Hedgehogs are not naturally found in the United States, but they're becoming popular here as pets.

From British backyards to the plains of Africa, hedgehogs scurry freely nearly everywhere in the world, but in the United States, they have no natural habitat. Fortunately, because breeders have nurtured the descendants of African pygmy hedgehogs, they are becoming increasingly popular pets here.

If you decide to keep a hedgehog as a pet, there are a few guidelines you should follow. Hedgehogs prefer to be alone and are best housed in large fish tanks with screen covers. Coat the tank's bottom with a 1-inch layer of dust-free bedding, such as aspen bedding, and lay down a rough piece of slate so that the hedgehog's nails can be worn down. From the top of the cage, suspend an exercise wheel made specifically for hedgehogs; the gaps between the rungs on a hamster wheel are larger, making it easy for your hedgehog to get its feet caught. Also include a water bottle and a ceramic food dish; a good-quality commercial hedgehog food is ideal, but a high-quality cat or ferret food will do in a pinch.

Because hedgehogs are prone to skin mites, keep a close eye on your pet. If you notice anything unusual about its behavior or appearance, immediately take it to a vet who specializes in small mammals.



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