Hamsters are a common first-time pet for many children. They’re small, energetic pets who constantly run on their hamster wheels so quickly that you can barely see their paws moving.
A hamster can run as fast as 3 to 6 miles (4.8-9.7 kilometers) per hour. They can run up to 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) throughout one night when running. However, the speed and distance a hamster can run will depend on its breed.
So, let’s talk more about how fast and far hamsters can run, why hamsters run, and whether hamster balls or hamster wheels are better. I’ll also answer whether or not hamsters can become addicted to running and help you keep your pet hamster fit and healthy.
Hamsters are the most popular pet in many states on the east coast of the United States, from Delaware to New York to North Carolina. Depending on their breed, pet hamsters run between 3 and 6 miles per hour (4.8 to 9.7 kilometers per hour). They usually run up to 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) every night. That’s a lot more than most of us humans can say!
The most common pet hamster breeds are golden or Syrian hamsters and the three Dwarf breeds.
Syrian hamsters are faster due to their long limbs and ability to travel long distances. Dwarf hamsters are more agile, but they must take more breaks while running. They also have shorter legs, so they are slower than Syrians.
Hamsters are more crepuscular than nocturnal, which means they’re most active during twilight or sunset. Because of this, you’ll often find your hamsters sprinting on their hamster wheels in the evening into the night or right at sunset.
Hamsters run because they’re naturally energetic and they’re prey animals. Hamsters have survived since they can run away from predators so quickly. Even out of captivity, hamsters are known to be active. They are constantly moving to avoid their predators by running, burrowing, and hiding.
Let’s go into more depth about why hamsters run.
As I’ve stated before, it isn’t unusual for pet hamsters to run around 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) overnight. They run such long distances due to their natural energetic dispositions and instincts.
If your hamsters don’t get enough exercise, they’re likely bored. This boredom may cause your hamster to become lethargic, irritable, and destructive. So, it’s critical to ensure that your pet gets plenty of toys and opportunities to run.
Beyond running, hamsters may also expend energy by scurrying around the bottom of their cage or by burrowing. However, hamster wheels or balls are the best way to ensure your hamster gets enough exercise from running.
Hamsters are small rodents and therefore prey in the wild. Due to their status as prey, they need to be quick and agile to avoid cats, dogs, foxes, birds, or even snakes.
Hiding from predators is instinctual to all hamsters, so running is instinctual. They can run quickly, but they must often take breaks to listen for any possible danger. They use these breaks to identify ways to run if predators are nearby in the wild.
Pet hamsters still have a prey mentality, and when you reach into their cage to bring them out, they may consider you a predator and avoid your hands. So, it’s critical to provide your hamster with everything it needs to stay happy, entertained, well-exercised, and healthy if you want to develop a good relationship.
The most common way pet hamsters run is by running on hamster wheels or in hamster balls. Hamster wheels are generally located in their cages, ready to be used whenever your hamster wants.
Hamsters can only use a hamster ball when you put them in the ball yourself, and it allows your hamster to run around the house in a protective bubble. Since the ball encloses them, they won’t chew on electrical wires, get lost, or get snatched up by another pet like a cat or dog.
Hamster wheels and hamster balls are the most common ways owners exercise their hamsters. They each have pros and cons, so it’s essential to consider which one might be best for your pet and your lifestyle. Usually, it’s best to have both on hand.
Hamster wheels are better than hamster balls. Hamsters can run on their hamster wheels when in their cage without supervision. Alternatively, you’ll have to supervise your hamster when running in a hamster ball.
Let’s go into more depth about what hamster wheels and hamster balls are.
Hamster wheels are generally attached to a hamster cage. A wheel rotates when a hamster runs inside it, acting similarly to a treadmill.
Most hamster wheels have runged or ridged edges on a stand with a single or pair of axles. They come in many materials, such as wood, metal, and plastic.
There are some things you must take into consideration when choosing a hamster wheel for your hamster:
- Ensure the hamster’s back doesn’t arch when it runs on the wheel. If your hamster’s back arches, they’re uncomfortable and sometimes lead to back problems. This arching happens when the wheel is too small, so be sure to get a wheel suited for your hamster. Naturally, dwarf hamsters can usually run on a small/medium-sized wheel, but larger hamsters like Syrians need a medium/large wheel.
- The wheel should have a solid track and not be barred or meshed. While meshed or wired wheels are standard with first-time hamster owners, they’re dangerous as it’s easy for your hamster to injure their foot or leg by getting it stuck.
- Get a silent wheel. Although it is not entirely necessary to get a silent wheel, you’ll thank yourself later if you do. Since hamsters are crepuscular, they will usually run the most while you are asleep. Some metal wheels, especially those that clip onto the side of the cage, can clang and bang as your hamster runs, creating irritating sounds that might wake you up.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many studies on the safety of hamster balls. To decide whether or not you want your hamster to exercise in a hamster ball, you need to consider how the ball will aid and detract from your hamster’s wellbeing.
Some benefits of using a hamster ball are:
- The ball keeps your hamster active. Using a hamster ball will keep your hamster busy and allow them to have another exercise activity than just a hamster wheel.
- Hamsters are prone to diabetes and obesity. If hamsters don’t get the exercise they need, they have the predisposition to get diabetes and become overweight. Using a hamster ball regularly will prevent your hamster from these conditions.
- Your hamster can play around your house outside its cage. Hamsters generally like to be in large areas, and being stuck in a cage 24/7 can wear on their temperament. A hamster wheel allows you to take your hamster outside their cage and explore your house.
- Hamster balls allow you to release your hamster into your home safely. Hamsters are prone to chewing things like electrical cords, and just a bite can electrocute your pet. Hamster balls will keep your furry friend from chewing on things inside your home and prevent other pets from harming your hamster.
Now, here are some things to take into account that can harm your hamster if you use a hamster ball:
- Your hamster may freak out or develop anxiety. Since the hamster ball is an enclosed space, your hamster may get scared or stressed when inside the ball.
- Hamsters have poor eyesight. With poor vision, your hamster won’t be able to see where they’re going when inside the ball, which can add to your hamster’s anxiety.
- Hamster balls get dirty quickly. When in the ball, your hamster is likely to use the toilet, making it very dirty often and rapidly. If you have a hamster ball, ensure that you thoroughly clean it every time you use it.
- Stairs can be hazardous. When you put your hamster in a ball, it’s critical to block off all stairways or other areas with significant drops. One fall, even in a hamster ball, could kill your pet.
Hamsters are naturally very active, and it can be scary if your hamster runs on its wheel and it seems like they never stop. If this happens, you may worry that your hamster is addicted to running. However, is that possible?
A hamster can become addicted to running. For the most part, hamsters know their bodies and know when they need to stop running. However, you should be concerned if your hamster constantly runs without eating or drinking as much as it should.
While hamsters are naturally active and need plenty of exercise, they may still develop a running addiction. Most often, when your hamster becomes addicted, they’re addicted to running on the hamster wheel inside its cage.
Here are some reasons why hamsters become addicted to running:
- They have an instinct to run. In the wild, hamsters need to run miles in search of food. Despite it not being necessary for pet hamsters to search for food, they still have the instinct that they need to run. However, ensuring that your pet has enough food and water may help.
- They’re bored. When hamsters are bored, they may either continuously run or stop running. They’ll constantly run if their cage is small and they’re restless. Taking your hamster out of its cage more and providing more space and toys will help prevent boredom.
- They have a high-energy diet. If you feed your hamster high-energy foods, such as sunflower seeds, they may become hyperactive. The best way to burn off the extra energy is to run on their hamster wheel.
- They have no other toys in their cage. Hamsters should have more “toys” in their cage than just a hamster wheel. Some ideas of toys you should include are tunnels, ladders, toys for your hamster to burrow or hide in, or chew toys.
It’s scary when you realize that your hamster is addicted to running. There are a plethora of side effects that accompany the addiction, including:
- They become malnourished and dehydrated. The worst thing that happens when your hamster becomes addicted to running is that it may become malnourished and dehydrated. These symptoms occur when your hamster isn’t eating or drinking the amount they should in conjunction with the calories they burn from running.
- Their feet hurt, or they get blisters. When your hamster continuously runs, it isn’t unknown for them to injure their feet, especially if their hamster wheel has mesh in it. To prevent your hamster’s feet from getting sore or blisters, weave cardboard through metal rungs or put duct tape on both sides of the wheel to soften the running surface.
- They become exhausted. Just as you would, a hamster becomes exhausted when it exercises too much or too long. This exhaustion may contribute to your hamster getting dehydrated or developing hypothermia, especially if you live in a cold state up north. It may even fatally collapse if it gets too exhausted.
- They neglect their young. If your hamster is a mother addicted to running, she may abandon her babies to run on the wheel. If a mother is on their hamster wheel long enough, her babies may develop dehydration, malnutrition, hypothermia, and in extreme cases, death. If you notice your mama hamster running excessively, remove the wheel from their cage when the baby hamsters are too young to care for themselves.
I’ve established that hamsters can become addicted to running and that some fatal side effects occur if a hamster becomes addicted. However, what can you do to prevent your hamster from becoming addicted?
There are various tactics you can implement to prevent your hamsters from becoming addicted to running, including:
- Buy a bigger cage. If your hamster is constantly running because it feels cramped in its cage, buy a larger one, maybe even one with a split level. With more space to move around and explore, your hamster is less likely to continue to run constantly.
- Buy more toys. Having multiple toys to keep your hamster busy will most likely prevent them from becoming addicted to running. Some toys you can buy include tunnels, tubes, or ladders for more things to explore, or even just some chew toys for your hamster to enjoy.
- Scatter food throughout the cage. You allow your hamster to be a forager if you scatter their food throughout their cage, under bedding, and on different levels if you have a split-level enclosure. Hamsters forage for food in the wild, so this will appeal to their instincts.
Hamsters can run themselves to death, but it’s improbable. Most hamsters know when they’re tired and need to stop running. The only time you ever need to be worried is if your hamster isn’t eating or drinking enough and is malnourished and dehydrated.
If you’re worried about your hamster dying from too much exercise, I suggest taking the hamster wheel out of its cage for most of the day. Only have it in during times you’ve decided they’ll exercise. Also, ensure that your hamster is eating and drinking as it should be.
A popular first-time pet, hamsters are active rodents often found running on their hamster wheels. Despite their small size, they can run up to 3-6 miles (4.8-9.7 kilometers) per hour and 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) in one night.
Hamsters most often run in a hamster wheel, like a treadmill in a wheel shape, or a hamster ball, which is a ball that you put your hamster inside.
Be careful of how much your hamster runs and its health because your hamster can run too often and become addicted.
You may like the following hamster articles:
- How To Get Your Hamster To Sleep on You?
- How Old Does a Hamster Need To Be To Eat Carrots?
- Can Hamsters Eat Guinea Pig Food?
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