Making sure our pets get exercise is a common concern of every pet owner. Whether it’s playing fetch with your dog or dangling a string in front of your cat, there are various ways to exercise your pets but you might be wondering, what about my hamster?
So, will my hamster be okay without a wheel? Due to the overall health and mental benefits having a wheel gives, it is not recommended for hamsters to not have one.
Throughout this article you will learn various ways to exercise your hamster, and whether a hamster wheel is really worth your buck. It might be a surprise as many people find the basics, such as food and water, to keep any pet alive but exercise is just as important to keep your hamster healthy.
Benefits of Exercise
Just like any rodent, hamsters are extremely inquisitive and energetic pets. Exercise not only increases their overall health but also creates a sense of purpose and activity. Hamsters are crepuscular, meaning they are active during the day and night.
So providing a way of exercise that the hamster can use during either of these times is very important. As hamsters usually have little room to move around in their habitat, a hamster wheel is a great way to keep them busy. The main goal, of course, is to keep our pets happy. Hamster wheels do just that!
Unfortunately, hamsters can get angry without exercise and tend to tear up or chew on things in their cage. This can be difficult for anyone to handle and buying new supplies every week is not practical. To avoid this scenario, treat your hamster with new toys every once in a while. After all, keeping their interest is the key to a happy, healthy hamster!
Additionally, boredom is a common cause of death within the Syrian and Dwarf hamster species. This is because a bored hamster is more susceptible to stress which can shorten its lifespan.
If you want your hamster to be happy in its habitat, finding ways to exercise your hamster is beyond important. Studies show that hamsters can get stressed and this is a major factor in how long he/she will live. It’s important to watch your hamster’s behavior and recognize when they are unhappy.
Below are a few tips on what to watch for when you think your hamster might be bored, stressed, or depressed:
- They chew on or destroy other items in their cage
- Only leaving their burrow for food
- Sleeping more than he/she is awake
- Constant eating
- Frantic back and forth movements
Benefits of a Hamster Wheel
I would be lying if I said I don’t enjoy watching a hamster run furiously on its little wheel, but, besides being entertaining, what do hamster wheels do? There are many reasons for exercising your hamster as mentioned above, but certain tactics work better than others. Hamster wheels are the most beneficial way to exercise your hamster as they allow them to run miles at a time!
First, a wheel is an affordable option that lasts for months or even years. When creating a habitat for your hamster, things can get pretty expensive. From large cages to intricate water bottles, it’s important to save money where you can.
The price range of a hamster wheel ranges from $10-$25 depending on the brand and how large your hamster is. Stores like Walmart carry various sizes and colors of wheels for your furry friend. Some cages already have them built-in, which is a great alternative to buying a wheel separately.
Secondly, hamsters need exercise, and hamster wheels provide a safe and easy way for them to run for as long as their little heart desires. Additionally, hamsters are at risk for obesity and can even die from being overweight.
Just like us, they benefit from burning calories on a daily basis. Allowing your hamster to use a wheel can also prevent unhealthy eating habits, such as overeating. The wheel can keep the hamster busy for hours at a time and is great for their little legs.
Lastly, it allows your hamster to fulfill its natural instincts. Hamsters naturally have the urge to run as they would in the wild. Their curiosity and adventurous personalities require some form of exercise.
Instead of your hamster continuously running around their cage at night making noise, a hamster wheel allows them to silently play. Providing them with a way to do this can increase their overall well-being and health.
Choosing the Right Wheel
Deciding on which hamster wheel to purchase can be an overwhelming task. There are hundreds of different styles, colors, sizes, and brands to choose from. When searching for the perfect wheel keep in mind that hamsters have to get acquainted with their new toy and might not warm up to it as quickly as you’d like.
Don’t get discouraged when they sniff the shiny new wheel and head back to their burrow. It takes one time of hopping on the hamster wheel and they will be off to the races. If you notice your hamster is not particularly interested in the exercise wheel, try putting food or a treat inside of it. This might just persuade them to hop on and try it out.
When looking at hamster wheels you will need to consider a few factors. The first being how large is your cage? Buying a wheel that takes up too much space in the hamster’s habitat might stress them out.
In contrast, purchasing a wheel that is too small for the cage will be easily forgotten by your hamster. Surface areas of a hamster cage range from a minimum of 24×12 inches, and at least 12 inches tall.
Along with the cage, the size of your hamster is also very important to consider. Dwarf hamsters are smaller species, therefore, require smaller wheels. Syrian hamsters are larger and require larger wheels.
Of course, this can vary depending on the actual size of your hamster. Providing the correct size of wheel will increase the likelihood that the hamster will use it. If it’s too small or too large, they will be more likely to ignore the wheel. Check out the short list below to see the recommended wheel sizes for two of the most commonly owned hamsters:
- 6.5 inches for Dwarf Hamsters
- 8 inches for Syrian Hamsters
If a hamster wheel is not your preferred product to exercise your hamster, many alternatives can be just as beneficial. The next best thing is the hamster ball. This toy allows the hamster to move quickly and can be a great toy to use outside of the cage (with supervision).
Using a hamster ball will aid in your hamster’s natural instinct to explore. Unfortunately, unlike a hamster wheel, this toy is not acceptable for the hamster to use in their cage. The hamster ball is not a stationary toy, so it requires a larger area for your hamster to fully benefit from it.
Again, keep in mind that hamsters are crepuscular creatures and love to play at all times throughout the day. So buying a silent toy will be beneficial to you and the rest of the house when your hamster decides that it wants to be active at night when everyone’s sleeping!
Additionally, hamsters usually do their work, their eating, and playing at night. So don’t be alarmed if your hamster is “lazy” or “not playful” during the day. This just means they are worn out from all the fun they were having last night!
Other Activity-Inducing Toys for Hamsters
Chew Toys: Chew toys are an awesome toy to keep hamsters busy. They last a long time and come in a variety of types, colors, and materials.
Composable Hamster Tunnel: These types of tunnels are great for exercise for your hamster!
Treat Ball: A treat ball is a great way to keep your hamster busy for long periods of time!
Fortunately, all of these products can be found at well known retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and PetSmart
Providing your pet hamster with a way to exercise and play will benefit your hamster in the long run. Doing the necessary research when choosing a hamster wheel is essential to the overall health of your hamster. Keep in mind the species of your hamster and their specific measurements to get the correct wheel.
Hamster wheels are necessary when creating a happy environment for your pet. This toy can prevent health issues like obesity and boredom. It provides a safe way to exercise your hamster and cater to their active personalities. So, when asking yourself, “should I get a hamster wheel?” The answer is an absolute yes!