Why Can’t Hedgehogs Eat Fish?

In recent years, hedgehogs have become an exotic pet and sparked the interest of many people.

However, giving them a home comes with a set of rules on what food you can give them.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding their insectivorous status, making food the most popular topic of discussion.

One food often questioned is fish. Is it safe to give this smelly food to your hedgehog?

Yes and no! There are hundreds of fish species, each having a different nutritional value that might or might not benefit your pet.

Hedgehogs have a strong sense of smell, which is why they are attracted to fish.

Thanks to the vitamins and minerals present in fish, it travels fast through a hedgehog’s digestive tract, resulting in smelly poop.

Can Hedgehogs Eat Raw Fish?

Hedgehogs in the wild feed on insects. Those in captivity need to have a well-balanced diet, so they don’t die. A great way to mimic their natural diet is to introduce more protein and less fat in it.

This will ensure your hedgehog grows healthy. Though raw fish is safe for hedgehogs, it’s better to cook it to kill any nasty bacteria, parasites, and microbes living in and on it.

You exercise the same caution when buying fish for yourself. You wouldn’t want one that seems dead in the tank while the butcher assures you all is fine.

If you have doubts regarding giving your hedgehog fish, the safest way to prevent any side effects is to consult a vet.

Not all fish are safe for your pet. Some do not meet your hedgehog’s nutritional requirements and, due to the chemicals present in them, should be avoided.

Phosphorous and calcium play an important role in ionic balance. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus must be 1:1 or 2:1.

Let’s say that the fish lacks one or both of these minerals, which is in the case of snow crab. Should you give it to your hedgehog?

Better set it aside for special occasions. The same stands for tuna because it is high in mercury.

Health Benefits of Fish

As said earlier, there are too many varieties of fish, which is why you need to be careful with your selection. Ones that are safe for consumption offer your hedgehog the following benefits:


A hedgehog’s diet is primarily made of protein because, in the wild, they supplement themselves with insects. This is why a captive hedgehog’s diet should contain 50% protein.

Since fish is high in protein, it should be a part of your hedgehog’s meals.

The protein in fish will boost their organ and tissue functioning, and the amino acids will help repair bones and muscles.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Next up are omega-3 fatty acids, which fish contain in abundance. These are essential for all cell membranes, helping prevent heart diseases, lowering elevated triglyceride levels, and curbing joint pain and body stiffness.

B Vitamins

Fish contains pyridoxine, riboflavin, and thiamin, all of which are B Vitamins. These are essential for maintaining healthy nerves, muscles, and heart.

They also aid in converting food into energy and maintaining and creating new blood cells.

Health Problems Associated with Fish

While some fish species are safe for hedgehogs, it does not mean they don’t cause any side effects. Let’s take a look at the health problems associated with fish:

Infections and Pollutants

Getting fish from polluted natural water and farms can be disastrous. They usually contain contaminants that transfer from the fish to your hedgehog and then to the owner.

Parasites, such as salmonellas, live in fish and can kill your hedgehog. This is why you should always feed your hedgehog fish that has been cooked properly.

You can heat it up slightly or boil it in water, making a paste your hedgehog can easily consume.

Pungent Odor

A pungent odor is not a health problem. However, some pet owners don’t like the smell of fish. When hedgehogs eat fish, their poop stinks to high heaven, which can be unbearable.


Mercury is poisonous for hedgehogs. Ingesting it via fish can lead to skin infections, nerve damage, gastrointestinal issues, and kidney problems.

Calcium-to-Phosphorus Ratio

Muscle tremors, blood not clotting, reduced movement, weakening bones, joint abnormalities, and microfractures are all signs of metabolic bone disease.

These usually occur hedgehogs consuming a diet high in phosphorus and low in calcium.

The disease is also known as wobbly hedgehog syndrome and renders your pet’s limbs immobile. One day, your hedgehog might be active and playful, and the next, they seem worn out.

Since the disease progresses slowly and is painful, most pet owners are forced to put their hedgehogs down when they are unable to treat them.

Alternatives to Fish

If you don’t like fish and know that you won’t be able to stand your hedgehog’s smelly poop, you can give them fish biscuits or fish oil treats. These also offer nutritional benefits, though not as much as raw or cooked fish.

Can Hedgehogs Eat Shrimps?

Yes, shrimps are safe for hedgehogs, but in moderation because they are high in salt.

It’s better to give them cooked shrimp than raw and defrosted varieties because these are likely to contain bacteria that will make your hedgehog sick.

Fish Species Hedgehogs Can and Cannot Enjoy

Fish should always be given to your hedgehog in moderation. You can use it to supplement your pet’s diet but avoid it as a main protein source. It’s best for occasional treats.

Following are the fish species with low mercury content, making them safe for hedgehog consumption:

  • Tilapia
  • Haddock
  • Atlantic Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Herrings
  • Pollock

Following are the fish species with high mercury content that should be avoided:

  • Tuna
  • Ray
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Gemfish
  • Barramundi
  • Ling
  • Orange Roughy
  • Cod
  • Southern Bluefin Tuna

The Connection Between a Hedgehog’s Fishy Diet and Salmonella

Fish carry disease-causing parasites and microorganisms. According to a study published in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, hedgehogs can deliver potential zoonotic diseases to human beings. Bacteria, like Salmonella, can cause immunodeficiency in humans.

This usually happens when you buy fish from an unreliable source and don’t cook it properly. Since fish does not offer high nutritional benefits, you will have to feed a substantial amount to your hedgehog to fill its belly.

If you go past an acceptable protein level, you risk making them overweight.

Hedgehogs in captivity exercise less, which is why they tend to be a little chubby. By balancing the ratio of phosphorous and calcium, you will be able to protect your hedgehog from metabolic bone disease.

Final Thoughts

A hedgehog’s diet must be low in fats, balanced in phosphorus and calcium ions, and rich in proteins. These pets are insectivorous and rely on insects in the wild to survive.

In captivity, they are less likely to meet their nutritional needs, which is why you need to provide them with different treats.

Though fish is high in proteins and offers many health benefits, you should give it to your pet in moderation.

As said repeatedly from the start, fish leads to smelly poop, which some hedgehog owners don’t like. In this case, skip fresh fish and go with fish pet biscuits available for cats and dogs.

Make sure the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is balanced, and your hedgehog will stay happy and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some common questions people ask about hedgehogs and their ability to eat fish.

Can hedgehogs eat any type of fish?

No, hedgehogs should not eat any type of fish. They are not adapted to digest fish and it can cause digestive problems.

Additionally, some fish contain harmful toxins like mercury that can be dangerous for hedgehogs.

Can hedgehogs eat fish-based cat food?

No, hedgehogs should not eat fish-based cat food. It does not contain the right nutrients for hedgehogs and can be high in mercury.

The bones in fish can also pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockages.

Are there any benefits to feeding hedgehogs fish?

No, there are no benefits to feeding hedgehogs fish. Hedgehogs are insectivores and their diet should consist of insects and other small animals.

Feeding them fish can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health problems.

What should I do if my hedgehog accidentally eats fish?

If your hedgehog accidentally eats fish, monitor them closely for any signs of digestive problems like vomiting or diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any unusual behavior or symptoms.

Can hedgehogs eat other types of seafood?

No, hedgehogs should not eat other types of seafood like shrimp or crab. Their digestive system is not adapted to digest seafood and it can cause health problems.

Overall, it is best to stick to a balanced diet of insects and other small animals for your hedgehog. If you have any concerns about your hedgehog’s diet, consult with your veterinarian.

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