Can A Hamster Survive Without A Wheel?

By Dawn | Hamster Care
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One of the first things that you think to purchase when adopting a pet hamster, aside from its cage, is a wheel. These pieces of equipment are a staple part of the setup for these little animals but have you ever wondered if a hamster can survive without a wheel?

If you do not provide a hamster with a wheel, it will undoubtedly survive, but won’t necessarily be very happy. Hamsters love to run, and this is a great way for them to exercise, so it’s really important that they have a wheel.

But there are lots of things that you need to think about when choosing a wheel for your hamster, as well as understanding more about their need to remain active. Let’s take a closer look.

Why Do Hamsters Need A Wheel?

Did you know that in the wild, a hamster will spend much of its time running during the night? 

These are nocturnal animals, and they come out at night to feed and exercise. It is not uncommon for these tiny creatures to run a few miles every night; they’re certainly getting in their 10,000 steps!

However, when they are kept in captivity, hamsters do not have anywhere near the amount of space that they have in the wild. 

In fact, it is recommended that hamsters have at least 450 square inches of floor space in their enclosure, which, when you think about it, is not very much at all. 

That being said, pet owners are unlikely to have the space for anything much bigger, so a hamster wheel is the next best thing.

Without this essential piece of exercise equipment, your hamster will not be able to stay as active as it should, and this can cause problems for their health

Of course, there is the option of exercising your hamster outside of the cage, but the amount of space it would need would mean that you would have to have your hamster out a lot. 

One of the main problems with this is that since your pet will be most active at night, you’d need to find somewhere for it to exercise during the hours of darkness. 

This simply is not practical. Not only this, but having your pet out of the enclosure so frequently could cause your hamster to get lost or injured.

There is no doubt that installing a wheel in the cage is the best way to provide your pet with the exercise that it needs. 

But the benefits of using a hamster wheel do not end there; there are many other ways in which having this type of equipment will help your pet to thrive.

  • Access to exercise will prevent your hamster from becoming stressed and therefore developing conditions that come off the back of this, such as wet tail. 
  • Regular running will prevent your hamster from becoming obese; which can cause health problems. 
  • Hamsters that have a wheel are less likely to bar chew. 
  • If you are breeding hamsters, it is essential to have a wheel for the females, especially as this helps to remain healthy, and a healthy hamster is likely to have more pups and find pregnancy less stressful. 

What Type Of Wheel Should I Get?

No two hamsters are the same, just like us, they have their own unique personality, and the type of cage you have will also depend on the best type of hamster wheel. 

Of course, one of the first things you need to think about when choosing a wheel is the size of the hamster. 

Bigger species will need something more substantial, whereas dwarf hamsters can make do with a smaller wheel. 

For Syrian hamsters, the wheel should be at least eight inches in diameter. In contrast, a dwarf hamster would need a wheel that is at least six inches across. 

You might not think at first that the size of the wheel is a massive consideration, but the truth is that if the wheel is too small, it can cause problems for your pet. 

When hamsters have to use a wheel that is too small, this causes them to arch their back, which can be detrimental to their health. 

The idea of a wheel is to mimic the running that they would do in the wild, which is on flat ground. 

In the main, there are two types of the hamster wheel, plastic and metal. 

Plastic wheels tend to be safer since they are made from one solid piece of material, whereas metal wheels, although more durable, have holes that could trap your pet’s legs, so please stay away from those.

Can I Exercise My Hamster Another Way?

There are several ways that you can exercise your pet hamster, but the wheel is the best option. The hamster will have continued access to it and will not rely on you as much. 

Furthermore, this is the best way to replicate the way that they would run in the wild. 

That being said, if you want to, you could allow your pet out of the cage into an enclosed space for free-running. 

There are hamster balls, but it is known that these can cause stress to the animal and for that reason, I do not recommend them.

When you bring your hamster out of their cage, you could set up a ‘play area’ for them with tubes and boxes that they will love to climb over and run through. 

In the wild, hamsters love to explore and this is an excellent way to mimic that. 

Related Questions

Are hamster wheels noisy?

Yes, some hamsters wheels are noisy and may keep you awake at night but this shouldn’t mean that you take it out of the cage.  Instead, you should look at the location of the cage and move it away from you when you are trying to sleep; it’s a win-win for you and your pet. 

Why doesn’t my hamster use his wheel anymore?

As hamsters get older, they become less active and in a lot of cases, this can mean that they will stop using their wheel. This is not uncommon and unless it is accompanied by other symptoms or an injury, it is likely simply a case that your hamster is taking it easy in their old age. 

Why is my hamster sleeping in her wheel?

There are hamsters that will shun their bed in favor of sleeping in their wheel. Sometimes, this may simply be a case of preferring the wheel over the bed. However, this could also indicate that your hamster is not happy with the bed that you have provided. It might be too warm, or too cool or your hamster may not like the material you have used. Try changing it up and see if it makes a difference.