If you’re new to keeping hamsters, you may be wondering about the importance of a wheel for your new furry. Well, let me assure you, a wheel is an absolute must-have for hamsters, and they should never be without one. It’s essential to provide them with constant access to a wheel in their cage so they can freely run to their heart’s content.
In the wild, hamsters cover significant distances in search of food. Having a wheel in their cage allows them to stay active and get the necessary exercise within a confined space.
To ensure your hamster’s well-being, it’s best to have all the necessary supplies (including a wheel) ready before bringing your new pet home. This way, your hamster can get their run in from the get-go. However, if your hammy is already settled in without a wheel, it’s crucial to get one as soon as possible.
While there’s a wide range of wheels on the market, not all are safe for hamsters. In this article, we’ll discuss what to look for in a wheel and what to avoid for your pet’s safety.
Why Do Hamsters Need a Wheel?
Hamsters spend enormous amounts of time running and foraging for food in the wild, and they shouldn’t be denied the option to run whenever they want in their cage. Running comes naturally to them, and they would get bored and depressed without an option to run. Not to mention the health toll inactivity takes on them – as it does on humans.
Here are some of the reasons why a wheel is an essential part of your hamster’s home:
Hamsters cover several miles of distance every night in the wild. It’s natural for hamsters to run around a lot, and it’s only ethical to allow our pets to do the same in captivity. Without a wheel, your hamster wouldn’t have much to do in the cage but eat and sleep, which gets tedious with time.
Like all living creatures, Hamsters need to move and be active to be healthy and happy. No matter how big it might be (and it should be as big as possible), an enriching cage can’t replace the level of activity a wheel can provide. A wheel is a fun way to fulfill their natural desire for running.
Research has shown that wheels are not only used by pets in captivity – even wild animals like to run on wheels. This means that our pets enjoy it, and it’s not just something they do due to a lack of better things to do.
Weight Management & Physical Health
Running is a perfect way to burn calories. Without a wheel, hamsters would mainly spend their time eating and sleeping, and it wouldn’t take long to start gaining excess weight.
Lack of activity can cause many health issues, such as arthritis or bone and joint problems. By keeping your hamster active, he’ll be able to exercise all his muscles and joints, which keeps his body healthy.
Improves Mental Health
Having a wheel is essential for your hamster’s mental health. Boredom and lack of exercise will lead to stress and anxiety in your pet. Having a wheel to occupy themselves and have something fun to use up their energy is beneficial for their mental health and helps prevent stress.
What Kind of Wheels Do Hamsters Need?
Hamsters need a wheel, but is any wheel good? Can you buy the first one you see at the pet store? The truth is that not all wheels are safe for hamsters.
Here are the things to consider when buying a wheel.
Many hamster cages come with a built-in wheel which is far too small for even the smallest dwarf species. A wheel that is too small causes your hamster to curve their back while running, which can lead to injuries, back issues, and other long-term health issues.
The minimum wheel size should be:
- 8″ in diameter (20cm) for dwarf species
- 10″ in diameter (25 cm) for Chinese hamsters – Since they are a bit bigger than dwarf species, it’s recommended to use a bigger wheel.
- 11’’ in diameter (28cm) for Syrian hamsters
Some types of wheels are not safe for hamsters and should never be used:
- Wheels with metal bars can cause injury to your hamster’s feet or other body parts if they get stuck.
- Mesh wheels are also to be avoided for the same reason.
- Hamster balls are dangerous for multiple reasons – They can pinch or break toes, they make it hard for the hamster to breathe properly due to lack of ventilation, and the hamster can’t properly see where they are going, which disorients and makes them anxious.
When buying a wheel for your hamster, opt for one with a solid surface. It can be made of plastic, wood, or metal. Solid parts provide firm footing, so there’s no risk of getting their toes or feet trapped.
Flying Saucer or Upright Wheels
Flying saucers can occasionally be used during the free-roam time in a playpen, but they are not a good substitute for regular upright wheels.
Flying saucers cause hamsters to run at an unnatural angle, so they shouldn’t be used as the primary wheel they will use every day. Running on a saucer daily could lead to injuries and pain, so get an upright wheel for your hammy instead of a flying saucer.
If your hamster lives in your bedroom, consider getting a silent wheel, or you might end up being woken up several times a night. Hamsters can be pretty active at night and do most of their running while you sleep, so the noise of the wheel is an important aspect to consider.
When buying a wheel, look for one labeled as silent.
The Best Hamster Wheel That Fits the Criteria
If there’s one wheel I can recommend, it’s the Niteangel Super Silent Hamster Wheel.
It comes in 4 sizes, perfect for Syrians, Chinese hamsters, and dwarfs:
- 8.2″ in – Dwarf species
- 10″ in – Dwarf species or Chinese hamsters
- 11″ in – Syrians, dwarf, or Chinese hamsters
- 12.82″ in – Syrians, dwarf, or Chinese hamsters
What makes this a good hamster wheel:
- As the name suggests, it’s super silent
- Large enough for your hamster
- It has a solid surface
- It’s durable and sturdy
Aside from the Niteangel wheel, there are many other safe options, so it’s worth looking around to see what’s available in your area. Other good options are the Silent Runner and Kaytee Silent Spinner Wheel.
Do Hamsters Need a Wheel at Night?
You might be tempted to remove the wheel from your hamster’s cage at night so that the noise of running on a wheel doesn’t wake you up. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option, as hamsters need access to a wheel all day and night. They tend to use their wheel the most during dusk, dawn, and at night.
If your hamster is waking you up during the night, switch to using a silent wheel or move your hamster’s cage to a different room. Don’t remove the wheel from your hamster’s cage, as your pet will be unhappy not being able to run when the urge strikes.
When Is It OK to Not Have a Wheel in a Cage?
The only situation when you might want to remove the wheel in your hamster’s cage is if your hamster is injured or has swollen feet, and the vet said they should rest and heal. In these situations, you should seek veterinary advice.
Why Do Hamsters Like Running on Wheels?
While there’s no scientific explanation on why exactly hamsters love running on wheels, we know that not only animals in captivity like it – wild animals do too.
The most likely reason hamsters love running on a wheel is that they simply love running! It’s natural for them to run for miles and miles in the wild. A wheel is like a gym where they can use their excess energy. And after all, exercise increases the “feel good” chemicals in the brain.
What to Do if Your Hamster is Obsessively Running on the Wheel?
Obsessively running on a wheel is a sign your hamster is stressed and developed an addiction to running on a wheel. This can happen when a hamster doesn’t have enough enrichment or stimulation in their cage. Another reason might be fear if your hamster’s cage is surrounded by predators such as a cat or dog. Hamsters are prey animals, and they feel threatened when there’s a predator nearby.
To minimize the stress in your hamster, do the following:
- Keep your hamster’s cage away from other pets, such as a cat or a dog.
- Provide enough enrichment for your hamster with various toys and tunnels.
- Scatter feed your hamster instead of providing food in a bowl to keep them occupied.
- Have deep enough bedding so your hamster can build burrows as they would in the wild.
- Switch to a bigger cage.
To sum it up, yes, hamsters need a wheel, and the wheel should stay in their cage 24/7. Instead of buying any wheel, you should ensure it has a solid surface and is big enough for your hamster. Always opt for a regular upright wheel, and don’t use a flying saucer as a replacement. If you’re worried about the noise of the wheel, choose among the many silent wheels on the market.