The diet of a hedgehog is undoubtedly an interesting one. Mainly if you keep a hedgehog as a pet, you might even have heard about feeding hedgehogs cat food; can this, or should this be done? Here is what you need to know.
So, can hedgehogs eat cat food? Hedgehogs can eat cat food so long as it contains sufficient protein (20%+), moderate amounts of fat (5-15%), and is free from sugar, salt, and other additives. Cat biscuits and/or smaller kibble are best. Wet cat food should be offered more sparingly as it is low in much-needed fiber.
The market has come a long way.
Things have certainly changed.
In recent years, a number of specialist hedgehog foods and brands have entered the market and become much more available.
Take this product on Amazon, for example.
But it has not always been like this.
Before, hedgehog owners and those responsible for feeding these small mammals had to seek out other means.
And hence, feeding cat food became a thing.
Why; because it met a lot of hedgehogs’ needs and requirements.
But should they continue to eat cat food since hedgehog foods and more information on hedgehog diet has become available?
Let’s find out!
Should Hedgehogs Eat Cat Food?
Hedgehogs do not need to eat cat food but can do so as a means of meeting their nutritional needs. It should, however, be fed alongside live insects, protein sources such as cooked chicken, vegetables, and fruits.
That would ensure a hedgehog meets their nutritional needs, and then some.
Now whether or not you would want to feed cat food altogether is another question.
It depends mostly on your personal circumstances.
What can you get access to? What products are available to you, and what’s your budget?
In reality, cat food ticks a lot of boxes.
It’s high-protein, small enough for hedgehogs to easily chew and eat, and it’s widely available.
It’s also typically very well-formulated.
Nutritionally balanced and providing a range of vitamins and minerals that can prevent skeletal deformities, tooth decay, or spine and fur loss in hedgehogs.
All of which can arise from an insufficient diet.
These are just some of the reasons why cat food became so popular, to begin with.
That being said, there are certainly better cat food options than others.
Not all can, nor should be fed.
But more on that in the following section.
What you need to know is this:
Nowadays, specialist hedgehog food can be offered instead, assuming that it is a good reputable brand and product.
What Kind Of Cat Food Can Hedgehogs Eat?
Hedgehogs can eat both dry and wet cat food so long as they contain sufficient protein and enough fiber is supplied in the diet. Dry cat food is considered a better option than wet, with biscuits and/or small kibble preferred.
The truth is, both types of cat food can work.
But there are certainly advantages to dry cat food that wet cat food just cannot provide.
The first is fiber.
And this is a very important nutrient for hedgehogs.
In fact, Dr. Graffam conducted a lot of research into feeding cat food to hedgehogs back in the 1990s.
Her findings – if canned cat food is provided to a hedgehog, then supplemental fiber should be given.
And canned cat food is invariably wet cat food.
Dry cat food, on the other hand, naturally contains quite a bit of fiber.
In fact, this is what makes it dry and solid, to begin with.
And this dryness also gives dry cat food crunch, which is ideal for hedgehogs’ dental health and for maintenance of their small teeth.
And then there are the benefits for you.
Dry cat food does not spoil, freeze in the winter, or attract flies in the summer. It’s much more practical to offer.
These reasons explain why dry cat food is generally considered the better option.
Although, wet cat food can still be fed – just with some extra provision.
Ultimately, hedgehogs require a balanced mixture of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and water to thrive.
So as long as the cat food provides such needs; and is not too high in fat or includes any nasties, sugars, salts or artificial flavorings, etc., it should be perfectly safe to feed.
Remember, hedgehogs are hibernating animals, so they tend to put on weight quickly and easily.
Obesity is a thing in hedgehogs and can happen; thus, fat intake must be controlled in the diet.
And opting for the wrong type of cat food here can contribute to the problem.
How Much Cat Food Should A Hedgehog Eat?
Hedgehogs can be fed one tablespoon of cat food, 1-2x per day. Although, in the context of dry cat food, it can be put down and left, being consumed by the hedgehog as and when necessary.
This is otherwise known as a free-feeding schedule and works particularly well for dry cat food.
Just be sure that no other animals, particularly cats, are able to access such food.
Otherwise, you may find it is being eaten before your hedgehog gets the chance and would therefore go without.
Wet cat food on the other hand, will need to be offered at set times and removed if not consumed.
Otherwise, it will spoil, and this is increasingly likely in the extreme months of the year.
Also, consider that these are just guidelines.
The exact amount of cat food and other foods your hedgehog eats will depend on the type of food, size of the hog, activity, and appetite.
For instance, baby hedgehogs need to be fed more regularly and have constant access to food. Pregnant hedgehogs will eat more food too.
As such, you should keep an eye on what and when they are eating and respond appropriately.
A vet can always help here, and they will be able to advise on all things dietary-related.
If you do not want to offer cat food, then you can always offer a specialist hedgehog food instead. This is the one from Amazon I would recommend.
Lastly, it’s important to consider that cat food should not be fed exclusively.
A variety of protein sources is considered best, with poultry and insects being preferable (as they are easiest to digest).
Just consider that hedgehogs are omnivores and insectivores by nature, and thus live insects, a variety of fruits and vegetables have their place in the diet.
This enables them to get the protein they need and, in the context of insects, a very particular type of protein (chitin), along with sufficient fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Can Hedgehogs Smell Cat Food?
Hedgehogs can certainly smell cat food; they have an excellent sense of smell, and cat food can carry quite an odor.
Hedgehogs have very poor eyesight and, as such, are much more reliant on other senses to stay safe.
Hearing and smell are thus the mechanisms they rely on extensively and use to navigate the world around them.
So it comes as no surprise that they can smell cat food.
And cat food notoriously is quite smelly.
Some brands or types of cat food, such as those with fish, are especially pungent. As are wet cat foods in particular.
Whether or not this draws a hedgehog to the food, or puts them off entirely, is going to differ from hedgehog to hedgehog, food to food.
It is, therefore, something that you may need to test, assess and keep an eye on.
Changing products, brands, how the food is stored, how long it is down for, etc. are some variables you can change to try and get your hedgehog to respond differently.
Hedgehogs can eat cat food.
In fact, many hedgehogs have been reliant upon cat food for quite some time, at least until specialized hedgehog foods became available on the market.
That being said, not all cat food is the same.
Not all cat food should be offered, nor will all cat food meet all of a hedgehog’s needs.
While wet and dry cat food can be fed, dry is considered superior.
Not only for your hedgehog, where they can obtain the fiber they need but for you too. It’s much more versatile and easy to feed too.
If you do want to feed cat food, just be sure to source a high-quality option.
One with at least 20% protein and fat between the 5-15% range.
From there, also be sure to offer live insects, cooked chicken, vegetables, and fruits.
You may even want to consider some dry dog food here and there.
In doing so, your hedgehog’s nutritional needs should be covered.
Hedgehogs can eat wet cat food so long as it is served fresh and has not been spoiled. Equally, you will need to ensure that a hedgehog is consuming sufficient fiber, something wet cat food lacks yet hedgehogs need. Dry cat food is, for this reason, preferable.
It is best not to offer cat food in gravy to a hedgehog. Gravy can be very rich and difficult for a hedgehog to digest. It can cause diarrhea and other digestive upset. There are generally much better foods available.
Wondering what else a hedgehog will, can, and cannot eat? My following feeding guides may be of help:
- What Fruits Can Hedgehogs Eat?
- What Do Baby Hedgehogs Eat?
- Can Hedgehogs Eat Chicken?
- Can Hedgehogs Eat Dog Food?
- Can Hedgehogs Eat Bread?
- Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Young?
- Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Own Poop?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.