If you are in the process of getting to know your new hedgehog or are just thinking about adding a new one to your family, you know that there’s so much to learn. What you feed them is an essential aspect of owning any pet — a balanced and nutritious diet can lead to a healthier and longer life. But it’s also fun to give your pet treats on occasion, so perhaps you’re wondering if peanut butter is okay to give your hedgie.
Peanut butter isn’t the best choice of a treat for hedgehogs. The sticky texture and the high-fat content make peanut butter a treat that should be avoided or only given sparingly.
We look at the disadvantages and any advantages to giving peanut butter to your hedgehog, as well as what kind of peanut butter you should definitely avoid!
A Hedgehog Diet
There are 17 different kinds of hedgehogs that are native to New Zealand, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The African Pygmy, also known as the four-toed hedgehog, is the most common species of hedgie that people own as pets.
Hedgehogs have specific dietary requirements because they are insectivores. Moles and shrews also fall into this category, and they all primarily eat insects, arthropods, and earthworms. Beyond insects, hedgehogs also eat melons, roots, carrion, berries, snakes, fish, eggs, mushrooms, amphibians, and lizards.
As far as pet hedgehogs go, they typically eat pellets that are made specifically for a hedgie’s diet, in addition to waxworms, crickets, and earthworms. They actually prefer to catch live prey and will reject other food in favor of catching their prey, so there should always be a balance.
The prey and hedgehog pellets can be supplemented with a small number of fresh vegetables and fruit and the occasional treat.
A Little Bit About Peanut Butter
There are definitely both good and bad things about peanut butter. Peanut butter is roasted peanuts that are ground up into a paste. We use it in meals and desserts, though arguably, it is most popular on sandwiches and toast.
As long as you don’t suffer from a nut allergy, peanut butter can be a healthy and tasty snack. But is it okay to give your hedgehog peanut butter?
The Downside of Peanut Butter for Hedgehogs
These ingredients do not add any kind of health benefit for hedgehogs and can prove to be unhealthy overall.
Salt and hedgehogs don’t mix. Too much salt can lead to health issues, so while your hedgie might seem to enjoy licking the salt from your hands, this doesn’t mean they have a deficiency.
Giving your hedgie food that contains added salt is unnecessary and can cause dehydration and illness.
Most commercial peanut butter is made with added sugar. Sugar can lead to diabetes and weight gain in hedgehogs, so giving your hedgie any added sugar is never a good idea.
Hedgehogs are quite prone to obesity, so feeding them food high in fat (and sugar, of course) regularly can lead to an obese hedgehog.
You can often tell when you have an overweight hedgie because they often have chubby legs and can’t roll up into a ball like a healthy hedgehog. If you can see your hedgie’s face, ears, and feet when they’re rolled into a ball, this is often an indication of an obese hedgehog.
Obesity can lead to various other health issues, such as heart disease, and they might also end up suffering from calcium deficiency.
Hedgehogs are quite prone to metabolic bone disease (MBD), which is caused by an overall imbalance in the calcium to phosphorus ratio in their diets.
1 tablespoon of peanut butter has about 7 mg of calcium and 60 mg of phosphorus, but for a healthy hedgie, they need a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1. What this means is that hedgehogs need the calcium to be the same or higher than the phosphorus. In the case of peanut butter, the phosphorus is far too high.
MBD is a serious disease that can lead to a hedgehog’s death, so it’s quite essential that you ensure that they have the right balance in their diets at all times.
Peanut Butter Choking Hazard
The texture of peanut butter is thick and sticky, which can prove hazardous to hedgies. It can become stuck to the roof of their mouth or even in their throats, so there is a strong risk that they can choke on it.
Peanut Butter Aflatoxins
Last but not least, there’s the possibility of aflatoxins. These come from the mold Aspergillus, which is quite harmful and is known to lead to cancer. Since peanuts grow underground, they are more likely to develop aflatoxins.
However, it’s not as likely to be in peanut butter because the process of making peanuts into peanut butter does reduce the mold. But it’s always a good idea to be aware of this potential issue.
Chunky or Smooth Peanut Butter?
Does giving your hedgehog chunky or smooth peanut butter make a difference? It does. Chunky peanut butter increases the likelihood of your hedgie choking on it. For this reason, whole peanuts are also not a good idea.
Feeding your hedgie any kind of nuts or seeds could lead to your pet choking and the potential for digestive issues.
What Kind of PB Is Best for My Hedgehog?
If you’re determined to give your hedgehog some peanut butter, start by ensuring that it is smooth peanut butter only. You should also only shop for organic peanut butter that has no added ingredients, artificial or otherwise. The label should literally read: peanuts. There should be no sugar, salt, or oil.
Also, be sure to not give your hedgie any other high-fat treats that day to help balance everything out. Only provide a tiny amount to reduce the choking risk.
Conclusion: Hedgehogs & Peanut Butter
We know how fun it is to give your favorite pet something tasty to snack on — after all, we all love a good treat! However, as a general rule, as long as you are feeding your hedgehog a balanced diet, most treats are unnecessary, especially peanut butter. It’s just not worth the risk because it can lead to obesity, MBD, and choking.
If you are ever in doubt, speak to your veterinarian before introducing any new food or treat, particularly if they are meant for humans, to your hedgehog’s diet. Your hedgie will be happy with a healthy and nutritious diet that will keep them around for a long time.
- See Also: Indian Hedgehog