Knowing how to keep a hedgehog warm can often feel like a daunting demand. What’s a hedgehog’s comfortable temperature range? Which heating system is best? Do hedgehogs need heat lamps? These are just a few of the questions that might be worrying you.
In today’s article, we are going to take a systematic walkthrough of the topic, giving you answers to your question and extra information, as well as some examples of our favorite products. You’ll learn all about the various options available and how to use them safely.
Why Do Hedgehogs Need Heat Lamps (or other heat sources)?
This means that this species of hedgehog is adapted to living at high temperatures and humidity, much higher than would be comfortable for most humans to live in. This means that we need to take special measures to make sure that our hedgehogs are always warm enough.
Without this effort on your part, there is always a risk that your hedgehog will attempt hibernation, which – sadly – can result in death. All hibernating hedgehogs are at some risk due to reduced immunity, but pet hedgehogs are best kept at a healthy weight and simply do not have the fat reserves to survive hibernation.
What Is The Best Hedgehog Temperature Range?
Despite some variation between sources, it is generally agreed that the safe temperature range for African pygmy hedgehogs is between 72 and 78°F (around 23 to 25°C). However, some hedgehogs will have strong preferences for the cooler or warmer end of this range.
So, to a degree, temperature recommendations can only be a guideline. With a new hedgehog it’s probably best to begin with a mid-range temperature – say, 76°F (24°C) and by observation, tweak the temperature up or down to find the sweet spot for your own hog.
Because of the issue of hibernation, a great deal of attention is given to keeping your hedgehog warm enough, and rightly so. But, it is essential to realize that your hedgehog can also overheat and that this can be fatal too.
Whenever you are placing heat under or within the hedgehog’s living space, be mindful of this and always allow for a somewhat cooler area where they can go to cool off if they feel uncomfortable.
Obviously, heating needs in most properties and climates will vary throughout the year. If you use thermostats on your heating equipment this will take care of all natural fluctuations in temperature – day to night, and season to season. You’ll also be covered for sudden cold spells. We’ll talk more about thermostats soon.
How Does Humidity Affect Hedgehog Temperature?
Humidity refers to the amount of water vapor that is held in the air at any given time. It is measured as a percentage of the total amount that can be held before the air is saturated. As noted above, African Pygmy hedgehogs are adapted to live in a humid environment – around 50-70%.
But this percentage isn’t a very helpful measure, as humidity happens relative to the temperature of the air. This means that hot air can hold a lot more water than cool air before it is saturated. So, as far as your hedgehog is concerned, there is no point in achieving 60% humidity in a cooler room and thinking it’s humid enough.
Even without the negative effects of the cooler temperature there simply won’t be enough water vapor in the air. Problems like dry, itchy skin can occur and your hedgehog will not be happy! For both comfort and well-being, they need warmth and humidity, so 50-70% humidity in warm air that’s between 72 and 78°F (around 23 to 25°C) is ideal.
Humidity is naturally lower in temperate climates during the winter season and central heating only compounds the issue. Interestingly, higher humidity levels also have the effect of making the room temperature feel a few degrees warmer. As we’ll see later, you can use this to your advantage.
How does habitat affect hedgehog temperature?
There is not one perfect heating system for all hedgehog owners and to some degree, this is because habitat makes a big difference to the equipment you will choose. Clearly, if you keep your hedgehog in an enclosed plastic tub or terrarium it’s going to be easier to keep the internal temperature warm, even if the surrounding room is cooler.
Open topped wire enclosures are popular and have the advantage of offering your hedgehog much more floor space, but they – and wire cages – are more impacted by room temperature. Heating measures often have to be taken for both the cage area and the room, because air can move freely between the two.
That said, all hedgehogs should have some time outside of their enclosure, so, the room they are in will need to be heated to at least 72°F for that part of the day.
The Three Heat Setups You Need To Consider:
- Room heating.
- Hedgehog cage heating.
- Back up heating in the case of power loss.
1. Room Heating
We are used to the concept of room-based heating as most of us use it to heat our homes to a comfortable level for us to live in during the colder months. This usually means running a heating system a couple of times a day that warms our whole house.
What your hedgehog needs is somewhat different. It’s often easy enough to keep a cozy nest warm during the day while they are asleep, but their main need for extra heat is through the night when they are active and out of the nest.
Most of us don’t want to heat the whole house all night, so central heating isn’t usually an option. However, it does pay to keep the ambient heat in the hedgehog’s room reasonably high at night, especially if you have a wire cage or pen. This will make it much easier to keep the hedgehog’s living quarters up in the mid-70s (°F) during cold spells.
To create heat within one room only most people use a space heater, which can be cheap to purchase and quite effective. There are many sizes and varieties, including fan heaters, oil-filled radiators, and convection heaters.
Your choice will depend on how big your hog’s room is, how well insulated it is, and how much the temperature in the room drops at night. Never put any direct heat from a space heater onto the hedgehog’s enclosure itself, as this can cause overheating.
Our favorite space heater is PTZ Electric Heater
A portable, energy-efficient space heater with a built-in thermometer and thermostat. A great all in one heater with excellent reviews across a number of sellers. Notably it’s quiet, has two heat settings (750 and 1500 watts) and can oscillate by 70 degrees (or not). It heats the room quickly and will cut out if it overheats (or tips). A great price to begin with and the built-in thermostat saves you money.
Any kind of space heater (other than propane) will produce dry heat that dries the air in the room, so, you may also need a humidifier.
Our favorite humidifier is LEVOIT Cool Mist Humidifier
Particularly in a dry climate – or a centrally heated home – you will need a high output humidifier to get the humidity up to a comfortable level for your hedgehog. This one has a moderate price tag with high output and is well-reviewed. It is smart, robust and has a good 4-liter capacity. It’s quiet to operate and can be set on a timer to switch off automatically.
Some humidifiers have a built-in hygrometer to tell you the room humidity, but it is often cheaper to by the two items separately. Even if you are not using a humidifier it is still important to monitor the humidity in your hedgehog’s room.
You can increase humidity to a degree just by using open bowls of water in a warm environment. A hygrometer will let you know whether you are achieving the desired humidity and they almost always double as a thermometer.
The unit should be placed well away from any heater (where the air is hotter), a distance from any humidifier, and close to the hedgehog’s habitat. This is particularly important if you don’t use an in-cage heating system and rely on the ambient temperature as sufficient.
Remember to place the unit at the same level as the habitat. If you place it higher in the room the readings will be an inaccurate reflection of what your hedgehog is experiencing, as heat rises.
Our favorite hygrometer is VIVOSUN
This neat little hygrometer is well-reviewed and comes at a great price. It has a hole for hanging, a stand attached, and magnets on the back – so really easy wherever you choose to put it. The display is clear and precise, plus it will record high and low humidity values for every 24 hours (and all-time). It also acts as a room thermometer.
2. Hedgehog Cage Heating
The next area to consider is your hedgehog’s habitat. The temperature within the hedgehog’s enclosure should be kept within the 72 and 78°F range, but your individual hog may have a specific preference. Have this preference in mind when you set up your equipment.
There are several options for heating the enclosure, and – in a warm room – hedgehogs in tubs and vivarium’s may not even need extra heat. If you have multiple hedgehogs or a dedicated hedgehog room, keeping the whole room at the desired temperature can be the way to go.
However, with one pet hedgehog who lives in your own living space, you will need to choose a method of warming their environment without impacting too much on yours. The main way to do this is by using ceramic heat emitters.
Ceramic Heat Emitters (CHE)
The CHE is a type of heat lamp that provides a radiant heat source, similar in effect to sunlight. The lamps give out a consistent, uniform pattern of heat using infrared waves. Perhaps most importantly for the hedgehog – who needs the most warmth during their dark period – it does not emit light.
One or two CHEs can be hung over your hedgehog’s enclosure to achieve the temperature you are aiming for. They are designed for reptiles and can be bought singly or in packs with the dome and other essentials included.
For wattage go for around 80 to 100w, though this can vary according to how close to the hedgehog you are fixing the lamps and how big the area to be warmed. The CHE lamps are best housed in an aluminum dome which can then be fixed over the cage.
The aluminum dome reflects the heat from the lamp and should be about 8 to 10 inches in diameter, using more than one for larger areas, rather than a wider dome.
Our favorites CHE lamps are HONG111 100W Ceramic Heat Lamp
This pack gives you two 100w heat lamps plus one digital thermometer and probe to measure in-cage temperature. As such it represents great value over buying these items separately.
Our favorite dome reflector is Woods 0169 SPT-2 Aluminum Clamp 8.5-Inch Reflector
This 8.5” reflector takes up to 150W bulbs, which is more than is needed for our hedgehogs. It can be used hanging over – or resting on top of – a cage. It also features a clamp if you prefer that method of fixing. The wide reflector spreads the heat over a good area. Larger cages will require two.
Human Heat Pad (electric blanket – UK)
This can be an option if you use a plastic tub or Duna-type guinea pig cage to house your hedgehog. The blanket can be placed under the tub and kept at a constant temperature with its own thermostat. This arrangement can work well in milder climates.
These blankets are highly reliable (humans lay on them to sleep!) and will warm the entire floor of the enclosure. This can result in over-heating, so they are best used under part of the cage only so that the hedgehog has a cooler area to move to if uncomfortable.
For safety reasons, only use a blanket on the outside of a plastic-based cage, and always place it underneath the cage as heat rises upwards.
Our favorites blankets are iTeknic Heating Pad
This is one of the larger mats of this kind and is well made, washable and robust. It has a range of settings and can be used for up to two hours for extra warmth (it has auto shut off). Useful to set on a timer to come on in the early hours, or in pulses overnight as an extra heat source. It can also be used if you are sitting with your hog and it’s chilly.
Microwaveable Heat Pack
These hard-plastic heat conserving discs are suitable for providing warmth in small areas over a period of 8 to 12 hours. They are heated in a microwave, then covered and left in areas that require extra warmth.
They can be useful, especially when the temperature drop isn’t great, but can lose heat quite quickly when it is very cold. They must be used protected to avoid burns.
Our favorite is Pet Heating Pad by Snuggle Safe
Perfect for providing warmth to a specific area for a short period of time – can provide a nice boost in really cold weather. It comes with a removable, washable cover that should be removed before microwaving. Maintains its heat well, often for over 8 hours.
Warming Appliances To Avoid
There are a couple of appliances that would produce adequate heat, which should not be used for other reasons. Standard heat-producing lamps cannot be used because they emit light as well as heat.
Adding light to your setup during your hog’s dark, active period will upset their natural circadian rhythm. This can disrupt sleep patterns, immune system function and create enormous stress. It may even prove fatal over a period of time.
Reptile heat pads are not recommended as they are known to fail or short out and may result in damage to your cage and/or your precious hedgehog.
3. Back-Up Heating In The Case Of Power Failure
Having a back-up plan is essential for every hedgehog guardian. Things do go wrong, with power outages and appliance failure. There are a number of possible preparations you can make in order to be able to provide heat, should the worst occur.
Some appliances can be purchased with battery back up. If you have this option it is worth considering as it offers greater peace of mind. You can also convert some low power usage items to run from a car battery, but this takes specialist knowledge and equipment and should be undertaken by a qualified person.
Human Skin Warmth
If you are in your home during a power outage this is an excellent option. Because of their obvious anti-cuddleability factor, you will probably be most comfortable if you wear a thin t-shirt with another baggy t-shirt over the top and then wear a belt around your waist.
This allows your hedgehog to lie comfortably between the two layers to warm up and keep warm. You can then lay in bed or put other clothing and/or blankets over the top. Just remember your hedgehog needs to breathe!
Charcoal Or Herbal Heat Pads
These are handy self-adhesive packs that you can stick onto your clothing (one clothing layer away from your skin or the hedgehog) which once applied heat up slowly and provide comfortable heat for several hours.
These pads can be used to warm you both during “skin-to-skin” contact, or even placed under a thin cover inside a hedgehog sleep sack or similar. The self-adhesive element keeps the pad in place and they are pretty robust. Just take care when unsticking them from the fabric to prevent them from splitting and spewing charcoal everywhere!
Hand warmers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are disposable and other reusable, usually being boiled to rejuvenate between uses. They are useful to have in an emergency and can be placed strategically to boost warmth in a single location.
Propane Heater (with supervision)
Propane-fuelled stand-alone space heaters can be unsafe if not used with care, but they are an excellent source of heat in an emergency. They heat an area very efficiently but do need to be used when you are present to supervise and turn down, off or on as needed.
Our favorite is Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy
This is an ideal portable propane heater, small enough to be easily stored for use in an emergency such as equipment failure or power outage. It’s robust, can safely be used indoors, and is light enough to move around easily. Will heat up to 225 square feet. I tank runs for 3 hours on full use so you might want to keep a spare, but the unit can also be connected up to a large propane canister with an additional pipe and regulator.
This is a long term option for all of your power needs in an outage, and perhaps more appropriate for those in a non-urban setting. However, you can purchase small generators that will cover some appliances.
They are usually around 650 to 1000 watts output under continuous usage and run on gas (petrol UK). This would be more than adequate for a system that relied on ceramic heat emitters.
Other Essential Equipment
Room Heater Thermostat
If your space heater does not have a built-in thermostat you can buy a plug-in adapter that allows you to plug the heater into a thermostat which then plugs into the mains. It is essential to have a room thermostat to avoid overheating.
Once in place, the thermostat will regulate your space heater efficiently, switching on and off as required depending on the temperature as measured by a probe (sensor).
Our favorite is Programmable Wireless Thermostat Plug
This digital room thermostat will work within a range of temperatures and also has timer functions which can be very useful. Just plug it into the mains and then plug your heating appliance in and it will switch it on and off as needed. The LCD display unit can then be used from anywhere in the room. The result is energy-efficient heating and peace of mind regarding your hedgehog’s welfare.
In-Cage Thermometer And Thermostat
Once you have an in-cage heat system set up you will also need to connect it to a thermostat and probe thermometer in order to continually monitor the temperature in your hedgehog’s home. This system then switches the heating on or off as needed.
Our favorite is Inkbird ITC-308
This excellent little gadget allows you to set an acceptable range of temperature and connect to both heating and cooling equipment. Really great for those who live in variable and hot climates where keeping cool can be just as much of an issue as keeping warm. The display unit is clear and easy to operate and there is a temperature probe attached to pick up the temperature from inside the habitat. A great price and well-reviewed.
To Round Things Up
As you will realize now there is no one size fits all solution to keeping your hedgehog warm and comfortable. We hope we have given you some insight into the choices available and which might suit your circumstances best.
Whatever you decide, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your choices are based on your own needs and those of your hedgehog. Once it’s all in place you and your hoglet can relax while they enjoy hours of toasty nighttime excursions around their enclosure.
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