The hedgehogs that we keep as pets come from warm parts of Africa and need to be maintained at warm temperatures. You can tell that the temperature is good for them because they will eat, drink, stay active, and behave normally. A hedgehog that is too cold becomes sluggish and cranky, and it will ignore its food and water. Sometimes it will curl in a ball and not hardly respond to you at all, and it will seem cool to the touch.
In general, a temperature 70 and up will keep your hedgehog happy and healthy. Hedgehogs are at risk during times of the year when we experience rapid temperature fluctuations, such as in the spring or fall, when we humans can adjust by throwing on an extra blanket or sweater, but hedgehogs are vulnerable. It can also be a problem for them if the overall temperature is warm, but their cage is in a draft or near a window or door where the cold seeps through. Hedgehogs who are very young, elderly, or ill are also more at risk because they can't thermoregulate as readily as healthy adult hedgehogs.
If you find that your hedgehog needs an extra heat source, there are several options to choose from that have been shown to work well for hedgehogs. Here are some of your choices:
|Snuggle Safe Disk|
1) Snuggle Safe Disk: This is a microwaveable disk that is best used if you are nervous about anything that plugs in, and are able to check the temperature of the disk every 4 to 6 hours to make sure it's staying warm enough. You will want to follow the manufacturers recommendations for how long to place the disk in the microwave so that it does not become overheated and melt. The disks come with a cover, which should be used to provide a cushion between the hedgehog and the hot disk. These disks are especially awesome when travelling!
2) Ceramic Heat Emitter: Ceramic Heat Emitters (also called "CHE") are currently very popular among hedgehog enthusiasts. The Ceramic Heat Emitters are a ceramic bulb that looks a lot like a light bulb, but it only emits heat and not light. There are certain lamp fixtures that are made to work with CHEs, so make sure that when you purchase your equipment, you are purchasing a fixture that is made to work with a CHE.
Ceramic Heat Emitters get very hot and are an electrical system, so you will want to purchase a thermostat and thermometer. Testing before you put your hedgehog in the cage will let you make sure that the cage temperature does not get too hot for your hedgehog and that it maintains a constant temperature. I recommend plugging your heat emitter and thermostat into a power bar for an added layer of protection.
3) Reptile Heat Pads: Some people love these, while others very strongly express that they think they should never be used. Unlike human heat pads, reptile heat pads are designed to be kept on, using a thermostat to regulate temperature. For best protection, also plug your system into a power bar. When using a reptile heat pad, it needs to be able to go under the cage, with a layer of bedding and the cage surface between the hedgehog and the heat pad. It should be small enough that it only covers a portion of the cage (1/4 or less) so that the hedgehog can move further or closer away as it gets warm enough.
The problem that has caused people to hate reptile heat pads is that people have apparently placed them directly into the cage with no thermostat to regulate temperature and are reported to have burned their hedgehogs :( Definitely be smart about it and don't place your hedgehog at risk if using a reptile heat pad! It is also a good idea to research the brand and read reviews/look at ratings to make sure you are getting the quality you need.
4) Reptile Heat Tape or Reptile Heat Cord: This is much like the heat pads and should be used with a thermostat and plugged into a power bar. The heat tape/cord is made to go around the outside of the cage at the base, so that the cage will be warmer near the tape and cooler toward the middle. I have never used reptile heat tape/cord so I don't know how well it raises the ambient temperature or how hot it gets. Using a thermostat does help with preventing overheating, but you will want to research to make sure that the brand you choose isn't going to melt your cage if you are using a plastic cage. Never place something like this inside the cage where it can burn your hedgehog with direct contact. I do know that many reptile owners do successfully use reptile heat tape/cord with their reptiles.
|Reptile Heat Cord|
I have been asked why I don't recommend reptile heat rocks or human heat pads for hedgehog heat sources. I don't recommend the heat rocks because I have not found that they raise the overall temperature in the cage and I have heard stories of animals being burned on them. They just don't make a reliable heat source so I would not use one. Human heat pads on low, underneath part of the cage and not in direct contact with your hedgehog, can be used as a short term warming solution. However, their manufacturer labeling tells you that they are not made for constant use and that it isn't safe to leave them on unattended.
Hopefully this article will help you to come up with a heating solution that will work well for you and your hedgehog! Always be sure that any electrical system is checked regularly for problems and that you are using a thermostat and power bar fore safety. Also please be sure that if you are providing an extra heat source, that you provide your hedgehog with a temperature range. Allowing part of the cage being cooler than the rest lets your hedgehog decide where it feels most comfortable and prevents it from accidentally overheating!