Hedgehogs are curious and playful by nature. They push, pull, drag, bite and cuddle objects. Like children, they find amusement in simplicity although many owners enjoy investing money in complex toys. Environmental enrichment is essential for the health and well-being of our pets. It stimulates their senses and aids them to maintain activity which benefits both their mind and body. When choosing toys keep safety and sensory as priority.
Cardboard boxes and containers are basic hideouts. Ensure edges are rounded to avoid injury and holes are at least four inches big to prevent trapping your pet. Boxes are disposable so no cleaning required but some escape artists climb on the tops to adventure out. Hedgehogs sleep in burrows or other dark places in the wild and as pets it is beneficial to have a warm and comfortable place to sleep. Hideouts should have an entrance and an exit (tunnel) or it should be large enough for the hedgehog to turn around. Hedgehogs usually turn around rather than back out of a tight spot.
A popular choice to buy for hiding is an igloo. Igloos made from hard plastic are another toy addition. The cave like structure allows the hedgehog to feel safe and hidden. Plastic igloos are easy to clean and sanitize. Some find getting a hedgehog out of an enclosed igloo difficult so a solution is to put the cuddle sack inside the igloo for your hedgehog.
Large diameter PVC pipes can be purchased at most hardware stores. Thoroughly wash each piece and make shore there are no sharp edges on the pipe. Pipes can be easily cleaned and connecting several pieces makes a lengthy tunnel. The biggest disadvantage of PVC pipes is that it is difficult to get your hedgehog out of the without “dumping” them. Most PVC pipes are not large enough to allow your hand to slip inside to lift the hedgehog out.
There are various wooden shelters and boxes available for pets. Hedgehogs aren’t known for chewing but may bite on the wood. Most owners seal wood to make it cleaner and easier to sanitize. Contaminated wood can harbour bacteria that can make your hedgehog sick, also mites live in wood. If you paint and seal your wood please allow it to be odour free before placing it in with your hog. The same ideals apply with size of entrance, rounded edges, ability to turn around, and escaping to cardboard boxes.
Kitchen roll and toilet roll tubes are the cheapest and most popular hedgehog toys. Occasionally a hedgehog will burrow their head so far in the tube that its head may become stuck. To prevent this problem cut the tube the full length prior to giving as a toy. Some owners cut the tube in half width ways as well. The cut is a safety measure preventing breathing obstruction and allowing it to come off with ease.
Some hedgehogs enjoy playing with ping pong balls, lattice bird or cat balls, or small balls with bells inside. Make sure the balls are sturdy and not easily chewed or damaged. Also beware tiny toes and nails become trapped or damaged in holes. Another version of the plastic ball is a ferret treat ball. As the hedgehog pushes around the ball a treat will come out.
Some hedgehogs are known to have taken a shine to stuffed animals and plush cat toys. Plush animals are best the same size as your hedgehog or smaller. Your hedgehog may simply ignore the stuffed animal or you may see your hedgehog snuggling with it in its hedgehog hideout. Be sure to check for damage such as holes and loose threads as these are safety concerns. Always wash or replace a soiled stuffed animal.
Another option is a small plastic car or truck to push or drag around your hedgehog’s cage. Make sure the vehicle has no detachable parts or sharp edges that could harm or injure your hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are very active and need lots of exercise to avoid becoming obese in captivity. A quick and inexpensive dig box can enrich your hedgehogs environment and encourage “natural” foraging behaviour and exercise. Finding a shallow tray fill it with forage materials. These range from large glass flat marbles, fleece strips, pom poms, torn kitchen roll, and other safe material that your hog can push and dig. Keep it safe with no thread or sharp bits to prevent injury. Place treats such as mealworms and dreamies in the box. Supervision is advised and fun. Clean it after each use.
Playpens keep your pet safe while allowing them to explore. There’s a metal version for small animals. Beware clever escape artists can open, push, or climb out. Supervision is essential. Another option is a ball pit from your local supermarket or outlet store that sells toys. Another option is a padding pool. Again maintain supervision and sanitize after use.
Another cheap and cheerful toy is a fleece forest. Hedgehogs love to hide in fleece forests constructed from hanging strips of fleece. Some creative owners construct elaborate hideaways for their hogs, but not necessary. Instead, simply cut up some pieces of fleece, hang them on a grid, and put them in your hedgehog’s playpen. Most love to hang out in the dangling strips.
You can buy scraps of fleece very cheaply at a store like Hobby Craft or cut up a fleece from asda. Using a c&c square or cookie cooling rack to attach strips securely.