Why Is My Hamster Not Using its Exercise Wheel?

Hamster eating in their cage with a wheel

Most hamsters love to run on their wheels. That’s why it can be concerning when your hamster stops using its wheel.

Why is your hamster not using their wheel? There could be a few reasons. The wheel might be broken or not the right sized, your hamster might be injured or ill, or the hamster could be bored of the wheel or causing them pain.

No matter what the cause is, the rest of this article will help you get to the root of the problem (and help you fix it).

The Wheel Might Not Be The Right Size

All hamsters are not created equal… at least when it comes to size.

You need to make sure your wheel is the right size for your hamster. If the wheel is too big for your hamster, it will have a hard time pushing the wheel around. On the flip size, if the wheel is too small for your hamster, it will force your hamster to curve its back while running, which can cause pain and spinal problems.

The size of your hamster usually depends on your hamster’s species.

If you have a larger Syrian hamster (also known as a Golden hamster), you’ll need a bigger wheel. I recommend a wheel at least 8 inches in diameter. If you’ve got a particularly large hamster, you may even need to go bigger than that.

If you have a smaller Dwarf hamster, you’ll need a much smaller wheel. A wheel with a diameter between 4.5 and 6.5 inches should work for most Dwarf hamsters.

Most adult hamsters will be fine with a wheel in the middle of these two extremes. The 6.5-inch diameter hamster wheel is the most common choice for the average hamster, and will likely be usable even by adult Dwarf hamsters.

Thesprucepets has a great article on choosing the correct wheel for your hamster. It covers the right size wheels that are ASPCA approved aswell as alternatives toys for your hamster.

If you have a hamster of small or average size, I recommend the Silent Spinner Wheel from Kaytee (available on Amazon.com). It’s a sturdy, silent wheel with a solid bottom, and comes in both 4.5 inch and 6.5 inch sizes.

If you have a larger hamster, I recommend the Large Comfort Exercise Wheel, also from Kaytee (available on Amazon.com). The 8.5 inch diameter should accommodate even the biggest of hamsters.

The Wheel Might Be Jammed

The first possibility is that the wheel is jammed. This problem is particularly prevalent amongst the silent spinner wheels that are common with owners who don’t want to be bothered by constant wheel squeaking.

If you have one of these silent spinner wheels, take it out of the cage and see if spins easily. If it’s stiff and takes considerable effort to move it, you should consider buying a new wheel.

If you’re in need of a new wheel, I recommend the

Your Hamster Might Be Injured Or Ill

The next possibility is that your hamster is injured or sick. If that’s the case, it’s understandable why they don’t want to run on their wheel. I’ve been sick or injured quite a few times in my life, and I could barely work up the energy to get out of bed. The prospect of running on a stationary wheel would have probably made me pass out.

Here are some signs that your hamster is sick:

  • Dull, spotty, or abnormally wet fur
  • Runny nose
  • Discharge coming out of eyes
  • Eyes dull and sunken instead of lively
  • Wet tail
  • Lethargic behavior, not moving much
  • Disinterest in food or water

And here are some signs your hamster is injured:

  • Avoiding putting weight on a leg
  • Constant squeaking when walking
  • Bloodstains on the bedding and around the cage
  • Cuts or scrapes on the hamster’s body. This is of particular concern if your hamster lives with other hamsters.

If you notice any of these signs, you should consider taking your hamster to the vet. It’s tough to diagnose what the actual problem is yourself. It’s best left to a trained professional.

Your Hamster Might Be Bored Of The Wheel

Some hamsters just get bored of their wheels over time. If the hamster has ample cage space, they might find that they prefer running around in the open to running on a stationary wheel.

Spend some time observing your hamster and see if it’s active while it isn’t on the wheel. If your hamster is running around and seems to be getting consistent exercise, then there’s no need to worry. Just leave the wheel in place, your hamster may go back to wheel-running eventually.

The Wheel Might Be Causing Your Hamster Pain

While all hamster wheels are advertised as usable by hamsters, some wheels are actually not suitable for the little furballs. If your wheel has a wire mesh bottom, it’s pretty easy for your hamster to lose its footing and slip its foot through the gaps between the wire.

This can be painful and scary for the hamster, and it might be avoiding using the wheel for fear of it happening again. To fix this problem, get a wheel with a solid bottom. Your hamster should be less scared of using the wheel if it knows it won’t slip while running at full speed.

You Might Not Be Noticing Your Hamster Using The Wheel

It’s possible that your hamster is using the wheel… you’re just not around to see it. Spend a bit more time observing your hamster before determining it actually isn’t using its wheel. You can also leave a video camera trained on your hamster’s cage for a day and check whether it’s running on the wheel when you’re not around.

Related Questions:

Do hamsters need exercise wheels? No, they don’t need a wheel as long as your hamster is getting enough exercise. It’s recommended that you buy your hamster a wheel as most hamsters really enjoy using them.

Can my hamster overexert itself on the wheel? It’s possible but unlikely. Like most animals, hamsters know their breaking point. They’ll probably lay down and take a nap long before they come close to overexerting themselves.

What happens if hamsters don’t exercise? If your hamster isn’t exercising it could lead to obesity. Check to see if your hamster is ill. Usually, hamsters will get bored if they don’t exercise.

Charlotte Silcock

Charlotte lives in the United Kingdom and has worked in animal shelters looking after small animals. She owns a hamster as well as a dog and a cat and hopes to spread her knowledge about rodents to help other pet owners.

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