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Why Do Hamsters Run On Wheels?

Last Updated: 27.02.20


You just brought a little furry friend home, and you know that he or she needs hamster food, but also a cage with a wheel. A common question that people ask when they get a hamster for the first time is why these rodents need to run on wheels. For the little critters, that’s great exercise, and you should make sure that your pet gets plenty of it.


Why is a wheel a necessity?

If you look at various hamster cages, you will notice that there are plenty of models that come with wheels included. In case they don’t have one, or you get a simple cage that does not directly cater to the specific needs of hamsters, you should know that a wheel should be on top of the list for the next shopping session you do for your new pet.

The first thing you should know is that a wheel is pretty much an essential addition to any hamster cage, as these little animals need to exercise plenty. They are great runners, and it is impossible for them to get the same amount of exercise when locked inside a cage than when they are in the wild.

Did you know that hamsters can run for miles every night in their natural environment? Just imagine this little bundle of energy locked in a cage. To compensate for the lack of room inside the cage, you should consider buying a wheel instead.

How many miles can a hamster run on a wheel?

You would be surprised what impressive distances hamsters can cover when they run on the little wheel installed inside his or her cage. According to studies, hamsters can run up to five miles without the need to stop, so, if you notice your little one running continuously for hours that shouldn’t come as a big surprise.


Hamsters can get fat

You might not be aware of this fact, but hamsters can end up having weight problems if they remain stuck in their little cages with not enough room to move. Also, they might not miss exercise if they don’t have the means to perform it, but they end up overeating and getting fat.

Combating problems associated with being overweight in your hamster, just as it’s the case with people, is related to diet and exercise. However, you can’t cut the food you feed your hamster too much, for the simple reason that it can be quite challenging to manage a healthy diet in this manner.

Instead, consider getting a wheel for your hamster’s cage. Also, if there are tubes and platforms on which the hamster can play, there will be nothing for you to worry about in regards to your pet becoming overweight.


It is an enjoyable activity for hamsters

While it is true that this type of exercise is an excellent opportunity for hamsters to move their little feet and stay fit and healthy, you should know that they also enjoy it quite tremendously. In the wild, they spend a lot of time exploring and foraging for food, and since such activities are not possible when locked in a cage, a wheel and other toys can provide a welcome distraction.

Other benefits of hamster wheels you might not know about

Wheels provide the means for exercise, and they replace the need to explore, but there are other benefits of these hamster toys that you might not be aware of. For instance, it has been noticed that hamsters with plenty of activity won’t feel as tempted to gnaw on the grates of the cage.

Also, female hamsters tend to give births to more babies if they are fit and healthy, due to all the running on a wheel they do every day.


Are there different types of hamster wheels?

In case you want to purchase a hamster wheel separately, you should know that there are plenty of options to choose from. For instance, you will find some made of metal and others made of plastic. Naturally, the first variety tends to be more reliable and durable.

There is, however, something about metal wheels that’s not so great. Because they are made with rungs and not from a single sheet of metal, they can pose some serious danger to your hamster. When they run at fast speeds, hamsters might find their little feet getting caught in the rungs, thus injuring themselves.

Because plastic wheels don’t have rungs or gaps, such dangers are eliminated, and that’s a good reason for you to consider plastic instead of metal when you shop around for a wheel to install inside your hamster’s cage.


Does the size of the wheel matter?

In brief, yes. You should not get a very large wheel if your pet is not very big. Experts recommend getting 6.5-inch wheels for dwarf hamsters, and 8-inch wheels for Syrian hamsters and other large species.

Keep in mind that just as a large wheel can be uncomfortable for a small hamster, a wheel that is too small will create serious problems. When they run, hamsters need to keep their backs straight so that they can stretch their legs properly. Without being able to do that, due to lack of space, they will tend to arch their backs, and, in time, that will harm their health.

That’s also a good idea about testing different wheels. In case you see that your hamster tends to arch his or her back while running on the wheel, that’s a good sign that the wheel is too small and it needs to be replaced.

Is running on a wheel dangerous in any way?

Some concerns should be addressed, seeing how some people may feel tempted to believe that running on a wheel is remote from running in the wild, so the hamsters might suffer. However logical this train of thought may seem, the studies conducted on different types of mice contradict it.

What did the studies show? Mainly, the experiment carried by scientists consisted of placing wheels in the wild and see how mice would react to them. The surprising effect was that mice climbed on the respective wheels on their own accord and ran on them, most probably, for pleasure!

If you may think that such things were a mere coincidence and the mice just got stuck on the wheels and began running, the scientific studies will say the opposite once more. A study carried by scientists in the Netherlands involved the placement of wheels inside a monitored area, with places for entering and exiting easy to access.

The experiment in question lasted for three years, during which more than 200,000 video fragments were collected. If there was any doubt that mice liked to run on wheels, that had to disappear with the conclusion of this study.

On multiple occasions, the animals that came to play with the wheels ran on them for a while, got down from them, and then returned. Therefore, you don’t have to worry that your hamster might have a severe case of neurosis by running on his or her wheel too much. For your pet, that’s real happiness.


Other things you should know about hamster wheels

As long as the wheels don’t have gaps and moving parts, your hamster is safe. One thing that you might not be happy to hear about these toys is that they can be noisy. Since hamsters like to run on their wheels at nighttime, if you have a noisy wheel, you will know as you will wake up in the middle of the night, wondering what is going on.

To combat this problem, just place the hamster cage in a room where the noise caused by the wheel won’t be a problem. Or replace the wheel with a better model. Just don’t deprive your pet of his or her exercise as that can lead to health problems.




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Irina Ionescu

As a long-term learner and animal lover, Irina helps her readers find the best products and accessories for their pets, as well as the latest training techniques, tips & tricks on how to handle animals.

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