Before you get a pet that you’ve never owned before, one question you should find the answer to is “how long does this animal live?” You want to know what you’re getting into when it comes to how long your new pal will be around—particularly if they’re an animal that lives for 15+ years!
If you’ve been thinking about getting a hedgehog as a pet, this is just one of the bits of information you’ll need to take into consideration. However, you should also realize that while an estimated lifespan can be given, outside influences will factor into how long your hedgehog will live. Some hedgehogs live longer than others due to genetics or what they’re fed, amongst other things.
What’s the Average Lifespan of a Hedgehog?
Wild hedgehogs and pet hedgehogs have wildly different lifespan lengths. Due to life in the wild involving predators and a greater risk of disease or injury, hedgehogs in their natural habitat typically only live between 2-3 years. Hedgehogs who are pets tend to live longer than that, though.
Pet hedgehogs usually average a lifespan of 4-7 years (although there have been reports of some living as long as 8-10 years!). As we said above, however, there are many factors that contribute to just how long a hedgehog will survive – genetics, diet, whether they’re in a healthy environment, and much more. Everyone’s experience with hedgehogs will be different due to these many variables.
Why Do Some Hedgehogs Live Longer Than Others?
Learning about the factors that can affect your hedgehog’s lifespan is essential so that you can provide the best care for them. The care you give them can add years to their life, enabling you to enjoy more time with your pet.
What your hedgehog eats is just as important as what you eat. If you eat nothing but junk food all the time, you’re bound to end up with some health issues due to not getting the proper nutrients, right? The same goes for your pets! So, what kind of nutritional requirements does your hedgehog have?
There’s less known about these requirements for hedgehogs than, say, for a cat. We do know your hedgehog’s diet should be higher in protein and lower in fat (hedgehogs are prone to obesity!), though. While wild hedgehogs eat mostly insects with the occasional tiny mammal, pet hedgehogs will need to eat hedgehog food that is high quality. They can (and should) eat insects, such as crickets or mealworms, occasionally as well. You can even offer them some fruits and veggies to supplement their diet. You should check with your vet to find out the best fruits and veggies to feed your pet, but some they might like are apples, carrots, peas, and beans. And your pet should always have access to fresh water.
If your pet isn’t getting the proper minerals and vitamins they require, they could become ill down the road.
2. Environment and Conditions
The environment a hedgehog is placed in, and the conditions they live under can heavily influence their lifespans. Not only should you know how to care for your new pet properly before acquiring it, but you should be sure that the two of you will be well-suited, so you’re both happy. For instance, hedgehogs are nocturnal, which means if you’re a light sleeper, you might not appreciate their middle-of-the-night activities. Or, if there are small children in your household, they might want to hold the hedgehog, which isn’t a great idea as their quills can hurt their hands.
The truth is that hedgehogs are known to be pretty solitary creatures and quite shy to boot. If your hedgehog came from a breeder, it should be fairly well-socialized by the time you get it, but you might still have to work at getting your pet used to you. Carefully work—if they are afraid to interact, they could become stressed, which can lead to health problems.
You should socialize and play with your hedgehog, though, to ensure they have a good quality of life. They need not only the proper diet or housing but playtime and attention as well!
Hedgehogs may be itsy bitsy, but they need a cage that’s large so they can run around and enjoy themselves. (This cage should also be one they can’t escape from!) Make sure the cage’s floor isn’t made of wire, though, as tiny hedgehog feet could get caught. Instead, pick a cage with a solid floor. If you really want to impress your tiny friend, get them a cage with multiple levels so they can climb around. Make sure you place your pet’s cage somewhere where the temperature will remain comfortable and where they get to see both day and night.
Once you have their cage in place, it’s time to add bedding! What you choose for bedding is important because whatever material it is, they’ll be breathing it in their whole life. It’s for this reason that wood shavings are best avoided since they’re often dusty. Try paper-based bedding instead.
Related Read: Where Do Hedgehogs Live? What You Need To Know!
When it comes to males vs. females, there is a very negligible difference in their lifespans—males may live a couple of months longer than females.
Your pet’s genetics will play a vital role in how long or short their lifespan is. While this aspect is out of your hands, it’s not entirely out of a hedgehog breeder’s hands. Reputable breeders who practice ethical breeding will work to produce hedgehogs who aren’t prone to health conditions and disease. That doesn’t mean that a hedgehog from a breeder will automatically live longer; it just means they’ll have a better shot. Overall, though, there’s just no way to do anything about the randomness of genes.
6. Breeding History
As mentioned above, a reputable breeder will try their best to breed hedgehogs from lines that don’t have common hedgehog maladies. You can find reputable breeders online who follow the Breeder Code of Ethics. One way to know you’ve found a good one is their willingness to share your potential pet hedgehog’s history with you. They should let you know of any potential health issues that could arise, too.
A good breeder will also advise that you take your new hedgehog to a vet right away for a second opinion on its health. If you go to a breeder who is reluctant to tell you anything about the history of your pet, you’ll have no idea what you’re getting into. That means there’s a greater chance of running into health problems down the road.
Managing your hedgehog’s healthcare is vital to expanding their lifespans. This means taking a yearly checkup trip to a vet that knows how to handle hedgehogs, as well as taking them in when you notice something is off. And we don’t just mean the large stuff! If you see even a tiny difference in your pet’s eating or behavior, take them to the vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
You should also be aware of common hedgehog illnesses. They are prone to cancer, obesity, ear infections, ringworm, and heart disease.
The 4 Life Stages of a Hedgehog
1. Embryonic Stage
Instead of being pregnant for 9 months, a female hedgehog is pregnant for approximately 1 month. She usually only has four or five babies at a time—babies referred to as “hoglets”.
Hoglets are born with their quills covered, so the mother isn’t harmed during birth (though soft quills will start to appear within a few hours). Their eyes will begin to open anywhere from 12-24 days of age. By the time they reach 4-6 weeks, mama hedgehog will have started weaning them. They should be fully weaned by 13 weeks of age.
3. Mature Adult
Hedgehogs develop faster than humans due to their short lifespans, so there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on when they’re officially a “teenager” or “young adult”. However, we know that most hedgehogs reach their full size by 6 months and are fully mature between 9-11 months. We also know that male hedgehogs reach sexual maturity between 6-8 months of age, while females reach this between 2-6 months.
At nearly 4 years of age, your hedgehog will officially reach senior status as this is roughly the equivalent of 60 human years.
How To Tell Your Hedgehog’s Age
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell a hedgehog’s age. It’s a little easier when they’re babies because you can see how their quills change (and see the hedgehog grow bigger), but after adulthood, there’s really no way to know.
Hedgehogs can live anywhere between 4-7 years. How long a hedgehog lives, though, has a lot to do with the care you give it. While there are some aspects out of your control, such as genetics, there are plenty you can control, at least to an extent. Providing your hedgehog with a healthy diet, large enough cage to play in, a low-stress environment, and proper medical care can add years to their lives.
Featured Image Credit: Amayaeguizabal, Pixabay