Hamster Wheels: Why your hamster needs a wheel

Hamster running in a wheel

A hamster wheel is a popular addition to many hamster cages. But why do hamsters run on wheels? What types of hamster wheels are available? And should you get a hamster wheel for your furry friend?

Why do hamsters run on wheels?

In the wild, a hamster can run for several miles in a single night. This is their natural behaviour and fantastic exercise to help keep them fit and healthy.

When trapped inside a cage, hamsters are not able to run very far, which can have serious negative consequences for their health.

Fortunately, there is a solution that will keep your hamster healthy and happy without the need to let them loose to run free. The answer is to give your hamster a wheel.

Using a hamster wheel, your pet can run surprisingly long distances without ever having to leave home. Some pet hamsters have been known to run more than 5 miles in a single night!

There are several benefits to providing a hamster wheel.

  • Running is great exercise for your hamster, which means they’re more likely to stay fit and healthy and not get too fat!
  • Hamsters enjoy running, as it goes some way towards replacing exploring, which they would do in the wild. 
  • Exercise makes a hamster less stressed, which helps to avoid stress related illnesses, such as Wet Tail.
  • Hamsters with wheels will gnaw on their cage less.
  • Female hamsters with wheels even give birth to more pups per litter than those without!

What kind of wheels are available?

You can buy metal or plastic hamster wheels. And both types have their own pros and cons.

Metal wheels are likely to last longer than plastic hamster wheels. Metal is a stronger material than plastic so the wheels are much less likely to get damaged by hamsters chewing on them.

However, metal hamster wheels are usually made with rungs rather than as one solid piece. Hamster legs are quite fragile and can easily get injured if they fall through the gaps between these rungs.

Plastic hamster wheels are often made from one solid piece of plastic. This is safer for the hamster, as there are no gaps for their legs to fall through.

How big should a hamster wheel be?

It’s really important that you don’t use a hamster wheel that is too small for your pet. The larger a wheel is, the less the hamster has to arch its back and the more similar it is to running on flat ground in the wild.

Running with an arched back is very bad for a hamster’s health. If you ever see your hamster arching their back while running then you should buy a larger hamster wheel for them as soon as possible.

Syrian hamster wheel size

We recommend a minimum wheel size of 8 inches for Syrian hamsters.

Dwarf hamster wheel size

For Dwarf and Roborovski hamsters, we’d suggest getting a hamster wheel that is at least 6 inches in diameter.

Of course, for all types of hamster, bigger wheels are better. You should try to buy your hamster as big a wheel as possible. The main limiting factor may be the size of their cage, so do take care to measure carefully before purchasing and remember to take the size of the wheel’s stand into account too.

Are hamster wheels noisy?

Hamsters are often active at night, so if your hamster wheel is noisy, you’ll probably be disturbed by their running just when you want to sleep!

It’s true that hamster wheels can sometimes be noisy, though this isn’t always the case and the noise varies from wheel to wheel.

Although it may be tempting to avoid putting a hamster wheel in your hamster’s cage – or to remove it if it gets too loud – this is definitely not a good idea. A hamster wheel is important to your hamster’s physical and psychological health.

Instead, think carefully about where you place your hamster cage. Can you put it in a room that is far away from where you sleep?

Also, when purchasing a hamster wheel, look for one that claims to run silently. It’s worth paying a bit extra to get a quiet wheel rather than a noisy one!

If you can still hear your hamster’s wheel spinning, try adding a bit of olive oil where the wheel meets the spindle. This should lubricate the joints of the wheel and reduce squeaking and rattling.

Which is the best hamster wheel?

In our experience, having used many different hamster wheels for a number of types of hamster, the best hamster wheel available today is the Wodent Wheel Senior.

We love this wheel for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, it’s big! The Wodent Wheel Senior is an 11 inch hamster wheel. That’s massive!

And as we’ve explained already, a big wheel is important to stop your hamster developing back problems. The size of the Wodent Wheel Senior means your hamster won’t have to arch their back as they run.

Secondly, it’s almost silent. A lot of hamster wheels can squeak and rattle as your hamster runs. This can be particularly annoying when your hamster decides to run throughout the night. While no wheel will ever be completely silent, the Wodent Wheel Senior is the quietest hamster wheel we’ve ever found.

Thirdly, it has a closed design, which helps protect your hamster from injury. The rim of the wheel is solid, so their legs or tail won’t fall through any gaps, and the sides of the wheel are mostly solid too, which reduces the danger of the hamster falling out sideways.

Finally, the Wodent Wheel Senior comes ready assembled and is built well, from good strong materials.

The Wodent Wheel Senior isn’t the cheapest hamster wheel available. But, in our opinion, it’s well worth the cost.

Remember: It’s important to consider the size of your hamster when choosing a wheel. Only buy a wheel that is right for your particular hamster, and that fits safely into your hamster’s cage. 

Hamster ball
You may also want to consider getting a hamster ball to help your hamster exercise.

Hamster saucers vs hamster wheels

As well as hamster wheels, you may also have heard of hamster saucers.

Hamster saucers are spinning discs that the hamster can climb on top of and run around.

You can see a hamster saucer in action in this video.

Like a wheel, a hamster saucer allows your pet to have some fun and get some exercise, without having to leave the safety of their cage.

This can often leave new hamster owners wondering whether it’s best to give their hamster a wheel or a saucer.

Our answer is that a hamster wheel is a must-have item, whereas a saucer is optional.

If you want to have a hamster saucer in your hamster’s cage then by all means feel free to buy one. But you should still provide them with a wheel too.