The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Hamsters are excellent pets, especially for novice and first-time pet owners. They’re fun to watch, don’t require much care, are cuddly, and always pleasant to hold.
Using the hamster’s wheel is the animal’s favorite activity, and although different animals have different needs, it’s unlikely that a hamster won’t enjoy running on its wheel all day long.
This is why seeing a hamster that doesn’t run on the wheel is usually a cause of significant concern.
So, why is the hamster not running on the wheel? How can you fix this problem?
Read this article to find out.
Why Do Hamsters Use Their Wheels?
Exercise wheels will enrich the hamster’s enclosure and make it more fun and comfortable. Some hamsters can use the exercise wheel for up to 5 or 6 miles per day.
Here are some of the reasons why hamsters run on their wheels.
- In their natural habitat, hamsters migrate from one spot to another. When they live in an enclosure, hamsters will run on their wheels to express their migratory instincts.
- Hamsters like to explore, so they’ll run on the wheel, hoping to go somewhere.
- The wheel provides a safe outlet to play and release stress.
- It’s a great way to release aggression hormones.
- Food and water deprivation can lead the hamster to run on the wheel for longer periods.
- When the hamster has a desire to escape the enclosure, it will run on the wheel.
- Some hamsters will run on the wheel to establish their social status. Since hamsters are solitary animals in the first place, they might use the wheel and other behavioral patterns to show that they’re superior to other animals.
- Running on the wheel is also a way to exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
- Using the wheel creates the illusion of a bigger space, which will comfort the hamster.
Why Is My Hamster Not Running on the Wheel?
The hamster uses an exercise wheel to stay fit and play, and it’s quite common to hear your hamster running in the early morning hours.
So, while most hamsters see the wheel as an essential accessory, some might not prefer it that often.
However, if the hamster isn’t using the wheel at all, this should concern you.
There’s no sure way to find the reason, and it could be a combination of several factors. Here are some reasons why your hamster might not be using its wheel.
1 – Wheel Size and Design
If you notice that the hamster is no longer using the wheel that it used to enjoy, it might have become too small for it.
In order to run comfortably, the wheel should be wide enough to support the hamster’s body. As a matter of fact, if the wheel is too small, the hamster might painfully bend its body and injure itself.
In this case, using the small wheel might actually harm your hamster, and it might get trapped inside if you’re not around.
In addition, running while bending the back can cause several health issues in the long run.
If you’ve replaced the wheel and the new one is too large, the hamster might still be unable to use it.
A large wheel requires more effort to turn. However, most hamsters can manage when the wheel is a little too large.
Since it’s hard to determine how big your hamster will be once it grows, you need to research the breed’s size. It’s always a good idea to get a wheel that is a bit bigger than one that is too small.
Your hamster might become powerful enough to turn a large wheel with practice.
In addition to the size, the wheel’s design can also make it less appealing to your pet hamster.
A wheel with an axle that it’s too tight will be challenging to move. Eventually, the hamster will give up because it can’t make it turn.
Wheels made of metal bars don’t usually attract a hamster’s attention and can be quite dangerous to use. For example, while running, the hamster’s little feet can get trapped in the wheel, and they might easily break.
This is why you need to make sure that the wheel is made of wood or plastic, as this will provide a suitable grip without allowing the feet to pass through.
If you have a wheel made of metal bars, you can cover it with cardboard to protect your hamster’s feet.
Hamsters might simply not like how the wheel feels or smells. If this is the case, then replacing it might solve the problem.
2 – Hamster is Old
Just like all animals, hamsters’ bodies become weaker with age. Their joints and bones become more difficult to move, and they can experience pain and discomfort while running.
This is why they’re unlikely to stay as active as they used to be when they were younger. So, they’ll naturally begin to spend more time running on the wheel or might stop using it altogether.
You can tell that your hamster is getting old simply by keeping track of when it was born. Hamsters don’t usually live for more than two or three years, although some species and individuals tend to live a little longer.
However, if your hamster is already two years old, you’ll start to notice some changes.
Overall decreased activity, poor vision, loss of appetite, and thinning hair are all signs that your hamster is growing old.
3 – Hamster is Injured
When your hamster stops exercising all of a sudden, you need to examine it. For example, the hamster might be injured by a loose wire in the enclosure or suffering from a health issue that you don’t know of.
Injuries can also happen if you have two hamsters in the same enclosure and one of them is aggressively attacking the other. In this case, you should separate the animals and keep them out of each other’s way.
In other cases, the wheel itself might cause an injury. For example, if the wheel is poorly designed, it might hurt the animal’s little feet.
Overusing the wheel also wears the joints, and when the hamster starts to run, it will experience pain. Eventually, it will stop running.
Finally, the wood chips and shavings that are used as bedding in the enclosure can hurt the hamster’s little paws and lead to a painful injury. When not treated, this injury can cause a severe infection.
4 – Wrong Location
Even if everything is right about the wheel, the position you choose to set it up might be the reason why your pet hamster finds it less appealing.
Hamsters are quite sensitive, and if they feel too hot or too cold while running in a certain position, they’ll be discouraged from using the exercise wheel.
The hamster might be facing another hamster or animal in a different enclosure when it’s running on the wheel. In this case, you might have to change the location of the wheel or the cage itself.
5 – Too Noisy
You might not be the only one irritated by the wheel’s noise.
It’s quite normal for an exercise wheel to squeak when the hamster is using it. However, some hamsters can become too stressed because of the noise.
If the wheel squeaks loudly when the hamster is running, it’s likely to stop using it altogether because it makes it upset.
When the wheel is squeaking because of friction, you can fix the tightness of the axle to make the wheel run smoothly. You can also use oil to lessen the friction.
If none of these solutions work, you can buy a silent wheel. This will be a win-win situation if you’re also sensitive to the noise.
6 – Hamster Doesn’t Eat Well
Your hamster might not be using the wheel because it’s weak. This happens when you don’t provide it with enough food.
Food provides the hamster with energy to perform a light exercise like running on the wheel. Without this energy, the hamster will prefer to stay quiet.
Hamsters don’t need more than two tablespoons of pellets per day, but in some cases, owners can forget to feed their animals.
In the wild, hamsters feed on small lizards and insects, but the nutrition they need is found in commercial pellets. Some hamsters also prefer to feed on seed mix.
In general, hamsters need food that provides enough proteins, fats, and a small amount of fibers. Hamsters can also feed on nuts, grains, fruit, vegetables, mealworms, and crickets.
Pay attention to your hamster’s eating habits and replace the current food option as you might have a selective eater. If you notice that your hamster isn’t eating and doesn’t have enough energy to exercise, you’ll need to visit the vet.
7 – Hamster Doesn’t Like to Exercise
Hamsters naturally like exercising, but some individual animals don’t. They’ll prefer to sit and curiously watch the world around them and won’t be tempted to run on the wheel.
A healthy hamster might not like the wheel and will prefer another toy in the enclosure. This is perfectly normal behavior, as long as it’s not accompanied by any other health issues.
Some hamsters like to climb trees or towers, so they might not be interested in the wheel itself, even if they like to exercise and stay active.
You can also consider buying a bigger cage with multiple platforms. These will provide the hamster with room to run and explore if it doesn’t like using the wheel.
8 – Hamster is Too Stressed
A sudden change in the hamster’s environment might make the hamster too stressed and less interested in exercising. So, you need to give it time to adjust.
Several factors can cause your hamster to become too stressed, but it’s mainly caused by fear.
Loud noises, being handled roughly, and held at a height are all reasons why the hamster might be too scared. As a result, it will refuse to run and play.
9 – Hamster Uses it While You’re Not Around
Hamsters are nocturnal animals who are mostly shy and inactive by day. This means that there’s a good chance your hamster is actually using the exercise wheel, but you’re not around to witness it.
This is more common, especially if your hamster has access to a well-made wheel that doesn’t squeak much or a silent spinner. In this case, you need to pay more attention to the hamster to actually see if it’s using the wheel.
Does My Hamster Need a Wheel?
An exercise wheel is an essential addition to your hamster’s enclosure because it provides it with a safe and fun way to exercise.
Without the wheel or any other tools to exercise, the hamster is likely to suffer from obesity which leads to several health issues.
Your hamster will also become too aggressive because of the increasing stress levels, as the wheel provides a means to release stress.
Nevertheless, the wheel isn’t the only way your hamster can get some exercise and stay fit. Balls, trees, towers, platforms, and swings are all going to provide your hamster with the means to work out and release its energy.
However, it’s recommended not to leave the hamster without a wheel or any exercise tool for more than a week. This might happen while you’re still setting up the enclosure for your pet hamster.
It also depends on the hamster’s individual needs. If the current wheel broke and you have a rather old hamster, it can definitely last a little longer without a new one.
How Can I Encourage My Hamster to Use the Wheel?
Because it provides your pet hamster with a safe way to release stress and stay fit, using the exercise wheel is critical for your pet’s health. Luckily, there are some things that you can do if you notice that your pet hamster is no longer using the wheel the way it did before or is completely avoiding it.
- Take your hamster to the vet for a thorough checkup. Using the wheel might be caused by a serious health issue that you haven’t noticed or a worsening injury that you didn’t pay attention to.
- Ask your vet about the hamster’s age and what to expect. If you have an aging hamster, it’s quite normal that it won’t exercise the same way it did when it was younger and stronger.
- Examine the wheel itself and make sure that it’s of an adequate design and size. When the wheel is too small, too big, or painful to use, the hamster won’t be encouraged to use it and replacing it might be necessary.
- Change the position of the wheel if it seems right to you. In some cases, setting it up in a different location within the same enclosure will do the trick.
- Make sure that your hamster is eating well. If your hamster is too lethargic because it’s not getting enough nutrients, you need to change its diet.
- Ensure that there are no stressful factors in the hamster’s environment.
- Provide the hamster with treats to encourage it to run and play.
- If the hamster doesn’t like using the wheel, you can introduce an exercise ball to keep it moving.
What Happens When the Hamster Runs for Too Long on the Wheel?
Not exercising enough is just as bad as running too much on the wheel.
As a matter of fact, a hamster might become addicted to the wheel for several reasons.
- When there aren’t enough toys in the enclosure, the hamster will spend most of its time running on the wheel to release its energy and relieve its natural instincts.
- The hamster might excessively use the wheel because it’s trying to run away. This happens when the conditions in the enclosure aren’t optimum, and the animal isn’t comfortable.
- When the hamster is always kept inside the cage, it’s likely to suffer from boredom, so it will use the wheel excessively. When this happens, you can let the animal run in a hamster-proofed area under your supervision.
- You’re providing your hamster with high-energy food all the time. The animal needs a healthy way to release its energy, so it will keep running.
Getting enough exercise will keep the hamster healthy and active, but running for too long can lead to several consequences.
- The hamster will get too tired too fast.
- The hamster can become too dehydrated or too exhausted.
- Blisters and sores will form on the paws.
- The hamster will be more prone to injuries, especially if the wheel is made of metal wires.
- When the hamster doesn’t get enough water or rest, it might collapse and eventually die.
- A mother hamster might run on the wheel for too long, eventually ignoring her babies. After the mother is done running, the babies might be too weak and too dehydrated to survive.
A hamster appreciates the presence of an exercise wheel because it provides an accessible way to release its energy and work out its body.
However, some hamsters don’t run on the wheel because they don’t prefer to use it. In some cases, your hamster will stop using the wheel because the design and the size aren’t appropriate.
Your hamster will also use the wheel less often when it gets older because it has less energy. If your hamster isn’t getting enough nutrients, it will be too weak to use the wheel.
A hamster that uses the wheel for too long is just as bad. You need to understand the reason behind your hamster’s behavior and fix it accordingly.