Hedgehogs make lovable pets. These spiky creatures can come across as intimidating but are endearing animals. Although hedgehogs have been known to be harmless to themselves and those around them, there have been instances where their behaviour is questioned.
Often questions are raised regarding some behaviours that hedgehogs exhibit.
Hedgehogs are not cannibalistic by nature, but they might exhibit this behaviour during specific circumstances.
When hedgehogs give birth, they naturally have a maternal instinct towards their babies. However, if one of their babies shows signs of disease or frailty, the mother does not know how to deal with it. Hence, like other animals such as rabbits, they resort to eating their babies.
Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Own Babies?
New hedgehog pet owners are often puzzled by the notion that hedgehogs could eat their own babies.
As much as we would not like to believe it, hedgehogs do eat their babies. Female hedgehogs can eat their babies if they feel they are in danger. More often, hedgehog babies are also rejected if they are not healthy enough.
If they are around babies, male hedgehogs also eat babies because they are not aware that they are their own.
Why Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?
As aforementioned, hedgehogs can resort to cannibalistic behaviour if they observe that their other babies might be in danger.
Mother hedgehogs give birth all alone, and the males take no part in childbirth or the raising process. Therefore, new hedgehog mothers feel vulnerable and make the overwhelming choice of eating their babies to protect them from any imminent danger. This is one reason why they eat their babies to help them survive in one way.
Another reason why hedgehogs eat their babies is that they do not want any other animals to gain nutrients from them.
If a stressful environment surrounds a mother hedgehog, it can react adversely and gulp down its babies. This can happen due to external changes in the environment or loud noises. Therefore, it is best to leave the mother alone with her babies for a few weeks so they have time to settle down.
It is also highly likely that a mother hedgehog would eat her babies if there were a male hedgehog around. Therefore, if you have an expecting hedgehog, immediately remove the male from the surroundings to save the babies and give them a chance of survival.
Hedgehogs are animals, after all, and have limited knowledge. They do what their instinct tells them to do. Mother hedgehogs can also eat their babies if there is not enough food to eat or cannot figure out motherhood. The change in environment due to childbirth can also bother them.
Are All Hedgehogs Cannibals?
Hedgehogs are not cannibals all of time but can occasionally eat their babies under situations of extreme stress and desperation. This is a problem that many breeders and new pet parents often come across. It must be remembered that cannibalism is not in the nature of hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are omnivorous, which means their diet comprises both plants and flesh. Hence, it is highly likely that they can eat their kind if there is inadequate food.
What to do with Rejected Hedgehogs?
If the mother hedgehog has refused to take care of the baby and is too frail, you should first remove it from the cage.
You can find a foster mother for the baby hedgehog. Sometimes mother hedgehogs are unfit to be mothers, and another hedgehog can take much better care of the baby.
Before taking on the responsibility yourself, you can also try putting the baby hedgehog back in the cage with the mother after some time. It can be possible that the mother hedgehog accepts the baby.
If all else fails, you can hand-feed and take care of the baby until it is healthy and big enough to survive independently.
How to Take Care of Abandoned Hedgehogs?
As a pet parent, you may have come across a situation of rejected baby hedgehogs by their mothers. Caring for a baby hedgehog in such a case becomes essential as there is always the fear that the mother can eat it. Moreover, the runt of the litter is always the victim of cannibalization.
If the mother hedgehog has rejected the baby, you must immediately separate it. Baby hedgehogs require milk, and you must ensure that you get the very best to make up for their mother’s milk. You can also opt for a milk replacement.
Since these are just baby hedgehogs we are taking care of, they are too young for any kind of activity. Therefore, they must be stimulated after every feeding to ensure that they defecate and urinate.
You can stimulate their stomach with the help of a q-tip or a small piece of cloth. Failure to do this will result in swelling of bowels and anus and can even cause them to rupture.
It can be shocking to some people, especially first-time pet parents to hedgehogs, when they learn that hedgehogs can be cannibals. Hedgehogs are not cannibals by nature. However, they are forced to, and it is their instinct to do so.
Certain situations make hedgehogs feel threatened, such as lack of food or threat from a potential enemy that can cause them to wat their own.
Mother hedgehogs can eat their babies if they sense danger or if the babies have deficiencies. They also dislike any changes in their environment and stress, which can lead to cannibalistic behaviour.
Male hedgehogs are also known to eat their own if they are around as they are not aware that the babies are their own.
If its mother has rejected a baby hedgehog, you must separate it from the cage and try to put it back in after some time.
You can also get a foster mother to take care of the baby hedgehog. If that fails, you have to hand feed and take care of the little creature until it no longer requires assistance.