A running wheel is a must-have if you own a Syrian hamster. The wheel lets your pet get the exercise it needs to stay healthy and remain entertained. However, Syrian hamsters are quite large, which makes choosing the right size wheel challenging.
A wheel size between 8-12 inches (20.32-30.48 cm) is ideal for Syrian hamsters as they’re larger than most other hamster breeds. The Hamster Society Singapore suggests that the minimum wheel size for a Syrian hamster should be 10.63 inches (27 cm).
There’s more to getting the size of the hamster wheel right than just measuring its circumference. Your pet should be comfortable and safe while using the wheel.
In this article, I will explain what the right size of a wheel for your Syrian hamster is, how to choose the right one, and how to deal with a hamster that is running too much on the wheel.
Hamsters like to spin on wheels because this activity mimics their natural habit of running for considerable distances in the wild to gather food. Running on a wheel also satisfies a hamster’s love of exploring and its naturally curious nature.
Some hamsters can run more than 5 miles (8.04 km) in a single night!
Running on a wheel is an excellent form of exercise for a hamster confined to its cage. The following are the benefits of running on a wheel for your hamster:
- It prevents your furry baby from putting on too much weight.
- It keeps a hamster fit and healthy.
- It lessens stress levels in a confined hamster and keeps at bay stress-related illnesses like Wet Tail.
- It keeps your pet engaged and keeps it from chewing the cage.
Providing your pet hamster with the right-size wheel is crucial for encouraging it to run.
The ideal wheel size for your Syrian pet hamster is between 8 and 12 inches (20.32 and 30.48 cm). You might be tempted to buy one on the smaller side of this range to keep room for other toys in the cage. However, keep in mind that you will have to size up later when your pet grows.
Female Syrian hamsters are larger than the males of the species. If you have a female hamster, go in for a large-sized wheel.
Here’s a rule of thumb for buying the right-sized hamster wheel.
If your hamster has to arch its back while running on the wheel, the wheel is too small for it. Running with a bent back over a long time can damage your pet’s back. It can develop permanent curvature of the spine that is painful and unhealthy.
However, choosing the right-sized hamster wheel is more than just measuring its circumference.
The ideal wheel allows the hamster to run comfortably. So, the wheel should be slightly wider than the width of your pet’s body. You have to buy a broad wheel if your hamster has a wide stance.
A 6.5-inch (16.51-cm) wheel is too small for a Syrian hamster. Syrian hamsters are large animals averaging 6-7 inches (15.24-17.78 cm) in size, and they tend to stretch out fully when they run. A 6.5-inch (16.51-cm) wheel will constrain them and force them to arch their backs when they run.
Although your Syrian hamster needs a large wheel, bigger is not always better.
A wheel can be too big for a hamster if the contraption is so large that the animal cannot move it or run in it. The right-size wheel is one where the hamster can stretch comfortably and run without arching its back, and no bigger.
Besides size, you should keep in mind the following considerations when buying a running wheel for your Syrian hamster:
Some hamster wheels have one side fully open. Some others have a covering over both sides to prevent the animal from accidentally flying out when running very fast.
The Syrian hamster is a large animal. A wheel with coverings on both sides could feel constraining, and your pet might not be able to move freely. It is also difficult for a large-sized hamster to climb in and out of a wheel with coverings on both sides.
However, you can opt for a semi-covered design to prevent a hamster from flying out while spinning very fast without being confined.
Some hamster wheels have axle-free designs. These are excellent choices for long-haired Syrian hamsters that may get their fur entangled while running on a wheel with an axle.
An axle-free wheel is also easier to clean because you don’t have to take apart the contraption. This design is convenient for you if your furry baby tends to poop or pee on the wheel, a normal and common trait of hamsters.
I recommend the Exotic Nutrition Silent Runner 9-Inch Wheel with an axle-free construction.
The axle-free design is safe for your pet. Without a central bar, there is no risk of your hamster’s tail or fur getting entangled with the works or your pet hitting the bar when it is running. This axle-free design lets your pet stretch fully while running without having to arch its back.
This wheel has two stainless steel ball-bearings on the back plate of the wheel. The bearings spin around the bolt when the wheel rotates. The wheel glides smoothly and encounters no friction, so there is no noise.
This hamster wheel from Exotic Nutrition is available on Amazon.com in the United States of America.
A hamster wheel can be made of plastic, wood, or steel. Plastic and wooden wheels have solid surfaces, while steel wheels can be meshed, wired, or barred.
A wooden hamster wheel is sturdy and usually does not break even when dropped.
However, wooden wheels are hefty. It might be difficult for your pet to operate and can deter it from using it to run. A heavy wooden wheel is also difficult for an old and feeble hamster to use.
Wired, barred, or meshed running wheels are cheaper than wooden wheels. They are sturdy and chew-resistant. However, they are not safe for your hamster.
A hamster’s tiny feet and legs can get trapped between the wires when running and cause severe injuries like a nail getting torn off. There is also the risk of your furry baby falling through the gaps between the wires.
The uneven surface of a wire or mesh wheel is harsh on your pet’s delicate feet and can aggravate minor cuts to cause infections and bumblefoot.
Metal wheels are also trickier to clean than solid wheels. You may have to use baby bottle brushes to keep the bars clean.
The ideal hamster wheel is solid and is made of sturdy plastic. Plastic is lightweight, while its solid surface ensures your pet is safe when running on it.
These can be attached to the side of the cage or are affixed to a base, which makes them free-standing. The wheel can be flat or shaped like a tube sawed in half.
Hamsters are nocturnal creatures. In the wild, they come out of their underground dens in the dead of night to forage for food.
Your pet Syrian hamster has the same instinct; it will run on the wheel at night when you are trying to sleep.
So, for your sake, you should buy a hamster wheel that is marketed as silent. If you get a squeaky wheel, pour a few drops of vegetable oil or Vaseline at the point where the wheel joins the spindle.
I recommend the following brands of “silent” hamster wheels: Niteangel Super-Silent Hamster Exercise Wheel available on Amazon.com, this 8.2-inch (20.82-cm) wheel is just the right size for your Syrian hamster.
Apart from being noiseless, it has a wide running track and an ample-sized running drum. So, your pet does not have to arch its back while running.
The running drum is solid and made of plastic, making cleaning it a breeze for you. You can adjust the height of the wheel according to your pet’s size to make it easy for it to climb up and down.
Kaytee Silent Spinner Wheel (Giant) available on Amazon.com, this 12-inch (30.48 cm) wheel is ideal for your Syrian hamster. It features ball-bearings that don’t produce noise when the wheel is spinning. The wheel can stand freely, or you can attach it to the sides of the cage.
Running more than six miles on a wheel in a day is generally too much for a hamster. Running too much on the wheel becomes a problem when the hamster develops sores or blisters on the feet, gets dehydrated, shows signs of malnourishment, or when a mother hamster begins to neglect her pups.
Here’s what you can do to make your hamster run on the wheel a little less:
- Modify its diet. Hamster foods such as sunflower seeds are high in energy and make your furry baby hyperactive. It then takes running to expend the excess energy. You can limit such foods.
- Remove the wheel temporarily. The wheel is a necessary piece of exercise equipment for your pet. However, if too much running harms your hamster’s health or causes your pet to neglect her pups, remove the wheel for some time.
- Add other toys or equipment in the cage. Your pet may get addicted to running on the wheel if it is the only toy in the cage. Add other objects of interest to distract it.
Related Hamster articles:
- How To Make Your Hamster Happy
- Why Do Hamsters Eat Their Babies
- How To Clean Hamster Cage
- Difference Between a Hamster and a Gerbil
- Why Did My Hamster Die?
- Can You Die From a Hamster Bite?
Confined to a cage, your pet hamster is away from its natural habitat. However, it still has to play out its instincts. As a responsible pet owner, you must ensure that your pet hamster gets to run and remain active the way it would in the wild.
A hamster wheel lets your furry baby run for miles and burn off excess energy without leaving the cage. Choosing the right-size wheel for your large Syrian hamster is crucial to encourage it to run on without injuring itself.
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