What Are the Essential Elements of a Balanced Diet for a Hedgehog?

March 4, 2024

With their adorable little faces and prickly bodies, hedgehogs have quickly become popular pets. But owning a hedgehog isn’t just about cuddling with this cute critter; it’s also about ensuring that they live a healthy and happy life. One way to do this is by providing them with a balanced diet. Hedgehogs are insectivores, meaning their primary source of food in the wild is insects. However, pet hedgehogs have specific dietary needs that can’t always be met by insects alone. So, what exactly should a hedgehog eat to stay healthy?

What Do Hedgehogs Naturally Eat?

Understanding what hedgehogs naturally eat in the wild can be instrumental in crafting the perfect diet for your pet. Hedgehogs are insectivores, which means their primary source of food is insects. But they’re also known to snack on an assortment of other foods, including fruits, vegetables, and even small rodents.

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These prickly little creatures have a high metabolism and require a diet that’s rich in animal protein. Slugs, beetles, and caterpillars often form the core of their insect diet in the wild. However, the variety of insects they eat depends on what’s available in their habitat.

While insects form the primary part of a hedgehog’s diet, they also consume small amounts of plant material. Wild hedgehogs have been known to eat fruits, vegetables, and fungi. They’re known to have a particular fondness for berries and fallen fruit.

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The Importance of Protein in a Hedgehog’s Diet

Protein is a vital nutrient for all animals, and hedgehogs are no exception. These little creatures have high protein requirements, primarily due to their insectivorous nature. Protein helps to maintain their muscle mass and supports their overall health and growth.

While insects are a good source of protein, feeding your pet hedgehog only bugs won’t provide them with all the nutrients they need. Many pet owners supplement their hedgehog’s insect diet with high-protein, low-fat cat or dog food.

It’s crucial to ensure that the additional food source is low in fat. Hedgehogs are prone to obesity, so a diet high in fat can lead to health problems. Look for cat or dog food with high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient.

The Role of Fruits and Vegetables in a Hedgehog’s Diet

While protein forms the cornerstone of a hedgehog’s diet, fruits and vegetables also play a vital role. They provide your hedgehog with necessary vitamins and minerals that are not found in meat or insects.

When offering your hedgehog fruits and vegetables, it’s important to keep variety in mind. Try to provide different types of fruits and vegetables to ensure your pet gets a range of nutrients. Apples, bananas, berries, and melons can be good fruit options. For vegetables, consider carrots, peas, broccoli, and bell peppers.

Remember, though, that fruits and vegetables should be given in moderation. Too much can lead to diarrhea or other digestive issues. As a rule of thumb, fruits and vegetables should make up no more than 10% of a hedgehog’s diet.

Water – An Essential Part of a Hedgehog’s Diet

Water might not seem like a dietary element, but it plays a critical role in your hedgehog’s health. Dehydration can lead to serious health issues in hedgehogs. Therefore, ensuring your pet has constant access to clean, fresh water is a must.

Despite their small size, hedgehogs can drink quite a bit of water, especially on hot days or when they’re particularly active. Make sure to check their water supply regularly and refill it as necessary.

Avoiding Certain Foods

Just as there are foods that are beneficial for your hedgehog, there are also foods that should be avoided. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so dairy products should be off-limits. Additionally, they shouldn’t be fed raw meat or eggs because of the risk of salmonella.

Many hedgehog owners are tempted to feed their pets mealworms due to their high protein content. However, mealworms also have a high fat content, which can contribute to obesity. If you do decide to feed your hedgehog mealworms, do so sparingly.

In conclusion, a hedgehog’s diet should be high in protein and low in fat, with a variety of fruits and vegetables for added vitamins and minerals. And, of course, plenty of clean, fresh water. With the right diet, your hedgehog can lead a healthy and happy life.

Commercial Hedgehog Food and Homemade Options

Although pet stores offer commercial hedgehog food, many hedgehog enthusiasts and experts argue that these are not always the best choice. Commercial hedgehog foods could lack the necessary nutrients essential for hedgehog health or may contain fillers and additives that are not beneficial for hedgehogs.

A homemade diet, on the other hand, can be a great way to ensure your hedgehog is getting a balanced diet. A home-prepared hedgehog meal typically consists of high-quality, low-fat cat or dog food as the base. This should be supplemented with a variety of fruits and vegetables, and select insects like crickets or silkworm larvae for added protein.

The appeal of a homemade diet is that it allows you to control the quality of the food your pet hedgehog consumes. You can pick out high-quality cat or dog food and fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also adjust the amount and variety of food depending on your hedgehog’s age, activity level, and overall health. Remember, adult hedgehogs might have different dietary requirements compared to younger ones.

However, preparing a homemade diet requires a good understanding of a hedgehog’s nutritional needs. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to consult a vet or a hedgehog dietary expert.

The Risks of Overfeeding and Underfeeding

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for a hedgehog’s overall health. Both overfeeding and underfeeding can lead to numerous health problems. Obesity is a common issue among pet hedgehogs, often due to high-fat diets or overfeeding. On the flip side, underfeeding can also be harmful and can lead to malnutrition.

Hedgehogs have small stomachs, so they don’t eat large quantities at one time. However, their high metabolism means they need to eat frequently. It’s best to feed your hedgehog in the evening when they’re most active.

Ideally, a pet hedgehog should have a slightly rounded appearance. If your hedgehog appears too thin or too round, it might be a sign of underfeeding or overfeeding, respectively. If you’re struggling to maintain the right weight for your pet, consider seeking advice from a veterinarian.


In summary, a balanced hedgehog diet should be high in protein, low in fat, and include a variety of fruits and vegetables. While insects make up the bulk of a wild hedgehog’s diet, domesticated hedgehogs benefit from a balanced mix of high-quality cat or dog food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a small selection of insects.

Ensuring your hedgehog has constant access to fresh water is also critical. Keep in mind that certain foods, such as dairy products and mealworms, should be avoided to prevent health issues.

Lastly, remember that every hedgehog is unique. What works for one might not work for another. Always monitor your hedgehog’s weight, behavior, and overall health, and don’t hesitate to seek professional advice if you’re unsure about something. A healthy, well-fed hedgehog will be a happy and energetic companion.