Hamsters are one of the most popular pets in the USA because they are mostly friendly, relatively easy to take care of, and super cute! However, they require a lot of equipment and accessories to be well taken care of and happy. Whether you’re already a hamster owner or looking to become one, you may wonder how many of these accessories are absolutely necessary.
Hamsters will not be okay without a wheel as they need to exercise in their cages regularly to be happy and fulfilled. Your hamster may become obese, depressed, and unhappy without a wheel.
The rest of this article will answer all of your questions about hamsters and hamster wheels and will empower you to be a responsible hamster owner. So, if you’re looking to become one of the 2% of people in the USA who own a hamster, or if you’re one of those people already, keep reading!
Your hamster does need a wheel. Hamsters require exercises to be happy and healthy, and without a wheel, they won’t be able to burn up their energy reserves. An inactive hamster is likely to develop lifestyle-related illnesses.
In the wild, hamsters can run up to 5 miles (8.04 km) a day, and even though your pet isn’t a wild hamster, it still requires this level of exercise to be healthy. Without a wheel in its cage, the hamster is in too much of a confined space to be able to run this much.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, hamster wheels are an essential supply for responsible hamster ownership in the USA. Technically, a hamster can survive without one, but it won’t live a happy life. However, it is not unheard of for a hamster to die of boredom or stress if it goes without a wheel for too long.
If you insist on not providing your hamster a wheel for whatever reason, you must give it enough space and freedom to be able to run for a sufficient amount of time a day.
You can use a hamster ball, but you’ll have to take the hamster out enough for it to get enough water, and you’ll have to keep an eye on it the whole time to ensure it doesn’t escape the ball and run away.
Additionally, hamsters are nocturnal creatures, so your hamster will want to run the most at night. If you don’t give it the ability to do so within its cage, you’re depriving it of its natural instincts, and it will not be a very happy hamster.
Overall, it is more convenient for you as the owner and better for the hamster to provide it with a wheel in its cage so it can run whenever it wants for however long it wants.
There are many benefits of having a hamster wheel. Here are some:
- Your hamster can release its energy. Your hamster is an energetic creature, and when you put it in the confined space of a cage, it can’t release this energy unless it has a wheel to run on. If you don’t have a wheel, your hamster might find less desirable ways to release energy, such as trying to escape or chewing on things it shouldn’t.
- Your hamster gets much-needed exercise. All living creatures need exercise to be healthy. Your hamster is no different. Without a wheel, it is unlikely your hamster will get enough exercise, and it may become obese. Obesity is a serious health issue for hamsters and limits their mobility and happiness.
- A wheel reduces boredom. Cages are small, confined spaces, meaning your hamster needs to have enough toys and accessories so it doesn’t get bored. While toys can help hamsters expend energy, they are not sufficient enough to replace wheels, which are vital accessories for any hamster.
- Your pet can exercise without your supervision. The only alternative to not having a wheel is allowing your hamster to run in a hamster ball, but this requires your constant supervision. With a wheel, your hamster can run whenever it wants without you needing to be there, and it can get water as it needs.
- Running on a wheel satisfies a hamster’s natural love for exploring. Hamsters are natural explorers, and this natural instinct is often not satisfied when living in a cage. However, running on a wheel is enough exploration for most hamsters, and it gives the feeling of a larger space, so they won’t be unhappy in their cages.
Now you know that you need a wheel for your hamster, but what kind should you get? There are lots of different options available for hamster owners. You should make sure that your wheel is made from a good material, is the right size for your hamster, and comes with a good running surface.
Most hamster wheels are made of plastic, but wood wheels are becoming increasingly popular. However, you should make sure that you get a silent wheel as the noise can become unbearable, especially during the night.
I highly recommend the Niteangel Super-Silent Hamster Exercise Wheel from Amazon.com. This wheel is designed with dual ball bearings that minimize the noise that the wheel makes, so you’ll get a good night’s sleep even if your hamster is running its lungs out all night long.
I also like this wheel because it comes in many different colors, so you’ll be able to find one that suits your personal style!
Wood hamster wheels are also a good, relatively durable, and mostly noiseless option. Even better, your hamster might enjoy chewing on the wood, which should help improve overall oral health and hygiene.
I recommend the N/A Silent Wooden Hamster Exercise Wheel for a wood hamster wheel from Amazon.com. This wheel, in particular, is made of high-quality wood and has a wide (and thick) wooden base, which enhances overall stability. Furthermore, the running surface is not slippery, so your hamster won’t fall off and injure itself.
The size of the wheel you should get depends on your hamster’s size. Hamsters vary widely in size depending on their species. For example, a Syrian hamster is much larger than a dwarf hamster and therefore needs a different wheel size. Additionally, female hamsters are larger than males.
A Syrian hamster needs a wheel between 8 and 12 inches (20.32 and 30.48 cm) in diameter. For smaller dwarf hamsters, your hamster should be happy as long as the wheel is at least 6 inches (15.24 cm) in diameter.
You should also look at the width of a hamster wheel and go for a wider one if your hamster has a broad stance.
Overall, the wheel you get for your hamster should be big enough that the hamster can run on it without bending its back too much. Arching its back for too long is painful for your hamster, so make sure that your pet’s back is flat.
Do not get a wheel that is made of mesh or wire. Your hamster’s foot can get stuck in these gaps, which can cause a serious injury.
Another option is a hamster saucer, like this Hamster Flying Saucer Silent Running Exercise Wheel on Amazon.com. This saucer has a solid, non-slip running surface, but there is still a chance your hamster will fly off if it starts running too quickly.
This specific saucer also has a stripes design that increases friction to avoid this issue, so if you are going to go with a saucer instead of a wheel, I highly recommend choosing this one.
If you have provided a wheel for your hamster and it isn’t running on it, something may be wrong. Let’s investigate some of the reasons why your hamster may not be using its wheel:
- Your hamster is old. If your hamster has entered its senior years, they are unlikely to be as active as they were when they were young and spritely. Some hamsters experience joint pain as they age, so any exercise can be uncomfortable or painful, especially on an incline. If this is the case, you’ll need to amend your hamster’s diet to avoid obesity since it won’t be getting as much exercise as it once did.
- Your wheel isn’t the right size. If your hamster wheel is too small for the hamster, running on it will require them to bend their backs awkwardly, which can be extremely painful. If the hamster is in pain every time it uses the wheel, it is unlikely to continue using it! A wheel that is too large can also be a problem since a hamster may not be able to turn the wheel properly if it is too big.
- Your wheel has metal bars. Wheels with metal bars are popular designs, but this kind of wheel is not good for hamsters. Their legs can easily fall through the gap, which can be annoying for the hamster and even lead to injury. Your hamster wheel should have a solid floor.
- The wheel is difficult to move. Sometimes wheels require a little lubrication to turn properly, so if you notice your hamster struggling to get the wheel to turn, rub the wheel’s axle with some vegetable oil or butter. I like the AVO Organic Vegetable Oil from Amazon.com because it is made in the USA with no harmful chemicals, so it is safe for your hamster to eat.
- The wheel is too noisy. A noisy wheel is annoying for you as the owner, but it can also bother some more sensitive hamsters. If your hamster prefers quiet, they may find the squeaking noise of a wheel too stressful and avoid using it.
- Your hamster is lazy. Most hamsters voluntarily use the wheel and have a natural desire to exercise, but some hamsters are lazier than others! If your hamster has a more sedentary personality, it may not use the wheel as often.
- You aren’t providing a nutritious diet. If your hamster isn’t getting the proper nutrition it needs, it probably won’t have enough energy to go running on its wheel. You can consult a veterinarian to see what your hamster may need more or less of to get it more active again.
- Your hamster is injured. If your hamster is in pain every time it tries to run, it will stop running. Unfortunately, small animals are prone to falls and other mishaps resulting in injury. Check and make sure that your pet hasn’t hurt itself somehow. Other signs that your hamster is hurt include bleeding, limping, labored breathing, uncharacteristic aggression, and sleeping more than usual.
If your hamster is injured, here are some things you can do to care for it:
- Minimize how much and how often you hold it. Handing your pet can cause it further harm, so minimize how much you hold it for a few days. If you need to hold it or transport it to the vet, be as gentle as possible and wear gloves, as the pain may cause even the friendliest hamster to bite.
- Take your hamster to the vet. If your hamster seems really injured, you’ll need to take them to the vet for further examination. If the situation is severe, you may need to euthanize the hamster. This is heartbreaking, but it may be the most humane thing to do for your pet.
- Assist your hamster with food and water. Your hamster may stop eating if it is in too much pain to access its food dish, so you may need to hand feed it for a while.
There are some reasons why a hamster may not be using its wheel, but this does not mean that a hamster doesn’t need a wheel at all.
Your hamster should always have the option to exercise and run if it wants to, and not having a wheel in its cage will make for an unhappy and unhealthy pet.
A hamster wheel is an essential accessory to have in your hamster’s cage. Responsible hamster owners want their hamsters to be happy and healthy, and it is generally accepted that a hamster cannot be either unless it can run on a wheel whenever its heart desires.
Luckily, there are a variety of wheels available, so you’ll be able to find one that suits your needs so that both you and your hamster are happy!
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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