Q: My Roborovski hamster is really chubby—she weighs about 45g! I’ve been trying to get her to exercise, but she hates her wheel. Other than putting her on a diet, how can I get her to lose weight?

A: Your little hamster is indeed overweight. A healthy weight for an adult Roborovski should range from 25 to 35g. Being overweight can be a common problem for small critters like Roboroki hamsters, as it is very easy to overfeed these little ones. Their daily requirement for food is very small; less than ½ teaspoon of seeds and grains will suffice. We often pamper our hammies and feed them an abundance of treats that are high in sugar, flour-based ingredients and artificial colours—these all contribute to weight gain. Hence, treats should be given only twice weekly at most. Being overweight poses health hazards like heart problems, fatty liver diseases and joint pain in hamsters.

Exercise is vital for Roborovskis, which is not usually an issue for the breed because it’s extremely active and loves running. Research shows that a Roborovski hamster can run the distance of four human marathons! Take a closer look at your hamster’s running wheel to check that it’s the correct size. If the wheel is too big, your hamster will find a lot of difficulty gaining the right momentum to have a smooth run. If there are uneven surfaces on the inner surface of wheel, your hamster may not enjoy her run due to discomfort.

You can encourage your hamster to exercise by building a tunnel out of paper rolls. You may leave small bits of vegetables along the tunnel to give your hammy incentive to move and explore. Vegetables that are healthy and fat-free include cucumbers, celery, and the chopped stems and leaves of green vegetables. However, do monitor whether these vegetables cause diarrhoea in your hamster.

Using animal-safe, chemical- and colour-free ice cream sticks and glue, you may also build interesting and fun swings and climbing slides for your hamster. Another option is to purchase a running ball in which you can place your hamster, so she can freely and safely roam your house.