What is animal enrichment? When an animal lives in captivity and is in human care, we have removed it from its natural habitat. While we love and spoil out babies as much as possible there are still things animals in captivity have less of than they would as a wild animal. Mental and physical stimulation are very important to the health and happiness of any pet, including hedgehogs! Below are some ideas to help keep your hedgie mentally and physically stimulated ensuring they live healthy and happy lifestyles. Aiming for about an hour of playtime each day is ideal. More would be even better but not always possible. #1. Cognitive Enrichment Cognitive enrichment includes any activities that help stimulate mental thought. One great way to do so is to hide small treats around their habitat. This will give your hedgie a chance to forage and hunt for the yummy treats by using their strong sense of smell. You can also apply this same technique with a snuffle mat which can help introduce new textures as well. #2. Social Enrichment Always be extra careful when introducing your hedgie to new animals or people. Hedgehogs are solitary creatures and do just fine on their own. Even so, introducing your baby to new people and animals will help them to become more trusting and calmer in various situations. The more your baby is handled by new people the more social he/she will be in general. When introducing a hedgehog to a new pet, keep in mind that hedgies do not see well, if they think a predator is near or that they may be in danger, they may curl up in a tight ball or try and run away. You want all new interactions to be as stress free as possible so start with animals you know you can trust to be calm and gentle. Never leave your hedgehog without supervision when they are outside of their cage. #3. Food Enrichment TREATS!!!! I mean who doesn’t love treats? Hedgehogs love a wide variety of treats. Giving treats can help grow and solidify your bond with your new baby. Keep in mind, treats should be given sparingly and not pass 20% of your hedgehog’s diet. If your baby starts refusing to eat their regular diet, hold off on the treats until they get back to healthy eating. Some healthy treats include mealworms, boiled non seasoned chicken, scrambled/hard boiled non seasoned eggs, apple bits, banana bits, or berries. Do NOT feed your hedgehog grapes/raisins, nuts of any kind, or wild insects. #4. Physical Enrichment Some hedgehogs love to run in their wheel. This is a great option to include in your hedgies cage for daily exercise when they cannot come out to play. Hedgehogs also love to explore new toys/items. Changing out toys regularly is a great way to keep up physical activity. You can try tunnels, tubes, different hideaways, and small round toys that can be pushed around are also fun! Make sure to keep an eye on any new items in your Hedgehogs enclose to ensure they are safe (clean and not broken from being chewed). #5. Sensory Enrichment Hedgehogs have very poor eyesight. They do have very good hearing and a well-developed sense of smell. Toys are a great way to give sensory stimulation to your hedgie. Changing them out often also helps. You can set up a small plastic pool as a play area and a break from their normal cage. This play area can have new/different toys, tunnels, hideaways, hidden treats, and different textures to walk on and hide in. Another great option is outside playtime. You can use a small dog gate or some chicken wire to create a safe space for your hedgehog outside. It is especially important that you remain vigilant and with your hedgie at all times when having playtime outside. Make sure the area you set up is free of any ants (or other potential insects that could cause harm), pesticides, or poisonous plants.