Environmental Advice

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Environmental Advice

Post by animal addict on Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:07 pm

Environmental Enrichment.


Housing


‘A very important consideration when owning or looking to buy an APH.’

APH are solitary animals, only coming together to mate, and should ideally be housed individually. Males in particular can and will fight to the death. Some experienced owners do house females together but adequate space should be ensured and also 2 of everything should be available to minimise risk of fighting. Co-habiting females should be continually monitored for signs of aggression and separated immediately should there be any aggressive behaviours because warring hedgies can cause a lot of damage!! Female hedgies can also be allowed to socialise during playtimes providing a careful eye is also kept on them to monitor for signs of aggression especially during the introductory phase. Males and Females who are not intended for breeding should also not be placed together in either housing or during playtime – these little guys are fast at doing what they do and can easily result in unexpected pregnancies. Again males should not come into contact during playtime neither due to the risk of fighting. New hedgehogs should always be quarantined also for a reasonable period prior to any introductions, infections such as ringworm, mite infestations, fungal infections and worms are easily transmittable.

Minimum Cage space should be 3ft x 1.5ft x 1.5ft – any extra is beneficial as your hedgie will use all of the space provided. Shorter lengths can be accommodated by increasing width to ensure a similar floor space is achieved. Housing environment should incorporate substrate, a litter tray, a wheel, food and water bowls, some form of housing or bedding and safe toys.

There are several housing options to consider, all with pros and cons attached to them:

Cages:
Zoozone2 – This is the large zoozone – the medium zoozones are too small to accommodate a hedgie particularly adults. Recommended by most esp. for new owners particularly if your DIY skills aren’t the best!! Similar cages – Large Roddy cage
Pro’s – Readily available on the market, easy to clean and assemble, easily moved, mostly good at maintaining temperatures.
Con’s – Relatively fragile particularly if dropped etc, cannot be stacked as this will prevent adequate ventilation, more difficult to add extra heating to if needed due to being plastic based



Barred Cages – favoured by our American counterparts (it must be noted that the USA has different weather to us with different humidity levels etc)
Pro’s - Good ventilation, relatively easy to clean and manoeuvrable, can be stacked but depending on door positions.
Con’s – Considered high risk due to the potential of hedgehogs climbing the bars which can result in falls from a height (potentially fatal) or falling and trapping limbs between the bars (can lead to breaks) Barred cages can be adapted by ‘bumpering’ off the last few inches of the bars preventing access – this can be done by using Perspex, cardboard or anything easily attachable and smooth (some people have been highly creative and used things like plastic colourful placemats etc) Stacking barred cages also means that to clean them or remove wheels you would have to unstack them all each time also.



Vivariums – versatile and gaining popularity. Viv’s with glass doors do need to be adapted by adding extra vents to improve ventilation or replacing glass doors with fly screen mesh is ideal. Aquarium sealant is safe to use if you want to seal a home built viv.
Pro’s – Stackable, versatile if self build (can add multiple levels etc), excellent for maintaining temperatures, easy to add extra heating, such a ceramic heaters, in due to easy roof mounting points, durable
Con’s – Heavier and hence not so easy to move about, can be expensive if shop bought and difficult to build of your not good at DIY if self building, needs adapting if doors are glass to improve ventilation



Other enclosures – i.e. indoor rabbit hutches, pieces of furniture etc – fine if adapted safely (no sharp splinters of wood etc) replacing ‘chicken wired’ fronts on rabbit cages etc as hedgies can climb chicken wire. Pro’s and con’s tend to be similar to vivariums.

**Any ramps used in home built items need to be made safe so the hedgie doesn’t fall from any significant height – falls like this can cause serious internal injuries **


NOT Suitable: aquariums (retains moisture/poor ventilation could result in respiratory infections) free roaming living area’s (doesn’t even bear thinking about) unsecured enclosures – all housing should be escape proof, overcrowded (multiple hedgehogs sharing) living conditions, wire bottomed cages.

Housing Temperatures/Position:
To insure that your hedgie remains comfortable any enclosure should be placed in an area that has access to 12 hours of daylight and is free of draughts. Accepted temperature range is between 18 degrees centigrade and 28 degrees centigrade with the ideal being 21-24 degrees on average. Some hedgies are more prone to the cold and will attempt to hibernate so care must be given to maintaining a correct temperature. More information on hibernation indicators and actions can be found in the ‘Health Issues’ section of the forum.

Heating Methods:


Room Temperature – ideal if you have a warm house which you hedgie is comfortable with. Monitor for sudden drops - preferably with a digital thermometer or similar and have a back up heat source on standby

Oil Filled Radiators – usually are thermostatically controlled and keep ambient temperatures at a steady level, more cost efficient than general household heating being on all the time. Safe!

Snugglesafe Discs – keep warm for approx 10 hours – great back up source due to its move ability

Heat Mats – leads must be kept away from the hedgie due to risk of chewing – MUST be controlled by a thermostat as high temperatures can be reached

Ceramic Heat Emitters – effective and efficient – MUST be controlled by a thermostat due to being able to achieve very high temperatures and MUST be kept well out of the way of the hedgie due to risk of burns

Hot Water bottles – ideal heat source for transportation and for warming up hedgies during hibernation attempts – not appropriate for general heating use.

Not suitable : light emitting bulbs – hedgies need a regular day/night cycle so providing a source of bright light 24/7 would be counterproductive.


Substrate


Again, numerous options available and is a case of considering what you and your hedgie prefer as to what you use.

Popular Choices:

Fleece liners – fleece cut to size with any loose stitching or fancy edgings removed. Cheap and easy to maintain and easily washed and/or replaced. Not the ideal option for messy hedgies or nesting females. Hedgies are not able to dig in liners neither

Finacard or similar – again enables a hedgie to dig and root about. Must be dust free. Finacard is good value for money but other options such as carefresh, aubiose etc are also available.

Not Suitable – Hay/straw, carpet, towels or anything else with loops or loose threads that a hedgie can get entangled in or poke in their eyes (in the case of hay/straw). Thin strips of fabric and hamster bedding (the stuff that looks like cotton wool) like loose threads, both can wind round hedgies legs cutting off circulation and resulting in limb damage and loss. Wood shavings/sawdust/wood chips are not suitable as these can get stuck in various parts of the body and can cause respiratory problems.

Litter Tray Substrate:
often owners differentiate between cage and litter tray substrate as it helps your hedgie to distinguish the difference between them and to encourage them to go in the same place and therefore to be litter trained. Not all hedgies will be litter trained but moving their poops into the litter tray if found elsewhere and placing their wheel in the tray helps and most hedgies will get the idea. Most hedgies will relieve themselves whilst running also.

Kitchen Roll – easily disposable, expensive for multiple hedgies

Chinchilla Sand – good at keeping smells down, easily sieved, can be messy

Wood Based Cat Litter - no reported problems

Finacard or similar – good for keeping smells down

Not Suitable: normal cat litter (potentially toxic) or anything pellet like that would swell and cause blockages if ingested


Beds/Bedding


It is important that hedgies are provided with some form of bed space, hedgies need a hiding place.

Bed’s/Bedding can be provided in the form of:

Fleece snuggle pouches, plastic igloo’s (guinea pig size), wooden huts, P@H safe bedding (loose flakes of recycled paper), strips of kitchen roll, squares of cut up fleece, finacard or similar. Just make sure your hedgie has a safe and secure place to hide and sleep.

Wheels


This is an ESSENTIAL item for your hedgie – they are very active and can run up to 5 miles per night. It is however recommended by some that hoglets are not given wheels until approx 12 weeks old to ensure that their bones and ligaments are strong enough to cope with the physical strain. This is not entirely set in stone as hedgies do differ and a robust hoglet could benefit for a wheel a week or so earlier similarly a smaller hoglet or one that may have had issues at some point may benefit from having a slightly longer period or limited wheel access.

ANY WHEEL NEEDS TO BE A MINIMUM OF 12” IN DIAMETER.


Again there are different wheels on the market – none seem to be 100% perfect and often it is down to personal preference of the owner.

Silent Spinners - one of the more expensive wheels on the market, comes in red, blue, green and purple in colour. Good solid wheel but with a tendency to travel in the litter tray – some dislike the drainage slits. Not always sold in pet shops, prone to cracking if dropped.



Flying Saucers – cheap and cheerful, probably the easiest wheel to clean, need low kitten trays to fit, some dislike the tilted hedgies positioning whilst running. Not always found in all pet shops.



Comfort wheels – good basic wheel – can be noisy



P@H Savic wheel – easily accessible, only comes in blue, can be noisy and the yellow plastic wears down easily with use, prone to cracking if dropped, easy to clean



Wodent Wheel – Not one that’s readily used but looks difficult for a hedgie to get in and out of and its enclosed nature means that it will trap smells and he difficult to clean.



Not Suitable: All metal wheels (those recommended for rats/degus etc) and exercise balls – both hold a high risk of a hedgie catching their toes/nails in the gaps.

Toys


Some hedgies may play with toys, others may not – it is entirely dependent on your hedgies personality. There are a variety of cat toys and household items that can be utilised as hedgie toys -here is a rough guide to what others have used although with some common sense the list is endless:

Toilet Taper Tube’s - cut length wise to avoid hedgie getting stuck

Plastic Tubes or Piping – easily washable – ensure min 4” diameter

Chubes – Guinea pig size, found in P@H (orange and black or purple and black stripes)

Tissue box - Stuff with bedding and it can be used as a bed or a hideaway

Small Cat Balls – ones with or without bells in – monitor usage of calls with gaps in to make sure they don’t get teeth or nails stuck

Ping Pong Balls – light and easy to push around.

Small, Lightweight Plastic or Paper Bowls - Items that they can toss or get inside, like an empty cottage cheese container or anything of appropriate size (washed out first)

Pine Cones - Pine cones don't have the pine bedding risk, but they should be sterilized first. Bake first to sterilize at approximately 200° for 20-30 minutes on foil to catch any sap drippings. These might be a favourite.

Small Paper bags - These are easy to find and inexpensive. Just fold and toss when dirty.

Crumpled up pieces of paper - Some hedgehogs enjoy pushing these around, and the exploring type may find them interesting until they figure out what it is.

Mirrors - On the outside of the cage. If they are on the inside, make sure they are pet-safe.

Small Stuffed Animals/Plushie balls - Some hedgehogs use them as pillows or something else to cuddle up with. IF your hedgehogs chews on the stuffed toy, the stuffing inside may be harmful. In that case you could replace the stuffing with bedding and sew it back up – always regularly check all cuddly toys for lose threads and remove things like plastic eyes and accessible bells to prevent accidental ingestion.

Catnip is safe so toys containing cat nip are suitable.

Playtime:
If allowing your hedgie to free roam then it is important to ensure that they are in a safe environment i.e. the floor is clean and free of debris, wires are tucked away and nothing sharp protruding anywhere that could catch your hedgie. Also be aware that floor temps are generally cooler and prone to draughts. The other option is to use a playpen such as barred small animal pens – hedgies should not be left unattended in such playpens due to the risk of climbing or being able to tip the bottom up – hedgehogs are great escape artists when they see fit!! Other options are a children’s paddling pool or nylon pop up puppy type pens. The spacing’s on normal metal dog cages are too big and small hedgies would probably manage to squeeze through the gaps.

animal addict
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