Hamsters are born to run and providing them with a safe hamster wheel (also known as running wheels) gives them the opportunity to do just that. In the wild, hamsters will travel several miles each night in search of food. Some hamsters in captivity have been reported to run up to eight kilometers a night on their hamster wheels, making them a necessity for all hamsters.
Hamster Wheel Surfaces
The best kind of hamster wheel has a solid surface that either attaches to the side of the cage or comes on a stand. These wheels are typically plastic and may be flat or shaped like half of a tube. Solid surface wheels are better than wire wheels because little feet and legs can get injured between the wires, plus they are easier to clean than the metal options.
Hamsters are nocturnal so they will be using their wheels quite a bit at night while you try to sleep. Some brands are marketed as being quieter than others. If you get a squeaky wheel, just place a few drops of vegetable oil where the wheel spins.
Sizes of Wheels
The size of your hamster wheel depends on the size of your full-grown hamster. Your hamster should be able to run in the wheel without its back arching too much (if at all), but if the wheel is too big, your hamster will have a difficult time actually running and moving the wheel. If given a choice, a hamster will choose a larger wheel over a smaller wheel, with a 14-inch diameter wheel being a favorite size according to some preference tests.
- Wodent Wheel: A popular, ASPCA-approved wheel. The wheel is free standing and the unique front is semi-solid with holes for access (but also susceptible to being chewed).
- Silent Spinner: This wheel is available in three sizes. It uses ball bearings for quiet operation and can be used standing free or attached to the cage bars.
- Comfort Wheel: The Comfort Wheel comes in a few sizes and can be used as a free-standing wheel or attached to the cage.
- Flying Saucer: This isn't your typical hamster wheel. It's a plastic, angled saucer that spins and provides a running surface as opposed to an enclosed wheel.
The following wheels expand your hamsters modular home by attaching externally. However, these wheels have the same problems as plastic modular cages—they are poorly ventilated (so your hamster could potentially overheat) and are difficult to clean. Most people will have to completely disassemble the cage on a regular basis or use baby bottle brushes to clean these wheels and the rest of the tubes in the cage.
- CritterTrail Snap-On Comfort Wheel: This is an enclosed wheel that attaches to the side of CritterTrail system cages as well as CritterTrail Fun-nel tubes. It is a fairly small wheel and is not recommended for Syrian and other larger hamsters.
- S.A.M. Workout Wheel: This wheel is compatible with S.A.M. cage systems. It attaches to the outside of the cage and is only suitable for dwarf hamsters due to its small size.
- CritterTrail X Exercise Wheel: This is a unique-looking wheel from CritterTrail that attaches via a Fun-nel tube. It is a smaller wheel so just like the other modular cage wheel options, it is best suited for a dwarf hamster.
Hamster balls for exercise outside of the cage are popular options for pet hamsters but they should not be considered a substitute for a hamster wheel. These are available as a simple ball, a wheel shape that propels a car frame, and other novelty shapes. There is also a track system that you can set up to keep your hamster's movements contained. Be careful not to leave a hamster in one of these balls for too long or they may overheat (15 to 20 minutes at a time is plenty) and get messy if they urinate and/or defecate in them. Also, be sure to never use them around stairs.