Hamster wheels are a running wheel that provides exercise to hamsters and other types of rodents.
They are usually a runged or ridged wheel which is attached to the side of the cage or is freestanding attached to a stand and and axel.
They allow a hamster to get the exercise they need within the confines of their cage.
Why does a hamster need a wheel?
Exercise is vital for a hamster. It is something that they naturally need to do, and they really enjoy it. By nature, they are energetic and lively creatures and in their natural habitat might run up to five miles each night in the hunt for food and water, not to mention keeping away from predators.
What size hamster wheel should I purchase?
When it comes to deciding what kind of wheel you should purchase, size should be a big factor in helping to decide which one to purchase. It needs to be a size where they feel comfortable running on it. Their back must be competely straight. If their back arches it an cause them problems in later life. So here is the minimum wheel size that each variety of pet hamster should ideally have.
Russian Campbell Dwarf Hamsters
A typical wild Campbell’s dwarf hamster is 13.5 mm (0.53 in) long, with a tail length of 5 mm (0.20 in). They need a wheel of a minimum size of 165cm in diameter but an ideal size is around 200mm.
Robo’s grow to between 45–50 milimeters in body length.
They need a wheel of a minimum size of 16.5cm in diameter.
They grow to between 82 and 127 mm in body length. They need a wheel diameter of a minimum 200mm in diameter.
Syrian’s grow to between 82 and 127 mm in body length. They need a wheel diameter of a minimum 200mm in diameter for a small Syrian but an ideal size for an adult is around 270mm.
Winter White Dwarf hamsters
They tend to grow to between 70 to 90 millimetres in length. They need a wheel of a minimum size of 165mm in diameter but an ideal size is around 200mm
Different types of hamster wheel
Here are some different examples of hamster wheel that are available on the market. The following were picked from Amazon.com for convenience.
- Protects the spine due to ideal wheel size .
- Particularly smooth motion and quiet. Solid running surface not rungs with lateral reinforcements for better grip.
- Safety stand and closed rear wall prevent the animal getting caught.
- Free standing or hanging on the cage wall.
- Small 20cm for dwarf hamsters or large 28cm for Syrian’s and Chinese hamsters.
- The flying saucer is a shallow bowl that rotates or is concaved and set to a horizontal angle and the hamster will run on the rim of a disc.
- They can run on the rim of the disc in a similar way to running in hamster wheels.
- protects the spine due to flat running surface
- particularly smooth motion and quiet
- non-slip thanks to grid structure
- sturdy base
- A basic plastic type of hamster wheel
- Comes in 140mm and 180mm sizes
- The problem with this model is that the smallest is too small even for dwarf’s and largest would not Syrian’s or Chinese hamster.
- Made of natural wood, incl. stand
- For animal wellfare
- Smooth running
- Anti slip surface prevents injuries
- Comes in sizes of 200mm or 300mm diameter, so a good size for syrian’s or chinese. Dwarfs could use it as well.
- Small-meshed grid provides particularly pleasant walking comfort
- Safety stand to prevent jamming of the animal between the running wheel and frame
- Comes in either 220mm or 280mm sizes
- Assorted colours
- There is a risk that a hamster could get their paws stuck in the mesh.
- It is also said that this type of wheel can cause bumpfoot, which is where a swollen lump will grow on their foot from running on the mesh.
Think about a wheel before you buy a cage
Because the size of the wheel is important for the health of a hamster, its important to take this into consideration before buying a cage.
A lot of pet stores will attempt to sell cages and wheels that are much too small, especially for a syrian hamster.
So do bear in mind that when you buy a cage.
If getting a Syrian hamster for example, consider whether cage can house a wheel of around 280mm diameter. This is what they need to feel comfortable.
Why isn’t a hamster using its wheel?
Here are some reasons whey a hamster may not be using its wheel.
- It may be too small for them. Having the wrong size wheel can cause all kinds of problems for a hamster in old age as they are having to arch their back in order to use it such as general back pains, arthritis and even spinal deformities. Some hamsters may still use a wheel that is too small for them, but others will just not use it as it is too uncomfortable. Go for the largest wheel possible when looking to purchase one.
- They may not be bothered to use it. Lazy hamsters are a thing and it is possible that a hamster may not be interested in being active. This is actually fine, although do observe them and ensure that it isn’t an illness which has afflicted them that is causing this. If you suspect that you hamster may just be lazy, it might be worth getting them checked over by a vet to ensure that this the case.
- The design of the wheel. The wheel design may be uncomfortable to them. Mesh and barbed wheels are painful for them as they put pressure on their feet which can cause problems to their feet and limbs. They can also catch their feet in the holes as well. A solid floored wheel is the best option.
- They may be using it when you’re not around. There is a possibility that your hamster may be not using it in your vicinity, such as that they have a silent wheel in use
- The claws of your hamster. If they have claws that have grown too long this can affect their running and make it painful for them to do so. This can be easily remedied by trimming their nails to a more reasonable size.
- It may not like a wheel. A hamster may just not like using the wheel. It may prefer other types of exercise. Just make sure that they are getting other forms of exercise to compensate for this to ensure that they are getting what they need.
- Different types of wheel, such as flying saucers can take increase the uncertainty of a hamster to using a wheel. They will gradually become acclimatized to it but it may take longer than using a standard wheel. It is worth having a standard wheel for them to use as well, if you have a flying saucer.
- The wheel may be too loud for them. There are hamsters that have personalities that are quite touchy, and a wheel that is too loud will put them off using it. If the hamster wheel is too loud and you find that your hamster isnt using it, it might be worth investing in a wheel like the silent spinner which won’t make so much noise. Another thing you can do is to add some oil to the spindle axel and that should do the job.
Tips for getting a hamster to use a wheel
Taking all the above into account, here are some tips for getting your hamster to use a wheel.
- Make sure that the wheel is large enough for your hamster. The larger the better.
- Change the wheel.
- Trim their nails
- Make sure it is comfortable for them
- Make sure it is quietened by oiling the axel and so doesn’t squeak.
- Try out different types of wheel to see which they prefer.
What other animals can use a hamster wheel
It’s not just hamsters that can use wheels. Other animals can use them as well such as;
- be wary of metal rungs
- be wary of wheels that are metal mesh
- dwarf sizes minimum 160mm, but an adult will need around 200mm.
- syrian hamster minimum sizes 200mm, an adult need around 270mm.
- The bigger the wheel, the better it is for them.
- Small hamsters can run on big wheels too.
- Flat surfaces are definatly better for them to run on.
Sources and further reading and viewing
Erins animals: An excellent video on helping your hamster to use a wheel.
Amazon.co.uk: Various wheels available for sale. Useful reviews as well from previous buyers.