Nature therapy: How to let your pet hedgehog explore the great outdoors

Get your spiky friend out of the house and into the great outdoors for some nature therapy and enrichment.

African pygmy hedgehogs were bred for domestication from two types of wild African hedgehogs during the 20th century. They’ve still got some wild in them.

Although hedgehogs are kept as pets inside cages, you can increase your hedgehog’s enrichment by giving it numerous chances to explore the great outdoors. Enrichment is key to animal mental and physical health.

Here’s how to make sure your domesticated hedgehog has a fun and safe time outside in the late afternoon and evening:

No. 1: Monitor their temperature. A hedgehog’s environment needs to be kept at 72 degrees indoors, which means they should explore outdoors when it is 72 degrees or warmer. You can also keep your hedgehog warm in a pouch next to you if going on an adventure in weather 65 degrees or warmer. Hedgehogs can also enjoy going outside their pouch for short periods (5-10 minutes) when it is 65 degrees or warmer. You can monitor your hedgehog’s preference by noting at what temperature they curl up or aim to sniff and explore. Getting in some nature therapy whenever possible is important, especially if you live in a colder climate like Ginger does.

It’s a nice warm day to enjoy the garden.

No. 2: Keep an eye out for gopher holes. Hedgehogs love scurrying about in the grass, exploring hedges and burrowing in leaves. It is imperative that you keep an eye on your hedgehog at all times to make sure they do not go into a gopher hole or deep into a hollow log. That being said, let your hedgehog have some free range. Exploring nature will likely increase your hedgehog’s mental and physical health, just as engaging with nature does for humans.

Ahh, the aroma and rustle of old oak leaves.

No. 3: When your hedgehog finds a fun place to burrow, let them stay there for a bit. Hedgehogs are naturally burrowers and diggers. Their fun is in scurrying about and finding a unique place to burrow. It is exciting to watch your hedgehog explore and find a place to burrow. It is a bit boring to watch them snuggle into the leaves and then just sit there. But this is part of the fun for them. Let them take in the scents and textures. This is their nature therapy.

I’m really enjoying the ferns, can I just stay in here for a while?

No. 4: Speak to them when it’s time to go inside. Just like children need a five-minute warning when it’s time to leave the playground, let your hedgehog know it’s time to go. Being in the great outdoors can decrease the natural anxiety hedgehogs are prone to but swiftly removing them from their cozy outdoor spot may mitigate their nature therapy session. Your hedgehog primarily senses the world through scent and sound, so talk to them. Let them know it’s you. Tell them it’s time to go inside for some mealworms.

Sara Marie Moore is a journalist and happy hedgehog owner. She had her first hedgehog in fourth grade long before the current hedgehog craze.

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