“What is the difference between hedgehog food and cat food?” I asked the vet.
“Cat food is made for cats and hedgehog food is made for hedgehogs,” he answered in a demeaning tone. Wow, what a non-answer, I thought. (I was asking about the nutrition values and ingredients, not the obvious label on the front of the bag.)
I pressed him because I am a journalist by trade. Is it the protein content, I asked? He mumbled something about vitamins and what hedgehogs eat in the wild. I let him move on.
But I didn’t move on. In Ginger’s appointment notes, the vet wrote that I should try supplementing Ginger’s cat food with some hedgehog food. But I still didn’t know why. I’ve heard multiple times from breeders and hedgehog owners that they recommend cat food over hedgehog food. If this exotic pet vet thinks he knows so much, I needed to know why.
So, I did some research on the nutritional analyses of several hedgehog foods compared with the kitten food recommended by my breeder.
Blue Wilderness Kitten food:
40 percent crude protein
20 percent crude fat
3.5 percent fiber
10 percent moisture
Vitamins: A, B, C, D, E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus.
Notable ingredients include poultry, peas, dried egg, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsley, kelp, cranberries, blueberries, apples, spinach, blackberries, pomegranate, pumpkin, barley and chicory root.
Yum, that sounds good! Hedgehogs love eggs, berries and fruit and I imagine they would love digging for root vegetables in the wild.
Mazuri Hedgehog Diet food:
28 percent crude protein
12 percent crude fat
13 percent crude fiber
12 percent moisture
Vitamins: A, B, C, D, E, K, calcium
Notable ingredients include poultry, soybean hulls, wheat, beet pulp, brown rice, dried egg, animal fat, apple and fish meal.
Soy, wheat, rice and fish. Huh. Weird. Do hedgehogs really eat that in the wild?
Ultra-Blend Select Nutrient Rich Hedgehog Diet food:
30 percent crude protein
8 percent crude fat
5 percent crude fiber
10 percent moisture
Vitamins: A, B, D, E, calcium, phosphorus
Notable ingredients include poultry, corn and wheat.
Sounds like whoever made this spent lots of time on a farm, out in the corn and wheat fields with their chickens …. and hedgehog.
Sunseed Vita Prima hedgehog food:
38 percent crude protein
8 percent crude fat
9 percent crude fiber
14 percent moisture
Vitamins: A, B, C, D, E, calcium, phosphorus
Notable ingredients include poultry, wheat, soy, fish, beet pulp, mealworms, flax seed and kelp.
Oooo, throw in some mealworms, then it is definitely what hedgehogs eat in the wild.
Exotic Nutrition Hedgehog Complete food:
35 percent crude protein
14 percent crude fat
17.5 percent crude fiber
Vitamins: A, B, D, E, calcium, phosphorus, selenium
Notable ingredients include bloodmeal, soy, corn, molasses, beet pulp and mealworms.
What is bloodmeal? It is the first ingredient. Oh, Wikipedia said it is a dry powder made from blood, used in animal feed. It is often made from the leftover blood when cattle and pigs are slaughtered. Excuse me? Not to mention molasses.
So, I think the Blue Wilderness kitten food is the best choice for my hedgeghog. Berries, fruits, eggs, pumpkin and sweet potatoes sound much more natural for hedgehogs than soy, corn, wheat, rice and bloodmeal.
However, it does appear that most “hedgehog” foods include higher fiber and lower fat content than kitten food. Hmmm, I have noticed a few rather large hedgehogs on Instagram. It would make sense that hedgehogs eat a rather low-fat, high-fiber diet in the wild. They eat lots of crunchy fiber from insects and fruits.
My goal will be to increase my hedgehog’s fiber intake without taking away her apparently natural and nutritious kitten food. I plan to supplement her diet with more fruits. She also loves dried mealworms. And dried mealworms have three times more fiber than live ones, according to mealwormcare.org.
This hedgehog trail mix also sounds delicious for when we go on adventures:
Sunseed Vita Prima Wigglers and Berries:
Ingredients: mealworms, corn, celery, millet, bell pepper, strawberries, egg, wheat, oats and oil.
Happy eating, hedgies!
Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze.