If you are thinking of adopting a pet hamster, the best thing you can do is educate yourself to meet its needs. Apart from their diet, their water intake, and the environment they prefer, a wheel in their cage is of vital importance to them. But why is a running wheel so necessary for hamsters?
Hamsters, by nature, are animals that need to be physically active. Running is suitable for hamsters because it releases endorphins and helps them stay healthy, preventing obesity or other similar diseases. When they are in the cage, the wheel is essential equipment for carrying out the activity.
Here we will explain why hamsters need a wheel to run if it is possible that they can run too much and how to stop your hamster from running on his wheel.
Do Hamsters Need a Wheel?
Hamsters do need a wheel. They must carry out their daily exercise activity. If you do not have a wheel, it can produce intense stress, causing the hamsters’ defenses to drop and be more likely to suffer from diseases. Also, stress causes them to become aggressive and violent. If your pet is hostile, it deprives you of petting them, playing with them, or even putting your hand in the cage to give them food because they could bite you.
Stress is commonly triggered when hamsters feel unsafe in their habitat or are surrounded by a lot of noise. Some situations that can cause them stress are:
- Sudden and rough movements
- Grabbing them violently
- A hostile environment
- A dirty and unhygienic cage
- Neglecting the diet of the hamster
How Do I Know If My Hamster Is Stressed?
If you want to know if your hamster is stressed, here are some signs that you can guide yourself by:
- Unusual habits
If your hamster is stressed, he may engage in unusual actions, such as constantly crawling, rolling over, grooming himself excessively. Or even some more extreme movements such as chewing on the bars of his cage.
Stressed hamsters are hardly calm and collected in their cage. They may outrun, climb their bars, be more alert than usual, or limit their hours of sleep. If they don’t have a way to release that stress, the hamster can begin to destroy its cage.
When a hamster is stressed, it tends to be more defensive and reactive than usual. You should avoid approaching the hamster if the rodent is in an attack pose, that is: with the ears back, showing the teeth, and growling slightly. An aggressive hamster can harm other animals, their owners, or themselves.
- Loss of hair
Hair loss can happen for two reasons, both of which are caused by stress. One is that the hair naturally begins to fall out due to a tense environment in which the hamster is constantly exposed. The other one is because an abnormal scratching can cause it to tear off its fur, revealing gaps of skin.
- Noises coming from hamster
Hamsters are generally quiet and calm animals. Therefore, if you start to hear small snorts, whines, growls, or any sound that comes from them, it is a sign that your pet may be stressed.
- Excessive salivation
A physical response to stress can be an excessive production of saliva. It can also be an indication of anxiety, fear, or nervousness.
Suppose you want to reduce the stress level of your hamster. In that case, you can check if your pet has suitable toys that stimulate its mental capacity, a well-equipped cage with food and drinks. In extreme cases, take your pet to the vet for a medical check-up and recommendations.
How to Choose a Good Running Wheel for Your Hamster
Due to the great use that hamsters put to exercise wheels, some factors are necessary when buying equipment for your pet:
- Look to buy a silent wheel. Remember that hamsters are nocturnal animals, and if you are a light sleeper, it is likely to be uncomfortable to wake up to a squeak of metal.
- Test that the wheel is stable. This tool is where your pet will spend a large part of its time, and to avoid an accident or that it falls out of place, it is better to try the wheel that you will buy.
- Look at the wheel. If it has small holes or alterations, find another one. Hamsters’ feet are tiny, and they run very fast, so they can get injured if they trip over a metal gap or if their leg falls into a hole.
- Invest in a good running wheel. It is better to make a more significant financial effort once than to buy several wheels in a year. Please find the best quality for your pet and invest in it. The running wheels are made of various materials. Avoid hard materials, like metal, and focus on finding softer materials to the touch, like plastic.
Can a Hamster Run Too Much on a Wheel?
Yes, hamsters can run too much on a wheel, and it has its consequences:
- Blisters and sore feet
Due to the metal in the running wheel, it can hurt your pet barefoot. One way to solve this problem is by covering the metal surface with some cardboard and fixing it with masking tape. In this way, your hamster’s feet will be more protected, and you will avoid future injuries.
One of the most evident consequences of excess running is physical exhaustion. Make sure you hydrate your pet well and provide the appropriate environment for it to rest. Hamsters are nocturnal animals, so avoid excessive noise in the morning so your pet can get proper rest.
- Neglecting other priorities
When your hamster runs too much on its wheel, it may neglect other activities like eating, drinking water, or even sleeping. In some cases, mothers even abandon their children and do not take care of them while they are on the wheel. To avoid this, consider buying them other toys and limiting wheel time.
How Do I Stop My Hamster From Running on His Wheel?
If you think that your hamster uses its running wheel excessively, you could buy him other toys or get him a bigger cage. Some recommended toys for hamsters are those where they can crawl, climb, jump, or even chew. You can also let your hamster run out of its cage, as long as it is under supervision.
Nevertheless, it is not recommended to remove the wheel from its cage, as it can cause stress, obesity, aggressiveness, or some related disease. Always seek to add forms of entertainment to your pet, not to limit them.
The running wheel is essential for your hamster. Without it, the hamster could fall into physical or mental illness. If you think your hamster spends too much time running, you can consider equipping your pet’s cage with other toys to release its energy.
Remember to be aware of your pet’s behaviors. If you neglect it, you may be ignoring clear signs that your hamster is not comfortable in its environment. An upset hamster in its cage can provoke lethal reactions in itself.
Another recommendation for your hamster to stop running on the wheel could be to spread its food in the cage or hide it in small piles in separate spaces. In this way, your pet could continue to consume energy while having fun looking for his food.
Don’t forget that a hamster can run up to 8 kilometers a day in a wild environment. If you want to compensate for that accumulated energy, it is vital to let them exercise, play, and run.
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Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.