Anyone who’s owned a hamster (be it Syrian, Chinese Dwarf, Roborovski, Winter White or Campbell’s Dwarf) will tell you that the most important accessory for their small pet’s cage is their exercise wheel. This is because hamsters, and most other types of small pet, run excessive amounts on a daily basis. Despite the fact that we as humans are much larger than our small pet friends, they often cover more distance than us in their day to day lives. A hamster may run up to nine kilometers a night on their wheel. This begs the question, why do hamsters run so much?
It's All About Biology
A hamster’s desire to run is biologically programmed into it. They’ve evolved over thousands of years to be built for speed and distance. In the wild, a hamster will cover a large amount of space in search for sustenance. Their large cheek pouches allow them to carry up to 20% of their body weight in food. Thus, they go out and search for food to satiate them for today and tomorrow. Just as your pet hamster might run up to nine kilometers on their exercise wheel, a wild hamster can cover this distance in their search for food.
Diet’s A Factor Too
A hamster’s diet is rich in high energy food. This helps give them the strength they need to successfully forage in the wild. As a pet they have the same diet, but not the same need to forage. As a result, hamsters in captivity have lots of energy they need to burn. Their exercise wheel will be a go to accessory for them to use. However, they will also benefit from other toys to climb on and accessories to play with.
Picking Out the Right Wheel
Since your hamster is going to be running a lot every day, it’s important to supply them with the proper equipment. Dwarf Hamsters like the Roborovski, Winter White, and Campbell’s Dwarf Hamsters need wheels that are at least six and a half inches in diameter. Syrian Hamsters need a wheel that’s at least eight inches in diameter to run comfortably. If your hamster’s wheel is too small for them, they will have to arch their back to run. This is bad for their spine and can lead to long term health complications.
Time Outside the Cage is Good Too
Your hamster will also benefit from time outside their cage to run around and explore. The best way to do this is set up a safe space for them to free roam while closely monitoring them. However, if you don’t have the space for this you can use an exercise ball to let your hamster explore. Like with the exercise wheel, make sure the ball is large enough for your pet to roam comfortably.
As a pet, your hamster doesn’t have to worry about procuring food or finding water, but the need to run is still ingrained in them. As a result, the exercise wheel is the favorite toy of any hamster. A hamster without a wheel to run on will grow depressed and may even self-mutilate. They will also quickly gain weight as no wheel means no way to effectively exercise. So make sure your hamster has a sturdy wheel and give your small pet the life they deserve!