Small, spiky and adorable. Of course, we’re talking about hedgehogs. The 5th-11th May is Hedgehog Awareness Week and to celebrate, we’re dedicating this post to the unique, loveable creatures. One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to hedgehogs is their diet. Malnutrition, a lack of education and improper care has led to a severe decline in the number of hedgehogs in Britain. Read on as we discuss how to help prevent the extinction of this beautiful animal by learning what hedgehogs really eat…
What can you feed hedgehogs?
With less than a million hedgehogs currently residing in Britain, it’s more important than ever to do your bit for these national treasures. Helping hedgehogs get the essential nutrients they need is just one way we can help keep them safe and healthy. But what exactly can hedgehogs eat?
What do hedgehogs eat in the wild?
It’s not generally recommended to keep hedgehogs as pets. They’re wild creatures that won’t thrive in captivity. Rather than trying to domesticate them, it’s best to simply help them in their natural habitat.
Naturally, hedgehogs are insectivores, taking over 70% of their key nutrients from insects and beetles in the wild. Occasionally, they may also dine on worms, slugs or snails, which could help to keep your garden pest- free.
That said, there’s little point leaving insects out for a hedgehog as they can get all they need for themselves. So, what should you put outside out for a hedgehog in your garden?
High protein pet food
Just like many of our other furry friends, hedgehogs need a diet that is high in animal protein. High protein cat food is packed with the essential nutrients to keep your garden visitors happy and healthy, and has a smaller kibble vs dog food, that’s perfect for hedgehogs.
Of course, not all pet foods are made the same and some are low in animal protein so be sure to check the ingredients. Those with added sugars, salts or artificial nonsense won’t be great for your furry companion, nor your prickly visitor. So, it’s important to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best you can. Pet food with natural ingredients and no funny business is best for both your pets and roaming hedgehogs.
You can find hedgehog specific food or if you have cats and feed a high protein cat food, there’s no need to spend more as this will have a similar make up. You can simply use the food you already give to your cats or buy an extra bag or two to keep your garden topped up.
Just like with our cats and dogs, no one wants an overweight hedgehog! Hedgehogs are only small creatures, so don’t overfeed them. Dry cat food is great to leave out in a small dish – but we’d recommend avoiding wet cat food as this can spoil if left out for a long period of time.
How can you stop cats and foxes from stealing the food
To prevent other animals from getting to the hedgehog food first, keep food under a low platform or ridge tile.
You can also buy or build a feeding station. Essentially this is a box with a small entrance that lets hedgehogs in while keeping larger animals out. The hole should be around 4 to 5 inches in diameter, and will need tape around edges if you’re making one yourself – to stop hedgehogs hurting themselves.
Can you feed hedgehogs fruit & vegetables
Hedgehogs thrive on animal protein and this should form the majority of their diet. Some fruits and vegetables can be toxic to hedgehogs so it's best to avod these all together.
What not to feed hedgehogs
One of the key issues when it comes to hedgehog preservation is a lack of awareness in terms of foods to avoid. Often, we’ll see or hear of people leaving out leftover bread and morsels of cheese for hungry mouths outdoors. Unfortunately, hedgehogs will hoover up anything up they can get their paws on, but that doesn’t mean it’s at all good for their sensitive stomachs.
Just like cats, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Their digestive system isn’t fully capable of digesting lactose, so cows’ milk and cheeses can cause severe sickness and diarrhoea. Unfortunately, these health issues can be fatal in the wild, making dairy more of a hindrance than a help to the vulnerable creatures. In terms of drinks, a bowl of water is all they need to stay healthy and hydrated.
Bread is another common leftover fed to hedgehogs. Sadly, the hogs simply aren’t capable of digesting it. Any excessive consumption can fill their small stomachs and leave them incapable of absorbing other essential nutrients.
How to help hedgehogs thrive
Between 2002 and 2017, hedgehog numbers in the UK fell by around a half. Unpredictable weather has made their outdoor lives difficult. There are some simple ways for us to help hedgehogs.
Access to food is an easy way to help - make sure you're leave food that's high in animal protein, like our dry kitten food which has the perfect kibble size for tinier mouths.
Beyond food, there are other ways to help protect hedgehogs. Whether you have a familiar face popping up each summer or you want to transform your garden into a hedgehog haven, here are a few simple steps you can take…
- Cover all drains and holes that could trap the tiny creatures
- Leave at least a 4-inch gap underneath fences to allow easy entry
- Check for hedgehogs before strimming or mowing your garden
- Thoroughly check all bonfires before lighting
- Avoid laying slug pellets as these are poisonous to hedgehogs
- Build a hedgehog home for nesting and hibernation – a cardboard box filled with paper and other nesting supplies make a great spot for hedgehogs to sleep