Housing Hedgehogs: What Kind of Cage to Use?
Over the years, weíve tried a wide variety of cages for our hedgehogs. What we learned is that each has their pros and cons, and as long as a few basic criteria are met, there are lots of good ways to house hedgies! The number one criteria for appropriate hedgie housing is that it MUST have a solid bottom. In other words, a hard surface. I have seen cages advertised that are advertised for hedgies but that have wire grate flooring over a tray. This is inappropriate because hedgies are not well suited to gripping wire, have small feet, and are likely to break limbs if forced to live on a wire floor.
The next criteria is space. I have seen two square feet commonly listed as a minimum. That means, like one foot wide by two foot long, basically. Thatís only slightly larger than a ten gallon aquarium, and I would definitely say that is bare bones minimum- always remember, more is better. And if you can add a wheel, hedgie will likely be even happier. Hedgies love to roam and explore, so the more you can provide that, the better off you will be. I tend to suggest something the size of a 20 gallon aquarium as a minimum. With folks like me who have lots of hedgies, many of my cages are on the smaller end of what I consider acceptable, so I provide hidey places and toys for added enrichment, and make sure they get out-of-cage time to play.
Beyond those two major criteria, other things I consider when evaluating cages are ventilation, ability to let in light, escapability, cost, and ease of cleaning. In the reviews that follow, Iíll note how they rate on these respects! If there are other kinds of cages that you really like or dislike, please write a note to the newsletter telling us about them, as this list is by no means exhaustive!
As noted, 20 gallons or larger are best. Some people complain about the lack of ventilation and Iíve heard claims of mildew growing in glass cages, but I imagine that is only a problem if the cage is not cleaned regularly. Aquariums can be easily escaped if there is no lid and a water bottle is hung from the side. A wire lid that allows good ventilation is best. My biggest problem with aquariums is that they are very heavy and that makes them difficult to handle when cleaning. These are readily available at pet stores, but can be quite pricey.
As noted above, only wire cages with solid bottoms are acceptable. There are a wide variety of these available. Some of the plastic-bottomed guinea pig cages are quite nice, though hedgies will sometimes scale the wire and can escape if they donít have a tight lid. They can also scare the heck out of you when they climb up and hang from or near the cage ceiling. If you are raising babies, you will need to make sure that there is a ďbaby guardĒ or that the wire is no larger than about ĹĒ x 1Ē or you may end up with young Ďuns on walkabout. Wire cages are typically pretty lightweight and easy to clean. Galvanized wire can have sharp edges, I much prefer cages with coated wire. I have also had several hedgies who think they can fit through wire that is 1Ē x 2Ē and who ended up with abcessed noses from trying to push themselves through. The biggest plus is that they are well ventilated and allow in plenty of light, but you need to make sure not to put it in a drafty area. One example of a nice wire cages are the ones manufactured by Bridgeport Pets.
These typically look very nice, but are typically quite expensive. I found that my acrylic MaxMar cage was bulky for dumping shavings out of, but once the shavings were out it cleaned up beautifully with a spraying of bleach water and a wipe down. With acrylic cages, always be mindful of adequate ventilation. MaxMar did a wonderful job of this, but rumor is they are no longer making cages. The only acrylic cage Iíve seen on the market recently is the P.A.L cage, which features an option of tunnels to connect several units, and plackets so that you can hang the cage on the wall and not take up floor space. Iím intrigued, but not enough so to cough up the cost yet.
Hand built wooden cages:
My first hedgie cage was of this variety. The bonus is that the imagination is the limit, if you are building your own. The thing to remember is to finish all wood surfaces with waterproofing, and allow the waterproofing adequate time to dry in a ventilated area before putting hedgie in the cage. I put a linoluem floor in mine for ease of cleaning. Bulkiness and difficulty to maneuver when cleaning can be a problem. I saw a very attractive model of wooden cage in the Massenaís Menagerie catalog recently. My mother houses her four hedgies in an elaborate oak multi-level cage that my stepfather made for them. A picture of this cage can be viewed at my Cage Page.
When I first got hedgies, kennel cabs were the recommended housing of choice, because it was believed that hedgies needed darkness. Since then, weíve learned that total darkness isnít good, and that the darkness of kennel cabs is a drawback. The big plusses are that they are easy to obtain, can be inexpensive if you shop around, and are lightweight and quite easy to clean. I still have some hedgies in kennel cabs, though I am working on phasing them out, and find that not quite latching is sometimes a problem. If Iím in a hurry and donít double check, I end up with hedgie taking an unauthorized vacation.
These have a number of plusses, being inexpensive and lightweight. They are easy to clean and easily disinfected. Holes for ventilation and for placing the water bottle outside can be easily melted using a sautering iron. If you hang the water bottle inside and donít have a lid on top, hedgie can escape. However, if you choose to put a lid on, holes alone really arenít adequate ventilation. I use a blow dryer to warm the plastic, then cut out a panel using a utility knife. Then I melt holes with a sautering iron so that I can tie down either a wire or plastic canvas panel. This gives hedgie much better ventilation!
If you have the space, wading pools make great hedgie cages! I would recommend the type that are solid plastic, rather than the blow-up type, however. I have had a hedgie who managed to pop the top ring on a blow-up wading pool, leading to her escape. With a wading pool, there really isnít a great way to attach a water bottle, so a water dish works best. One innovative idea Iíve seen is to place a garden stepping stone in the middle, and placing the food and water dish upon it. This helped keep hedgies nails worn down. While the size of the wading pool is bulky, itís easily cleaned by taking it outside and hosing it down. They are also fairly inexpensive.
This article was originally printed in the International Hedgehog Club's newsletter. It is copyright and may not be used in part or whole without giving credit to the author, and may not be reproduced for profit. Copyright 2000/2001