Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?

hedgehog with newborns as owner asks Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?

Waking up to one or more of your hoglets missing from the cage while the mother is still lying there intact can be frustrating. Did the missing hoglet escape from the cage through a hole or have they died from illness or infections? Many questions can pop up in your mind with seemingly no answers.

This article answers the question “Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?” by uncovering the prevalence of the terrible habit and potential triggers that may lead to hoglets getting cannibalized by their mothers. We also reveal the role of male hedgehogs in the cannibalism chain and the right ways to safeguard the lives of newborns.

Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?

Hedgehogs may eat their newborns due to extreme hunger, stress, or threats from predators. Cannibalism can also get triggered when newborns are rejected by their mothers due to deformities or physical weaknesses. Male hedgehogs may also eat babies to gain sexual contact with the new mother.

It can be difficult to come to terms with the realization that hedgehogs eat their babies but all animals resort to survival instincts when the circumstances demand that. This does not make them cruel because their survival always stays paramount to that of others including their babies.

Reasons Why Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies

Here are the top reasons that can trigger cannibalism in hedgehogs against their own babies in domesticated settings and in the wild.

No Motherly Skills

Some female hedgehogs have no natural skills for nurturing babies. Getting rid of newborns often seems like the only logical choice for them to enjoy their lives and what better way than to eat them after delivery?

This is a genetic problem and not much can be done apart from making sure not to breed such female hedgehogs repeatedly. You could get everything right in terms of cage setup and other forms of preparation during their pregnancies to give them the best comfort after delivery.

Yet, they will still go ahead to cannibalize their newborns when you least expect it. While hoglets may be exposed to numerous risks when weaned from their mothers immediately after birth, that could provide their best chance of survival in such scenarios.


Stress is a major factor in instances of new mothers eating their hoglets. The labor and delivery process can leave them so overwhelmed that cannibalizing their newborns seems like the perfect escape from their troubles.

Female hedgehogs require quiet environments for their newborns since noise agitates them. Being robbed of that can increase their stress levels to the point where caring for the hoglets seems overwhelming.

They may opt for a fresh start by eating their babies overnight when you’re likely savoring the delights of Dreamland.

Lack of Food

hedgehog eating from bowl in the grass

Female hedgehogs require an adequate supply of food and water during pregnancy and after delivery. Even the most nurturing females may be forced to eat their babies to survive when starved for extended periods. This is more common in the wild where they have to forage for their own food but it is not impossible among domesticated breeds.

Ensure your hedgies get the needed food supplies at every point in their lives, especially during pregnancy and after delivery. If you have to go on a short trip without your cute buddies, make provisions for their food and water throughout that period.

Weak Kids

Female hedgehogs have certain physical expectations of their newborns and those that fall short may end up getting cannibalized. The stronger babies are often left untouched after eating the weakest links among them.

Again, this may be more common among wild hedgehogs but it is possible in caged breeds too. Providing proper care for pregnant hedgehogs can minimize the risks of delivering hoglets with physical defects.


fox sleeping under a tree

Female hedgehogs would rather eat their own babies for the nutrients than allow predators to enjoy that privilege. Even among domesticated breeds, the presence of males can force new mothers to cannibalize their hoglets.

Male hedgehogs should be taken out of shared cages even before the pregnant female delivers to increase the newborn’s chances of survival.

Are Hedgehogs Cannibals?

Hedgehogs are not cannibals but may be forced to eat their newborns under certain circumstances. Many animals including dogs, cats, and hamsters do not hesitate to cannibalize their babies when circumstances demand that.

Animals prioritize their own survival over others during extreme circumstances and hedgehogs are no different. (Source)

Do Female Hedgehogs Breastfeed Newborns?

Female hedgehogs typically breastfeed their newborns until their teeth develop to the point where they’re able to eat kibble and other solid foods. This is why providing the right diet can be critical for their development.

Should You Touch Newborn Hedgehogs?

hoglets on a wooden basket

Avoid touching hoglets during the first 2 weeks after birth to lower the risks of getting rejected and cannibalized by their mothers. They can be successfully weaned off after 2 weeks so rejection by their mothers should have little impact on their survival.

How To Minimize the Risks of Hedgehogs Cannibalizing Their Babies

Hedgehogs are not cannibals by any stretch of the imagination but may be forced to eat their babies due to environmental and psychological circumstances. Here are tried and tested ways to minimize the risks of cannibalizing hoglets.

Quiet Cages

The importance of making sure pregnant hedgehogs are housed in quiet environments cannot be overemphasized. They require the most serene cages to gain the best chance of delivering and caring for their hoglets without issues.

Quiet environments keep stress at bay ensuring proper nursing of their young ones from the day of delivery until the hoglets grow the right teeth for solid food consumption. Avoid unnecessary noises from other members of the household as well as pets like dogs and cats because it can be distressing for the mother and newborn babies.

We recommend moving the cages to an “abandoned” part of the home such as basements or spare bedrooms to ensure minimal disturbances from other household members.

House Pregnant Hedgies Independently

Hedgehogs thrive when placed in independent cages. If you’re forced to house multiple hedgehogs in a single cage for any reason, move them out immediately after pregnancy signs become apparent. Pregnant females require utmost privacy during that critical stage of their lives and independent cages can also minimize their stress which could lower the risk of cannibalizing their hoglets.

The cages should be set up with the right amounts of bedding to promote a cozy environment for the new mother and hoglets. Any changes should be made about a week before their due dates to allow enough time for them to familiarize themselves with the cage.

Constant Food Supplies

Pregnant and nursing hedgehogs require consistent food and water supplies to keep themselves and their babies well-nourished. Starvation can force them to eat their babies for survival, which often starts with the weakest ones.

We recommend providing large amounts of food into the enclosure just before the pregnant hedgehog’s due date because they appreciate complete privacy for several days after giving birth. Also, avoid any form of cage cleaning or maintenance for at least a week after delivery.

Avoid Touching Newborns

Hedgehogs do not have the best vision but their stellar sense of smell compensates for that. They leave their scents on the newborns as some form of marking and the last thing you want to do is to touch them.

Touching newborns usually leave your scent on their bodies which can throw off the mother hedgehog’s ability to recognize their own babies. They typically reject such hoglets which increases their risks of getting cannibalized.

Hedgehog breeders recommend no physical touch with newborns during the first 2 weeks. After that, the hoglets can be successfully weaned off their mothers and placed in independent cages to survive.

Selective Breeding of Females

Selective breeding is vital to minimizing the risks of hoglets getting cannibalized by their mothers. Always breed hedgehogs with a genetic track record of effective baby nurturing. This can ensure hoglets do not end up being born to a mother that does not want them.

Always have a Plan B in place to increase the hoglet’s chances of survival after birth even when they get rejected. Options include feeding them baby hedgehog formula or even introducing them into the cages of a more nurturing nursing mother.

How Do Pregnant Hedgehogs Give Birth?

Pregnant hedgehogs give birth like other mammals through the vagina. They typically go into labor on their due date which may last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. Labor can be difficult for some females but unfortunately, human intervention may not be ideal.

How Big Can Hedgehogs Get?

hedgehog in a garden but How Big Can Hedgehogs Get?

The European hedgehog which is the largest breed can weigh as much as 1.7 lbs with a length of 9.5 inches. Other breeds may have different maximum weights and lengths so the figures are not absolute.

What Is The Best Diet for Nursing Hedgehogs?

Nursing hedgehogs require diets rich in fat and proteins to stimulate milk production and enhance growth in the hoglets. Packaged kitten food can be a great choice due to its usually generous fat content compared to regular cat food.

The right diet should contain up to 20 percent fat and 30 percent proteins for maximum growth and total well-being for the mother hedgehog and the newborns.

What To Do After the Hedgehog Cannibalizes Her Babies?

There is not much you can do if your hedgehog eats her babies even after trying your best to provide the most serene environment. They may or may not eat all the babies and if there are a few remaining, you can conduct a critical analysis of their environment to discover and correct errors you may have made in preparing for the birth.

If a female hedgehog eats all her babies for the second time in a row after providing a cozy environment, it is safe to assume that she has no interest in nurturing young ones. Avoid breeding her for the third time to prevent a repeat of the two scenarios.

How To Prevent Wild Hedgehogs From Eating Their Babies

Creating a cozy environment for pregnant hedgehogs should not be restricted to domesticated breeds. Wild hedgehogs in your garden can also benefit from stress-free environments during pregnancy and you can start by preventing your pets from getting access to the garden.

Also, try to keep dogs in specific areas of the home where their loud barks are less disturbing for the backyard hedgehogs. Cats may not make as much noise but you still want to keep them as far from the backyard garden as possible.

Avoid approaching pregnant wild hedgehogs or their babies at any point because they’d appreciate being left alone.

Conclusion: Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?

Hedgehogs may eat their babies under extreme circumstances including lack of access to food, high levels of stress, and the presence of predators. Some female hedgehogs naturally lack motherly instincts and may cannibalize the newborns to get them out of the way.

Providing a cozy and stress-free cage is essential to protecting the hoglets from getting eaten after birth. Highly nutritious food and constant access to drinking water can also be great ways to ensure the proper nurturing of newborns.

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