As insectivores, hedgehogs love foraging for bugs in their native woodland habitat and can smell their prey 3 inches below the ground.
To mimic this in captivity, hedgehog cages often include dig boxes (a tray/box filled with nesting material and treats), but are these necessary?
Do hedgehogs need a dig box? Domestic hedgehogs benefit from a dig box as it provides a foraging opportunity otherwise unavailable to them in captivity. Dig boxes also add enrichment to their lives which provides mental and physical stimulation to reduce boredom-inducing climbing and cage destruction.
Wild hedgies travel for miles at night in their quest to forage for food, so it makes sense that your spiny friend has a designated spot for his/her burrowing needs.
Let’s look at hedgehog burrowing habits, how to make the perfect dig box for them, and more.
Dig Box for Hedgehog
Dig boxes provide interest and comfort for your pet hedgehog, allowing them to indulge in their natural nesting behaviors.
They’re also simple and cheap to make as you can use common household and craft materials.
Do Hedgehogs Need To Dig?
According to Gail Miller, lifetime hedgehog owner behind the site Critter Connection, wild hedgehogs love “digging shallow burrows in brush piles and we see this same digging behavior in captivity because they are attempting to acquire food or get comfortable in their surroundings.”
Creating a special dig box prevents them from digging at the lining of their cage, which may create loops in the material and trap their feet or snouts.
The exercise provided by dig box foraging can also curb hedgehog obesity in captivity.
Do Hedgehogs Like Dig Boxes?
Hedgehogs relish dig boxes with treats hidden at the bottom as this replicates their natural environment.
As highly active animals, the lack of an exploratory nesting space may cause hedgehogs to become restless and attempt to climb their cage walls, causing injuries.
What Do Hedgehogs Like To Burrow In?
Wild hedgehogs love to burrow among log piles, tree roots and abandoned rabbit holes as well as beneath hedges (hence their name!).
Here, they’ll gather nearby leaves, twigs, grass blades, and other debris to create a warm, waterproof nest for winter hibernation.
Since domestic hedgehogs enjoy comfortable temperatures and a reliable food supply, hibernation isn’t necessary.
Their nesting instinct remains, however, so in captivity you’ll need to provide them with fleece blankets or dust-free wood shavings as alternative burrowing material.
Did you know that providing food, shelter, and water and allowing your hedgie to follow his instincts isn’t all that’s required for a healthy pet? Hedgehogs also need a specific number of daylight hours each day. We explain the importance of lighting in this article.
What Should I Put in a Hedgehog Dig Box?
A popular choice for dig box material is pre-cut fleece strips as these provide soft, insulating layers. Shredded craft paper is also ideal as this coils together tightly and expands generously during foraging.
Ensure that any pebbles or rocks used measure at least 1 inch across to prevent accidental ingestion.
As for treats, use mealworms in moderation (3-4 a week) as over-indulging can leach calcium from your hedgehog’s bones and teeth, causing metabolic bone disease.
Hedgehog-Friendly Dig Box Materials
- Shredded craft paper
- Tissue paper
- Fleece strips
- Fleece/flannel baby blankets
- Plastic/ping-pong balls
- Small cuddly toys
- Glass pebbles/nuggets
- Medium/large craft pom poms
- Washed river rocks/pebbles
- Aspen wood shavings
Dig Box Treats (Foraging Incentives!)
- Live/freeze-dried mealworms and wax worms
- Chopped apple or banana slices
- Cooked carrot/squash
- Pumpkin/melon seeds
How To Make a Dig Box for Hedgehogs
Creating a dig box is fun, and it only takes a few moments. Best of all, once you have the basics and the general idea, you can swap out materials as often as you wish!
1. Choose Your Dig Box Design & Create an Entry/Exit Door
This could be a shoebox, a shallow desk tray, kitchen dish tub, small dog bed, or large plastic storage bin.
If you decide on a deep storage bin, cut a small entryway into one side of the box using an X-Acto knife (find them here), leaving a small lip to prevent insects/filling escaping.
Cover any sharp edges with tape.
2. Line the Dig Box for Added Protection & Hygiene
Tori Lynn of the YouTube channel PubPibbleHedgie recommends lining your hedgie’s dig box with contact paper and securing it to the sides to “protect their feet and act as a waterproof barrier in case of poop and pee!”
3. Add Treats for Foraging & Choose Your Dig Box Filling
Finally, place a foraging incentive in the bottom of the box and choose an appropriate filling.
Depending on the height of the box, you might create a colorful ball pit, a shallow naturalistic pebble/rock tray or a deep, cozy burrow with wads of fleece, shredded paper, and cuddly toys.
Are you sure that your hedgehog has everything he needs to be happy? Compare your cage setup with our 10 Essential Cage Items & Accessories to be certain you’re not missing anything.
Hedgehog Dig Box: Things To Avoid
Some toys and materials may risk your hedgehog becoming trapped such as plastic dig boxes with holes or gaps and jingle ball toys with holes.
Woolen or textured bedding such as terry cloth towels can also get caught on their toenails and feet. Avoid all of the following as well:
- Dusty sand
- Cat litter
- Wood chips made with oil such as cedar or pine
- Cat litter
- Towels and textured blankets
- Toys with holes/slots large enough to trap body parts
- Toys with dangling string
- Chew toys
Do Hedgehogs Like Sand Baths?
It’s a natural behavior in wild hedgehogs to bathe themselves in sand for grooming purposes since water bathing strips their body of the natural oils that keep them warm.
Sand bathing can be a personal preference in pet hedgehogs – take care to use calcium- and dust-free sterilized sand, like this terrarium sand, to prevent respiratory or stomach issues if ingested.
- Pack of two (20 lbs total)
- Stimulates natural digging and burrowing behavior
Why Does My Hedgehog Sleep in the Litter Box?
It’s common for hedgehogs to burrow before sleeping, so if your hedgehog is sleeping in their litter box it suggests they find this more comfortable than their bedding or dig box.
Ensure their sleeping area has some comfortable fabric material like fleece blankets or dust-free wood shavings to curb litter box sleeping.
To summarize, dig boxes are a popular accessory to include in your hedgehog’s cage or play area as it allows them to live out their wild instinct of foraging for food and making cozy nests!
Dig boxes cost very little to make and increase your hedgie’s well-being while in captivity – just take care to only use the recommended safe burrowing materials.
Last update on 2023-09-22 at 19:34 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API