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Do Hedgehogs Hibernate? (Signs of Hibernation vs. Sickness)

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Hedgehogs hibernate when temperatures drop too low. This most often occurs in late December to early March. During hibernation, their heart rate and energy needs decrease, so they don’t have to eat or drink. Hibernation depends on the weather. Not all hedgehogs hibernate during mild winters.

Hibernation is a common survival mechanism seen in many animals, from bears to squirrels.

But what about hedgehogs? Do they hibernate, or do they stay awake during the winter? And why do they hibernate?

The answer is: it depends.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at hedgehog hibernation and provide some basic facts about it.

Do Hedgehogs Hibernate?

Yes, hedgehogs hibernate during the winter when temperatures drop, most often from December to March. During hibernation, hedgehogs enter a state of torpor (deep sleep). Their body temperature and heart rate decrease, and they don’t eat or drink. Hedgehogs can hibernate for several months at a time.

Hibernation is a survival mechanism that helps hedgehogs to survive the winter when food is scarce and temperatures too cold. By hibernating, hedgehogs are able to conserve their energy and survive on their fat reserves.[1]

Their hibernation is triggered by cold temperatures.

Hedgehogs often hibernate from late December until early March but their deep sleep can be extended in case of extreme temperatures.

Hibernation is not mandatory for hedgehogs. Some hedgehogs don’t hibernate at all. If the weather is mild and there is plenty of food available, hedgehogs will not enter into hibernation.

Can Hedgehogs Hibernate
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Do Pet Hedgehogs Hibernate?

No, pet hedgehogs should not hibernate. Hedgehogs hibernate as a response to cold temperatures. If your pet hedgehog tries to hibernate, one of two things is happening: the cage is too cold, or your pet hedgehog is sick.

The answer to this question is complicated.

Hedgehogs are capable of hibernating, but only under specific circumstances. If the temperature drops too low, hedgehogs enter a state of partial hibernation. As their cage should always be at the optimum temperature, there’s no reason for pet hedgehogs to hibernate.

Sometimes, pet hedgehogs try to hibernate anyways. But this is dangerous for them. 

While their bodily response is correct (from a natural point of view), pet hedgehogs can’t sustain the hibernation state for long, leading to health issues or even death.

If you live in an area with a cold climate, it is best to avoid getting a hedgehog. They might go into hibernation due to a drop in the outside temperature.

How Do I Know if My Hedgehog Is Hibernating?

Hibernation is a natural process that many hedgehogs go through every winter. If you think your hedgehog is hibernating, there are a few things you can look for. 

Here are some common signs of hibernation:

  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Lower body temperature

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to contact your vet. They will be able to determine if your hedgehog is truly hibernating or if there is another underlying problem.

An issue with pet hedgehogs is that hibernation looks similar to a state of sickness.

If your pet hedgehog curls up, without a drop in temperature, there is most likely an underlying medical issue. Contact a vet if this happens.

How Do I Know if My Hedgehog Is Hibernating

What Are the Signs of a Sick Hedgehog?

If you think your hedgehog is sick, look for the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Excessive grooming
  • Hiding more than usual

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to take your hedgehog to the vet as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a successful outcome.

How Do Hedgehogs Hibernate?

Hedgehogs do not actually sleep during hibernation. Rather, they adopt a condition of torpor by lowering their body temperature to match their environment. Although all other biological processes are slowed down, making regular activity impossible, this enables them to save a significant amount of energy.

Hedgehogs enter a state of torpor instead of hibernation. The difference is that torpor is an involuntary state, while hibernation is voluntary.

The state of torpor is triggered by external conditions. For hedgehogs, cold temperatures act as the trigger.[2]

In order to prepare for hibernation, hedgehogs eat large amounts of food and store it as fat. This extra energy helps them survive the long winter months when food is scarce.

When hedgehogs hibernate, their heart rate and breathing slow down significantly. They can even enter a state of suspended animation, where their body temperature drops so low that they appear to be dead.

Hibernation is a dangerous time for hedgehogs, as they are vulnerable to predators and cold weather. But, it is an essential part of their life cycle and helps them to survive in the wild.

How Do Hedgehogs Hibernate

How Long Do Hedgehogs Hibernate?

Hedgehogs hibernate for around three to four months, from late December to early March. This varies depending on the climate. Generally, hedgehogs will enter into hibernation in the early winter and emerge in the early spring.

What Temperature Do Hedgehogs Hibernate?

Hedgehogs hibernate when the temperature drops to about 5 degrees. Thus freezing circumstances must be avoided. If you live in an area where the temperature drops below this on a regular basis, make sure your enclosure is warm enough to hibernate safely.

One way to do this is to provide them with a heated sleeping area, such as a heated mat or pad. 

You can also use a hot water bottle or microwavable heat pad, wrapped in a towel, to give them extra warmth.

It’s also important to make sure that their sleeping area is well-ventilated so that they don’t overheat. Hedgehogs are susceptible to heat stroke, so avoid any situations where they can get too warm.

Signs of Hedgehog Hibernation

Hedgehogs begin to prepare for hibernation in the fall when the days start to get shorter and the weather starts to cool down. They stop eating much right before hibernation, sleep more, and become less active, among other signs.

1. They Stop Eating as Much

Hedgehogs Stop Eating as Much during hibernation

One of the first signs that a hedgehog is getting ready to hibernate is that they stop eating as much. This is because they have put on weight in fall to help them survive the winter months.[3]

If you notice your hedgehog eating less, it’s important to make sure that they are still getting enough food and water. 

You may need to reduce the amount of food you give them, but make sure that they are still getting enough to eat.

2. They Start Sleeping More

Another sign that a hedgehog is getting ready to hibernate is that they start sleeping more. This is because they need to get their energy levels up for the long winter months ahead.

3. They Become Less Active

Hedgehogs Become Less Active during hibernation

As the weather starts to cool down, you can notice that your hedgehog becomes less active. This is because they are trying to conserve energy.

4. They Start Shedding Their Quills

One of the final signs that a hedgehog is getting ready to hibernate is that they will start shedding their quills. This is because they need to get rid of any old, damaged quills to make room for new ones.

5. They Stop Pooping

One of the last signs that a hedgehog is getting ready to hibernate is that they stop pooping. They are trying to conserve as much energy as possible. They store food as fat instead of pooping it out. As they also eat less, there’s less waste.

When Do Hedgehogs Wake Up?

Hedgehogs wake up from hibernation in the spring when the weather warms up. They can come out during periods of milder weather if they’re looking for food.

As hedgehogs hibernate for three to four months, they sleep from December to March. They can sleep for longer, reaching into April.

If you see a hedgehog out and about during the winter, be careful not to disturb it too much. Sudden awakenings can be harmful to hedgehogs.

When Do Hedgehogs Wake Up

Where Do Hedgehogs Hibernate?

Hedgehogs hibernate in a nest, which can be either man-made or natural. Some common places where hedgehogs build their nests include: 

  • Dense undergrowth
  • Under sheds
  • In piles of leaves
  • Around unlit bonfires

If you find a hedgehog nest on your property, it’s best to leave it undisturbed. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment and disturbing a nest can cause them a great deal of stress.

How Do I Care for a Hedgehog in Hibernation?

If you own a pet hedgehog that goes into hibernation, you should gently wake it up. It’s not safe for them to hibernate.

Here’s how to avoid pet hedgehogs entering hibernation:

  • Providing a warm, safe place for them to hibernate
  • Making sure they have access to food and water
  • Checking on them regularly
  • Taking them to the vet if they show any signs of illness

Conclusion

Hedgehog hibernation is a process that helps them stay healthy and alive during the winter. Their hibernation is actually a state of torpor. The difference is that torpor is triggered by external factors: hedgehogs enter deep sleep when temperatures drop lower than 5°C.

Pet hedgehogs should not hibernate. There’s no reason for them to do so, as their cage is always warm. If this happens, wake them up gently and go to the vet.

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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