In the mid 2000s/ early 2010s Hedgehogs became super popular on the internet. With their adorable face, spiky backs, and soft bellies, it’s easy to see why. After my first hamster Mooksie passed, I wanted to try another small pet. I rescued a relatively young hedgehog, Rodger. He was adorable, super friendly, and outgoing. In short, he was the perfect hedgehog. If you’re like me and you started out with a hamster first, you should be prepared for the differences between the two.
The biggest difference, hands down, is the poop. Hamster poops are small, dry, and relatively odorless. What’s more, a hamster will bury its poop in its burrows. As long as you clean their cage weekly it should be relatively odor free. Unfortunately, hedgehog poops are bigger, meaner, and scarier. Specifically, Hedgehog poops are wet and smelly. Additionally, your hedgehog will not bury their feces. You will have to spot clean their cage daily to prevent smelly build up.
Like hamsters, hedgehogs use wheels. The difference though is that Hedgehogs poop while they run. Then, while running, they smoosh that poop into their wheel every night. If you want a hedgehog, be prepared to wash the poop off their wheels and paws at least twice a week. I personally would have to give my hedgehog foot baths 4-7 times a week. Let this be your warning, if you want a hedgehog be prepared to deal with poop.
The next big difference is the quills. A hamster is soft and fluffy while a hedgehog has long quills. When a hedgehog gets scared its pointy quills pop up. When a hedgehog is calm its quills are down. When you pet along the grain it feels almost like gelled hair. The quills themselves are not the issue, it’s the hives.
Hedgie hives, as they’re called, are hives you get from your hedgehog’s quills pressing up against your skin. Regardless of whether your hedgehogs quills are up or down, if you hang out with your hedgie you will get hives. They are relatively manageable and go away after a few hours but it’s something to be cognizant of.
Another big difference is the food. Both hamsters and hedgehogs are omnivores, but they need different diets in order to remain healthy. A healthy hamster diet is predominantly grain, with some animal protein added in. A healthy hedgehog diet is the inverse. My hedgehog would eat cat food with meal worms and crickets on the side. If you want a hedgehog prepare to deal with their carnivorous appetite.
The last thing to keep in mind is their cage. Both hamsters and hedgehogs deserve large spacious cages to live in. Ultimately though, as a hedgehog is a bigger animal it will need a bigger cage, wheel, hut, water bottle etc.
With all this in mind, if you can take care of a hamster, you can probably take care of a hedgehog. Both make great pets, just be aware of the differences between the two animals. If you’re looking for an animal with similar care requirements to a hamster, fancy mice are a great option too!