Hedgehog feeding guide

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Fussy is often an understatement!

Hedgehogs are primarily insect (meat) eaters. In their natural habitat they eat a variety of insects, worms, snails, and other sources of animal protein. They also supplement their diets with fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. But they primarily eat meat and do not eat much in the way of plant matter.

For the most part, hedgehogs that are kept in captivity are pretty much "creatures of habit". It is the type of animal that prefers familiarity and continuity. Because of these habitual tendencies most hedgehogs are inclined towards becoming very fussy eaters. Many prefer to eat nothing more than their primary diet which is usually a type of dry premium quality pet food.

Vegetable matter should be offered sparingly but it should be included as part of their regular diet. Quite often, it can be a real challenge to get a hedgehog to try something new and therefore introducing new food items (especially fruits and veggies) take time and persistence on behalf of the caregiver. Sometimes it does not make a difference what you try to tempt them with; they simply refuse to try it. None the less, here at heritage-pets.com, we continue to offer all of our hedgehogs a variety of fresh food items daily. Those who choose to eat it seem to really enjoy the variety. While those who don't want to try any new food item may never eat anything but their kitten/cat food. But…! We still continue to offer it to all of them anyway. Our hope is that one day, if they get the urge to try something new, these fresh foods are readily available for them.

Sometimes as a way to trick a fussy hedgehog to try something new, we add a bit of freshly squeezed fruit and veggie juices to their drinking water. Our hope is that after they become familiar with the smell and taste in the water that they will eventually start eating the actual food items. Sometimes this works sometimes it doesn’t but at least they are getting a bit more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, when they drink their water. We find that berries and berry juice are the most readily accepted fruits.

If you can not get your hedgehog to eat a variety of foods don’t panic! As long as your hedgehog that normally eats a premium food, is active and maintains a good weight it is probably nothing to worry about. The upside in feeding premium quality pet foods is that they are pretty much "nutritionally complete". The downside is they must be pretty boring! Besides the nutritional value of fresh foods, offering new foods also offers something else that we pet owners need to consider, that is the environmental enrichment that is provided when we offer new food items. Animals need to be stimulated and new foods help to do just that. Environmental enrichment is very important for all animals.

We have had hedgehogs that live long, healthy and happy lives even when they choose to eat little more than good quality kitten and cat food (and drinking lots of fresh water).

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Our Feeding Guide

To give fellow hedgehog caregivers an idea of some of the items that can be fed to hedgehogs we have attached the feeding guide (below) that we follow when feeding our own hedgehogs. It offers variety and it makes it easier for us to follow because we have several animals to feed at the same time. However, it may not be practical for the average single pet owner.

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Pet nutrition is very important. 

We take pet nutrition and animal health very seriously.

Deciding on the right foods to feed to any of the animals that we raise is not always easy. Unfortunately, other than food manufacturers that specialize in feeds meant for farm animals and those that focus on dogs and cat foods, there are not a lot of companies that put any real effort into the nutritional requirements for "exotic" species-specific diets. The few companies that do market prepared exotic diets don’t have to deal with competition and therefore do not have to compete with industry standards. They often squeak by offering inferior products by using fancy packages and good marketing.

As caregivers we all need to be selective when choosing the right food for our pets. It is up to us to do as much research as possible.

At heritage-pets.com we continue to pay very close attention and conduct our own independent studies regularly before we offer any commercially prepared diets to our animals. We are constantly trying to improve on what we feed our pets. We try new products regularly. These trials can last months or even years. Once we are satisfied with the results of these prepared diets we endorse a particular pet nutritional product.

For the past few years many hedgehog hobbyists (including us) have been carefully studying and analyzing the results of many different food products that contain fish and seafood. It seems that most of us agree that premium cat foods that contain fish and that are grain free are winning out over beef, chicken or lamb based foods. "I suppose this only makes sense since hedgehogs are not grain eaters and for the past few decades scientists and other health professionals have all been touting the benefits of fish as an excellent source of animal protein for us humans."

  • Fish protein is highly digestible and the body easily converts it into muscle.
  • Fish is highly palatable and most animals seem to eat it readily.
  • Fish contains chitin, which is a material similar to cellulose that is required in the hedgehog diet. Typically chitin is found in the exoskeleton, or outer covering of insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and arachnids.
  • Fish contains many types of amino acids, which are an important part of a hedgehog’s diet.

THIS IS WHAT THE BAG LOOKS LIKE.
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WE FEED …

Earthborn Primitive Feline

A few years ago we started our own trials and because we liked the results of feeding a blend of fish based foods and we began switching all of our hedgehogs to ‘Earthborn Primitive Feline’ diet. It contains a variety of high quality meats and fish as a source of protein and it is a ‘grain free’ premium quality pet food. If you would like to learn more about their products here is a link to their site. http://www.earthbornholisticpetfood.com/us/

Other than being a customer who chooses to use the products, we have nothing to gain by promoting this product.

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Feeding Insects Yes or No?

We do not feed any insects to our hedgehogs! We have not fed any insects for many years. Instead we offer cooked whole shrimp that is finely diced and chopped. It is not that we are opposed to feeding insects but we do not feel that it is necessary. To avoid introducing parasites and bacteria we never feed raw meat or fish items (even if it is dried) to our hedgehogs. Cooking insects just is not something I want to do.

  • Shrimp and other crustaceans are closely related to insects and provide a similar palitibility when compared to birds/poultry or other mammals and as a food source tend to be easily digested.

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WATER IS A MUST!

If you do not already know that all animals require fresh clean, drinking water and that it needs to be available to them at all times, then perhaps you are just not ready for a pet.

We use filtered water for all of our animals. Sudden water changes can sometimes result in loose stools. These stools will often have a slight metallic green hue to them. This is more likely to happen when chlorinated tap water is offered to a hedgehog that is otherwise used to drinking filtered or pure water. It is usually not serious and only lasts a day or two. If it persists then a visit to your veterinarian may need to be considered. To avoid unnecessary stresses caused by water change, if you are travelling and your animal is used to your own tap water, why not take a bottle of your own water along for the trip. Each municipality’s water is slightly different.

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Do to time constraints, we are not currently scheduling visits to our home in Mississauga  however we still welcome  visits to our home in beautiful Niagara Falls, Ontario.  (Just under an hour from Mississauga)

If, after reviewing our website you still have questions that have not already been addressed on the site or if you would like to book a time to visit us at our home in Niagara Falls please call us instead of emailing us at 289-99h-pets (289-990-4738) in Niagara Falls or 647-725-1111 (9 AM-10PM EST) .

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