Are Hamster Exercise Balls Dangerous?

by Hamster Care

Following a recent experience where our pet hamster Oscar refused to come back when let loose in our sitting room, we decided to look at alternative ways to exercise him. And, after visiting pet stores and researching online, it appeared that the most common way to exercise a hamster was with a free spinning hamster exercise ball. Hamster exercise balls have, over the years, been controversial, so are they actually safe to use and do hamsters really enjoy being in them?

When used correctly, a hamster exercise ball can be entertaining, allowing your hamster to explore in a safe and secure environment. However, if a hamster exercise ball is used incorrectly, it has the potential to cause more harm than good.

Although nocturnal, hamsters are extremely active animals who enjoy being handled outside of their cage. However, as we discovered, allowing your hamster to explore freely is not always safe. Other options, such as hamster exercise balls, provide a wonderful way for your small pet to burn off energy and have fun.

What is a hamster exercise ball?

A hamster exercise ball is typically made of tough, see-through plastic and comes in two halves that connect or screw together. Each ball has a number of air hole slits to allow the hamster to breathe while rotating and a twist top to allow you to securely place your hamster inside.

Some hamster exercise balls include stands, giving you the option of keeping your hamster in one location or allowing them to roam freely.

How to choose a hamster exercise ball?

One size does not fit all, just like a hamster wheel. Your hamster requires plenty of space to run, so make sure their spine is not bent in the process.

We recommend using an exercise ball at least 8″ in diameter for a Syrian hamster, though larger is preferable. If the ball is too small, they may struggle not only to run but also to breathe.

Large balls may be too heavy for a dwarf hamster to move, and if the ventilation holes are too large, your hamsters’ feet may become entangled. A 7″ hamster exercise ball should suffice for a dwarf hamster, but always seek professional advice if you are unsure.

It is also advised to select a light-colored ball – we chose a translucent one – as darker colored hamster exercise balls tend to retain heat. Furthermore, with a clear ball, you can see your hamster running inside and they can see out.

Although Russian hamsters enjoy the company of others, it is important that only one hamster is placed inside each exercise ball at a time. Placing two people in such a confined space could result in them injuring each other through collision or even a fight.

How to use a hamster exercise ball?

When you first get an exercise ball, the temptation is to put your hamster in it and watch them take off. However, as with any new environment, it is important for your hamster to adjust on their own. Your hamster may be wary of the exercise ball at first, especially because it is enclosed.

As a result, just like taming a hamster, you should introduce them to their exercise ball and wait until they are comfortable walking inside themselves. We discovered that placing it inside Oscar’s cage for him to smell and explore on his own terms over a number of nights helped him feel at ease.

You should never make your hamster go inside. If they are still sleepy or unsure, assume they are not in the mood for exercise. If they are happy, wide awake, and eager to come inside, you are good to go. Remember that hamsters, like humans, should never exercise after eating to allow their bodies to digest.

Place the hamster exercise ball on the floor once you are safely inside and secure. Never roll the ball yourself; instead, let your hamster choose his or her own pace.

If there are any droppings on your hamster ball, make sure to thoroughly clean it after use.

How can you tell if you hamster enjoys the ball?

The refusal of your hamster to walk into the ball is the most telling sign that he is not ready (and may never be ready) to use the exercise ball. Digging, biting, and attempting to escape are other signs that your hamster is unhappy in the exercise ball.

It is important that your hamster is at ease while running around and is not in any way distressed.

How long can a hamster be in an exercise ball?

Your hamster should be able to roll around for 15-20 minutes as long as there is plenty of air circulating through the hamster exercise ball and they are not exposed to direct sunlight.

They may become fatigued or dehydrated if they stay any longer. When your hamster has had enough of their exercise ball, they often begin to slow down, stop completely, or spend a long time grooming themselves.

It is important to keep an eye on your hamster while it is in the exercise ball to ensure that it is safe from hazards such as:

  • Stairs – Restrict access to stairways and keep your hamster away from any steep drops.
  • Flooring – We discovered that our hamster prefers rolling around on carpet because it gives him more control. Keep them away from bare floorboards because hamsters have little control and tend to skid around.
  • Pets – Keep any other animals out of the room, such as cats and dogs, as they can be curious and want to “play” with your hamster while it is in the exercise ball.
  • Kids – Just like pets, kids can be boisterous, so make sure your hamster is comfortable in their exercise ball.
  • Furniture – Because hamsters have poor eyesight, they are bound to bump into things along the way. Fortunately, the speed at which they move inside the ball is not fast enough to cause injury in my opinion. Oscar now remembers the layout of our room and can maneuver himself around with incredible precision. The most serious issue with a hamster exercise ball is that the constant bopping of furniture may loosen the grips between the spheres and free your hamster.

Ways to exercise your hamster

Exercise is necessary for a hamster because it is a form of stimulation. Because hamsters are extremely active (especially at night), there are numerous ways to exercise them:

  • Wheel – A wheel is a hassle-free option of allowing your pet hamster to run as much as they want in the safety of his or her own cage. Re-read above to ensure that you purchase the right size for your pet.
  • Bars – Hamsters love to climb, so providing some form of apparatus is good for them. Quite often your cage will have mental bars, but if not, you can buy climbing equipment for them to explore.
  • Playpens – A hamster playpen is basically any structure that is sufficiently secure and can allow your pet room to run, play, exercise and have fun without escaping. Playpens can be homemade, or shop bought. Just make sure that when you place them on the floor that there is no way for your hamster to escape and that it is well away from any wires or electrical cabling.
  • Toys – You don’t even need to buy toys as household items such as toilet roll tubes and cardboard boxes can provide hours of fun for your hamster.


Despite much debate on the internet, I have yet to find any evidence or even witness a hamster exercise ball being dangerous. Having said that, I constantly monitor my hamster’s activity, looking for signs of distress or exhaustion, and making sure there are no obstacles in the way of the ball.

I also believe that hamsters can tell us when they don’t like something by refusing to climb inside, standing still, or showing signs of anxiety. If your pet isn’t interested in a hamster exercise ball, there are plenty of other ways for it to stay fit, healthy, and entertained.

If you want more helpful advice on looking after your hamster, including tips on food, toys, accessories and accommodation, add a comment below to let us know!

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By HamsterCareTip.Com.

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