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Home > Hedgehogs > Southern African Hedgehog: Info, Care Guide & Traits

Southern African Hedgehog: Info, Care Guide & Traits

South African hedgehog resting

There are few pets out there cuter and more adorable than the South African Hedgehog. But just because they’re cute and adorable doesn’t mean that they’re right for you.

That’s why we created this comprehensive guide to walk you through everything that you need to know to care for these wonderful creatures after you bring one home.


Quick Facts About South African Hedgehog

Species Name: Atelerix frontalis
Family: Erinaceidae
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperature: 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperament: Quiet, solitary, and independent
Color Form: Dark brown
Lifespan: 7 years
Size: 7.5 to 8 inches
Diet: Invertebrates, beetles, grasshoppers, slugs, frogs, and lizards
Minimum Cage Size: 4 feet x 2 feet
Cage Set-Up: Low-level heat lamp, bedding, cover, exercise toys, feed and water bowl, litter tray, and toys for entertainment

South African Hedgehog Overview

While the South African Hedgehog is cute and comparatively low maintenance, they do have particular care requirements. You’ll need to take the time to set up the enclosure properly so they can stay happy and healthy.

They also have an extremely varied diet in the wild, so it’s best to stick with high-quality commercial pet hedgehog food to ensure that they get everything that they need.

Finally, if you’re dreaming of watching your pet hedgehog interact with other animals, ditch that dream now. Despite their small and cute appearance, hedgehogs are incredibly territorial and don’t tolerate spending time with other animals well.

While you can tame them so they’ll tolerate your touch, they’d prefer if you give them as much space as possible. Your pet hedgehog might be cute, but they’re not going to be cuddly, and they’ll never seek out physical affection.

Still, they’re low-maintenance pets and don’t need you to spend a ton of time with them each day, and those two features alone endear them to many pet owners out there.

south african hedgehog sleeping
Image Credit: Nowwy Jirawat, Shutterstock

How Much Do South African Hedgehogs Cost?

Compared to many other pets, the cost to purchase a South African Hedgehog is affordable. Expect to spend anywhere from $100 to $300 to bring one home.

But while the cost of the animal is fairly low, keep in mind that the total cost will be a bit higher because you’ll need a large enclosure for them and tons of accessories.

So, while you can get a hedgehog for a relatively low price, once you factor in everything else you need, the price goes up quite a bit.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

While the South African Hedgehog is an incredibly adorable pet, the truth is that they don’t possess many of the endearing behavioral characteristics that most pet owners love.

The South African Hedgehog is extremely reclusive, quiet, and independent. They prefer that you leave them alone, and they don’t want other hedgehogs to share their enclosure either.

They rarely bite, though, so when you want and need to handle them, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Appearance & Varieties

Hedgehogs are well-known for their adorable appearance, and the South African Hedgehog is no exception.

While they’re a shade of brown just about everywhere, the color darkens a bit around the spine and at the tip of their needles. The base of each tip generally has a white appearance, but this isn’t all that noticeable unless you’re looking for it.

You can find different colored hedgehogs out there, but if they don’t have this signature brown appearance, they aren’t a South African Hedgehog.


How to Take Care of South African Hedgehog

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

While the South African Hedgehog is extremely cute, they can be a bit finicky to care for. For starters, they need tons of space. In the wild, a hedgehog can travel up to 3 miles in a single night, so give them an enclosure that lets them roam.

At a minimum, the enclosure should be at least 4 feet long and 2 feet wide, but your hedgehog would undoubtedly appreciate extra space if you can give it to them.

From there, you need to maintain a consistent temperature between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Because of how sensitive the South African Hedgehog is to cold weather, we highly recommend installing a thermostat and a ceramic heat emitter to maintain a consistent temperature.

Next, you’ll need a substrate to line the cage with. We recommend using animal cardboard or a fleece liner throughout. You can litter-train a hedgehog with practice, so we recommend setting up a small litter box area too.

Inside the enclosure, you need a covered space for them to nest in. This should be similar to the size that you’d use for a guinea pig, so your hedgehog has enough room to settle down inside of it.

Since you can’t give your hedgehog 3 miles to roam, it’s essential you give them something like an exercise wheel to let them burn off energy. Finally, you can keep your hedgehog happy by giving them toys to play with.

There are tons of toys to pick from, so gather a variety for them to pick through in their enclosure.

Do South African Hedgehog Get Along With Other Pets?

These small little hedgehogs might look charming, but the truth is that they’re extremely territorial and don’t appreciate hanging around other pets. Therefore, you should always house a South African Hedgehog by themselves, and you should limit any time that they spend around other pets.

South African Hedgehogs rarely bite, but they use their needles as a primary defense mechanism. That said, since they should spend all their unsupervised time in their enclosure, you can keep other pets in the house — just don’t allow them near your South African Hedgehog.

They’re a solitary species, so treat them as such, and keep them away from other pets and hedgehogs!


What to Feed Your South African Hedgehog

The South African Hedgehog is an omnivore, so they have an extremely varied diet in the wild. Since it can be extremely challenging to replicate this in captivity, it’s best to give them high-quality hedgehog food as the main staple in their diet.

You can supplement this food with a few gut-loaded insects and some fresh fruits and veggies but don’t overdo it. The hedgehog food is what gives your hedgehog the correct blend of nutrients for optimal nutrition, and too much of anything else can lead to them not wanting to eat the food that they need to thrive.

Also, keep in mind that hedgehogs can become picky eaters, so if you’re feeding them too much of the stuff that they really want, they might refuse to eat the hedgehog food, which can lead to a whole host of problems.

two south african hedgehogs eating
Image By: Nowwy Jirawat, Shutterstock

Keeping Your South African Hedgehog Healthy

To keep your South African Hedgehog as healthy as possible, there are four things that you need to do. First, you need to keep up with the sanitation of the cage. This means cleaning and changing the bedding regularly and bathing them as needed.

Second, you need to ensure that your South African Hedgehog stays at the right temperature. Hedgehogs struggle to regulate their body temperature and can’t tolerate the cold. Keep them in an area that’s between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them healthy.

From there, ensure that they have plenty of space and opportunity to exercise. Keeping your hedgehog cooped up is detrimental to both their happiness and health.

Finally, ensure that you’re giving your hedgehog a high-quality diet. Just like you need proper nutrition to thrive and stay healthy, so does your hedgehog.

Of course, if you suspect that your South African Hedgehog is sick, don’t hesitate to take them to a vet as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Compared to many pets, breeding a South African Hedgehog is an extremely easy process. Ensure that you have any permits that you might need to get started, and then simply put the female into the male’s enclosure!

After they mate, separate the two hedgehogs again, so the female has plenty of time to prepare for the babies. They have a gestation period of 35 days.

Give the mom plenty of bedding to make her nest, and then simply wait for the babies to come. You can expect anywhere from one to nine babies at a time, although four to five is normal.

After the birth, don’t do anything to disturb them for at least 10 days. After that, you can slowly start to introduce yourself to the babies as long as the mother hedgehog is receptive. Take it slow, and don’t push past the mother’s comfort level.

Southern African Hedgehog Atelerix frontalis (6870692019)
Southern_African_Hedgehog_Atelerix_frontalis (Image Credit: mahimbi, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)


Are South African Hedgehogs Suitable for You?

If you have the space for the enclosure and want an easy-to-care-for and adorable pet, the South African Hedgehog might be just what you’ve been looking for. They’re cute, low maintenance, and affordable, so it’s a win-win-win!

Before you bring one home, do ensure that you have everything you need to care for them and that you can give them plenty of space. Also, a South African Hedgehog can live up to 7 years, so be aware that you’re not making a short-term investment when you buy one.

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Featured Image Credit: Simon_g, Shutterstock

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