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Home > Hedgehogs > Can Hedgehogs Eat Hamster Food? Health & Nutrition Facts

Can Hedgehogs Eat Hamster Food? Health & Nutrition Facts

Can Hedgehogs Eat_hamster food

Hedgehogs have become an increasingly popular pet around the world, and are found wild throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. They can live in forests and deserts and are often seen in rural gardens. A single hedgehog can travel 8 kilometers a night looking for food, so a lot of homeowners decide to place food and water out to supplement their naturally caught diet.

Whether you have a pet hedgehog and have run out of commercial hog food, or you want to provide a little extra snack for your backyard visitor, some foods can safely be given to these spiny mammals but some should be avoided. It is considered safe to feed wet cat food or dog food, for example, but not to offer hamster food. Milk and bread should also be avoided because milk can lead to diarrhea while bread is lacking in nutrition.

Read on for more information about hedgehogs and what you can and can’t feed them.

divider-hedgehog Hedgehog Diet

Hedgehogs are omnivores, which means that they naturally eat a combination of meat and plant-based foods. Specifically, these mammals eat insects and critters like slugs, worms, beetles, caterpillars, and earwigs. They will also eat fruit that has fallen on the ground and will consume seeds and some plants. Because most of their diet does come from insects, they have a high-protein diet.

Pet owners should aim to replicate a wild diet as closely as possible. They are fed gut-loaded insects. Worms and crickets are given a nutritious diet and then fed to the hedgehog so that they get the benefit of the insect itself, as well as the recently fed nutrients. This is supplemented with some fruit and vegetables, but hedgehogs can become obese if their diet is not carefully monitored.

Water should be available 24 hours per day and is usually given via a water bottle.

hedgehog on grass
Image By: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

Is Ferret Food OK For Hedgehogs?

Ferrets are strict carnivores. In the wild, their diet would consist primarily of small dead animals. Their food is high in protein but is also high in fat and low in carbs and fiber.

Ferret food is approximately 40% protein and 20% fat. Hedgehogs, although they do have a protein-rich diet, only want a diet consisting of about 30% protein and no more than 15% fat.

As well as offering a poor nutritional balance for hedgehogs, commercial ferret food contains an ingredient called BHA. BHA, or Butylated Hydroxyanisole, is a preservative and sounds like a beneficial ingredient because it is an antioxidant. But BHA has been linked to certain cancers and is best avoided.

Avoid feeding ferret food to your hedgehogs, even if the pet store you buy it from has said that it is OK.

Can A Hedgehog Eat Guinea Pig Food?

Guinea pigs are herbivores, which means they do not eat meat. They need a diet consisting of vegetables such as carrots and grass or hay. Their pellets consist of these and other herbivore-appropriate foods: none of which are suitable or essential for a healthy hedgehog. If your hedgehog eats guinea pig food regularly, it will become malnourished and is likely to suffer various vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

With that said, there shouldn’t be anything in the food that is immediately toxic to a hedgehog, so if one does eat a mouthful, it shouldn’t prove fatal or cause illness.

guinea pig with pear on the ground
Image By: Vladislav-Sinelnikov, Shutterstock

Can Hedgehogs Eat Wet Dog Food?

Some animal rescue and wildlife groups advise feeding visiting hedgehogs wet dog food as a supplement to their insect diet. Canned dog food does contain a lot of meat and, while it does not have the exact nutritional levels that your hedgie requires, it shouldn’t cause illness and is an acceptable emergency meal, if you have nothing else appropriate.

You do need to ensure that the food is not too high in salt or sugar. Some foods, especially those that are frozen raw food, use salt water as a preservative. Other, typically lower-quality, commercial foods contain high concentrations of sugar.

Too much salt or sugar can cause gastrointestinal upset and may make a hedgie ill.

Can Hedgehogs Eat Cat Food?

Some owners feed their hedgehogs on a diet of tinned cat food. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they would very little apart from meat and animal-based foods in the wild. Like domestic animals, their diet does tend to contain fruit and vegetables, as well as some additives, but their nutritional requirements are such that the food is high in protein and low in fat, closely matching the requirements of a hedgehog.

Again, it is important to ensure that the food is not overly salty or sweetened and poultry-based foods tend to be a hedgehog’s favorite choice.

Cat biscuits are also given to wild hedgehogs. They have a similar nutritional makeup as canned food and good-quality kibble uses meat as its primary ingredient with supplemental vitamins and minerals coming from fruit and vegetables. Crush the biscuits up and, if you are feeding a juvenile or young hedgie, ensure that the biscuits are soaked in water before feeding.

Because the food is considered safe for hedgehogs, there should be no concern if one does eat a mouthful or a few pieces of cat food from your home.

Home made pet dog or cat food
Image By: Jodie Johnson, Shutterstock

What Can Hedgehogs Eat?

Hedgehogs do benefit from an insect-rich diet. Foods that are considered safe and beneficial to hedgehogs are:

  • Crickets are easily obtained from pet stores, especially those that specialize in or cater to lizards and reptiles. They can be fed live, to give your hedgie mental stimulation, and are not only rich in protein but also contain chitin, which is another vital component to a hedgehog’s diet.
  • Mealworms are similarly rich in protein and chitin. They can be fed live, too, and they do not pose the same threat of escape as crickets do.
  • Waxworms are fatter: not only in appearance but also in their nutritional content. These can be given as an occasional treat.
  • Snails are slow-moving, easy to catch, and while they do not contain chitin, they are rich in protein and low in fat. As with any of these treats, if you catch them yourself in the wild, ensure that they come from a source that does not use pesticides or other chemical treatment on their plants or ground.

divider-hedgehog Final Thoughts

Hamster food is not a good source of food for hedgehogs. Not only does it not contain the appropriate protein, fat, and fiber content that they require, but it is lacking in chitin and contains potentially dangerous ingredients like BHA. Cat food and dog food can be fed as a supplement to an insect-based diet and some commercial hedgehog foods are available in specialist stores. Otherwise, you should aim to feed your hedgie on a diet that consists primarily of gut-loaded insects.

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