Tenrecs are a small mammal from Madagascar, although they do look similar to Hedgehogs they are in no way related. They are actually closely related to Aardvarks and even Elephants! Tenrecs are a small animal with aboreal hands and feet, which make them excellent climbers. They eat mealworms, superworms, crickets, dubia roaches and a staple diet of a quality cat food.
During the winter months Tenrecs go into a type of Hibernation, called Torpor, where their body slows down. They will eat less, and sleep much of the time. It can be quite alarming if you are a Hedgehog owner where Hibernation can mean death.
Tenrecs are less defensive than Hedgehogs and seem to enjoy being handled and seem much more social. They can ball up, but rarely due, where Hedgehogs tend to pop and hiss when upset, Tenrecs are more likely to just bite. Although that is very rare if you have a well socialized Tenrec that has been handled often.
Interaction should be daily , but can be as simple as them sitting with you watching tv or while your online. I'm very excited to have a breeding pair of Tenrecs here and in Summer 2017 I hope to be able to have babies available.
Tenrecs can be housed in 105 qt Sterlite Bins or cages with horizontal bars with 1/2" spacing for climbing like a Critter Nation. I have never used used bins before and from my research the Tenrec was not nearly as active or social as she/he was once in a bigger cage.
Critter Nation cages can be bought from Petco, Petsmart or Amazon for around $150.00 . For one Tenrec you would only need the single size. Although, given a double , they will climb all over and make use of it! Most importantly they need to be able to climb. The use of driftwood helps keep their nails trim to the proper length.
They also enjoy a wheel, I use a Carolina Storm Express Wheel, and also a 10" Wire wheel made for mice or rats. Since Tenrecs are Aboreal they use the wire wheel more as a climbing toy and not as much of a running wheel, its perfectly safe due to their unique feet. (Unlike for a hedgehog)
My boy will run on the wire wheel, but some perfer the CSE, and some will use both. If you are putting them in a Critter Nation, you would have room for both, I suggest doing this so they have the option for both!
You will need some sort of hide for them. I use fleece liners and have a snuggle sacks, and drift wood as well as reptile type hides (i.e. A hollow cork log) They love to squeeze into the smallest spots to sleep. For bedding you may use, Fleece, Eco-Bedding, Carefresh, Clean N' Kozy, Aspen, or Pine (pellets as well) I love using fleece and I put pine pellets in litter pans under the whelp as well as with a hose for options.
Tenrecs use sand to bathe themselves (unlike a hedgehog which it is bad for their respiratory system) I usually give them the bath using Reptile Sand 3 or 4x a week, and leave it in there a few hours. (Sometimes overnight as they are nocturnal as well) Luckily, Tenrecs also will usually pick one spot to use the bathroom. You can't "litter train" them exactly, but once you they pick a spot, they usually stick to it!
A good quality cat food is recommeneded for them as a staple diet to be kept in their cage at all times. I use Royal Canin Babycat hard kibble mixed with purina one beyond sensitive systems.
They also MUST be fed insects fresh daily. I feed them Mealworms or superworms daily , and then 3 -4 times a week I will throw in Waxworms for variety. (Some also like Calci worms, Dubai cockroaches, hornworms, etc) Insects need to be dusted with Repti-Cal 2x per week to insure they are getting proper calcium in their diet Insects typically should be given in a bowl, or with tongs, they have poor eyesight and can easily mistake your fingers for a worm! (Believe me you don't want this to happen, their bite can be pretty nasty!)
Fresh water must be available at all times and only in a bowl.
Torpor lasts for about 4-6 months during the winter (September-October through February-March). It is completely natural for a Tenrec to go through this. It is usually triggered by lower temperatures and seasonal changes.
During torpor, tenrecs have extreme reduced activity and food intake. Their body temperature drops and their metabolism slows down. They feel very cool to the touch but is completely normal. They are very sleepy and slow even when woken up, but they will eat a little of kibble every few days.
Handling during this time does not need to be avoided. Most of the interaction while in torpor involves cuddling or letting them sleep on you. Sometimes after being out with you for awhile they will become a bit more active, and will roam around a little, but they will then return to a state of sleepiness.
Daily handling is ideal, both to keep them socialized and accustomed to interaction with people, and to be able to get the most out of their time with you. They are considered a solitary animal, but tenrecs thrive on regular interaction and attention from their owners. They can develop strong bonds and make excellent companions.
Given the chance, they will explore, climb, and squeeze into small spaces, but they are not considered runners and do not move quickly, so they will escape if they are not being held at all times.
They are nocturnal, and in their cage will be most active when it's dark, but they can be handled at any time of the day (just like with your hedgehog) Interaction tends to be more active and animated closer to the evening, and more toward more sleeping and cuddling earlier in the day.
Tenrecs are very capable and agile climbers. They have grasping toes with claws on all of their feet, and can keep an impressive grip on all but the smooth surfaces.
Although tenrecs have do have quills, they are almost always laid down flat and not prickled up like some grumpy hedgehogs. They don't often raise their quills (it's most common when they are first woken up) They are capable of curling into a ball, but rarely do so. But when they are stressed or scared they are more likely to bite than ball up, but this is very uncommon in a properly socialized Tenrec, they are not very defensive or shy animals, they are curious and outgoing and very loving.