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Hamster Wheels – How to Choose the Best

A hamster´s got the need to run due to his wild nature: escaping, investigating, excavating dens and looking for food. The wheel can function as a substitute for the limited exploration he has in captivity. However it´s important to choose the best wheel because not all of them are suitable for hamsters, some are very dangerous because they can cause fractures in the legs and tail.

frustrated hamster in his wheelImage / Martín de la Iglesia.

Which is the best wheel for my hamster?

Let’s look at the most important features that a hamster´s wheel needs:

Wide and plastic so that his feet aren´t mistreated.

Its diameter must be in accordance with the hamster´s size so that he doesn´t have trouble moving it (due to a very large wheel) nor does he force his vertebrae when running (due to a small wheel).

Very ventilated.

The surface must be solid, flat, stable and without steps.

The base must be stable.

 This image shows a correct wheel:

hamster wheels - correct wheelImage / Bill McChesney. 

Diameters of wheels according to species

It´s important to consider this information because not all hamsters are the same size. Purchasing a wheel that doesn´t match the hamster´s body will flex his back and bend his spine, like in this image, where the wheel is too small for his size:

hamster wheels - small wheel

– Syrian or golden hamster: 20-22 cm.

– Russian hamster: 17-18 cm.

– Campbell hamster: 17-18 cm.

– Roborowski hamster: 13-15 cm.

Unsuitable wheels for your hamster

Non proportional to his size (as explained above).

Those with rough surfaces: they can damage the hamster´s paws.

wheel with rough surfaceWheel with rough surface

Image / Lyn Lomasi.

Metal wheels: metal bars and nets aren´t recommended because the foot can get caught in the wheel, causing injuries and even amputations in the most severe cases.

hamster wheels - wheel with metallic barsImage / “cdrussorusso”. 

wheel with metallic netImage / Roban Kramer.

He can also suffer injuries in the tail if he gets trapped in the rotating wheel. In my opinion these wheels should be banned for sale.



– Hamster balls: they have few ventilation and coupled with exercise they can make it problematic for the hamster to breathe due to lack of oxygen. The ball´s material doesn´t allow him to see the environment or be guided by smell when locked up. This creates a lot of stress, especially because he can´t be oriented, and in extreme situations he even dies.

hamster´s ballImage / Martin Thomas. 

I´ve seen online the use of these balls for hamster´s races. While the public enjoys this terrible show, for the hamster it ain´t fun at all due to the terrible conditions he has to endure.

– Saucer-shaped wheels: these ones are used horizontally simulating a saucer, but they´re very dangerous because the hamster can get ejected off of the wheel and break his leg.

Why has my hamster lost interest for exercising on the wheel?

Many times this happens because he feels sick or has heart problems or arthritis.

Points to remember

  • Don´t place multiple hamsters in the same wheel. This will pose a greater risk of injury as one of them continues running even if the other one is trapped.

two hamsters in a same wheelImageMarilyn Sherman.

  • Purchase a silent wheel so that he doesn´t wake you up in the night hours.
  • When hamsters are kept inactive, without exercise and in small cages, they develop mobility difficulties in the hind legs.
  • Don´t force your hamster to use a ball if he doesn´t want to.