Hedgehogs are sweet omnivores who love many kinds of food and thrive on a varied diet. They can eat many kinds of human foods and are often curious about new tastes, so it’s normal for owners to want to experiment. But even though some hedgehogs seem eager to eat cheese, it isn’t the best choice. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so cheese can cause an upset stomach. We’ll explain more below.
Are Hedgehogs Lactose Intolerant?
Lactose is a sugar naturally found in milk and dairy products. Although it gives lots of energy to growing baby mammals, most types of mammals can’t digest lactose as they grow older. Our human history of raising dairy cows has made us the exception to this rule, although many people today suffer from varying levels of lactose intolerance.
Like most mammals, hedgehogs can’t break down lactose. This means that dairy products are generally out. However, some types of cheese contain more lactose than others. Lactose breaks down as part of the aging process, so more aged cheese is safer for hedgehogs. If you want to give your hedgehog a taste of sharp cheddar, muenster, or aged parmesan, it won’t be a problem. Cheese is still better as an occasional snack than a regular meal, though.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Cottage Cheese?
There is a myth circulating online that cottage cheese is good for hedgehogs, but this isn’t true. Although some owners feed their hedgehog cottage cheese and don’t notice the adverse effects, cottage cheese is high in lactose. It’s more likely that owners don’t notice digestion issues that come from their hedgehog eating cottage cheese. Like other kinds of cheese, a small amount of cottage cheese likely won’t have a big effect, but it is better to avoid it.
What If My Hedgehog Eats Cheese?
If your hedgehog gets into some cheese, don’t be too worried. Lactose intolerance can cause tummy troubles, but it isn’t life-threatening. A small amount of cheese is unlikely to cause problems. If your hedgehog gets more than a few nibbles, he’ll probably have gas or an upset tummy. Let him have plenty of rest and in a few hours, he should be back to normal.
Better Treats for Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs like insects, fruits, and vegetables. Dried or live crickets and mealworms from pet stores make great treats for hedgehogs. They also can eat cooked eggs—hard-boiled eggs are a great option. Removing the yolk makes the treat a little healthier.
Some of the fruits that hedgehogs like include berries, apples, bananas, and kiwis. They also can eat most vegetables, although harder veggies might need cooking first. You can start by trying corn, peas, carrots, broccoli, and cucumber. Every hedgehog has different tastes, so it can take some experimenting to find snacks they like.
Whatever you feed your hedgehog, make sure that they get plenty of water, enough protein and vitamins, and not too much fat or sugar. Even though dairy isn’t the best choice for hedgehogs, there are still many other great foods you can share with your sweet friend.