will most likely relieve itself during the bath. Whatever sink or tub you use, you will need to disinfect it after the bath; and you may want to avoid using a sink where you will be preparing food.
Here are step-by-step instructions for bathing your hedgehog:
1. Fill the sink or plastic tub with 2 – 4 inches of warm water. Water should feel warm but not hot, similar to what you would use to bathe a baby or a dog.
2. Put the hedgehog into the bath.
3. Pour a dime-sized amount of shampoo into your hand and lather it. Gently soap your hedgehog’s back and belly and legs. Do not soap the face, ears or eyes.
4. Use a toothbrush to gently clean the hedgehog’s quills and feet.
5. Take a cup of warm water and use it to rinse the soap from the hedgehog’s body.
6. Inspect the hedgehog’s body to see if there is any dirt still clinging to its quills and feet. If there is, use toothbrush again to gently clean them. Makes sure to brush in the direction the quills grow and not against the grain.
7. Wrap the hedgehog in a towel and gently dry it. It can be difficult to dry a hedgehog completely because water collects between the quills.
8. Keep the hedgehog inside the house while it is drying to keep it warm. You may want to put a small towel or “snuggle sack” – basically a small fleece sleeping bag – into its cage while it is drying. Remove it when the hedgehog is dry.
In general, try not to bathe your hedgehog more than once a month. Hedgehogs have sensitive skin that can easily dry out. If you notice that your hedgehog has particularly dry skin, you can add a little oil to the bath water to help moisturize the skin.
Hedgehogs run with their hind feet at an angle, so these nails do not get worn down the same way the front ones do. Because of this, chances are good you will need to trim your hedgehog’s nails on a regular basis. You will know its nails need to be trimmed when it starts getting caught on the bedding in its cage.
A hedgehog that is accustomed to being handled will probably not resist if you clip its nails. If your hedgehog does not like being handled or you are feeling tentative, you can trim its nails while it is still in the bath. Hedgehogs don’t like to get their noses wet, so you can simply reach in, trim the nails in the water and move on.
You can use either nail trimmers made specifically for pets, or small human nail clippers. Make sure to trim only the tips of the nails, and avoid the quick. You should be able to see the dark part of the nail on the inside – that is the quick. If you trim too far down, the nail may bleed. If that happens, just monitor your hedgehog to make sure the bleeding stops.
Quilling is not a hygienic procedure that you need to perform; it’s something that occurs naturally when a hedgehog is young with its main one when it is about 8-12 weeks old. It will lose its baby quills and grow adult quills.
You will know your hoglet is quilling when you start finding quills all over its cage. Sometimes quilling happens at about the same time as teething, so don’t be surprised if you have a grumpy hedgehog during this time. Its skin may be sensitive at this time, so a warm bath with soothing oatmeal soap may help to make your pet feel better.
While quilling is something that happens to young hedgehogs, they will occasionally shed quills throughout their lives, so it is not unusual to find quills in the cage. They will again have a light quill on a yearly basis.