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Home > Hedgehogs > Do Hedgehogs Hibernate? Interesting Facts & Care Tips

Do Hedgehogs Hibernate? Interesting Facts & Care Tips

Egyptian Long-Eared Hedgehog

Hedgehogs have also become a popular pet among small animal enthusiasts. With the popularity of hedgehogs as a pet booming, many new hedgehog owners are left wondering what kind of behavior they should expect from their new family members come wintertime. Hedgehogs in the wild can hibernate from December until March, depending on climate and food sources. Captive hedgehogs do not hibernate, but they sleep for most of the day.

divider-hedgehogHedgehogs 101

Hedgehogs are spiny, nocturnal mammals found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand by introduction. They’re easy to spot by their characteristic spines, which are hollow keratin hairs covering their bodies.

Hedgehogs may look like small rodents, but they’re part of the same scientific order as shrews and moles, and share a scientific family with moonrats. While their appearance may be somewhat similar to porcupines, they are not related.

Cute Hedgehog
Image by: amayaeguizabal, Pixabay


During the day, hedgehogs can be found sleeping under bushes and in their nests. While some hedgehogs have adapted to a diurnal schedule, most have maintained a nocturnal sleeping pattern.

Those who live in temperate climates may find that the hedgehogs that live in their backyards disappear for several months during the winter. This is because these animals are known to hibernate during the winter months.


Hedgehogs are omnivorous and feed on insects and plants. Their food sources are scarce during the winter, and the hedgehogs hibernate until spring when their food sources are more abundant.

The hedgehog hibernation cycle starts in late November or early December and can last until the end of March. Each hedgehog is different and will have a slightly different hibernation cycle, but most wild hedgehogs will hibernate.

Hedgehog Eating
Image by: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay


Hedgehog hibernation is triggered by the temperature of the air around them. When it gets cold enough, the hedgehog’s body hibernates to preserve its energy until the spring. A hedgehog’s body temperature will drop from its usual 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit to under 40 degrees Fahrenheit during hibernation.

This drop in body temperature allows the hedgehog’s body to conserve energy while they’re asleep. Heating the body in direct conflict with the air around them requires a great deal of energy, so by entering this state of hibernation, a hedgehog can survive on their stored fat until they wake up.

Hedgehogs need to weigh around 1.3 lbs for their bodies to survive the hibernation period physically. A hedgehog who weighs too much less than this will die of starvation before they wake up.


What Is Overwintering?

Overwintering is the process by which an organism survives the winter period when resources are scarce, and the climate is cold and dry. Hibernation is a form of overwintering.

A hedgehog who would typically not survive the hibernation period can be helped through the winter by external forces. This type of overwintering is generally achieved by bringing the hedgehog to a safe location where they can wait out the winter without hibernating.

There are many reasons that a hedgehog may weigh less than they need to when winter rolls around. Some hedgehogs are born too late in the year to put on the amount of weight necessary to survive the winter. Others may experience illness or injury that prevents them from putting on the correct amount of weight.

Wildlife rescues may intervene and overwinter these hedgehogs. Hedgehogs that need to be overwintered will be kept indoors in a constantly heated place to a temperature of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature falls below that, the hedgehog will attempt to hibernate and may starve.

Hedgehogs kept in temperatures that are too cold may also go into a state of partial hibernation where they go to sleep, but their body temperatures do not drop correctly. Thus, they are not preserving energy.

A hedgehog in partial hibernation will starve to death and should be woken up.

hedgehog on grass_Oldiefan_Pixabay
Image by: Oldiefan, Pixabay

Do Hedgehogs Hibernate in Captivity?

A captive hedgehog should not try to hibernate if its enclosure is being kept at the correct temperature. Hedgehogs only hibernate when they become physically cold. A hedgehog who is being held indoors should not be trying to hibernate.

If your indoor hedgehog is trying to hibernate, this could indicate that its enclosure is too cold. While hedgehogs that are kept indoors will rarely worry about not putting on enough weight to hibernate, they’re more likely to go into a partial hibernation because they’re being kept indoors.

Humans rarely want to keep their homes consistently under the 40-degree mark in the winter, and if the air isn’t cold enough when the hedgehog goes into hibernation, they won’t fully hibernate, and they’ll die if left that way.


What Should I Do If My Hedgehog Tries to Hibernate?

While it’s generally not recommended to disturb a hibernating hedgehog, a captive hedgehog that is found in a state of hibernation should be gently woken from its slumber. It will take your hedgehog some time to get its bearings, so leave a warm blanket and some food nearby so that your hedgehog can easily find something to eat once they wake up.

Keep an eye on your hedgehog to ensure they don’t go back to sleep and increase the temperature in the room you keep them in to discourage them from attempting another hibernation.

Image by: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

What Should I Do If I Accidentally Disturb a Hibernating Hedgehog?

If you accidentally disturb a hedgehog nest during the hibernation season, it’s critical to leave the nest as close to intact as you can before leaving. The hedgehog may not wake up, so don’t make any sudden movements or loud noises. Do your best not to disturb the hedgehog further.

If the hedgehog does not wake up immediately, try to leave a small dish of dog or cat food that the hedgehog can snack on if they do wake up. Try to cover their nest back up with leaves as best you can so that if they wake up, they have the materials to rebuild their nest immediately available.

If the hedgehog wakes up immediately, it may run away from you. If that happens, still leave some food out for the hedgehog to find before they go back to sleep. Waking up is a process that can seriously disturb their hibernation and might even be fatal if they’re awake for too long.

If you are worried that the hedgehog you disturbed looked too small to survive the winter, contact your local wildlife society and bring the hedgehog in. If you need to pick up the hedgehog, do so while wearing heavy garden gloves or contact your local wildlife society and have them arrange for the hedgehog to be taken in for overwintering.

hedgehog eating cricket
Image by: Best dog photo,Shutterstock


The hibernation period is a crucial period for the survival of animals who utilize this method of overwintering. If you are concerned about a hedgehog in your care or on your property, don’t hesitate to contact your local wildlife society for more information and assistance. They will be able to guide you through the steps of ensuring the safety of the hedgehogs in your life.

Pet Keen does not endorse untrained parties attempting to overwinter hedgehogs. It is better to allow them to hibernate naturally than try to overwinter them yourself. Even though keeping them indoors might seem safer for them, it can mess with their ability to survive in nature and have a poor influence on young hedgehogs born to those you are caring for.

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Featured Image Credit: AmyAlyssa, Shutterstock

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