Hedgehogs in the UK are in trouble. Their numbers are rapidly declining, and as responsible wildlife gardeners, we need to do everything we can to help them when they are on our patch. But what if your love of animals includes a love of cats? Will your cat attack visiting hedgehogs? Can you make a hedgehog friendly garden if you have cats? Let’s find out.

Will Cats Attack Hedgehogs?

Hedgehogs in the UK face many challenges, but thankfully cats aren’t really one of them. 

Hedgehogs in the UK face many threats, but thankfully cats aren't really one of them. Click To Tweet

Cats, especially kittens, will certainly investigate hedgehogs – after all cats are known for their curiosity. But investigation is where it generally ends. Cats are bright enough to realise there is no pain-free way through all those spines. So they will typically leave hedgehogs alone. 

It takes strong jaws and paws to penetrate the defences of a hedgehog. Although foxes will occasionally take a hedgehog the only UK animal properly equipped to prey on hedgehogs is the badger. 

Cats are a significant threat to birds in our gardens and many small mammals. But they don’t pose much threat to hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are very well defended, and after an initial investigation, cats generally leave them alone. And your cat won’t catch fleas off hedgehogs either. 

There is some anecdotal evidence of cats attacking young or sick hogs. But in the overall scale of threats to our hedgehogs, cats don’t really figure. 

So you shouldn’t let the fact that you have cats put you off making your garden hedgehog friendly.

In some gardens, cats and hedgehogs seem to get along just fine as you can see here. 

Credit: Liz Ward

Turning the Tables

If fact, it turns out that hedgehogs are quite well able to defend themselves from cats. Or even see them off if they feel they need to. 

Take a look at this video of a hedgehog seeing off cat who\s attempting to eat his food. 

And this:

It’s surprising to see the cats scared off by the much smaller hedgehog, especially when cats are a natural predator. But the clearly find the hedgehogs intimidating. 

Will Hedgehogs Give Fleas to My Cat?

Hedgehogs have a justified reputation for being flea-ridden. A hedgehog can play host to several hundred fleas with no ill effects to his own health. 

So for years, pet owners have worried about their fur-babies catching fleas from hedgehogs. 

It turns out there is no need to worry. Though hedgehogs often come equipped with a small army of fleas, these are hedgehog fleas, they are “host specific ” and cannot live on any other animal. 

So whilst your cat may well catch fleas whilst he is out and about, they won’t be hedgehog fleas. 

Will Cats Eat Hedgehog Food? 

They most certainly will! And hedgehogs will eat cat food. Share and share alike!

Besides specialist hedgehog food, cat food is one of the best things you can feed to hedgehogs.

If you want to be sure that the food you leave out is being eaten by hedgehogs, and not cats or other animals, the best thing to do is set up a hedgehog feeding station. 

Whether you make or buy. a feeding station, the design should allow the hedgehog in but make access difficult for bigger creatures like cats. 

Will My Cat Escape Through a Hedgehog Highway?

If you are making a hedgehog-friendly garden, you will need to add a highway, or gap in the fence, to allow hedgehogs to come and go. 

Hedgehogs need to roam 1 – 2 miles every night to gather the food they need. So unless you have a country estate, your garden alone will not be big enough for them. They need to be able to roam freely. 

The ideal size for a hedgehog highway hole is around 5 inches square. Many cats will be able to get through a hole this size. 

Credit: Hedgehog Street

If you have an outdoor cat, it’s probably leaving your garden by all sorts of secret routes anyway, and one more isn’t anything to worry about. 

If on the other hand, your cat is more of an indoor sort, only allowed out for supervised exercise, there are a couple to things you can do to make the hedgehog highway cat-proof.

You could make the highway into more of a tunnel, using a bit of pipe for example. Cats will hesitate before entering a small tunnel if they’re not sure what’s on the other side. 

You could make a baffle, but placing a couple of bricks about 4 inches in front of the hole. This will still allow access for hedgehogs but will be too tight for most cats. 

Or, if you are only letting the cat out for an hour or so in the daytime, just block the hedgehog hole whilst the cat is out and open when she goes in. Hedgehogs are unlikely to be out in the daytime anyway. 

What About Cats and Other Garden Wildlife?

Although cats don’t attack hedgehogs, they are a predatory species, and they will attack other garden wildlife. 

The Mammal Society estimates that domestic cats in the UK kill 100 million prey animals each year. This includes 27 million birds. 

It is not believed that cats are responsible for the decline in bird species. Most of the bird species they attack are reasonably abundant in the UK. 

But it’s certainly not pleasant watching cats attack the birds you have worked to attract to your garden. 

We have lots of advice on keeping garden birds safe from cats and other dangers on our bird blog

How About Dogs and Hedgehogs?

Unlike cats, dogs do sometimes attack hedgehogs. 

An attack from a dog, especially a larger one can certainly cause trauma and sometimes injury for the hedgehog, and may occasionally even be fatal. 

The encounter probably isn’t going to be that pleasant for the dog either!

Some dogs (mine included) will just look at hedgehogs from a distance and give them no trouble at all. 

But if you find that your dog does go for visiting hogs, the best policy is to keep the two apart. 

Hedgehogs are creatures of habit, they tend to turn up at a particular time every night. So you could make sure your dog is in when your hogs are due to visit. 

Some people also keep their dog on a lead for its last outing of the night, just to be on the safe side. 

Cats and Hedgehogs Can Get Along

So we’ve seen in this article that cats and hedgehogs pose no real threat to one another. Cats rarely attack hedgehogs, and hogs won’t give your cat fleas. 

So there is no reason why cat lovers shouldn’t enjoy hedgehogs in the garden. 

As a species hedgehogs in the UK are in real trouble. Gardens are becoming a critical habitat for them. And every new bit of hedgehog friendly back yard we can create is a step in the right direction. 

And just for general cuteness we’ll leave you with this:

We hope you found this post interesting and useful. 

If you have questions and suggestions, we would love to hear them. Leave us a comment below. 

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9 Responses

  1. Thanks. I’ve been a bit concerned about the many cats that visit our garden but now I can just concentrate on stopping them eating the hedgehogs’ food. And attacking the birds of course.

  2. I have put a hedge hog house in my garden but how can you tell if you have a hedge hog visiting your garden ?

    1. Hi Dorothy,
      Your unlikely to see much at this time of year as they will be hibernating. But come the spring you should be able to spot them if you put out food in the evenings.

      Best Wishes

      Clare

  3. I have a cat proofed garden but I have 4 rescue hedgehogs in there. I run a hedgehog hogspital. I want to put a hole in the fence but worried my own cats will get out. I dont trust just putting a brick in the way. Does anyone have any other solutions please?

  4. Hi I have hedgehogs visiting my garden which I feed but now the neighbours cat is eating it, is there a way to keep cats from getting the food

  5. Hi, my neighbor has a cat that was hiding out by my home and is limping horribly and not putting any weight on her front leg. Her front leg was swollen and she had what appeared to be a quill sticking out of her paw, and her paw was inflamed. Whatever was stuck in her leg was sharp on the part coming out, so either it went right through her leg or the quill is sharp on both ends. I brought the cat home to her owners and told them I suspect it was from a hedgehog. We have a lot of them in this area and the quill was a whitish color and was curved, it did not resemble a thorn or anything. It almost looked like the cat was growing a thin claw out of the middle of her front leg.

    I am not sure what my neighbor is doing but I thought I would ask here if anyone has any experience with injuries and infections to pets from hedgehogs. Thank you.

  6. Thanks so much for posting this. We found a hedgehog in apparent distress beside our house today, and presumed our cats had attacked it. After reading this I’m not so sure! (though our cats are young and inexperienced and being rescue cats, seemingly pretty good hunters, I wouldn’t put it past them to have been foolish and determined). It’s literally the second night we’ve ever allowed our cats to roam outside at night (up till now they’ve been kept in at night) and it seems like too much of a coincidence. Also, it was very unusual to see it lying on it’s side, with it’s legs out, shivering, out in the relative open (albeit tucked in as much as it could beside an exposed wall) during the day like that, for a couple of hours at least. I previously saw a hedgehog of similar size late at night, walking past our front door, and am guessing this may be the one. We’ve brought it in for the night (in our cat travel-box, of all things) with a wrapped up hot water bottle, some food and water and reassuringly it is moving a lot (presumably attempting to escape/hide?) this morning. However, with the amount that it’s moving now, and having just found and read this article, I’m now unsure whether maybe to simply release it back out into the garden, trusting that our cats may have learned a lesson (or just bring it to the local vet to be checked first, in case it needs treatment for an injury). I’m wary of interfering too much. We’re in the countryside and there are plenty of places for it to hide if it can get away. It’s occurring to me that when we found it, it may simply have been going through a natural process of involuntary shaking by way of release from a freeze response to being attacked, and that perhaps it was not injured / suffering from hypothermia, as we initially guessed. I suppose the best thing would be to make sure it’s not injured at least, and then make a call on releasing it back to our garden. I don’t want to uproot it, or separate it from any possible offspring it might have nearby. My wife thought it was missing a foot, but there was no blood, and we thought it might have been a old injury.

    1. Hi Russell,

      Hope you sorted your hog out OK. If there was a missing foot the injury might have been more recent than it appeared, They can heal surprisingly quickly.

      Best

      Clare

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