This page covers all aspects of hygiene from your hedgehog and their cage to yourself.
Foot Baths: In the wild, a hedgehog will poop and pee as they run about. In captivity this means pooping and peeing while running on their wheel. This causes what we like to call "poop boots". Daily foot baths can be given to get rid of poop on the feet. A small plastic shoe box container, tupperware, or the sink is really all you need. Fill it just enough with warm water so that it covers the feet but not deep enough to soak the belly. Let your hedgie run around for a few minutes in the water until the boots melt away. Don't leave them too long as the water will cool quickly.
Tip: Baby Wipes: Unscented sensitive skin babies wipes can also be used if the feet are not too bad and just need a quick cleaning. Baby wipes can also be used on quills to reduce odor and prolong the time between needed baths.
Full Baths: Full baths should be reserved for really dirty hedgies, aim for once a month as needed. Only use hedgehog branded shampoos or baby wash (not shampoo). I use Aveeno baby wash, with about the amount you would use to brush your teeth on a soft bristled tooth brush. Baths dry out the skin, so adding oil and oatmeal to the bath can help prevent this. I use jojoba oil and put the oats in pantyhose or similar material. Fill up the sink or tub with warm water to just below chin level of the hedgie. Some hedgies love water, most do not. Some hedgies hate it so much that self preservation goes out the window and they will ball up mid bath even if that means aspirating or drowning. Always fully supervise bath time.
Tip: Warmth: Never let your bath water get too cool. When bath time is over, towel dry your hedgie, do not use a blow dryer. If your hedgie balls up because bath's suck, it will be difficult to get their bellies dry, which means they might get too cold. For my stubborn hogs, I wrap them in a towel and use hot hands under a layer or two of the towel and we just go have some bonding time until they're ready to stop being mad at me. Be careful, hot hands can get hot enough to cause burns, do not put it directly on your hedgie and do not leave it under your hedgie in the cage. Never put away a wet hog.
Sand Baths: African Pygmy Hedgehogs are native to the savannas of Africa, in the wild they clean themselves by rolling in sand. As domesticated animals, this instinct does not always carry through, but it's worth it to try. If you decide to try sand baths, all you need is regular play sand or something of a similar granule size. Anything smaller than that can cause respiratory problems. Do NOT use chinchilla dust, it is way too fine. If they take to the sand, you will see them rolling over in it and yes it will get everywhere! Most playsand will come prewashed, but I wash mine anyway. To wash sand, you rinse it in clean water, stir it up and dump off the top water with the fine particles in it, keep doing this until the top water dumps crystal clear. It is easiest to do this a little bit at a time. I also bake my sand to kill any germs, same as with bedding 200 degrees for an hour.
Dry Skin: Hedgehogs tend to have dry skin, this can lead to quill loss and ear tatters. Frequent baths make this worse. You can add a few drops of oils to their food once or twice a week to prevent this. You can use flax seed, vitamin e, jojoba, fish, or coconut. I use a combination of flax seed and fish oil in food. You can also put oil on their skin, but be very careful doing this, too much can cause fungus and clog pores. I use jojoba and viatmin e in a cuticle pen as a brush on for really dry hedgies. You can also try raising the humidity in your hedgie's room with a humidifier.
Nail Trims: Hedgehogs need their nails trimmed about once a week or at the very least once every two weeks. You can do this by using baby nail clippers, cuticle trimmers, or cat claw clippers. Hedgehogs have a quick, which can be hard to see, cutting into it will cause bleeding. Your vet and some groomers can also provide this service if you find it too difficult. There are many tips and tricks to accomplish this on the internet and youtube.
Tip: Bleeding: You may want to buy styptic powder for your first aid kit. You can find this at your local pet store or online. If you should happen to cut the quick, dip a q-tip in the powder and apply to the cut quick. If you don't have any styptic powder, you can also use corn starch or flour in a pinch. Applying pressure until bleeding stops can also be done.
Tip: Waiting: Don't wait too long between nail trims, your hedgehogs nails should not be curling back on themselves or touching the pads of the feet. The quick will also grow out when nails are left to grow long, if this happens, you will have to trim even more often to get the quick to shrink back down.
Special Note: In the future, I might decide to offer this service to my local customers for a small fee, if there is enough interest.
Cage Cleaning: Keeping your cage clean will go a long way to keeping your hedgehog clean. Spot cleaning and wheel cleaning should happen every day or every other day if things are not looking too bad. This means picking up all the poo and food all over the floor. I clean my wheels everyday or two with a mix of 50/50 vinegar and water and paper towels. Full cage cleans should happen once a week. This includes washing all bowls and the wheel as well as changing out any bedding and fabric hides. Regular soap and water can be used to clean totes or the bottoms of metal cages as well as wheels. Be careful washing wheels, getting the bearings wet will cause them to rust. It is also important to never wash anything that is for your hedgehog in your kitchen sink or where food is prepared. For all fabric items, I use Arm & Hammer sensitive skin free & clear in the washer on cold with a cup of white vinegar and a quarter cap of Nature's Miracle laundry boost. Whatever, however, and whenever you decide to clean, DO NOT use heavily scented products or hard chemicals, hedgehogs have very sensitive noses.
Litter Training: I highly suggest a litter box, this will go a long way towards keeping your daily cleaning to a minimum and keeping your hedgehog cleaner overall. My babies get litter boxes as soon as they are separated from mom, however this means that they will most likely come to you not fully litter trained. It is up to you to continue training or not. You can buy a corner litter pan made for small animals (don't get the rabbit ones, they're too big), make sure to remove the slotted tray that comes with it. You can also just get some cheap tupperware from the dollar store that's about an inch or so high (like sandwich size). If you are using bedding other than fleece, fill the litter box with an alternate bedding type. I use paper pellets for litter. After your hedgie does it's business, put the poo in the box. Put the box where the hedgie is most often urinating. Don't clean the litter box for a little while, if you do need to clean it remove the oldest poo and keep the freshest stuff in the box. Once your hedgehog starts using the box on their own, you can move it to where you would like and start cleaning it regularly. It's pretty easy to litter train a hedgie, just know that they will still go elsewhere sometimes and still probably go on their wheel, rare is the hedgie that stops running to go use the potty! Avoid clay litters, clumping litters, cat litters in general, I would also advise not to use shavings as your litter material, all of these can get stuck in nether bits.
Odor Reducers: Hedgehogs are not very stinky compared to other animals, but they still have a slight smell, especially if you wait too long to clean. They can also get poo stuck in their quills. On top of using a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water for my daily wheel cleaning, I hang diy bags of activated charcoal in the cage where they can't reach it. In between full clean outs, I also use Nature's Miracle cage odor eliminator spray in the cage, on the bedding, and on the fabric items. You must take out the hedgehog and any food dishes, water bottles or bowls, and chewable toys for 10 minutes.
Tip: Air Purifier: You might find it beneficial to purchase an air purifier for odor control, especially if you have multiple hedgehogs or multiple other pets too.
Zoonotic Diseases: Like many other animals, hedgehogs can pass on to you (or other pets) or receive from you a number of diseases. These diseases include but are not limited to : salmonella, ringworm, rabies, tuberculosis, foot-and-mouth disease, herpes, aids, etc. Immunocompromised people will always be more susceptible and at higher risk. Most of these diseases are primarily found in wild hedgehogs, but any hedgehog can pass or receive them. Always practice good hygiene by washing your hands before handling your hedgehog to protect your pet (they will chew/bite/lick your fingers if they smell something foreign) and to always wash your hands after handling your hedgehog in order to protect yourself. If you have multiple pets, always wash in between handling, cleaning, feeding, or other tasks before taking care of the next pet's needs. If you have young children, supervise closely as they will put whole poops and unclean fingers in their mouths.
Tip: Salmonella: 2020 has not only seen the novel Coronavirus, but we have been seeing an increase in the number of Salmonella outbreaks from pet hedgehogs. The CDC has asked breeders to help educate the public about the dangers of Salmonella and how to properly protect yourself. Since hedgehogs literally wear their poops and pee, you should follow these guidelines: NEVER kiss your hedgehog and keep them away from your face. DO NOT touch your eyes, ears, nose, or mouth before washing your hands. If you have a fresh cut, open wound, or hang nails, wear gloves to handle or clean. You can get a fecal test for Salmonella done by your vet, it would be easy to do at checkups and should be done periodically as they can be asymptomatic carriers.
Tip: Covid 19 (SARS-CoV-2): Unfortunately, there has yet to be any studies done on hedgehogs and if they can pass or receive Covid. What we do know is that Covid is zoonotic, so far the CDC has listed cats, dogs, multiple species of big cats, hamsters, fruit bats, tree shrews, minks, ferrets, and multiple species of monkeys as being able to be infected with Covid from people and/or in the lab. Cats, fruit bats, hamsters, minks, and ferrets can transmit to other animals of the same species. Lab mice, ducks, chickens, and pigs showed no infection in lab settings. There hasn't been a study done yet on animals passing Covid to people. We do know that there are many SARS viruses out there, they are also zoonotic and we know some of them can pass from people to animals and vice versa, not just within a species. We also know that hedgehogs have sensitive respiratory systems and this is a disease that is particularly hard on the lungs. This means that if you have Covid, please take proper precautions for your hedgie (and all your pets). Designate 1 person in the household to be caretaker, wash hands often, handle as little as possible, wear a mask when cleaning, etc.
Hives: It is very common to get what we call "Hedgie Hives". This is not actually a rash or allergy. Hedgehog quills are like little needles, when they poke you they get dirt and nasties in the outtermost layer of your skin, sometimes deeper, this is what causes the hives. They can be itchy and irritating, but they will go away. In general, the dirtier your hedgehog is, the more likely it is to cause the hives. If your reaction is lasting for more than a day, you are probably experiencing an actual allergic reaction and should seek out medical attention.