A hamster wheel is a popular cage accessory, and most hamster cages now include one. Hamsters were born to run, so they adore exercise wheels and can travel great distances while running at night!
But, do hamsters require a wheel? And why do hamsters enjoy running so much? We’ll respond to everything below.
Do hamsters need an exercise wheel?
In short, yes! A hamster running on a wheel may appear to be an unnatural behavior and possibly a negative reaction to being in captivity at first glance, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. What is the purpose of hamster exercise wheels? It all comes down to mimicking the behaviors of wild hamsters.
Did you know: Hamsters have been known to run around 5-6 miles (10km) every single night!
Here are some examples of good hamster wheels:
- Kaytee Silent Spinner
- Love Hamster Wheel
- Kaytee Comfort Exercise Wheel
Hamsters in the wild
In their natural habitat, both Syrian and dwarf hamsters can travel hundreds of miles at night. Once the sun has set, hamsters emerge from their burrows to scavenge for food and nesting materials in the surrounding area.
This scavenger instinct is very natural, and it’s one of the reasons hamsters have so much energy – they’re built to run!
It’s critical to satisfy this instinct when caring for your own hamster, and the best way to do so is with a hamster wheel.
Why do hamsters enjoy running on wheels?
Hamster wheels allow hamsters to travel the thousands of miles they would in the wild within the confines of a cage. Despite the fact that most cages have a small surface area, a hamster can release all of the energy it requires by using an exercise wheel.
The exercise wheel is the best way for hamsters to fulfill their natural instinct to run. Wheels also help to reduce boredom, which can be a problem for hamsters kept in cages with few toys or opportunities for exercise. Hamsters, like humans, need to burn calories every now and then to maintain a healthy weight.
Running on a wheel is also thought to satisfy some of a hamster’s natural curiosity and love of exploring (which they can’t always do in a cage).
Benefits of a hamster wheel:
- Fulfills your pet’s natural running instinct
- Helps keep your hamster healthy
- Helps avoid hamster obesity
- Allows your hamster to release its natural energy
- Reduces boredom caused by living in a confined space
How to choose a good hamster exercise wheel?
Remember that hamsters are nocturnal, which means they only come out at night. You don’t want a squeaky wheel keeping you awake all night! Fortunately, a variety of silent hamster wheels are now available, allowing you to sleep soundly while your hamster burns calories.
It is also critical to select a wheel that is stable and unlikely to tip over while in use. Some wheels attach to your cage, while others come with a built-in stand. Either option is acceptable as long as the wheel is well-constructed and does not tip over easily. To add stability, you can always bury the stand in your substrate.
Avoid hamster wheels with small holes or gaps where your pet will be running. Hamsters’ small feet are easily trapped, and wheels with holes can easily injure them.
All wheels are not created equal! It may be worthwhile to spend a few extra dollars on a hamster wheel that is durable and likely to last your pet’s entire life. As an added safety measure, some of the better wheels use non-slip materials.
Here’s a quick summary of what to look for in a wheel:
- Use a silent wheel (or you’ll be up all night!)
- Very stable and unlikely to topple over when in use
- Avoid wheels that have holes or gaps on the running surface
- Spend a little extra for a durable wheel that’s built to last
- Wheels that use non-slip materials are ideal
A note on wheel sizes
Hamster wheels come in a variety of sizes, so make sure you get the right one for your pet. Observing your pet while running is the best way to determine whether your wheel is large enough. While running, your hamster’s back should be straight, not bent or slanted, as this can cause injury.
Here are some good minimum sizes for hamster wheels:
- 6.5 inches for dwarf hamsters
- 8 inches for Syrian hamsters
Hamster wheel alternatives
Hamster balls are a great alternative to wheels because they allow your pet to run in a much larger area and allow hamsters to explore like they would in the wild.
To keep your pet healthy and reduce boredom, it is always best to use both hamster balls and wheels together. 15-20 minutes is plenty of time for a hamster to run around in a ball; just keep it away from the stairs!
You can also buy your pet a flying saucer, which is another toy that encourages running. Wheels are generally preferred because they provide a more natural way for your hamster to run, but a saucer will suffice if space is limited.
So that’s why hamsters enjoy running in wheels! We hope we’ve answered all of your questions, but please contact us if not. We also have a lot of hamster-related guides, tips, and advice, which you can ask us about in the comments section below.
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