Hamster accessories are among the best-selling items in pet stores across the US. One of the most popular hamster accessories is the beloved hamster wheel. However, whether you’re trying to save space in your hamster’s cage, save money, or you’re just not sure if they’re necessary, you might wonder: does your hamster need a wheel at night?
Hamsters need a wheel at night because they’re nocturnal animals. Exercise is essential for hamsters to stay healthy, which is why you should provide them with the opportunity to release their energy. Hamster wheels are the easiest way to do so.
In this article, I’ll take you through everything you need to know regarding your hamster’s need for exercise, the necessity of a wheel, and some of the best alternatives and substitutes.
Why Are Hamster Wheels Important?
Hamster wheels are important because they offer your pet an easy way to get its needed daily exercise while still in solitude. The wheel’s momentum also allows hamsters to control how long and how vigorously they exercise.
Hamsters are smaller animals, which might make them seem like they’re lower maintenance than other types of pets.
In a way, that’s true. These furry creatures typically keep to themselves and don’t need much social interaction to be happy. However, they aren’t stuffed toys and have their own requirements that need to be met in order for them to live happy lives.
One of these requirements is exercise.
These tiny creatures have a surprising amount of energy that they need to be able to release on a daily basis. Hamster wheels were invented to serve this purpose. They allow hamsters to run until they’ve sufficiently worn themselves out.
Since hamsters are relatively simple creatures, they don’t get bored by the unchanging view. Having interesting things to see isn’t the important part of their exercise. The actual movement is.
Hamster wheels were also invented because hamsters aren’t very social creatures. Therefore, they need a way to use their energy that doesn’t require interacting with their owner or other animals. While cats and dogs can tire themselves out by playing with other pets, hamsters don’t typically do well when caged together.
They can often become aggressive and start fighting. Therefore, they prefer getting their exercise in on their own.
Read Male and Female Hamster Difference
Do All Hamsters Need a Wheel?
While hamster wheels are certainly useful, you might wonder if they’re absolutely necessary. After all, dog toys might be useful to keep puppies entertained, but they’re not required. The same goes for cat toys, bird toys, or aquarium decorations.
However, that’s not the case with hamster wheels. That’s because hamster wheels aren’t a “toy” your hamster is playing with. It’s a piece of equipment the animal is using to improve its health.
Most hamsters need a wheel because it’s the easiest way for them to exercise. They also allow your hamster the freedom to choose when to exercise and for how long. Hamsters usually don’t have large enough cages to get enough movement another way.
Even if you never see your hamster using its wheel, it’s still better to purchase one just in case, because, as I previously mentioned, they can be essential to your pet’s health.
Since hamsters are small, they’re typically kept in cages for their own safety and to prevent them from getting lost in your home. These cages are also the best way to simulate the hamster’s natural environment.
In the wild, hamsters are prey animals that prefer being hidden to stay out of sight of would-be predators. A smaller cage offers your hamster some much-needed protection and security.
However, since hamster cages are so small, they don’t allow the animal the space to get proper exercise by just walking around. The constant pacing or slowed walking they would have to do in order to even attempt to exercise without a wheel would likely not be enough to burn your hamster’s virtually endless energy. After all, hamsters can cover up to 5 miles ( 8 km) a day in the wild.
Let’s think of hamsters like humans to put this into a perspective that might be easier for you to understand. Expecting your hamster to get all their exercise by simply wandering around its cage would essentially be like telling someone to walk around a tiny Manhattan apartment to get their daily exercise fix.
While you can certainly move around, it would get too monotonous. However, a treadmill could change that because it allows you to adjust the speed and intensity of the movement to your liking.
In a worst-case scenario, if you’re positive your hamster doesn’t use its cage and isn’t showing signs that it’s unhappy or sick, you can always remove the wheel for a while. It’s something that’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.
If you’re in the market for a good hamster wheel, check out Niteangel Super-Silent Hamster Exercise Wheels (available on Amazon.com). The brand’s products often come at varying prices, colors, and designs.
Read Hamster Very Active Then Died?
Should You Remove Your Hamster’s Wheel at Night?
So, you’ve decided to get your hamster a wheel, but you’ve started wondering if you need to keep it in its cage at all times. The pen is already small, and you might feel as if the clunky device might make the space seem much more suffocating.
You shouldn’t remove your hamster’s wheel at night. They’re nocturnal animals, so they should have access to their wheels at that time to exercise. If your wheel is loud, try to find a quiet model or see if adding a little grease to the hinges will help decrease the noise.
If you’ve never had a hamster before, you might not have known that these little creatures are nocturnal. They start to wake up in the evening and sleep during daytime.
While you might be fast asleep at night, your hamster will be going about its business grooming, eating, and exercising. That means removing their wheel at night would defeat the entire purpose of having one in the first place.
If you’ve been considering removing your hamster’s wheel at night, it’s important to figure out why.
You Don’t Think Your Hamster Uses It
If you think the wheel will go unused at night, that’s an easy misconception to fix. Your hamster might sleep a lot during the day, making you believe they’re just a sleepy and lethargic species, but that’s not the case. Your hamster will be awake during the nighttime hours, which is when it’ll be most likely to need access to its wheel.
Read Why Is My Hamster Wobbling and Falling Over?
Your Hamster Is Making Too Much Noise
If your hamster makes a lot of noise and is disturbing your sleep, that’s a different problem.
A noisy hamster wheel can be annoying but at least it’s easy to fix. All you have to do is add a little grease to the wheel to see if that solves the problem. If your hamster wheel is still too loud, you can always purchase a different model that isn’t as noisy.
If your hamster tends to make noise when exercising, that might be more difficult to resolve. First, you’ll want to determine whether your hamster’s noises while it uses the wheel are positive or negative sounds.
If your hamster is screaming, hissing, or growling, it means your hamster is in pain. It might be trying to exercise because that’s what its instincts are telling it to do, but it could hurt to do so.
If that’s the case, you should never ignore the sound or get angry at your pet. Instead, call your vet immediately and take your hamster for a check-up. That way, your hamster can be in top shape once again soon.
If your hamster is cooing, making clicking noises, or squeaking while using the hamster wheel, that usually means it is happy! That’s a good sign, but it can be disruptive, particularly if the hamster cage is located near your bedroom.
If this is the case, try not to get impatient with your pet, it’s just doing what comes naturally. If you’re able to, move your hamster’s cage to a different area of your home where the noise will be less disruptive at night.
You can also try to swap out your hamster’s cage and accessories if you notice any sort of clanging associated with its nighttime activities. A plastic cage, soft, soundless toys, and different bedding might be all it takes to help reduce the amount of noise you notice coming from your hamster and its enclosure.
Read Why Is My Hamster Acting Weird?
Hamster Wheel Alternatives
While hamster wheels are the simplest way to ensure your pet gets the amount of movement it requires to be healthy, there are some substitutions you can opt for instead.
If your hamster is kept in a large cage with lots of tunnels to go through and structures to climb, this might provide an enriching enough space to let your hamster get the exercise it needs. You can also forgo a hamster wheel if your hamster gets ample time outside of its cage to explore.
Let’s look at these alternatives in more detail.
Option 1: Get a Larger Cage
The reason why it’s recommended that hamsters have a wheel to use for exercise is that hamster cages tend to be pretty small, too small to get the right amount of movement in by simply exploring the habitat.
If you have the space for a large cage where you can include different tunnel systems, little ladders, structures to climb, and different toys to chew on and play with, a wheel might not be necessary.
The idea behind this wheel alternative is to create a large, safe, and enriching space that allows your hamster to move around freely at different speeds so it can get adequate exercise.
Continuing with my earlier example, the difference between a small and large enclosure would be the same as the difference between exercising in a tiny city apartment and a large Wyoming ranch.
Read How To Travel With a Hamster
Option 2: Let Your Hamster Explore
While this option isn’t viable for most people, it could be possible if your schedule aligns with your hamsters.
Allowing your hamster to explore your home could help them get the exercise they need without a wheel. You can get a hamster ball like Savic Small Animal Exercise Ball (available on Amazon.com), so your hamster can still be safe while moving around.
However, while this is an excellent exercise option for hamsters, you can’t use it unless you’ll be around to supervise what your hamster is doing. That means you can’t let your hamster loose in its ball for hours. You won’t be able to know when it’s ready to go back into its cage, when it needs food or water, or when it needs to use its bedding.
Since hamsters sleep during the day, you also can’t use this method unless you’re a night owl, as you’ll be disrupting your pet’s schedule too much.
In most cases, you might be able to give your hamster some time to exercise in the evening, when you’re both awake. However, that won’t necessarily be enough time to let your pet get enough movement, so you should still keep a wheel in its cage.
Read How Do You Give a Hamster a Bath?
What Happens if Hamsters Don’t Exercise?
Hamsters need exercise; all animals do. However, unlike some other species, if hamsters don’t exercise, their health will severely suffer.
If hamsters don’t exercise they will start to become lethargic, depressed and might be more prone to getting sick. They might also become aggressive and try to bite or scratch you or destroy their cages.
If you want your pet to live a happy, healthy life, it’s important for you to let it get the exercise it requires. Wild hamsters move around a lot to search for food and escape predators. Though your hamster is a domesticated variety, that instinct to move is still there.
While you might have your reasons for wondering if your hamster needs a wheel a night, the answer to that question is usually simple. If you want your hamster to be happy and healthy, you should give it access to a wheel when they’re most active, and that’s during the night.
You may like the following Hamster articles:
- How Old Does a Hamster Need To Be To Eat Carrots?
- Can Hamsters Eat Guinea Pig Food?
- How Often Should I Hold My Hamster?
- Why Is My Hamster Breathing Fast?
- Why Is My Hamster Trying To Escape?
My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more