Hedgehogs are fascinating animals with characteristics that make them unique and separate them from the rest. These tiny mammals can be found in the wild but are also kept as pets.
As a pet parent, it is essential to be aware of a hedgehog’s needs and behaviours. Hedgehogs are sensitive animals, and the vet should check any sudden changes in their behaviour.
One behaviour that hedgehogs follow is hibernation. All hedgehogs hibernate as this is a survival instinct in the wild when food is insufficient and the weather gets cold.
Hibernating hedgehogs are not asleep. During hibernation, hedgehogs drop their temperatures to match the current air temperature and save energy.
How to Tell If a Hedgehog is Hibernating or Dead
You may come across a hedgehog in the wild that is curled up and cannot figure out if it is dead or alive. Moreover, seeing your hedgehog in a similar state can cause you to worry greatly.
It can be difficult to recognize a hibernating hedgehog from a dead one, but it is not impossible. A hibernating hedgehog will take slow breaths, and their heart rates drop and become very slow.
It is often difficult to hear their heartbeat, especially without a stethoscope. Moreover, the hedgehog’s breathing also becomes difficult to detect.
There are certain signs to look for that distinguish between a dead and hibernating hedgehog. The tiny mammals hibernate by curling up into a ball. Hedgehogs, however, do not die curled up. If your hedgehog is curled up, there are big chances that it is hibernating.
If you find a curled hedgehog and you touch the spines lightly, it may let out a groan. This means that the hedgehog was sleeping. However, if the hedgehog does not respond, it may be hibernating. It is essential not to disturb a hibernating hedgehog.
Do Hedgehogs Come Out in Winter?
It is common to see hedgehogs out in the winter. Hedgehogs hibernate from October/November until March/April. They can still be active during November and December. Hedgehogs are seen out as even during hibernation, as they are still moving their nest.
If hedgehogs give birth in September, their litter can be found during the winter months. These tiny hedgehogs will have a hard time surviving the winter season as they are too young to hibernate.
Do Hedgehogs Hibernate as Pets?
Hedgehogs are mammals that hibernate fully in the wild for survival. The question often arises if they should follow the same routine as pets. Hedgehogs can go into hibernation mode if the temperature in their cage drops, and hence it is important to look out for that.
Pet hedgehog’s hibernation can be harmful to them and lead to death.
Most hedgehogs that are housed are African pygmies and do not belong in their native environment. African pygmies are naturally smaller, and as a result, pet owners try their best not to feed them a lot if they become obese.
Hence, these tiny pets do not have enough fat reserves stored to hibernate.
Moreover, wild hedgehogs have a better immune system. Pet hedgehogs stay indoors and are not as strong. These hedgehogs are more prone to infections while in hibernation.
What Causes a Pet Hedgehog to Hibernate?
Since hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, they do not get enough natural light inside the house. Therefore, it is important to leave a light open for them. Controlling the temperature of your hedgehog’s room is crucial.
A fall in temperature will make your hedgehog go into hibernation mode. Hence, your hedgehog should always be kept warm and cosy to stop it from hibernating.
How to Tell If Your Hedgehog is Hibernating
Your hedgehog may display some signs that you should look out for to see if it is hibernating. Firstly, check if your room’s temperature is 72-74 degrees Fahrenheit (around 23 Celsius). If the temperature falls below this, your hedgehog is likely to move towards hibernation.
You will notice your hedgehog being slow and sluggish. Usually, hedgehogs are active, especially during the nighttime. However, a hibernating hedgehog will not be active. A hibernating hedgehog will not show any interest in food and water.
If you touch your hedgehog’s belly, it will feel cool if it is hibernating. Moreover, your hedgehog will attempt to curl into a ball and not want to uncurl.
How to Stop Your Hedgehog from Hibernating
If you notice your hedgehog hibernating, you should attempt to increase its body temperature. It would be best to increase the temperature slowly and not at once; otherwise, your hedgehog can die. You can use a heating pad and place it under the cage.
Keeping the hedgehog in warm bedding can also help in the process. The best way to increase your hedgehog’s body temperature is through skin-to-skin contact. It would help if you tried holding your hedgehog close to your skin.
After you feel like your hedgehog is done trying to hibernate, you should gently put it in its cage. There is now no need for heating pads and other instruments.
If, after everything, your hedgehog is still displaying signs of hibernation even under the correct temperature conditions, you should take it to your vet immediately.
Hedgehogs belong to that category of mammals that hibernate. Hibernation for hedgehogs in the wild is a must for survival. By hibernating, hedgehogs are not sleeping but drop their body temperature to match the surroundings and conserve loads of energy.
You can tell if a hedgehog is hibernating or dead by looking if it is curled up. Hedgehogs do not die naturally curled up. If the curled hedgehog lets out a snore as you gently touch its spines, it is not hibernating.
A pet hedgehog should not be allowed to hibernate as it is dangerous to their health. These hedgehogs are usually African pygmies with not enough fat stored in their system for a successful hibernation.
Moreover, pet hedgehogs do not have great immune systems and are likely to develop an infection while hibernating. You can stop your hedgehog from hibernating by increasing their body temperature through skin-to-skin contact.
If, despite all your efforts, your hedgehog displays symptoms of hibernation, consult your vet immediately.