Hedgehogs are legal to own as a pet in some states such as Washington but are still illegal in some states such as Georgia. Associated health issues that come and may be passed to human is a major concern but the legalization of which pet to own may not be the first thing you want to understand about hedgehogs.
If you are considering adopting a hedgehog as a pet, you may also be wondering how long they live. Of course, if they are legal to own in your state. I have answered the question of their longevity below.
What are hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs are small, spiny mammals. Most hedgehogs have a coat of brown and white fur. Some hedgehogs are born with albinism and have all-white fur. They have small eyes and pointed faces. Hedgehogs range in size from 6 to 12 inches long and weigh 1 to 2 pounds.
Hedgehogs first evolved about 15 million years ago and in total, there are 17 recognized species in five general. Unlike Bearded Dragons which are only native to Australia, Hedgehogs are native to Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. They were brought to the US in the late 1800s as pets and for use in medical research.
How long do hedgehogs live?
Hedgehogs in the wild typically live for 2-5 years. However, there is evidence of variation in the lifespan of hedgehogs in captivity and those in the wild.
It is important to note that hedgehog’s lifespan is often indicative of the quality of care they receive. A hedgehog that is well-cared for and lives in a clean and spacious cage with a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein can live up to 8 years old. In contrast, a hedgehog living in cramped and unsanitary conditions with a poor diet may only live for 2 years.
The following are some examples of different hedgehog species and their lifespan:
-European hedgehogs: 3 to 5 years old in the wild, up to 8 years old in captivity
-African pygmy hedgehogs: 4 to 6 years old in the wild, up to 8 years old in captivity
-Himalayan hedgehogs: 5 to 7 years old in the wild, up to 8 years old in captivity
As you can see, hedgehogs can live for a relatively long time if they are well-cared for. However, there are health issues that can shorten their lifespan.
The lifespan of Hedgehogs in the wild:
It is difficult to determine the lifespan of hedgehogs in the wild because they are not often studied. However, it is believed that the average lifespan of hedgehogs in the wild is 2 to 3 years. This is shorter than the lifespan of hedgehogs in captivity because they do not have access to the same level of care and resources. Additionally, hedgehogs in the wild are more likely to contract diseases and be preyed upon by predators.
The lifespan of Hedgehogs in Captivity:
Hedgehogs in captivity can live for up to 8 years if they are well-cared for. As mentioned above, the quality of care they receive is directly related to their lifespan.
Hedgehogs in captivity have access to a clean and spacious cage, a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and regular vet check-ups. These factors allow them to live a longer and healthier life.
Health Issues that can shorten a Hedgehog’s lifespan:
Hedgehogs are susceptible to a variety of health issues that can shorten their lifespan. Some of the most common health problems hedgehogs face are tumors, respiratory infections, and mites.
Tumors are the most common cause of death in hedgehogs. They can be benign or malignant and usually affect older hedgehogs. Benign tumors are not cancerous and do not spread to other parts of the body. However, they can still be life-threatening if they grow large enough to interfere with the hedgehog’s ability to breathe or eat. Malignant tumors are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body. Hedgehogs with malignant tumors typically do not live more than 6 months.
Respiratory infections are a common health problem in hedgehogs. They are caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi and can be fatal if not treated promptly. Symptoms of respiratory infections include wheezing, difficulty breathing, and discharge from the nose or eyes.
Mites are tiny parasitic insects that can infest the skin, ears, and nails of hedgehogs. They are a common health problem in hedgehogs and can cause intense itching, hair loss, and skin irritation. If left untreated, mites can lead to a bacterial infection or anemia.
Hedgehogs are susceptible to a variety of health issues that can shorten their lifespan. The most common health problems they face are tumors, respiratory infections, and mites. By understanding these health risks and taking steps to prevent them, you can help your hedgehog live a long and healthy life.
Factors that affect Hedgehog’s Lifespan:
There are a number of factors that can affect a hedgehog’s lifespan. It is important to note that sex does not have an impact on the lifespan.
Quality of Care
The most important factor is the quality of care they receive. Hedgehogs that are well-cared for will live longer than those that are not.
As noted earlier, hedgehogs cared for in captivity with all the proper husbandry can live up to 8 years. In the wild, hedgehogs typically only live 2-3 years.
Caring for your hedgehog involves setting up spacious environment/home for them. A good cage should be spacious, clean, and have plenty of hiding places. Your hedgehog’s diet is also important and should be rich in vitamins and minerals. Hedgehogs also need to see a veterinarian regularly for check-ups and vaccinations.
Genetics which vary from one hedgehog to another can play a role in lifespan. Some hedgehogs are simply born with genetic defects that shorten their lifespan.
Additionally, the type of hedgehog can also affect their lifespan. For example, African pygmy hedgehogs typically live shorter lives than other types of hedgehogs. In fact, four-toed hedgehogs (African pygmy) live for up to 10 years while the Algerian hedgehogs(atié) live for only 3 to 5 years.
Genetics also plays a role in the diseases that different hedgehogs are predisposed to. For example, some hedgehogs are genetically predisposed to tumors while others are not.
Natural lighting and the temperature around them also effect the lifespan of hedgehogs.
What a hedgehog eats can also affect their lifespan. A diet that is nutritious and contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals is essential for a hedgehog’s health. Diets that are lacking in nutrients can lead to health problems that can shorten a hedgehog’s lifespan.
Additionally, diets that are too high in fat can also cause health problems such as obesity and diabetes. These conditions can reduce a hedgehog’s lifespan.
Some good diet for hedgehogs is made up of:
-High-quality cat food
Exercise is important for all animals, including hedgehogs. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity and other health problems that can shorten a hedgehog’s lifespan.
Hedgehogs need an exercise wheel in their cage so they can get the exercise they need. Additionally, you can take your hedgehog out of their cage for a few hours each day to let them run around and explore. Just be sure to provide them with a safe area to do so.
How to tell the age of a Hedgehog:
There are a few ways to tell the age of a hedgehog. One way is to look at their teeth. Hedgehogs have two sets of teeth: baby teeth and adult teeth. Baby teeth typically fall out by 6-8 weeks of age and are replaced by adult teeth.
Another way to tell the age of a hedgehog is by their size. Hedgehogs grow quickly and reach their full adult size by 6-9 months of age.
Finally, you can also tell the age of a hedgehog by their quills. Quills are constantly growing and will eventually fall out and be replaced by new ones. The rate at which this happens can vary from one hedgehog to another.
Talk to your breeder to under their birth and since their average lifespan is about a quarter of a human lifespan, you can determine their current age once you know when they were born and with the understanding that they age 4 times faster compared to humans. In other words, a 2-year-old hedgehog is considered middle-aged while a 6-year-old hedgehog is considered elderly.
To determine age, you can also look for physical changes like wrinkles, lethargic behavior, fewer activities, and loss of teeth to know that they are getting old.
How long do hedgehogs live with health issues:
As mentioned earlier, the quality of care a hedgehog receives is the most important factor in determining their lifespan. This is especially true for hedgehogs with health problems.
Hedgehogs that are well-cared for and receive proper treatment for their health problems can live long, happy lives. However, hedgehogs that do not receive proper care and treatment will likely have a shorter lifespan.
The lifespan of Hedgehogs with tumors:
According to a study, tumors in adults mainly occur in adults and about 85% of them are malignant. The average lifespan of captive African pygmy hedgehogs is only 4 to 6 years, and the average age of individuals with tumors is 3.5 to 3.9 years. This indicates that tumors greatly reduce the lifespan of hedgehogs.
Founder’s Effect in Hedgehogs:
The Founder’s Effect is a term used to describe the reduced genetic diversity that can occur when a population is founded by a small number of individuals. This effect can lead to an increased incidence of genetic disorders and health problems.
Hedgehogs that are sold in pet stores are often from small breeding groups and are therefore more likely to be affected by the Founder’s Effect. This can lead to health problems that shorten their lifespan.
The hybridization of the Algerian and White Bellied hedgehogs resulted in a more resilient hedgehog that lived longer. Hybrid offspring’s longevity began to more closely resemble the original bloodlines after several generations.
Hedgehog Age in Calendar Years and Equivalent Human Years
A 5-year-old hedgehog is approximately 76 human years old, thus if your hedgehog lives 5-7 years, it has had a decent life; nevertheless, five years is longer than the national average.
As shown in the table below, by the time Hedgehogs are 7 years and 8 months, their equivalent human years are 100 years! They can clock a century but mostly if they are in captivity.
Life Stages of a Hedgehog
Female hedgehogs are pregnant for varying periods from 35 to 58 days. Different sub-species have different gestation periods. Larger hedgehog species have 3 to 4 newborns after their gestation period while smaller ones can have 5 to 6 newborns called hoglets.
Hedgehogs are born blind and deaf. They are also unable to urinate or defecate on their own.
For the first 3 to 4 weeks, hoglets are completely dependent on their mother for food and warmth. They will begin to open their eyes at around 2 weeks old and will be able to see by 3 weeks old. At 4 weeks old, they will begin to urinate and defecate on their own.
Hoglets are usually weaned from their mother at around 6 to 8 weeks old. At this point, they should be eating solid food and using the litter box on their own.
Hedgehogs reach sexual maturity at around 6 to 8 months old. Male hedgehogs can be very aggressive during this time and should be kept away from female hedgehogs until they are at least 1 year old.
Hedgehogs are considered seniors at around 3 years old. At 3 years and 8 months in age, their equivalent human age is 60 years. They may start to slow down and sleep more during this time. They may also lose weight even if they are eating the same amount of food. Senior hedgehogs should be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year to make sure they are healthy.
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Hi there! My name is Ben Domb, an owner of two pets and I am one of the co-founders of OurPets HQ. I have several years of experience as a pet care professional in the New England region having spent time in various roles including a stint at a veterinary hospital in Upstate New York, Syracuse area. I am a certified pet care professional and mostly spend my time researching pet nutrition and sharing my thoughts in various blogs and columns. With quarantine and COVID restrictions, I have been spending a lot of time a lot with my dogs and cat and loving it! I also run a small consulting business providing advice to parents on pet nutrition, and especially safe homemade options to try. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org