When you bought your hamster's exercise wheel and set it up, you might not have realized you would be listening to that wheel squeak all night every night as your pet runs on it. Many new hamster owners fail to realize exactly how active their new pets are and how crucial exercise is to the hamster's health.
In the wild, hamsters are active most of their waking time. It is completely normal for a hamster to spend the entire night running and gathering food and digging burrows. Like the wild hamster, while he has no need to spend hours hunting for food, your captive one is still biologically programmed to be energetic. Since your hamster is in a cage, he is unable to naturally scurry around and explore like he would in the wild. To get the exercise they need, most hamsters will run in an exercise wheel.
The Hamster Wheel
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a hamster can run six miles in a single night on his wheel. Make sure your hamster has a flat-surface wheel, without bars, so his feet cannot get caught between the rungs. Running keeps your hamster fit and healthy -- but the sound of the wheel going around and around can irritate you while you are trying to sleep. If the sound of the hamster wheel bothers you, move the cage to another room. Do not take your hamster's wheel away. Make sure he has plenty of food and water to keep him happy and hydrated while he exercises.
The Hamster Ball
Another way to help your hamster exercise and explore is by placing him in a hamster ball. Hamster balls allow your hamster to play outside his cage without risking losing him. If you decide to let your hamster play in a hamster ball, make sure the lid is on tightly and the ball is always on a flat surface where it cannot fall. You should not leave a hamster in a hamster ball for more than 30 minutes, because he will be at risk of dehydration and overheating.
Keeping your hamster in too small of of a cage or not providing him with a hamster wheel can cause paralysis. Hamsters that do not get enough exercise or are unable to run around may begin to lose the ability to move freely. A paralyzed hamster may sit in a hunched position and have difficulty moving his hind legs. Placing your hamster in a larger cage and providing him toys and an exercise wheel will normally reverse this type of paralysis, which is not caused by injury.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Questions About Other Pets
- SmallAnimalChannel.com: Hamster Ball Tips
- Animal Rights Coalition: Ten Things to Know Before Adopting a Hamster
- Burgess Pet Care: Dwarf Hamster Lovers Care Guide
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Hamster Care
- Pet Info Packets: Hamster Info Packet
- Hamsterific: Quick Reference Illness Guide
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.