Hamsters are either asleep or very active. So you must give your hamster an exercise wheel so it can exercise daily by running. Take great care in purchasing the hamster wheel — your hamster’s safety is at stake. Follow these exercise safety guidelines, which are similar to the safety guidelines to the hamster exercise ball.
- Use a solid-bottom wheel with no crossbars. In a “wire wheel” (a wheel with separated metal bars) hamsters’ legs tend to fall through the rungs and get badly scraped. Untreated, these injuries can become infected. Most wire wheels also have crossbars, which can act like a guillotine if the hamster becomes caught between the bar and the wheel stand. This is especially dangerous with dwarf hamsters, which live in pairs and small groups. If one hamster is running in the wheel and another hamster tries to enter, the result can be disastrous.
- If you’ve already purchased a wire exercise wheel and don’t want to discard it, you can make it much safer. Simply weave a strip of cardboard, the width of the wheel, through the rungs. Heavy fabric or soft-drink-bottle plastic can also be used. Essentially you’re making the wire exercise wheel into a solid-bottom one, and that will make it almost completely safe.
- An adult Syrian hamster requires a wheel with a diameter of no less than 7½ inches. Less than this and the hamster will have to arch its back when it runs, which can cause permanent debilitation.
- Physics not being their strongest subject, hamsters are unaware that when running in an exercise wheel, what they leave behind will come around and meet them head-on. This is a gentle way of saying that your hamster will urinate and defecate while running in its exercise wheel. So while a solid-bottom exercise wheel is the only safe wheel, it can also become a very dirty place. Keep the wheel as clean as possible by washing it thoroughly at least once a week.
- Hamsters run at night, and exercise wheels can make noise. It’s safe to put a tiny dab of vegetable oil on the axle at the points of contact. Don’t use too much, as oil attracts dust and dirt, and can become rancid over time. Reliable alternatives are candle wax, paraffin, and even plumber’s Teflon tape, which can be found at any hardware store. Just twist a bit around the wheel’s axle and it should help keep things running smoothly.
Excerpt from the Popular Critters Series magabook Hamsters with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Hamsters here.