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Why Do Hedgehogs Burrow? 5 Possible Reasons

Algerian hedgehog

Hedgehogs aren’t the most common pet to have, but if you have one, surely you’ve noticed that they’re quite unique and can have some unusual behaviors. One such behavior that you might notice is when your hedgehog is burrowing. Is this a totally normal behavior, and if so, why is your hedgehog burrowing?

Burrowing is a totally normal activity for hedgehogs. It’s an instinctual act for hedgehogs and they do so for a number of different reasons. However, a hedgehog in the wild is different from a pet hedgehog, and your hedgie’s reasons for burrowing may not be completely understood. In this article, we’ll look at four potential reasons why hedgehogs burrow so that you can understand your pet a little bit better.

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The 5 Reasons Hedgehogs Burrow

1. He’s Making a Place to Sleep

The most likely reason that your pet hedgehog is burrowing is that he’s making himself a nice comfy place to sleep. Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures that can sleep for up to 18 hours per day. With that being said, not all hedgehogs burrow in order to sleep. Some do make nests above ground depending on the conditions in which they live. But in general, underground is where a hedgehog feels is the safest place to sleep.

a woman trimming hedgehog's nails
Image Credit: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

2. He’s Hibernating

Speaking of sleeping, hedgehogs in the wild hibernate if they live in an area that has a cold climate during the winter.  Underground is warmer, so hedgehogs burrow to give them a place to block out the cold. A pet hedgehog is less likely to hibernate since he lives in a more temperature-controlled environment. However, if he is kept near a window, air conditioner, or just otherwise feels cold for an extended period of time, he may go into a state of “false hibernation” until it warms back up.

We should point out that if this happens to your hedgehog, it’s not necessarily a good thing. During hibernation, an animal’s metabolic, heart, and breathing rates slow way down as they try to conserve energy. In the wild, a hedgehog has time to prepare his body properly for hibernation. They store up enough energy in their bodies to be able to survive.

But a pet hedgehog often isn’t as prepared for hibernation and doing so could put him at risk of a serious illness or death. His body functions will slow down even if he doesn’t have enough energy saved up. If you suspect that your pet hedgehog is hibernating, it is important that you warm him up and move him to a warmer location, if necessary.


3. He’s Searching for Food

Another reason your hedgehog might be burrowing is that he is searching for food. Now, it’s worth noting that in this case, your hedgehog may not actually be burrowing, but is just digging holes. However, both actions look very similar.

Hedgehogs are insectivores, which means that the main part of their diet consists of insects. Earthworms, centipedes, beetles, slugs, snails, etc., are all things that a hedgehog may eat in the wild, and what better place to find them than underground? Even though you feed your pet hedgehog regularly, it’s possible that he may just be hungry and is looking for a snack.

a close up of a hedgehog on litter
Image Credit: WildSnap, Shutterstock

4. He’s Sick

A hedgehog that is sick may also stay in a burrow for a longer period than what is normal. Signs of a sick hedgehog usually present themselves in the form of reduced appetite, lethargy, labored breathing, discharge, coughing and sneezing, and even paralysis. A hedgehog may or may not stay exclusively in a burrow while being sick, but if one is in a burrow more often than normal, then sickness may be worth considering especially if you notice other symptoms.


5. She’s Pregnant

If you only have one hedgehog, you can rule this one out entirely. But, being pregnant is a reason that hedgehogs burrow in the wild so we felt the need to include it, especially if you have more than one hedgehog and are trying to breed them.

Hedgehogs prefer to be solitary creatures, but they do still mate. If a female becomes pregnant, she may burrow and stay in the burrow until she’s given birth and until the babies are old enough to be on their own. And again, even if your pet hedgehog isn’t pregnant, burrowing is still a natural instinct so she could be doing it just because that’s what she thinks she’s supposed to do. The thing to look out for is whether or not she is staying in the burrow for an extended period of time.

South African hedgehog resting
Image Credit: Simon_g. Shutterstock

Is It Normal for Pet Hedgehogs to Burrow?

It’s perfectly normal for a pet hedgehog to burrow. Again, burrowing is a natural instinct that all hedgehogs have regardless of whether or not they are kept as pets. In the wild, a hedgehog can dig a burrow as much as 20 inches deep. Your pet hedgehog has limited space with which he can burrow, but they’ll still try to do it even if they can’t get very far.

Remember that the most likely reason your pet hedgehog is burrowing is that he’s just looking for a place to sleep. Hedgehogs usually stay in burrows only temporarily, and your pet hedgehog may dig a new burrow every couple of days or so. But if your hedgehog has stayed in one burrow for a long time, it could be a sign that something is wrong with him or with his environment.

The most likely reason for a pet hedgehog staying in a burrow for a long time is that he is cold. Temperatures between 59ºF and 65ºF are thought to trigger hibernation in hedgehogs, and even though most homes have temperature controls to keep them warmer than that, it’s possible that a power outage or a heater being broken could bring temperatures down to that level.

Remember that hibernation in pet hedgehogs is not a good thing, and you need to find a way to warm up your hedgehog if you suspect that he is hibernating. If you warm up the environment and your hedgehog is still staying in a burrow, he may be sick and you should have a vet check him out.

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If you notice your pet hedgehog burrowing, it’s usually nothing to be concerned about. Some hedgehogs may spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping in a burrow and the location of the burrow may change every couple of days. This is totally normal behavior. But if your hedgehog is staying in one burrow for several days without coming out, it could be a sign that something more serious is going on.

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Featured Image Credit: Best dog photo, Shutterstock

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