Hamster Care: How to take care of hamsters
6. It’s all about the exercise
How to Exercise a Hamster? Once your hamster is accustomed to their new home, and you have begun to bond with them, you need to make sure that the tiny rodent is getting enough exercise. If you have bought the right size cage, so there is plenty of floor space for your hamster to run around, then this will keep your pet somewhat occupied; as will the wheel in the cage which is always a favourite.
In addition you should try to make sure that your hamster gets some time outside of the cage in a hamster ball.
Choosing the right hamster wheel
With a wheel, your hamster can run surprisingly long distances without ever having to leave home. In fact, hamsters running in wheels have been known to run more than 5 miles in a single night!
All this running is great exercise for your hamster, which means they’re more likely to stay fit and healthy and not get too fat!
Both metal and plastic hamster wheels are available and each type has its own pros and cons.
- Choosing a type of hamster
- Buying your hamster
- Your hamster’s home
- Feeding your hamster
- Getting to know your hamster
- Health problems
Metal wheels are likely to last longer than plastic wheels. However, metal wheels are usually made with rungs rather than as one solid piece (like a ladder and like the wheel pictured in the cartoon above). Unfortunately, hamster legs are quite fragile and can easily get injured if they fall through the gaps between rungs while running.
Plastic wheels are often made from one solid piece of plastic – rather than rungs – which is safer for the hamster, as there are no gaps for their legs to fall through.
Hamsters generally prefer larger wheels. The larger a wheel is, the less the hamster has to arch its back and the more similar it is to running on flat ground in the wild.
Running with an arched back is very bad for a hamster’s health. If you ever see your hamster arching their back while running then you should buy a larger wheel for them as soon as possible.
We recommend a wheel size of 12 inches for Syrian hamsters and 8 inches for dwarf hamsters.
Find out more about hamster wheels.
It’s time for the hamster ball
If you decided to purchase a hamster ball when you bought your new pet, then now is the time to try it out (well, for your hamster to try it out… you probably won’t fit!)
Always make sure the hamster is on, or close to, the ground when you first try and put them into the ball. If they don’t want to go into the ball then don’t force them, and never try to put them into the ball if they are not fully awake.
You’ll be able to tell straight away if your pet is enjoying the hamster ball experience as they will take off running and having fun. If they sit very still, or they look agitated or scared, then put them straight back into the cage. Even if they are enjoying themselves, you should not leave your hamster in the ball for any longer than 20 minutes, and you should not put them into the ball more than once per day.
It’s important to remember that you should only let a hamster run in a ball on a carpeted floor; on a wooden or tile floor the ball will move too fast and your hamster could be injured. You should also make sure there are no obstacles in the room, and definitely no other pets.
Hamster balls are an ideal exercise toy as long as your hamster is happy to be inside and you make sure that you watch them all the time they are in the ball.
Find out more about hamster exercise balls.
What else can keep a hamster occupied?
A hamster will be quite occupied by the toys in their cage, such as chewing blocks. It’s a good idea to change around the toys each week so that your hamster doesn’t get bored. This also comes in useful for you as you can clean the toys that aren’t being used that week and then swap them around.
One thing to remember is that you should never cover your hamster’s cage with toys. Remember, they need space to run around, and a place to chill.
How to Exercise a Hamster
A pet hamster needs exercising, just as you do too. Providing opportunities for adequate exercise and for promoting your hamster’s curiosity is an important part of maintaining your hamster’s good health. Try some of the following fun ways to get your hamster to exercise.
- 1 6. It’s all about the exercise
- 2 Exercising Your Hamster
- 3 Knowing How To Care For Your Exercising Hamster
Exercising Your Hamster
Provide the cage with a hamster wheel or “tread-wheel”.
This is a wheel that turns about when the hamster steps inside and causes the hamster to run as he continues to turn it around. When choosing a hamster wheel or tread-wheel, the following is recommended:
- Ensure that the wheel is solid. If your hamster chews a great deal a solid metal wheel is best. Never use a mesh or barred wheel – these can cause serious injury because the feet can get stuck between the slats or bars.
- Check the wheel for size. Syrian/Golden hamsters need wheels that are at least 8″ in diameter although 10″ plus sized wheels are guaranteed to be large enough for their entire life. Dwarf species require wheels to be a minimum of 6.5″ in diameter. Wheels that are too small can cause severe back problems and is often a reason for hamsters not using them and subsequently becoming bored.
- Don’t place a hamster wheel into a cage with a nursing mother; the mother may lose interest in her young and young hamsters tend to try to get in the wheel together and run on top of one another, thereby creating the potential for injury.
Give your hamster a hamster ball.
A hamster ball is another great way to give your pet some fun exercise in a safe way. The beauty of a hamster ball is that your hamster cannot fit under anything and get stuck; just make sure that the lid to the ball is closed tightly so that your hamster doesn’t get loose. Also make sure that there are no stairs or other drop offs that your hamster could roll over. As with wheels, ensure that they are large enough to prevent damage to their spines.
- When using a hamster ball outside the cage, be present at all times so that you can fend off any other pets or hazards before they turn into a problem.
- It is a good idea to lay down a hula hoop on the floor to provide a boundary that prevents the hamster ball from going anywhere else. You should still watch your hamster in the ball but this makes it easier to keep your hamster in one place.
Provide the ability to indulge in climbing.
Hamsters love to climb, which is why providing a cage with horizontal bars on it is a great way to encourage your hamster to climb (it also provides terrific ventilation). Of course, the downside for you of a bar cage is that the mess drops out easily. Try to find ways to deal with this, such as having newspaper laid across the surface where the cage sits, or locating the cage inside a much larger base container to catch things that fall out.
- If you have a Roborovski hamster, choose a mouse cage over a metallic hamster cage because the young ones can squeeze between the bars and escape.
Play is exercise and toys are the tools of play that lead to exercise. There are quite a few hamster toys you can improvise, or you can buy them from the pet store if preferred. Here are just some ideas to get you started:
- A piece of sisal rope: Hang it from the top of the cage. This is great for climbing practice.
- Build hamster toys out of household items such as empty kitchen and toilet paper rolls. These are very similar to the movement provided by the hamster ball, these will delight the hamster for ages until he discovers he can chew it up too!
- A stump of wood or tree twigs taken from fruit or willow trees. These will give the hamster something to chew on (jaw exercise) as well as material to carry about and build with.
- Small smooth stones or pebbles of interesting shapes: These could act like mini-weights, as the hamster carries them about, rolls them, and tries to build things with them.
- Tin cans which have had all sharp ends removed. This can make a good metallic tube for the hamster to explore.
- Jar without a lid. This can be another fun place to explore and roll around in.
- Boxes with multiple openings. This can provide good exercise through hunting and seeking to get through and around the boxes. You could also place differently sized boxes inside a large container to make an open playpen for your hamster to explore.
Buy hamster tubes.
You can buy hamster tubes to create an elaborate labyrinth for your hamster to climb in. This gives the hamster a lot of places to climb and plenty of tubes to run around through. Buy a few to extend your cage, or buy many to make the tubes cover an entire wall. Remember, Syrian hamsters might not fit in the tubes and get stuck, so make sure your hamster is small enough to get trough the tubes.
Knowing How To Care For Your Exercising Hamster
Understand the importance of exercise for your hamster.
Hamsters need exercise to prevent them from becoming obese and to mimic the running about that they’d be doing if they lived in the wild. Insufficient exercise for your hamster can lead to obesity, and even to paralysis in some hamsters. The great thing about hamsters is that if you give them the means to exercise, they will.
Keep your hamster happy with exercise.
Hamsters get bored if they don’t exercise. They may become lethargic, irritable, and destructive. Bored hamsters can chew on the cage and destroy items in their cage. They may also be difficult to handle. Exercising a hamster will keep it happy and help prevent this.
Protect the hamster from hazards.
When your hamster is playing outside its cage, make sure you hamster-proof the room. Hazards such as electrical cords, toxic plants, small hiding spaces, pets, and drop offs like stairs can cause injury to your hamster. Try putting your hamster in a playpen.
- If you have the hamster out of the cage, make sure you are supervising it so it doesn’t get hurt.
Keep the water supply topped up.
Hamsters need to stay well hydrated. Ensure that the hamster’s water supply is adequately filled at all times.
- If the hamster is playing outside of its cage, like in a hamster ball, make sure to make the hamster take a break every 15-20 minutes so it can eat and drink water. You can place them in the ball 2-3 times a day.