Is Your Hamster Addicted to its Running Wheel?

Hamsters are naturally active animals and require a lot of exercise. This can be in the form of running on the wheel, through tunnels, up and down ladders, and burrowing through the bedding in their home. Ideally, it should be allowed activity outside its cage –that is, to explore other areas of your home. This must be done under careful supervision, or in a hamster ball (also under supervision). Limit access around the home to even flooring and wide-open spaces; hamster ball activity should not be near staircases as your hamster may tumble down and sustain serious injury.
By Pets Team
Published on Thursday, 28 October 2010

This can be in the form of running on the wheel, through tunnels, up and down ladders, and burrowing through the bedding in their home. Ideally, it should be allowed activity outside its cage –that is, to explore other areas of your home. This must be done under careful supervision, or in a hamster ball (also under supervision). Limit access around the home to even flooring and wide-open spaces; hamster ball activity should not be near staircases as your hamster may tumble down and sustain serious injury.

There are several reasons why your hamster has become addicted to excessive running:

Natural Instinct

Hamsters in the wild are known to run for miles in search of food. Domestic hamsters are no different and can run up to 8km a night. This natural activity can become problematic if your active hamster has no other way to spend its energy.

Boredom

Being confined in a small cage all day can make your hamster restless. So it will take to running on the wheel. Rather than removing the wheel, you can let it run about outside its cage – under supervision.

High energy diet

Hamsters eat a variety of foods such as sunflower seeds that are high in energy content. These foods make them hyperactive and they take to running on the wheel to burn off excess energy.

No other toys

If the exercise wheel is the only “equipment” in the cage, it is likely that your hamster will suffer from wheel addiction. Provide a wide selection of toys such as tunnels, ladders, and toys for it to burrow, climb, skip, or just chew.

What problems may occur if your hamster is addicted to running on the exercise wheel?

Feet sores and blisters

Excessive running on the wheel can cause sores and blisters on your hamster’s feet. This is especially so if the wheel has metal rungs or wire mesh. A way to fix this is to thread a piece of cardboard through the rungs or paste duct tape on both sides of the wheel so that the surfaces are more comfortable for your hamster’s feet.

Exhaustion

Needless to say, excessive running will lead to physical exhaustion. This may lead to dehydration or hyperthermia if your hamster does not get enough water after intense exercise. Without proper hydration, your hamster may collapse and this may even be fatal.

Neglecting baby hamsters

In some cases, a mother hamster may completely abandon her babies to run on the wheel. When she finally tires of the wheel, her babies may already be too dehydrated or hypothermic to be saved. To avoid this, you may want to remove the wheel entirely, or only provide it when you can watch over her. Limit her exercise to about 5-10 minutes (timing may vary) or stop when you notice the babies getting uncomfortable.

What else can I do to prevent hamster wheel addiction?

If your hamster is caged up for most of the day, you may consider buying a bigger cage (or with split levels) so that it has more room to roam. Provide toys to divert its attention away from the wheel. Toys such as tunnels, tubes, and ladders will make for a very stimulating environment for your hamster.

To cater to their natural instincts as food foragers, you can scatter its food about the cage such as under its bedding and on different levels of the cage. This will force your hamster to “work” for its food and burn off some energy in the process.

Being confined in a small cage all day can make your hamster restless. So it will take to running on the wheel. Rather than removing the wheel, you can let it run about outside its cage – under supervision.

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