Arguably, the cutest exotic pets out there are hedgehogs. These intelligent little guys have become fairly popular pets due to their intelligence, adaptability and, of course, their adorable personalities.
Although hedgehogs should not be left free to roam the house unsupervised (especially if you have other pets), you can teach your hedgehog how to use a litter box, making cleanup a lot easier on you.
You can certainly give training a try — at best, you have a much neater and easier way to clean up, and even if he doesn’t take to litter box training, you’ve at least bonded with your hedgehog.
Choose the Right Box
Hedgehogs have wildly different personalities. You may have one who takes to litter box training like a duck to water, but also another who will flat out refuse to use the litter box.
Any cat guardian can tell you that there are a ton of options when it comes to litter boxes. When it comes to your hedgehog, you want to keep a few things in mind when selecting the litter box:
- Size: Make sure it will fit in the hedgehog’s enclosure.
- Sides: There should be at least 1 very low side so your hedgehog can easily get in and out.
- Ease of cleaning: Heavy-duty plastic is durable and easy to clean.
“Hedgehogs tend to choose a specific area or corner in their enclosure to eliminate,” says Sharon Vanderlip in Hedgehogs. “So place the litter pan in this area. For hedgehogs that eliminate in corners, a corner litter pan with a low front for easy entry is ideal.”
The idea is to make it as easy as possible for your hedgehog to get in and do his business. Too much of a challenge, and he may opt out.
Use the Right Litter
Regular cat litter can pose a problem for hedgies. “Kitty litter is not recommended as it can get stuck in penile sheaths and eyes,” warns the International Hedgehog Association (IHA). Clumping litters can clump up and get stuck to your hedgehog’s quills.
Instead, you can purchase a type of small pet “bedding” that is available at many retailers. Alternatively, you can use torn-up paper towel that you have rolled up into pellets.
At the end of the day, if you choose to use cat litter, check with your veterinarian to be sure it’s OK for your hedgehog.
Collect the Poo
Now that you have the litter box filled with the right litter and have placed it in your hedgie’s favorite toileting corner, it’s time to teach him how to, well, go. First? Take some of your hedgehog’s feces and place it in the litter box.
The goal is to get him to smell it and make the connection that this is where he is supposed to do his business. Ideally, the next time he goes to eliminate, he’ll go to his corner – where his litter box is – and smell his previous leavings. Then he will make a new deposit (we hope).
To help him, make note of his elimination schedule. Then, when it gets close to his normal elimination time, watch him closely. When he looks like he’s getting ready to go, gently deposit him into the box.
Here’s a helpful video from a hedgehog enthusiast regarding litter box training:
If there’s one thing about litter training that all experts and hedgie people agree on, it’s that some hedgehogs just won’t use the box, and others may use it only sporadically.
“Your hedgehog may take a while to learn, or use the box occasionally, or never use it,” says Vanderlip. The IHA agrees, adding on its website, “Not all hedgehogs will litter train perfectly.”
It may take your hedgehog a while to adjust to using the litter box, so stick with it — even if he hasn’t quite gotten it yet after a week or 2.
Some hedgehogs litter train quickly and use the box the rest of their lives. What is more likely, however, is that you will have a hedgie who uses the box fairly often but still has some misses, particularly when he’s playing on his wheel.
And other hedgies? They’ll just flat out refuse to learn at all. But it’s OK – they’re so cute, who minds scooping a little poop?