With a tiny, compact body protected by quills, the Somali hedgehog is a unique animal that forages for food in the dry grasslands of Somalia. Like other hedgehogs, Somalis are most active at night and they cover several miles searching for insects, plants, and small reptiles. They’re solitary hunters that only interact with other hedgehogs when they’re ready to mate. They quickly roll into a ball with their quills pointed outward when predators threaten them. Hedgehogs are considered exotic pets, and some countries have banned or restricted access to these unusual pets.
Quick Facts about Somali Hedgehogs
|Species Name:||Somali hedgehog|
|Temperature:||Hot, dry climates|
|Color Form:||White belly/brown legs|
|Lifespan:||4 – 7 years|
|Size:||3 – 5 inches long; weighs up to 0.25 pounds|
|Diet:||Insects, eggs, reptiles, roots|
|Minimum Tank Size:||30 gallons|
|Tank Set-Up:||Plastic floor, exercise wheel, potty area, heating pad|
|Compatibility:||Solitary animals who dislike companions|
Somali Hedgehog Overview
Compared to its relatives, the Somali hedgehog is one of the smallest species. It rarely gets longer than 5 inches or weighs more than a quarter of a pound. Since it’s a nocturnal mammal, it’s not spotted very often by Somali residents. It burrows into the ground with its sharp claws to make its habitat in the grasslands and hide from predators.
After gestating for 6 weeks, Somali hoglets are born blind and without quills, but after 36 hours, their temporary quills begin to grow. Hedgehogs are not regarded as excellent mothers, but they usually care for their young for 12 to 13 weeks until they’ve learned to gather food by themselves. If resources are scarce or the mother senses some of her babies are unwell, she may kill and consume her hoglets. Even in captivity, hedgehogs can cannibalize their hoglets. Biologists do not entirely understand cannibalism during captivity, but most speculate that environmental stresses can force the mother to kill. A noisy, uncomfortable environment that prevents hedgehogs from sleeping during the day can increase their stress levels and cause the mother to resort to extreme measures.
How Much Do Somali Hedgehogs Cost?
Somali hedgehogs have not been domesticated as pets, and any Somali hedgehogs for sale in your area are likely from illegal sources. However, the African pygmy hedgehog is similar to the Somali, and it’s the most popular choice for hedgehog owners. You can expect to pay $100 to $300 for a pet hedgehog, but you may pay a little more for animals with desired color patterns. Although hedgehogs are more affordable to adopt than most domesticated creatures, they still require a large tank, food, exercise wheel, heating pad, and other supplies.
Behavior & Temperament
Somali hedgehogs are not social animals. They prefer to hunt alone in the darkness, and they’re always on high alert for predators. They typically try to stay away from other hedgehogs, but they will fight each other if they’re foraging in the same area where food is scarce. The origin of the animal’s name comes from the grunting sounds they make when they dig under hedges to search for roots. One of the creature’s most unique behaviors is its self-anointing ritual. When Somalis encounter a new scent, they produce foamy saliva that they rub all over their fur. The reason for the ritual is unknown, but some researchers have suggested that it’s a form of stress relief.
Appearance & Varieties
Although the hedgehogs’ spines may make you believe that they’re like porcupines, they’re unrelated to the spiked mammals, and they’re closer genetically to shrews than other animals. Wild hedgehogs, like the European variety, are usually much larger than the domesticated species kept as pets. Somali hedgehogs weigh less than a pound, and they have white bellies, brown or tan legs, and dark spines. The tips of the Somali’s quills are lighter in color (usually white), and unlike the porcupine, the quills are permanent. The only time a hedgehog sheds its spines is when it loses quills before entering adulthood.
Somalis have large, beady eyes but have poor eyesight. They rely on their enhanced smell and hearing to locate food and avoid threatening species. Their faces are white with raccoon-like darker masks on their snouts and around their eyes. Most hedgehog pets are salt and pepper colors, but some breeders offer rarer colors like cinnamon, chocolate, apricot, and brown. Hedgehogs with more unusual colors are typically sold at higher prices than salt and pepper varieties.
How to Take Care of Somali Hedgehogs
Somali Hedgehog Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup
When you’re shopping for tanks for a pet hedgehog, it’s best to purchase the largest tank that your home will accommodate. Cramped conditions can make the animal stressed and threaten its health and well-being.
Somali Hedgehogs Tank
Using a 30-gallon tank will provide plenty of room for your pet to live comfortably but try not to purchase an enclosure that’s less than 20 gallons. The tank should have walls at least 4 feet high to prevent the animal from escaping, and the width should be at least 2 feet. Although several tanks sold for small pets have wire floors, they’re not suitable for hedgehogs because the animals can get their feet caught in the mesh. Plastic-bottom tanks are ideal for hedgehog pets. They need an exercise wheel in the tank to stay healthy but try to avoid the wire wheels for hamsters that can cause injuries to their feet.
Somali Hedgehogs Bedding
The best bedding materials are shaded newspapers, recycled pellets, or pine wood shavings. Since hedgehogs are irritated by the scent of cedar wood, it’s best to avoid cedar shavings. The bedding should be replaced weekly to reduce odors from feces and urine and keep your pet healthy.
Temperature and Lighting
Somali hedgehogs are desert animals that cannot tolerate chills or cold temperatures. The ideal temperature of a hedgehog habitat should be between 70° to 85° F. Unlike reptiles and other small animals kept in tanks, hedgehogs cannot be kept in a tank with a heating lamp. Heating lamps produce light that can confuse hedgehogs and interfere with their nightly activities. A heating pad designed for small pets can be placed in the tank to provide warmth, and some pet owners use a ceramic heat emitter that does not produce light. However, a ceramic heat emitter cannot be used when the tank’s bottom is made from plastic. The plastic can warp or melt from the heat, but a metal floor is suitable for an emitter.
Do Somali Hedgehogs Get Along with Other Pets?
Hedgehogs enjoy a solitary lifestyle, and they’re not fond of other animals. You can have other pets living in the same home, but they should be kept away from the hedgehog. Hedgehogs are territorial creatures that value their personal space, and they cannot live happily with each other or other animals. If you have two hedgehogs, they’ll need separate tanks to keep them safe. Two hedgehogs living together can create a volatile environment, and they will likely try to kill each other to establish dominance.
With other pets in your home, you should close off a room to allow your hedgehog to roam freely. They’re accustomed to traveling several miles in the wild for food, and they need daily exercise to prevent obesity and other medical conditions.
What to Feed Your Somali Hedgehog
In their natural environment in Eastern Africa, hedgehogs mostly eat insects, roots, eggs, and small reptiles. When hedgehogs were first imported as domesticated pets in the early 1990s, pet owners had limited choices for food. Now, you can find dried food specifically formulated for hedgehogs. Most brands contain some form of dried insect components in their recipes to mimic the animal’s wild diet.
Hedgehog food is a healthy, primary source of sustenance for a pet, but it can be supplemented with live insects and small portions of fruit like berries or apple pieces. Insects such as mealworms and cricket are excellent treats, but if you feed hedgehogs insects too often, they may have trouble finishing their commercial food.
The treats you should avoid feeding a hedgehog include bread, milk products, dog food, and cat food. Hedgehogs cannot digest milk or dairy products, and if they consume dairy, they may experience diarrhea. Cat food and dog food is not harmful to hedgehogs, but they’re not as nutritionally balanced as hedgehog food.
Keeping Your Somali Hedgehog Healthy
Somali Hedgehogs are not prone to many health issues, but they can suffer from joint problems if they become overweight. Obesity is a significant concern with hedgehogs living in captivity, and as a pet owner, you must provide an exercise wheel and daily play sessions to keep your pet fit and happy. In the wild, hedgehogs cover large territories foraging for goodies, and they’ll become anxious and irritated if they live in a cramped tank without an exercise wheel. Since they’re only active at night, it’s best to allow an hour or more of playtime in a closed-off room. Keeping a hedgehog in one room will help you avoid searching for the tiny animal throughout your home.
Somali Hedgehog Breeding
Although most states allow four domesticated hedgehogs to be kept as pets, each state has different restrictions on importing and breeding. The hedgehog pet market is supplied by breeders because most countries forbid wild captures, but breeding hedgehogs is not a simple prospect. If you’re considering breeding, be sure to work with a professional breeder who can show you the correct techniques. Male and female hedgehogs can meet in the same enclosure for breeding, but they must be quickly separated after consummation. If they’re left in the same tank, the male can eventually attack and kill the female. Some hedgehogs can tolerate others for brief periods, but they prefer to live alone in a private tank. Two males residing in the same tank is an explosive environment that will result in one animal claiming dominance and killing the other.
Are Somali Hedgehogs Suitable for You?
Compared to most pets of similar size, hedgehogs require a great deal of care. They’re ideal for owners who work during the day and have their nights free for feeding their pets and playing with them. Their dietary requirements are simple to maintain, but anyone turned off by feeding live insects to their pets may be better off with a less-exotic animal. After buying a large tank, bedding, and supplies, hedgehog owners have few expenses other than food and veterinary visits.
Somali hedgehogs will be challenging to locate from a reputable dealer, but the African pygmy is widely available and similar to the Somali breed. If you have extra time at night to spend with your pet and enjoy caring for a creature with a unique personality, you may be an excellent caretaker for a pet hedgehog.
Featured Image Credit: Anastasiia Gru, Shutterstock