Why Doesn’t My Hamster Use Its Wheel?

First, we’re happy that you purchased a wheel for your hamster. Hamsters need a lot of exercise, and the easiest way is for them to go for a run on a hamster wheel. 

Yes, they may want to disturb your sleep by running 6 miles at 2 am, but their health depends on it. So, you’ll have to let them off for being loud!

Hamsters, like humans, have their own personalities. One hamster may love to use their wheel, whereas another might not be as bothered. We all know an avid runner, and we all know a couch potato, too. 

However, if your hamster has never shown interest in its wheel or suddenly stopped using it, perhaps something else is going on.

But before we look at why your hamster isn’t using its wheel, let’s first understand why they use them in the first place.

Why do Hamsters Use Exercise Wheels?

Why do hamsters use exercise wheels? Well, there are a bunch of reasons, and here they are:

  • Maintain body weight
  • General exercise
  • Play
  • The instinct to migrate as if they were in the wild
  • Exploration
  • Hormone release
  • Adrenal activity
  • Wanting to escape
  • Stress

So, a hamster uses its wheel mainly to maintain its wellbeing. Running around keeps them happy and healthy. But what if they’re not using it?

Reasons Your Hamster Isn’t Using Its Wheel

If you’ve noticed your hamster isn’t interested in its wheel, there are a range of reasons for this. Some have simple solutions, while others may require a visit to the vet. 

Let’s take a look at why your hamster isn’t using its wheel.

Your Hamster Is Getting Old

You may be thinking, well, my hamster is only a year and a half old. Unfortunately, hamsters don’t have very long lifespans. 2- 4 years is the average, so if your hamster is approaching 18 months, they’re entering old age.

So, if your hamster used to be active on their wheel but slowed down as time passed, this is most likely the reason. It’s also nothing to worry about.

Your hamster getting older is natural, and their activity level slowing down is also natural. But what if your hamster is still young and spritely? There could be another reason they’re not using their wheel.

The Wheel Is the Wrong Size

Hamsters come in all shapes and sizes, and so do hamster wheels. If your hamster wheel is too small, it can be uncomfortable for them. A small wheel can cause your hamster’s back to bend unnaturally, which can be painful. So, you want a wheel that allows them to keep their back straight.

Likewise, if the wheel is too big, they may have trouble turning it properly. Not getting the wheel going can deter your hamster from using it. So, this may be why your hamster isn’t using its wheel. 

Therefore, try changing the size of your hamster wheel and see if it gets them running again. Always opt for a wheel on the larger side, as a small wheel can hurt your hamster.

Other Wheel Issues

Your hamster’s wheel being the wrong size isn’t the only possible issue. Here are some other things to look out for.

Is the wheel jammed?

Checking if your hamster wheel is jammed should be one of the first things you look for. Jamming is common with silent spinner wheels. If it’s not spinning correctly, consider buying a new one.

Wire mesh bottom

If your wheel has a wire mesh bottom, it may be hurting your hamster’s feet. If it’s painful to run on, this may be why your hamster isn’t using its wheel. Exchange it for a wheel with a solid bottom and see if things change.

Wheel damage

The wheel may be damaged. If so, try some at-home fixes or purchase a new one.

Noisy wheel

Although the least common issue with hamster wheels, your hamster may be stressed out by the noise it makes. If the wheel is overly loud, consider switching it for a silent wheel. 

Nutrition Problems

It’s vital that you feed your hamster a balanced diet. Without proper nutrition, your hamster can feel lethargic and may not fancy going for a run.

Check our hamster food guide to ensure you’re feeding your hamster everything it needs.

Your Hamster Doesn’t Like Running

As we’ve already established, not all humans enjoy running. Hamsters can be the same. Even though they’re known to love running, it doesn’t mean they will.

If your hamster isn’t using its wheel, perhaps it simply prefers to use tunnels and tubes in its cage. Or they may love to crawl all over you or run around in a hamster ball.

As long as your hamster is happy and healthy, its preference for not using its wheel isn’t an issue. 

Injury or Illness

We know you don’t want to hear this, but there is a possibility that your hamster is injured or sick. If this is the case, you’ve probably already noticed some signs and symptoms.

Hopefully, it’s one of the above reasons with a simple fix. But if you think your hamster is sick, this is a reason your hamster may not be using its wheel. 

Here are some signs that your hamster is sick:

  • Runny nose
  • Wet tail
  • Diarrhoea
  • Discharge
  • Lethargic
  • Uninterested in food or water

Here are some signs your hamster is injured:

  • Cuts or scrapes on their body
  • Bloodstains around the cage
  • Not putting weight on a particular leg
  • Squeaking when they walk

We recommend taking your hamster to the vet if you spot any of these signs. It’s always best to get a proper diagnosis to treat your hamster accordingly. 

Why Your Hamster Doesn’t Use Its Wheel

From wheel size and damage to poor nutrition and personal preference, there are many reasons your hamster may not use its wheel.

If your hamster is simply ageing or prefers not to use its hamster wheel, there’s nothing to worry about. 
The most important thing is to know your hamster and understand when their behaviour changes. Look out for signs of illness and injury, and always seek professional care if they’re under the weather.