Longevity | Hibernation & Estivation | Quilling | Signs of Good Health | Veterinary Care
Natural Longevity
  • Hedgehogs typically live two to three years in the wild.  The most common cause of death in the wild is due to predation rather than age.
  • Various resources report a relatively wide range in the maximum life expectancy of hedgehogs kept as pets.
  • Hedgehogs can live up to 10 years in captivity, but those hedgehogs are few and far between.  A 10-year-old hedgehog would be as rare as 104-year-old grandma.
  • Some believe the hybridization of the Algerian and White Bellied species resulted in a more resilient hedgehog that lived longer.   After several generations, hybrid offspring’s longevity began to more closely compare to the original bloodlines.  This is called the Founder’s Effect and can be seen in other animals as well.
  • A 5-year-old hedgehog is about 76 in people years, so if your hedgehog lives 5-7 years it has lived a full life but five years is longer than the national average.
Hedgehog Age in Calendar Years Equivalent Human Years
2 months 10 years
6 months 20 years
14 months 30 years
3 years 40 years
3 years and six months 50 years
3 years and 8 months 60 years
4 years and 2 months 70 years
5 years and 4 months 80 years
6 years and 2 months 90 years
7 years and 8 months 100 years
*adapted from Laura Ledet’s website  
Average Life Expectancy of Pets
    • According to the article “Mortality and Longevity, Update! Boys vs. Girls” found in the September to December International Hedgehog Association Newsletter, “There is no statistical difference in life expectancy between male and female hedgehogs. The average Hedgehog Lifespan is 38.5 months as of July 27, 2005.” (Graesser)
    • Ideally, hedgehogs will live 5-7 years but the study mentioned above indicates the average pet lives less than the ideal life span. 
    • Many factors contribute to the overall health, well-being and life expectancy of a hedgehog.
    • Genetics and the general nature of hedgehogs certainly play a significant part in a hedgehog’s lifespan but other controllable factors also contribute to the longevity of pets.
Some of the other variables affecting longevity include:



Stress Level
Quality of Life
Accident or Injury
Disease or Illness

Level of Veterinary Care

  • Diet is a key variable that can increase or decrease the life of your pet.  All living things need the proper balance of nutrients to maintain and a healthy life. 
  • Animals with poor or bad nutrition will not grow and develop as well as animals fed a nutritionally sound diet, are at risk for diet related illnesses, and are less resistant to other diseases or opportunistic pathogens. 
  • Our Nutrition Overview describes some hedgehog foods and treats that can be dangerous or harmful to your pet.
  • Our Diet Recommendations will help guide you to choosing a nutritionally sound diet plan for your pet.
  • Unfortunately, the best hedgehog diet is still unknown.  Some hedgehogs have been known to live a relatively long time on what most would consider a poor diet.
  • Other hedgehogs can develop diet related illnesses on what many would consider a nutritionally sound diet plan.
  •  The best diet plan is one that has been proven effective on a large number of animals over many years.
  • Hedgehogs in the wild are known to travel great distances in search of food.  Many captive bred animals will log many miles on their wheel each night.
  • The benefits of exercise in humans and other mammals has been tested and documented through countless research studies around the world.
  • Simple things hedgehog owners can do to promote exercise are to providing ample cage space, a wheel, and play time out of the cage.
  • Hedgehogs that receive plenty of exercise are likely to be healthier and happier pets.
  • Hedgehogs are relatively close to the ground and are in constant contact with their bedding. 
  • Keep in mind a hedgehog’s nose is only a mere inch or so off its bedding at any given time.  The air a hedgehog breathes can be quickly contaminated by its bedding.
  • Soft wood beddings such as pine and cedar contain aromatic hydrocarbons that known to cause respiratory and other illnesses.
  • Dusty or other aromatic beddings can also lead to respiratory problems.
  • Many types or brands of beddings are labeled as “safe if ingested” but this is true in only in small amounts.  Hedgehogs have been known to eat unusually large amounts of bedding especially when switching brands or types of bedding.  Ingested bedding can lead to impactions or other complications.
  • Some bedding choices can cause skin irritations or allergies which can result in secondary infections.
  • Dirty or unkempt cages are dangerous because of the buildup of ammonia and the increased risk of bacterial contamination.
  • Improperly stored or handled bedding may contain mites, mold, bacteria or other pathogens.
  • Our Bedding guide is a thorough review of the various types of bedding commonly used in the hedgehog community.
  • Unfortunately the perfect bedding has yet to be found but your pet will certainly benefit from a wise bedding choice.
  • Hedgehog breeders undertake a responsibility to produce healthy animals through proper breeding practices.
  • Methods and styles of breeding can be debated at length and are a hot topic in the production of any animal.
  • Cross-breeding, line-breeding, and even some in-breeding practices have the merits and downfalls.
  • Careful selection of breeding stock is not only beneficial to the breeder but to their customers as well.
  • Years of breeding and showing countless rabbits gave me first hand experience in this particular area.  I quickly learned that to produce quality rabbits it is important to start with quality rabbits, but two winning show rabbits won’t always produce winning offspring.
  • Unfortunately, reproduction is a gamble with living things.    Congenital birth defects can happen at any time without warning and genetic trends in bloodlines may take years to show or develop.
  • Buying from a breeder who is knowledgeable in this area and concerned about the animals they produce is important but certainly not a guarantee to long longevity.
  • Breeding a female greatly increases the risk of health complications and even death.
  • Complications can occur at any point from breeding through the nursing process. 
  • Breeding is a stress on the hedgehog’s body and when the hedgehog’s immune system is down opportunistic infections can occur.
  • Certainly having babies is a natural process and necessary for perpetuation of the species but one must be prepared and aware of the risks when undertaking this challenge.

Stress Level

  • Stress can be caused from anything that is unpleasant to your hedgehog.
  • Certainly some level of stress is unavoidable but constant stress is certainly not good for animals or humans alike.
  • Signs and symptoms of stress can include “nervousness”, “grouchiness”, or change in stools.
  • Hedgehogs have extremely good hearing so sounds that we don’t notice may be extremely noxious to your pet.
  • Ways hedgehogs are handled can also be stressful.  Not all hedgehogs make good classroom pets or educational animals.
  • Unfortunately some owners abuse their pets without realizing their cruelness.  I doubt any hedgehog enjoys being rolled like a ball but sadly this has happened to countless hedgies because their defense mechanism allows it.
Quality of Life
  • Studies show in both humans and other animal that happiness is one key to a long and fulfilling life.
  • Attention and environmental enrichment will both contribute to increased happiness and better health.
  • Animals that are left alone with little care or attention and in a small space are less active and tend to have more health complications.
Accident or Injury
  • Accidents or an injury can happen even with the best of care or safest of conditions.  
  • Sometimes the damage as a result from a fall, accident or injury may not have immediate results but can cause internal damage undetected by the naked eye.
  • Other times hedgehogs cause themselves harm by eating things that can be toxic to them, falling off of something, getting lost or trapped outside their cage, or injuring themselves within their cage.
  • Choosing cages and accessories wisely as well as supervising all play will certainly help decrease the chances of problems but sometimes fluky accidents happen.
Disease or Illness
  • Animals and people alike are exposed to bacteria, parasites, and other potential pathogens throughout our daily lives.
  • Strong immune systems, washing hands, eating healthy, and practicing good hygiene all help ward off disease and illness but at some point in our lives and our pets lives illness is likely to occur.
  • Each animal and person has their own normal flora of bacteria on and in their body.  When new bacteria are introduced or normal bacteria exceeds its normal limits illness is likely to occur. 
  • Many of the same diseases or illnesses that are common to humans are also common to hedgehogs as well.  Respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, cancer, and digestive disorders are all possibilities.
Level of Veterinary Care
  • The general rule of thumb with any medical care is that it is much easier to treat a small problem than to treat a large problem.
  • Obviously, hedgehogs can’t communicate the way we can and may even hide early signs and symptoms of illness.  Sick or injured animals are easy prey for other animals so most animals have adapted to hiding problems.
  • Changes in behavior are usually the first sign that something may be wrong. 
  • We strongly recommend well-pet visits 2-4 weeks after obtaining your new pet.  Your pet should be comfortable with you and easily handled so that it can be examined more thoroughly.
  • Building a rapport with your vet and having a plan for emergencies will greatly increase your chances your chances of successful treatment.
  • Waiting until you have an emergency or until your hedgehog is very ill is not the time to start your search for a veterinarian.  A quick check in the beginning may save your pets life.
  • Annual well-pet visits are also recommended because a trained veterinary professional may be able to spot a problem that may be unnoticed by the average pet owner.
  • When people start to feel sick they can begin taking action to start healing.  For instance, some of the first signs of a urinary tract infection are frequent urination and pain while urinating.  When a person begins to notice these signs some people are able to ward off the infection by drinking lots of cranberry juice and others visit their doctor and receive a prescription for an antibiotic.  Early detection and treatment can prevent much more serious and even more painful problems.
  • The first sign of a urinary tract infection in hedgehogs may be a change in elimination habits.  This subtle clue may be missed by all but the most attentive hedgehog owners, and not all changes necessarily indicate a problem.  A urinary tract infection in hedgehogs is also relatively simple to treat but as the infection spreads through the hedgehog’s system it becomes much more dangerous and difficult to treat.
  • An infection that is relatively common and easily treated can become dangerous and even life-threatening if not detected at an early stage.
    • As with human longevity, many factors help determine why some pets live longer than others.
    • Choosing a good diet and housing as well as providing love and attention to your pet will certainly help to extend the life of your pet.
    • Our Aging Hedgehog guide is designed to help you recognize and deal with many of the process and problems that can occur with aging.
    • Losing a pet is never easy but is inevitable in the circle of life.  We encourage you to document your hedgehog’s life with pictures and writings of the fun and enjoyment you had with your pet throughout its life.
    • We hope that you will take the time to complete our new Longevity Survey.  By doing so you will help increase our knowledge of hedgehogs as pets.