Hamsters and the correct exercise wheel

Hamsters are busy, active rodents. In the wild hamsters have been known to run five, or more, miles per night in search of food while patrolling their territory. While this type of exercise is not available to domesticated hamsters, it is important that they are allowed to be active. One popular item used to keep hamsters active is an exercise wheel.

There many choices of exercise wheels available and several things to consider when purchasing a wheel. Things to consider include:

Safety 

The wheel should be safe and not allow for the hamster to catch his feet, or any part of his body, in the mechanics of the wheel. The hamster wheel should have a solid surface on which the hamster will run. This will prevent him from catching his feet.

Consider the addition of a side-mounted wheel which does not utilize cross supports. Cross supports may catch, and potentially break, hamster necks or legs. If you purchase a free-standing wheel, check to be sure it has a sturdy base and will not tip over. The wheel should be open on one side and not have a cross bar that the hamster needs to navigate to get into the wheel. This type of bar could injure your hamster if he sticks his head out of the wheel while running.

Size

The wheel should be the appropriate size for your hamster. He should be able to fit comfortably in the wheel and be able to propel it with relative ease. For the larger, Syrian hamsters, a wheel should be at least eight inches. For the smaller, Dwarf hamsters, a wheel around six inches should be fine. Watch your hamster on the wheel and if you see that his back is arching you will know the wheel is too small. Many cages come complete with a wheel. This wheel is often a six-inch size and should be replaced with a larger size if you have a Syrian hamster.

Maintenance

To ensure the continued safety of your hamster, you should regularly monitor and maintain the wheel. Check to be sure the wheel is rotating freely. Replace any wheel which has developed sharp edges. Keep an eye on the stability of free-standing wheels and check that wall-mounted wheels are secure.

Buy the most chew-proof wheel available and check for damage done by chewing. Hamsters love their wheels and, as nocturnal animals, most of their running is done at night. If the squeaking of the wheel is keeping you awake, use a little vegetable/olive oil to grease, and quiet, the noise.

A hamster who does not receive enough exercise can become paralyzed. This is evidenced by a lack of movement, inability to raise his head or a hunched over appearance. Keep your little guy happy, healthy and exercised.