There isn’t a whole lot of easily accessible research about hedgehog nutrition. In fact, there’s a lot of conflicting information regarding what is safe to feed a hedgehog and what isn’t.
That’s why I’ve compiled an accurate list of foods you can feed your pet hedgehog and most importantly, foods to avoid.
The quick answer is to feed your hedgehog quality and well-trusted kibble cat food. Hedgehogs are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and vegetables. But what’s most important to a hedgehog’s diet is the balance of protein, fat, and fiber.
What A Balanced Hedgehog Diet Should Consist Of
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Your hedgehog has nutritional needs just like any other pet you may own (and yourself!)
The Ideal hedgehog nutritional guidelines are that any given meal should consist of the following percentage of protein, fat, and fiber:
- Protein: 30-33%
- Fat: 10-13%
- Fiber: 3-8%
Check the food you buy, and if it fits within the above-mentioned ranges, then check the ingredients. The first five ingredients should be whole foods, no corn, and no by-products.
Avoid grain-free foods as hedgehogs are omnivores who need a good combination of healthy grains and animal (or insect) protein.
How much you should feed your hedgehog depends on their body type and weight, so remember that they may not need much food. (Hedgehogs aren’t super big animals!)
You could skimp on these requirements, but that would not be good for your hedgehog. If you feed them fat all the time, for example, their life expectancy can be cut short, so try to follow the recommendations above.
Can I Use Store-Bought Pet Food Meant For Other Species?
Surprisingly, it’s encouraged by most hedgehog owners to avoid kibble meant for hedgehogs altogether.
Hedgehog food products are normally filled with byproducts, corn, and other non-nutritional foods that aren’t really good for hedgehogs.
Even worse, many hedgehog food brands are full of fillers like sawdust and have no nutritional value at all. The only other option you have is to buy food meant for other species. But which ones?
Can Hedgehogs Eat Cat Or Dog Food?
Cat food is the most acceptable option for a healthy and happy hedgehog.
The dietary guidelines from earlier still apply, so check the levels of protein, fat, and fiber and those first five ingredients. There’s a good list that tackles many kibble foods, so it’ll give you a good place to start.
This also applies to dog food, though the kibble sizes for dogs are typically larger than for cats, which might make it difficult for the hedgehog to properly chew the food.
If the requirements for cat food are still met and you can buy small, kibbled dog food, this is acceptable. But be warned: a lot of dog food has too much corn and starch in it, so steer clear of those brands.
Hedgehogs can also eat wet cat or dog food if you stick to their dietary needs.
Most wet foods are high in protein and fats, so be careful with how much you feed them.
They can also contain fish, which could give your hedgehog some stinky stool problems. They can still eat fish, but it might not be as comfortable for them.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Hamster, Guinea Pig, or Rabbit Food?
The short answer, is no.
Hedgehogs are a different species than hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits which are all rodents and therefore vegetarians. Since your hedgehog needs a healthy amount of animal protein, it is not advisable to feed your it hamster, guinea pig, or rabbit food.
Aditionally, many of these commercial pet foods for rodents are typically full of sugars with not many nutrients.
Hedgehogs don’t have rodent teeth and they don’t grow as rodent teeth do. Having your hedgehog constantly gnawing on something that’s meant to wear a rodent’s teeth is really not good for your hedgehog, and it could end up with some serious dental problems!
Can Hedgehogs Eat Suet Pellets or Other Bird Foods and Seeds?
Hedgehogs can eat bird suet made from insects, but these are high in fat and low on protein, so be careful that your hedgehog doesn’t overeat.
Some may say that hedgehogs don’t, or even can’t overeat, but these people may have never seen an obese hedgehog.
Hedgehogs may eat bird seed in the wild, and a small amount is fine, but too much can cause health problems.
Like always, balance your hedgehog’s diet out, and feed them something other than bird seed or suet.
Do Hedgehogs Eat Hay, Leaves, or Grass?
Hedgehogs might be omnivores, but just like humans, there is a limit to what it is that we will eat. Again, the short answer is no, they don’t eat hay, leaves, or grass.
Hedgehogs need a lot of protein in their diets because they are deceptively active creatures. Hay, leaves, and grass are good nesting materials for hedgehogs but lack any nutritional value so they will not actively eat them.
Don’t try a diet like this for your hedgehog, it could get malnourished very quickly.
Do Hedgehogs Eat Dried or Live Mealworms?
Hedgehogs love mealworms, and you should preferably feed them live mealworms. Dried mealworms hold almost no nutritional value and have been linked to Metabolic Bone Disease in hedgehogs, so avoid them.
Live mealworms are also good because they stimulate a hedgehog’s brain while he goes snuffling after them!
Remember that mealworms are high in fat and low on protein, so these should be treats or supplemental pieces to your hedgehog’s diet. They aren’t suitable to be the primary diet of your pet.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Fat Balls?
Hedgehogs will eat fat balls made of worms and insects but be careful about their fat intake.
A hedgehog who has access to fat all the time will become overweight very quickly!
Most store-bought fat balls have mealworms as their main ingredient, which are low on protein and high on fat, so beware.
What Are Good Treats To Give a Pet Hedgehog?
Hedgehogs can have treats like any other pet, and they’re normally related to what they can eat already. The only things to steer clear of are toxic foods and too much of any one thing.
A good list of things to give as treats could be:
- Wet cat food. (Fatty, so moderation is key.)
- Live insects (store-bought only) like mealworms, crickets, waxworms, and the like.
- Baby food, made from fruit, veggies, or meat. (Avoid ‘pasta’ flavored foods.)
- Cat and Dog treats if they are cut small and soft.
Hedgehog mouths are tiny, and they don’t have much jaw strength, so be sure you’re cutting their snacks very small.
Many snacks and foods represent a choking hazard to your hedgehog, so be careful.
Like the commercial hedgehog food, many store-bought hedgehog treats are dried insects and things like that, but these are not the best primary energy source for your pet.
They may save space, but they won’t help your hedgehog any, so just buy the live crickets.
What Kinds of Fruit are Good to Give a Hedgehog?
Hedgehogs can eat certain fruits as snacks or treats, but these cannot comprise their whole diets. A good working list of fruits includes:
- Apples, pears, peaches.
- Watermelon, cantaloupes, mangoes.
- Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries.
- Cherries, bananas, plums, nectarines, kiwis.
Fresh fruit should be the only thing you treat to your hedgehog. Dried fruit has negligible nutrition, and the salt content could be harmful to your pet, so do not give them dried fruit.
If your hedgehog has trouble with the skins of some of these fruits, peel them and let your hedgehog nibble on the insides.
And of course, don’t let them eat the rinds of melons. It isn’t particularly toxic, but it can give them tummy troubles.
Among the fruits to avoid are grapes, which are toxic to hedgehogs, as well as most citrus fruit which gives them upset stomachs because of the high acidity.
What Vegetables are Good for Feeding Hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs love vegetables too, and in moderation, they can be a great part of the diet of your pet. Vegetables that are good for hedgehogs include:
- Carrots, potatoes.
- Sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, eggplant.
- Bell peppers, asparagus, green bean.
- Cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, peas.
- Spinach, kale, cabbage, dandelion greens.
- Brussel sprouts, turnips.
You may have to cook most of these to present them to your hedgehog. They can’t bite down on hard vegetables like carrots or turnips, or even potatoes, so give them a quick boil.
Do not season anything.
Hedgehogs cannot eat most seasonings in large doses, and some are in fact quite toxic to them (as I’ll get to down below), but just as a preliminary precaution do not use seasoning.
Steam, boil, or bake your veggies. Do not fry them in oil as the high-fat content is bad for your pet, and uneven pan-frying can be another choking hazard for them.
There are many vegetables that are technically okay, but they have zero nutritional value and high sodium content. These are vegetables like celery or lettuce.
Yes, your hedgehog can eat them, but they aren’t any good in comparison to the ones above, so don’t bother with them.
What Human Foods Can Hedgehogs Eat?
There are some human foods that hedgehogs can eat, as humans are also omnivores. Hedgehogs like meats (unseasoned), some grains, and many of the same diets as humans. Moderation is key.
Stay away from junk foods like chips, candy, and dried fruits. These are not inherently toxic to them, but they aren’t very good for your hedgehog either. You can give them very small amounts without harm, but it’s better to just give them snacks they can have at any time.
Hedgehogs are still animals and will want your food like a cat or dog would, even if it’s bad for them, so resist their snuffle and give them their own treats.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Rice, Quinoa, Grains, Oatmeal, and That Sort of Thing?
Hedgehogs need healthy grains in their diet.
Many cat foods have rice, quinoa, and other healthy meal in their ingredients. These things are not bad for your hedgehog, but they simply cannot make up the majority of their diet.
Some vets say to stay away from corn, but the key is still in moderation.
If you plan on making your own food for your hedgehog and you want to include any of the above, just be sure to cook it. If the grain is too hard your hedgehog will not be able to eat it, or even worse, could choke on it.
What About Bread, Noodles, and Pasta?
Avoid bread, noodles, and pasta.
These foods are full of empty calories and sometimes a lot of sodium content. With everything else available to a hedgehog, you shouldn’t need to fill their diets with any of these.
They are empty at best and harmful to your hedgehog at worst.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Ham, Chicken, Beef, or Other Meats?
Hedgehogs can eat boiled, steamed, or baked chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Avoid frying the meat or battering the meat as the salt content will be too high for your pet.
Again, do not use any seasonings, especially no salt.
Make sure the harder meats like beef and pork are cut into small pieces for your hedgehog. If you can, mince them in a food processor or chop them finely.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Eggs?
Hedgehogs can eat unseasoned and cooked eggs, scrambled or hard-boiled (and smooshed up). They do not eat the shells any more than we do, so don’t try to feed them the eggshells.
What About Canned Foods Like Tuna or Pumpkin?
If you want to use any canned foods for your hedgehog, make sure the contents have not seeped in saltwater or oil. These can be very unhealthy for your pet.
If the sodium content is not too high and they aren’t among the foods to avoid from above, hedgehogs can eat canned food. But it isn’t advised.
There are other things to worry about with canned goods, like the metallic content and any added preservatives. These are the same reasons why you might want to think twice before eating canned foods, yourself.
If you want to feed your hedgehog canned food, keep to canned food for cats or baby food, but it’s best to avoid canned human food altogether.
Can Hedgehogs Eat Nuts Like Cashews, Peanuts, Almonds, or Pistachios?
Much like the bird seeds, hedgehogs can (and will) eat nuts for food. But most nuts are too big for hedgehog’s mouths, so they present a choking hazard.
Hedgehogs can have nuts but use them sparingly. Too much protein and fat for hedgehogs (which nuts are full of) can cause kidney stress for the little guys.
Some owners will say to not feed nuts to your hedgehog at all, so use your own judgment and make sure you pay attention to your hedgehog as they eat things like these.
Should You Give Your Hedgehog Honey, Jam, or Jelly?
Honey, jams, and jellies are full of sugars and preservatives, so they are not healthy for your hedgehog.
They are not toxic for your pet, so if you choose to feed them a little bit, it should be fine. Preferably go with natural honey or jams from a farmer’s market or something similar, just to avoid the preserves.
And give them very small amounts!
Can Hedgehogs Eat Dairy?
Hedgehogs can eat some dairy, as it isn’t inherently poisonous, but hedgehogs are lactose intolerant.
Milk and cheese products can cause digestive problems, nausea, vomiting, and painful bloating, so it’s a good idea to avoid dairy products altogether.
It is the lactose in these dairy products that is what is the problem for hedgehogs, so products made from goat’s milk, or non-dairy/vegan products might be something they can handle, but unless you’re sure, it’s best to just nix dairy from their diets.
Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Feed Your Pet Hedgehogs
Your hedgehog is still an animal, and as such has foods that are simply not part of their diet.
Some of these foods are harmful only in large quantities, but they are still on this list. Some of these foods are toxic to your hedgehog, so never feed them to your pet.
This includes (but is not limited to):
- Any vegetable in the allium family; garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, shallots, chives (toxic)
- Anything made from the allium family (above) so onion powder, garlic powder, mustard, and the like
- High citrus/acidic fruits like oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruits, pineapples, pomegranate, and tomatoes (can cause ulcers and mouth sores)
- Chilies and avocadoes (toxic)
- Chocolate and ice cream (high sugar and lactose intolerance)
- Wild mushrooms (toxic)
- Seasoned food like deli meat, veggies in saltwater
- Peanut butter (high in preserves and difficult to swallow, can rot in mouth)
- Grapes and raisins (highly toxic)
This is not a complete and exhaustive list of everything that could hurt your pet, so if you come across something new or have doubts, consult online sources and your local pet shops.
Some things that can be very healthy for your hedgehog are bad in large doses, so be aware if you’re overfeeding on something they don’t need more of.
If you ever have any questions about what to feed your hedgehog, there are several sources online where you can find the information you need.
These sources tend to be sporadic and have varying opinions about what is and is not acceptable for your pet. Make sure you do your research. This list, and indeed, all the ones online are not completely exhaustive.
The key to a hedgehog’s diet is balance.
Hedgehogs need a certain percentage of protein, fat, and fiber to have a healthy life.
Like humans, this doesn’t mean they cannot have some snacks or sugary treats, they just should not be the norm. Hedgehogs can become obese like any other animal, and it’s important to remember how much food they need.
Your hedgehog is nocturnal, so most experts advise feeding your pet at twilight as they’re waking up or becoming most active. If they seem hungry when you wake up in the morning, you can feed them then too.
Water should always be available to your hedgehog, and you can use a sipper bottle if your hedgehog will drink from it.
If they won’t, you can use a dish like for their food. Make sure the sipper bottle or the water dish is cleaned every day, as this could affect whether your hedgehog drinks from it. (Sipper bottles can get clogged with food, so check them daily.)
How Much Food is Too Much?
Hedgehogs should look like little symmetric rolls of quills, and they should be able to ball into themselves at their perfect weight.
If their waist is thinner than their shoulders, consider bumping up their food. If they are so tubby that they can’t ball up, consider dialing back the kibble.
It’s estimated that a hedgehog requires one to two tablespoons (Tbsp) of kibble a day. If they’re losing weight, give them a heaping spoon.
If they’re not very active, level those spoons out. Active hedgehogs are going to need more food than lazy ones.
Be aware that you could also be overfeeding them on their snacks, so be mindful of the snacks you give your pet. Therefore, sugary and fatty snacks are not always recommended.
Some handlers say that you can feed one teaspoon (tsp) of fruit or veggies with their mealtime, but determine your hedgehog’s unique needs first.
Hedgehogs are advised to be between 400-600g in weight, but this could depend on the breed and overall size of your hedgehog, so it is better to go by a visual guide than a number for their ideal weight.
These guidelines are only for domesticated, pet hedgehogs, and are not advised for every hedgehog breed, or hedgehogs brought in from the wild. (Don’t try to raise a wild hedgehog as a pet, by the way! They’re not the same thing as pet hedgehogs!)
Hedgehogs are omnivores that can eat meats and vegetables, and a slew of other foods in moderation.
They need mostly protein with a small percentage of fat and fiber. Most foods that are easily available to you are foods that they can eat.
It is recommended by the most knowledgeable handlers of hedgehogs that quality cat food is the best kind of food to give to your pet and to avoid most other pet food types in favor of it.
Not all cat foods are created equally, so check the nutritional facts to make sure the cat food has everything your hedgehog is going to need.
Hedgehogs need a steady and balanced diet to live their fullest and longest lives, so keep them healthy, and they’ll be snuffling and rolling around your life for some time.