Choosing the right exercise wheel for your hamster

Hamsters love to run! Wild hamsters run for miles during the night as they forage for food but your pet hamster will do the majority of his running inside his cage on whichever exercise item you supply. Choosing the correct exercise wheel will allow your furry, little friend to enjoy one of his favorite activities while providing him with much needed exercise. When purchasing an exercise wheel for your hamster, it is important to choose one that is the correct size, has a solid running surface, and one that generates a minimum of noise.

Size of wheel

Your hamster needs to be able to exercise in his wheel without arching his back when running. If your hamster’s wheel is too small, he will be uncomfortable, unhappy, and he will avoid using it. This will cause him to miss out on his needed exercise.

Wheels less than seven inches are suitable for smaller hamsters like the dwarf hamster but are too small for the average teddy bear hamster. The larger teddy bear and Syrian (golden) hamsters need at least an eight-inch size wheel. If your hamster is one of the large European hamsters (comparable in size to a guinea pig) he will need no less than a twelve-inch wheel to exercise comfortably.

Running surface

The running surface of the wheel is an extremely important safety consideration for your pet. The best choice for the wheel running surface is solid without rungs or side supports that cover the wheel opening. Your hamster can be seriously injured by trapping his head in either the wire rungs of a wheel or its side supports. Avoid purchasing the wire ladder-like wheels that are abundantly found in pet shops simply because they are less expensive. Your pet’s safety should be a priority when selecting an exercise wheel.

Noise level of the wheel

Unless you have trained your hamster otherwise, he is nocturnal and will probably want to run several times during the night. If you are sharing your bedroom with your little friend, you will want to provide him with an exercise wheel that is not squeaky. Exercise wheels that use ball bearings will be quieter than those without. If your wheel does squeak, a small squirt of vegetable oil will eliminate squeaks. Never use a grease like WD-40 on your hamster’s wheel as that type of oil will harm your pet.

If your hamster lives in a modular cage system, you will need to purchase the specialty wheel designed for that particular cage system. These wheels expand your hamster’s modular home by attaching onto the outside of the cage. However, be aware that due to the poor ventilation in some modular cage systems, their exercise wheels may cause your hamster to become over-heated when exercising.

A run-about ball can be a great way to give your hamster extra exercise outside the cage. Run-about balls can be fun for both owner and pet but they will not provide enough exercise for your hamster to maintain a healthy lifestyle and should never be used as a replacement for a good exercise wheel.

Run-abouts are a novel way to watch your pet exercise and are available in simple ball shapes, a wheel shape that propels a sport car, and the Hamtrac which is a system that can be used with either the ball or the car on an oval track made of interlocking plastic pieces. Some hamsters will not take to being placed in the run-about balls and they should be monitored at all times when using them.

Always keep your hamster away from stairs and other larger family pets when using the run-about balls. Hamsters like to chew and may chew on the locking mechanism of the run-about. Check the locks and make sure your pet can’t let himself out of the ball to explore your home unsupervised.

Choosing the correct exercise wheel is just as important as choosing the correct habitat or nutrition. Providing a safe and fun way for your hamster to exercise is essential to maintain its health and will allow you to enjoy many happy years with your pet.