As with everything else when you shop, it is best to look around in several places and compare prices, quality and availability. Over the years I have become accustomed to buying specific items in specific shops, but there's always the chance of an unexpected bargain around the corner!
Your main investment is going to be the hutch or cage. If you find a place that does a good deal on a hutch, you might want to get the rest of the supplies there as well, if they have them.
Places to check would be:
- your local pet shop, if they are good. Personally I refuse to buy anything from a pet shop that doesn't keep its animals in a clean cage and with a clean supply of water/food. If the pets aren't treated properly, I doubt they'll treat their customers any better. Luckily I have a great pet shop not too far, for people in Cork, I recommend PetStop, by the Kinsale roundabout. They have very knowledgeable staff, who all love animals, they take great care of the pets they have for sale, and they have a vast choice of supplies available. http://www.petstop.ie/
- eBay; you can get great deals there, but make sure they ship to Ireland, and make sure you know the price of the shipping before you commit to buy. Also check the seller's feedback, as some can be dodgy. Using Paypal ensures you are covered in case of any shipping mishaps or other trouble. http://www.ebay.ie/
- pet supplies websites; there are several to choose from. Personally I like Zooplus, as the shipping is free if you spend over €29 and you can find a lot of stuff there. You'll have to navigate the different sections in order to find everything: hutches will be under "small pet shop", heat lamps under "reptiles" and food in the cat section. They have a loyalty program and some discounts on first orders, bulk orders and specific items. https://www.zooplus.ie/
I recommend a hutch rather than a cage, even though they are more expensive, and this for several reasons:
First, it's way nicer looking. This may sound silly but as you can't keep an African Pygmy Hegdehog outside, his home will be in your house, so you might as well get something pleasant to look at. I replace the wire bits with plexiglass for additional prettiness. :)
Second, a hutch is more durable and solid. Some cages can be a bit flimsy, and hedgies are expert escape artists. They also love digging and can destroy cheap materials in no time at all.
Third, hedgies like to hide. They are timid creatures, and feel much better if they have the option to get out of sight. A cage or glass enclosure doesn't give them the privacy they love. You can still see them through the open bits in a hutch, so you're both happy! :)
And finally, your hedgie needs to be warm. Cold temperatures are dangerous to them. The wood of hutches is a good insulator and will keep the heat in there, where a wire cage doesn't provide any insulation.
Whatever you decide to get, make sure it is of good dimensions, as hedgehogs are very active and love to run. This one is a good basic hutch. If you feel extravagant, get a double storey hutch! Hedgehogs love climbing and they'll even use the ramp as a slide for fun.
Once your hedgie has a hutch to call his/her home, the next thing they will absolutely need is a nest or den. To feel safe and to be warm, they love to snuggle up in a little hidey hole full of hay, or a cosy sleeping bag. You have several options there: plastic, wood, grass, wicker, cardboad, fabric... The main thing is that it's not too big, so your hedgie feels safe, and that you place it in a quiet corner away from drafts. Here are several options:
I have sewn a couple of sleeping bags for Fordo and Gandalf, and they seem to love these. They are made of a layer of cotton inside, a layer of water-resistant material on the outside, and some padding in between to keep warm and comfy. Then this is assembled in the shape of a tube so hedgies can slip in and out easily.
Hedgies love nothing better than running like mad. Well, ok, maybe they love mealworms better. :p
Do not get a wire wheel. Hedgehogs have long nails, which will get caught in a wire wheel and this will cause injuries.
Make sure to get a plastic wheel with no gaps in it. Wooden wheels work too for safety, but not very well for cleaning. You'll find that hedgies tend to pee and poo as they run, so you want a wheel that's easy to clean.
Also make sure the wheel is big enough for your hog: around 30cm diameter is good. Otherwise they'll have to run with their back arched and will get injured.
There are a few good wheels out there, I recommend:
You may want to place the wheel in a litter tray filled with absorbent bedding/litter (see details below), that will make cleaning much easier, as hedgies do use the litter tray mostly.
The one inconvenience of a hutch over a cage or glass enclosure is that the bottom is likely to be wood, which is a pain to clean. I found the perfect solution for this: a hemp mat, with some bedding on top. This is very absorbent, and can just be replaced every month or so. I usually scoop out the bedding once a week and replace it, then the mat itself is good for a few weeks. I also throw in a pile of hay that all my hedgies love arranging into a comfy bed in their little nests. It keeps them warm and comfortable!
Be careful of what bedding you use, as anything like pine or cedar has oils in it that are toxic to hedgehogs. There are several good options:
I have also made some fleece liners for some of my hedgies, and these work quite well. They are made with some water-resistant material at the bottom, some absorbent material inside (thick cotton works great) and fleece on top. Machine-wash once a week, and voilà!
Everyone needs to eat and drink! You can get pretty much any food bowl for your hoglet, just make sure it won't tip over, as hedgies have a tendency to step in their food bowl. I even have one, Ziggy, who regularly takes naps in his! xD
A regular rabbit water bottle is great but can be a challenge to keep in place in a hutch. You can get special hooks to hold it, which are usually used for glass tanks. Hedgies will also drink from a water bowl or fountain, but again tend to merrily stomp in it, so you'll need to clean that daily.
Unless your home is at a steady 20-22 degrees all year long, your hedgehog will need a heat lamp.They can be found in the reptile section of any good pet shop.
Many models have a clamp holder which makes it easy to place in a hutch. Avoid the ones that also provide light, as hedgehogs are nocturnal and will be disturbed by constant light. The ceramic or porcelain bulbs are ideal.
Hedgehogs like to have some fun! And guess what: there is no need to spend hundreds for this, a simple cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll will entertain a hog for ages. Cut it in its length to ensure your hedgie doesn't get stuck in it, and enjoy the show!
You can also get cat toys such as little balls, or rodent playgrounds.
I nearly forgot! Of course your little hog will want some food. Good quality cat food (preferably chicken based) is great.
You can also get hedgehog food, but it's mostly for wild, European Hedgehogs. Spike's dry hedgehog food seems to agree with my hedgies: http://www.spikesite.co.uk/department.asp?dID=1
I tried the wet food but only a third of my herd like it. About the same with the semi-moist. They like the crunch of the kibbles, which is also good for their teeth! :D
Other wild hedgehog food wasn't a great success, it had raisins, dried bananas and rice, which my hogs don't care for much.
A little bit of fresh fruit and vegetables is good once in a while too, they all tend to like carrots and strawberries. No citrus though, it doesn't agree with their stomach. Also avoid fish and dairy for the same reason. Experiment with different fruit and veg to see what your own hedgie prefers!
And if you really want to treat your hedgie to a special food, buy them some mealworms. You can get dried ones but they will prefer live ones, which you can get from pet shops. When I bought my first hedgie, the pet shop gave me a box of live mealworms and I thought it was disgusting and that I wouldn't buy more. Well, after seeing how much they like those, I just couldn't deprive my poor hogs from their favourite treat, so now I buy them more every month.
You can get special big tweezers to handle the mealworms if you don't want to touch them: http://www.zooplus.ie/shop/reptiles/care_accessories/terrarium_accessories/126498
Or you can go one step further like me, and get a terrarium then put some compost in it, and drop the mealworms in. Free-range mealworms for your hedgie to hunt! \o/
You will need to get your hedgie home, and to the vet occasionally.
The main thing to consider is temperature, as you do not want your hedgie to get cold during transport. The SnuggleSafe is a great product: it is microwavable and stays warm for up to 10 hours.
If possible bring something from the hedgie's cage: some bedding, a blanket he's used to, anything with a familiar scent to reassure him.
Also make sure the container is washable; hedgies do not like traveling and will likely vomit and poop while in a car.
If possible get a container that is not too big and not too open to the outside. That will also comfort your hedgie. I have this cat bag which is very good, or if you are stuck you can always use a shoe box with breathing holes cut in it.