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Home > Hedgehogs > How to Trim Hedgehog Nails: 5 Simple Steps

How to Trim Hedgehog Nails: 5 Simple Steps

a woman trimming hedgehog's nails

If cutting a dog’s nails is a daunting task that can turn off many pet owners, imagine trimming the nails of a creature as tiny as the hedgehog! However, it is possible, and above all necessary, to do so. All you need is the right tools, the right method, patience, and a little practice. We are going to walk you through this process step by step so that you can learn to cut your hedgehog’s nails with more confidence.

But before reading any further: Do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian or a reputable hedgehog breeder for advice. If, even after reading our article, you don’t feel confident enough to trim your little hedgehog’s nails on your own, your best bet is to ask a professional for some help.


Why Do You Need to Trim Your Hedgehog’s Nails?

The hedgehog is a small insectivorous mammal that is easily recognized by its spines, which are actually hollow hairs made of keratin. In the wild, they feed mainly on small invertebrates and amphibians such as snails, frogs, and insects. They supplement their diet with berries, bird eggs, roots, mushrooms, and other plants. Thanks to digging, their constantly growing nails wear out naturally.

However, in captivity, they do not have the opportunity to wear down their nails and this makes them more vulnerable to injury and ingrown toenails. Toenails that are too long can also interfere with their gait and prevent them from gripping live prey, such as hopping crickets.

an african pygmy hedgehog on owner hand
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

How Often Should You Trim Your Pet’s Nails?

The hedgehog’s nails grow fairly quickly: expect to have to trim them every two or four weeks or so.

How to Handle Your Hedgehog Correctly

Before you learn how to trim your little hedgie’s nails, you need to know how to handle him properly.

Here is what you need to do:
  • Gently slide your open hands under the belly of your little companion. This way you will avoid getting bitten. Keep your hands relaxed. When it is well installed and stable, you can lift it quietly. You can also use his blanket to take him out of his cage, as it is good protection against his small spines. But beware: a hedgehog can be very fast!
  • Don’t tuck your fingers under his belly, so they won’t get trapped by his prickly armor if he suddenly curls up. Instead, keep your hands open, palms facing the belly of the hedgehog.
  • Eliminate any risk of fall. During your first manipulations, place yourself on a bed or near the floor. So, if you are surprised by your pet’s quick reaction, he won’t risk falling from a height and injuring himself.
  • Be aware that the hedgehog has poor eyesight and only perceives the world in two dimensions, that is to say, without perspective. If you place him on a high piece of furniture, he can throw himself down without knowing he was so high because the floor may appear to be on the same level.
  • If he curls up into a ball, don’t try to stretch him: you will do more harm than good. Instead, use gentle circular motions on his back to relax his muscles; that will make him want to stick his head out. You can also drop a few drops of lukewarm water on his forehead.
  • Do not pet your hedgie when he is in his cage because he will most likely feel threatened by a hand that comes from above. Take him out so he can see you better.
  • Give him enough time to wake up and speak quietly to him so that he gets used to the tone of your voice.
  • Stay calm. If you are a little nervous during the first manipulations, try to calm down because the animals can perceive these vibrations. Also, don’t be afraid of your hedgehog’s little spines: unlike the porcupine, the hedgehog’s quills do not detach from his skin.
  • Find the technique that works best for you and stick with it. In any case, be patient and repeat the previous steps every day so that your hedgehog gets used to you.

Side note: Even if your hedgehog’s spines hurt your hands a bit, resist the urge to grab your animal with gloves. This will only scare your pet and prevent him from getting used to your scent.


The 5 Steps to Trim Your Hedgehog Nails

1. Gather the Right Tools

All you need is a regular nail clipper, a blanket, and some treats (like small pieces of apples, corn, or carrots).

You can also use a nail clipper designed for small animals, like the Kaytee Small Animal Pro-Nail Nail Clipper, which has a convenient, easy-grip handle and is perfect for your hedgehog’s delicate and tiny claws.

a hedgehog on a blanket
Image Credit By: Nicole Mulstay, Shutterstock

2. Gently Pick Up Your Hedgehog

Wrap your hedgehog in a blanket to restrict his movements, especially if he likes to squirm. Then, sit in a well-lit area and place your hedgehog in your lap.

3. Grab One Paw at a Time

Gently pull one of your hedgehog’s legs out of the blanket. Take the nail clipper in your dominant hand and make yourself comfortable.

4. Cut the Nails One by One

Cut off the tip of your hedgehog’s nail, but be sure not to touch the pale pink line of the nail as it contains nerves. Cut only what is protruding and not too short.

5. Repeat the Process on All Nails

Repeat the previous steps until all nails are trimmed. If your hedgehog can’t take the procedure, gets agitated too much, or tries to bite you, simply put him back in his cage. You don’t have to trim all the nails at once; you can always start over later, once your hedgehog has calmed down.

  • Quick Tip: The best time for trimming is after a bath, as the nail is softer and your hedgehog calmer.


Bottom Line

If, after several unsuccessful attempts, you can’t cut your hedgie’s nails because he’s too nervous (or you are), you can try while he’s taking a little bath. He won’t be able to ball up because he is in the water, and you can gently grab him, one paw at a time.

However, for some hedgehogs who are both too nervous and whose legs are too sensitive, the only way out may be a visit to the vet.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

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