Located in Gresham, OR

USDA 92-A-0378

Feeding your Hedgehog

Feeding your hedgehog
I have decided to dedicate an entire page about feeding your hedgehog. Some aspects of hedgehog nutrition like the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals have not been researched and are somewhat of a mystery. However, other aspects of their nutrition are not so mysterious and are available for you to research. Any recommendations for your hedgehog's care should be supported by scientific research and data.

There are many websites that offer misguided information regarding diet and nutrition. I feel that if you understand the science behind your hedgehog, then you will make better food choices for your hedgehog's care.

Hedgehog food
(​For an in depth explanation of what to feed or what not to feed scroll down.)


​Your baby has been sent home with a mix of​​ Kirkland Maintenance cat food (available at Costco) and Wellness Complete Health. You could feed Kirkland all by itself.

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Alternative food

Wellness Complete health, adult health is an alternative food since it is pea free and readily available at Petco and Petsmart. This food does contain a lot of plant matter that hedgies don't digest.



Hedgehog Nutrition

Hedgehogs are prone to obesity so their diets should be monitored carefully. Captive diets based on nutritionally ​balanced ​cat food with moderate levels of protein (30% dry basis) and low fat (​15-20%) are suitable.


It is not advised to feed hedgehogs a cat food containing peas or pea fiber due to the high levels of phosphorus. Hedgehogs get a large amount of phosphorus from the mealworms they are being fed daily. Adding a cat food with a larger concentration of phosphorus from the peas can put your hedgehog into hyperphosphatemia (high serum concentration of phosphorus). This condition will inhibit ​calcium absorption in the bones, ​kidney damage, heart disease, and eventually death. ​We recommend using ​Kirkland All stages Maintenance cat food (available at ​Costco) or our mix with Wellness complete adult health cat food (we can ship it to you). ​​


Please also avoid foods that contain the following preservatives as they are either TOXIC or are KNOWN CARCINOGENS:
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​Ethoxyquin
Sodium Nitrate / Sodium Nitrite
Propylene Glycol
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) / butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Benzoic Acid / Sodium Benzoate /Potassium Benzoate
Menadione Sodium Bisulfite


​​In addition to cat food​​, hedgehogs need bugs or mealworms in their diet. ​According to the Journal of nutrition, ​Hedgehogs ​have ​enzymatic ability to digest chitin from​ insect exoskeletons as a dietary fiber source, but they do not ​seem to digest ​cellulose (plant ​matter) efficiently. Fiber in the diet is important for proper fat and protein metabolism. ​Therefore, it is ​important to add at 1 tsp ​of fresh ​or freeze dried mealworms or other insects to your hedgehog's diet daily.

DO NOT FEED YOUR HEDGEHOG FRUITS or VEGETABLES.​​


Hedgehogs can't digest cellulose (plant matter) efficiently. Feeding​ the African Pygmy Hedgehog fruits or veggies can put your hedgehog at risk for abdominal pain and bowel blockage. ​

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NOTE: Feeding your hedgehog the following will VOID the health guarantee: fruits or vegetables, commercially prepared ​hedgehog food or using food that contains Peas or pea fiber in the first 5 ingredients.




​Why can’t hedgehogs be fed fruits and veggies?

Hedgehogs are missing a cecum which is a clue into the insect diet ​in which hedgehogs evolved on. The cecum, located at the beginning ​of the large intestine is a pouch full of symbiotic bacteria that aids in digesting cellulose ​(plant matter). Without a cecum, hedgehogs can’t properly digest ​plant matter. Will they drop dead if they eat plant matter? No. However, you will make them miserable! It is like feeding a lactose intolerant person a glass of milk without giving them a Lactaid. Ouch! Also, take into consideration the short length of their digestive tract. There isn't a lot of space to neutralize stomach acids before the... well, the exit door. Be kind to your hedgehog and don't feed them fruit or veggies.


If you take a look at an herbivore (see diagram below), a plant eating animal, ​they have evolved to have a very large cecum. Nature tells us that if a ​hedgehog was NOT meant to be eating fruits and veggies, or they would have evolved to have a cecum. ​

Bug Eater                        Plant Eater

The insect eating hedgehog has a digestive enzyme called chitinase ​which allows the hedgehog to utilize chitin (only found in the exoskeleton ​of bugs) as their fiber source. They don't need fruits and veggies because ​their dietary source of fiber comes from the crunchy outer layer of bugs.



If hedgehogs are insect eaters, why do we feed them cat food?


​The simple answer is because the farm raised insects (live or dried) are raised in a habitat that makes them void of any real nutrition. The daily dose of mealworms is to just add the chitin hedgehogs need as their dietary fiber source. Even if you gut load live insects, it is difficult to determine if your hedgehog has received a balance diet. Feeding a pea-free cat food supplements your hedgehog with the necessary proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. It is important to feed pea-free cat food as mealworms are high in phosphorus too. A shift in the calcium/phosphorus ratio is bad for the bones, kidneys and heart.



Why are commercially prepared hedgehog foods BAD for hedgehogs?

Pretty pets


~Ground corn, corn gluten meal, ground oats, beat pulp fiber and potato protein is not an appropriate food source for an insect eating animal that does not have a cecum (see "why hedgehogs can't eat fruits and veggies").​​​​

​​​​~​Calcium Carbonate is high up in the ingredient list which is concerning. Too much calcium is bad for the heart and kidneys. this should never be fed to your hedgehog, it especially should not be fed to pregnant or nursing hedgehogs. Calcium Carbonate does show up in the milk.

~According to the Material Safety Data Sheet, the powdered form of dicalcium phosphate may irritate skin​​ and could upset the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms of gastrointestinal problems caused by dicalcium phosphate include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, stomach pain, thirst, dry mouth and increased urination.


~ Yucca schidigera​​ is known to cause loos stools and red blood cell to burst open (hemolysis). On the human supplement container it warns not to use longer than 3 months for safety. The use in animal food is to reduce the odor of waste -not worth the side effects!!

​~BHT is a known carcinogen. If you don't want your hedgehog to get cancer, don't feed your hedgehog a carcinogen.​​
~Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex is a cheap syntheytic Vitamin K. This ingredient can be highly toxic in high doses. Material Safety Data Sheet regarding menadione lists "carcinogenic effects" and states "the substance is toxic to kidneys, lungs, liver, mucous membranes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage." If you don't want your hedgehog to get cancer, don't feed your hedgehog a carcinogen.​​
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~​Crude fat at 5.0% is not enough fat. Yes, hedgehogs are prone to obesity but some fats are necessary for vitamin absorption.

Ingredients:Ground Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry Meal, Ground Oats, Beet Pulp Fiber, Potato Protein, Wheat Isolate, Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Corn Oil, Sodium Bicarbonate, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium thermophilum Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium longum Fermentation Product, Dried Streptococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Extract Product, Choline Chloride, Casein, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, DL-Methionine, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Ferric Sulfate, D-Biotin, Yucca schidigera Extract, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Oxide, Niacinamide, Vitamin B12 Supplement, BHT (as a preservative), Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Menadione Dimethylpyrimidinol Bisulfite(source of Vitamin K3), Vitamin D3 Supplement, and Cobalt Sulfate.


Guaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein 32.0% (Min)
Crude Fat 5.0% (Min)
Crude Fiber 6.0% (Max)
Moisture 10.0% (Max)
Ash 4.0% (Max)


Sun seed vita exotics


~Wheat bran as the first ingredient, is not an appropriate main food source for an insect eating animal that does not have a cecum (see "why hedgehogs can't eat fruits and veggies").​​​​ This is also true for Beet pulp.

​​​​~​Soy protein and Dehulled Soybean meal is not a good protein source for hedgehogs because they don't have a cecum needed to digest this plant matter (see "why hedgehogs can't eat fruits and veggie").​​​​

~According to the Material Safety Data Sheet, the powdered form of dicalcium phosphate may irritate skin​​ and could upset the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms of gastrointestinal problems caused by dicalcium phosphate include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, stomach pain, thirst, dry mouth and increased urination.


~Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex is a cheap syntheytic Vitamin K. This ingredient can be highly toxic in high doses. Material Safety Data Sheet regarding menadione lists "carcinogenic effects" and states "the substance is toxic to kidneys, lungs, liver, mucous membranes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage." If you don't want your hedgehog to get cancer, don't feed it a carcinogen.​​

~ Yucca schidigera​​ is known to cause loos stools and red blood cell to burst open (hemolysis). Human supplement container warn not to use longer than 3 months for safety. The use in animal food is to reduce the odor of waste -not worth the side effects!!


~Enterococcus Faecium ​​ is a pathogen resistant to many antibiotics that can cause infection in the blood, heart, urinary tract, and nervous system. Dr. Weinberg, founder of 911 Vets advises against feeding a pet food that contains Enterococcus Faecium .

~​Crude fat at 8.0% is not enough fat. Yes, hedgehogs are prone to obesity but some fats are necessary for vitamin absorption.


Ingredients: Wheat Bran, Poultry Meal, Soy Protein Concentrate, Fish Meal, Shrimp Meal, Chitin Powder, Tuna Meal, Crab Meal, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Freeze Dried Mealworms, Fish Oil, Vegetable Oil, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Yeast Culture, Ground Flax Seed, Dried Kelp Meal, Psyllium Seed Husk, Algae Meal, Fructooligosaccharides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, L-Lysine, DL-Methionine, Taurine, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Biotin, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Carotene, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Bifidum Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Oryzae Fermentation Product, Torula Dried Yeast, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide, Cobalt Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Cobalt Glucoheptonate, Sodium Selenite, Selenium Yeast.


Guaranteed Analysis
Crude Protein 38.0% min
Crude Fat 8.0% min
Crude Fiber 9.0% max
Moisture 14.0% max
Calcium 2.0% min
Phosphorus 1.4% min
Vitamin A 22,00 IU/lb min
Vitamin D3 2,860 IU/kg min
Vitamin E 616 IU/kg min
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) 250 mg/lb min
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 0.4% min
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) 0.04% min
Total microorganisms* 30,000 CFU/g min


8 in 1 Ultra Blend Select Hedgehog Diet


~Corn and corn gluten meal are not an appropriate food source for an insect eating animal that does not have a cecum (see "why hedgehogs can't eat fruits and veggies").​​​​


~Chicken digest is the least desirable form of slaughter house residues​​ that include beaks, feet and hidden MSG.

​​​​~​Calcium Carbonate is high up in the ingredient list which is concerning. Too much calcium is bad for the heart and kidneys. this should never be fed to your hedgehog, it especially should not be fed to pregnant or nursing hedgehogs. Calcium Carbonate does show up in the milk.


~​​Rosemary Extract contains neurotoxins and may cause seizures in dogs and cats! Rosemary extract is actually used in processing small cut of meats to kill microbes.

~​Crude fat at 8.0% is not enough fat. Yes, hedgehogs are prone to obesity but some fats are necessary for vitamin absorption. ​


Ingredients: Poultry By-Product Meal, Chicken Fat, Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Digest, Wheat Flour, Choline Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Sulfate, Taurine, Iron Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cobalt Proteinate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Rosemary Extract, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Citric Acid, Riboflavin, Copper Sulfate, Cobalt Carbonate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, (Iodine Supplement), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite.


Guaranteed Analysis
(minimum values unless otherwise stated)
Crude Protein 30.0%
Crude Fat 8.0%
Crude Fiber (Max)5.0%
Moisture (Max)10.0%
Calcium 1.25%
Calcium (Max)1.75%
Phosphorus 0.75%
Vitamin A 1,000 IU/kg
Vitamin D 1,000 IU/kg
Vitamin E 60 IU/kg


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© 2011 Rose City Hedgehogs, LLC.
All rights reserved. USDA licensed #92-A-0378

Hedgehogs are Insectivores and nothing else!


So, you have been researching hedgehogs on the internet and your head is spinning. Some websites and even Wikipedia say hedgehogs are omnivores, opportunistic omnivores or obligate carnivores. Hedgehogs are none of these things. Hedgehogs have been classified in their taxonomic order by Taxonomists who are scientists who have a PhD in Taxonomy. So if someone is trying to tell you they are anything but an insectivore, they should have a PhD in taxonomy or they don't have the credentials to make such a comment.


Some argue that the order Insectivora doesn't exist anymore. The order still exists but it was reorganized and is now the grandorder of the Atelerix albiventris (African Pygmy Hedgehog). The reason why the order was revised was because of the paraphyletic nature of the Insectivora clade -meaning they lumped animals together under one order without actually sharing a common ancestor. This doesn't mean that hedgehogs are no longer insectivores. 


When a species is formally named and described by a taxonomist, a diagnosis must be produced. This is essentially a list of characteristics that can be used to identify this species and indeed differentiate it from others. With the Atelerix albiventris, the teeth (pin like insectivore teeth); the lack of a cecum (a cecum is necessary for digesting plant matter) and the short digestive tract is why this species is classified as an Erinaceomorpha which is under the Suborder Lipotyphla, Grandorder Insectivora. To be considered anything else, there would need to be a biological adaptation and a reclassification which there is not.


Insectivore Teeth

Insectivores incisors and canines have sharp cusps (the top of the tooth) for breaking open exoskeletons of insects.

Omnivore Teeth

Omnivores, because they eat both meat and plants, have a combination of sharp front teeth and molars for grinding.

Still think a hedgehog is an Omnivore?


It is possible to identify an animal just by looking at the skull and the placement of the teeth. Studies of teeth is an interesting example of natural selection. They show how organisms adapted to their environment. The shape of the teeth offer clues as to the animal's diet (Fleagle 1999).

Don't confuse Opportunistic Feeder with Omnivore


A hedgehog can be an opportunistic Feeder which many confuse as being an omnivore. Hedgehogs don't have any biological adaptations to be considered an omnivore. 


Studies of the A. albiventris stomach contents revealed ants and other insects, lizards, snakes, and bird eggs (Merrit 1981). This would make them an opportunistic feeder not an omnivore.  Yet this is still arguable since hedgehogs never evolved into selective foragers (Reeve 1993). An opportunistic feeder can sustain itself from a number of different food sources, because the species is behaviorally flexible. We successfully feed our captive bred hedgehogs cat food, chicken, turkey and egg whites. Since hedgehogs are willing to eat these things doesn't change their taxonomic order. It just means they are more likely to be opportunistic feeders. The term omnivore is therefore the incorrect term to describe this behavior as there aren't any biological adaptations, just a flexible behavior.


Hedgehogs in captivity will also consume fruit and vegetables because they are behaviorally flexible -but just because they are willing to eat them,  doesn't mean you should feed it to them. Plant matter is not easy on their digestive system. According to Nigel Reeve in his book, "Hedgehogs," he states that non-European hedgehog diets have been scarcely researched. Therefore, it would be our advice to do your best to respect their taxonomic order and not feed them plant matter.