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What is the best bedding for hedgehogs?

Friday, August 14, 2009

If you’re confused as to what bedding is appropriate for your African Pygmy Hedgehog, you are certainly not alone. It seems that every hedgehog enthusiast has their own opinion on the subject! There are many products available, and each comes with its own set of pros and cons. What is important is finding bedding that fits the needs of both owner and hedgehog, and above all is safe for your pet.

Commonly used types of bedding are:

Pine shavings- Pine shavings are an easily attainable and relatively cheap form of bedding for your hedgehog. There is some debate, however, on the safety of using pine. Pine contains high levels of abietic acid which could, after length exposure, heighten the risk of respiratory problems and certain cancers. The risk can be minimized by purchasing kiln dried pine and using a well-ventilated cage. Uncured pine should never be used as hedgehog bedding. Besides potential health risks, pine can be messy as your hedgehog may kick it out of his cage. The ability to simply dump it out when cleaning the cage makes it a popular bedding choice for many owners.

Paper Bedding- There are several types of paper bedding available commercially: pelleted and shredded. Both are typically made of recycled consumer paper. The pelletted type (such as Yesterday’s News) is made of recycled paper compressed into hard pellets. The shredded type (such as Carefresh) is a soft, plush paper product which comes in different colors. As with any bedding, there are drawbacks to these paper products. Pelletted litters are not generally considered comfortable for your pet. Some owners have also reported finding bits of industrial debris (such as metal and plastic) due to the product being made from recycled materials. The shredded paper bedding is comfortable for hedgehogs, but there is anecdotal evidence stating some hogs may be prone to consuming it and potentially becoming internally impacted. The soft material also has a tendency to stick to a hedgehog’s sharp quills which is rather messy when removing the animal from his cage. Paper bedding is generally very absorbent, making it easy to “spot-clean” between full cage cleanings by removing the soiled bedding and replacing it with fresh.

Aspen- Aspen bedding is a relatively safe bedding choice for many hedgehogs, especially those with allergies. It can, however, be messy unless purchased in the form of chips. There are also hedgehogs which may have an allergic reaction to aspen, though it is less common than with pine.

Corn Cob- Corn cob bedding is considered moderately comfortable for hedgehogs. Precautions should be taken when using corn cob, especially in adolescent males, as it has been known to become trapped in the penile sheath which can lead to discomfort, infections and urinary issues. This type of bedding does not dry particularly quickly, so it can form mildew if not spot-cleaned regularly. Moist bedding is unsanitary for hedgehogs, and the smell is also unpleasant for owners. Corn cob bedding is easy for owners to purchase, but is comparatively more expensive than wood or paper bedding. It is an acceptable bedding if an alternative is not available.

Fleece/Vellux Liners- Liners made of fleece or vellux can be purchased online or easily purchased and cut to cage-size from a fabric store. Many hedgehog enthusiasts find fleece liners to be the most economical and simple type of bedding as it can be re-used many times and cleaned by a quick run through the washing machine. Owners should always monitor the quality of their liners, as fleece has a tendency to pill over time. If the fleece becomes pilled, the liners should be replaced for safety. Fleece liners are considered very comfortable for hedgehogs, and many enjoy burrowing under the warmth of layered liners.

These types of bedding should NEVER be used:

Cedar shavings- Cedar is a very aromatic bedding which contains high amounts of a toxin called plicatic acid. Hedgehogs have delicate respiratory systems which could easily be compromised with asthma or upper respiratory infections caused by cedar bedding. Respiratory issues in hedgehogs are very dangerous and could result in severe illness or sudden death.

Newspaper- Though many newspapers have switched to more eco-friendly inks, some papers are still printed with ink that could be toxic to hedgehogs (particularly if ingested.) Newspaper is not considered particularly absorbent and would need nearly constant replacement. Newspaper ink also transfers very easily to skin which is unsightly and unsafe for hogs.

Cat litter- Clay cat litter is far too dusty to be used as bedding for hedgehogs. It can be used sparingly in litter trays, but should never be used as a full-cage bedding. In either case, clumping cat litter should not be used as it can compact and clump internally if eaten. Small-grained cat litter can also become embedded in the reproductive organs of both male and female hedgehogs.

Pillowcases and Towels- Loose strings from pillowcases or towels can easily become wrapped around tiny hedgehog limbs. Hogs cannot generally remove themselves when trapped in such a manner and may break a limb; tightly wrapped strings can also cause amputation. Towels are typically made up of millions of tiny loops for absorbency. This makes them great for human use, but very dangerous for hedgehogs. Their feet and nails can easily become entangled in the loops. Unfortunately, many hogs have lost a toenail or toes for this reason.

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