Why are there multiple carb/grain sources? [sorghum, brown rice, oats]
Hedgehogs can be very picky. In addition to providing easily digestible, quality ingredients that help keep the protein and fat levels where they need to be, we are using a couple different carb sources that way we have some wiggle room for when we adjust and improve these foods. If we used only oats, for example, suddenly switching from oats to sorghum could be enough of a flavor change to warrant hedgies not wanting to eat the new variation.
Why is there still chicken meal if the goal is to use primarily insect meal?
As much as I would love to use only insect meal, there are a couple reasons it wouldn’t be wise to only use it right now. BSFL meal is new to the animal nutrition field and we and many others are still testing and researching its digestibility and nutritional value for different species. Until we have a thorough body of evidence supporting that it provides key nutrients as well or better than traditional animal proteins, we want to keep using some familiar proteins too.
There is a flavor difference between poultry and insect meals. Since many hedgehogs will be switching from cat food, we wanted the food to be more similar to what they’re used to.
We also are working hard to get the cost of this food affordable for people. Our insect meal costs nearly 4x the chicken meal right now, and that’s reflected in the current sales price.
Will you introduce other insect ingredients in the future?
I hope so! There are so many nutritious insects out there. It will rely on continuing improvement in the ability to efficiently raise different insects, something we are excited to watch develop.
Why so many fiber sources? [insect meal, oat fiber, beet pulp, apple pomace, chitin powder]
The last three listed here are in pretty small amounts across the different formulas. Since this is the first time running a large scale production, we used a few different fiber sources so we can see how our hedgies respond and then adjust from there. The chitin (component of arthropod exoskeletons) based fibers are the most important to our insectivorous pet’s digestion and health, but plant based fibers (cellulose) are very valuable too. Chitin is more digestible by hedgehogs than cellulose, so cellulose offers a better solution to providing bulk and fewer calories in weight loss diets.
What changes should I expect to see for an animal switching to HP vs a cat food?
The biggest difference should be with fecal consistency, but over the long term we hope that you also see healthier skin (fish oil for high efficiency omega 3 fatty acids), and reduced wear and tear on your hedgehog’s jaw, teeth and gums (smaller kibble size).
You should see healthier, more firm fecal consistency on these foods. A lot of us have gotten used to softer feces because we're feeding a low fiber, very high protein food that is not optimal for our hedgies. In a perfect world, our hedgehogs would be very active foraging in the wild for a variety of wild insects, and have smaller, dark, firm poops. In captivity, we have to consider cost and efficiency, and account for the different lifestyle our pet hedgehogs live. This means you will see a more bulky, firm poop as compared to when hedgehogs eat most cat foods. Don’t panic if it takes longer for your hedgehog to poop. It’ll come out like a healthy log, not like squeezing a tube of toothpaste.
Most excitingly, because the poop isn’t as loose, you may find that your hedgehog’s wheel - and their feet - stay cleaner!
Why three different formulas? Why not just one formula and tell people to feed varying amounts based on their hedgehog’s metabolism?
There is no one size fits all food for dogs and cats, and the same goes for hedgehogs. We see vastly varying metabolisms between individuals and we want our products to reflect their different needs. Feeding an obese hedgehog only 1/3rd the normal amount of our High Calorie food would not be healthy. While that might be the correct amount of calories, it would not have a sufficient amount of nutrients (especially vitamins and minerals) for proper health.
We also don’t like to feel like we’re starving our pets! Different formulas allow us to feed a more consistent volume of food regardless of where your pet falls on the spectrum. Hedgehogs are also more sensitive to food restriction than most other pet species. They are prone to hepatic ketosis (fatty liver disease) if they go on a food strike or lose weight too fast, and reduced food availability, while restricting caloric intake for weight loss, can also trigger them to attempt torpor/hibernation which can be dangerous and that drop in metabolism defeats the purpose.*
We also wanted the three formulas to be similar enough in composition that hedgehogs would be more likely to seamlessly switch what they’ll eat based on their changing needs over their lifetime.
*We are studying hedgehog dietary volume, caloric intake, and fat content on weight loss and metabolism so we can work on safely helping our pets maintain a healthy body weight.