Keep your pet rodent cheerful with some of these
Rodents are designed to run. In the wild they are prey
animals and spend most of their active time either hiding or
running, and a captive rodent needs plenty of exercise to
stay healthy. Because of this fact and because pet rodents
are usually kept in fairly small cages and can't be left
alone outside the cage, most people who keep rodents,
especially small rodents, provide an exercise wheel.
There are some things to consider before you buy a wheel for
your rodents, though. Don't just grab the cheap spoked wheel
at the pet store. Spoked wheels can catch a long tail or a
tiny foot and literally break them off! Although they are
usually more expensive, a solid wheel that was designed with
plenty of thought so that the moving parts aren't readily
accessible to your pet's appendages is well worth the cost.
Another important consideration is the size of the wheel.
Commonly the wheels sold in "pet supply packages" or off the
shelves in the discount department stores are far too small
for anything larger than a mouse or a small hamster. For
example, a rat will need a wheel at minimum eleven inches in
diameter, so that it can run without bending its tail too
much or risking injury to its back. Of course larger rodents
like Chinchillas will need even larger wheels.
Be sure to check that the wheel you are considering will
fasten tightly to the cage you have. Rodents run often and
for extensive periods, and most are nocturnal and run
marathons at night. If the wheel doesn't fasten well to the
side or top of the cage, not only will you possibly be kept
awake by the incessant rattle but your pet may shake the
wheel loose and be injured.
There are some brands of rodent wheels that have the axle
set with ball bearings and advertise themselves as "silent
wheels." They are well worth looking for, especially if your
rodent cage is in your bedroom. If you already have a
squeaky wheel that you don't want to replace yet, try
putting a little vegetable oil on the axle or whatever spot
the squeak seems to be coming from.
Whether you can buy a plastic wheel or will need to buy a
metal one will depend on the species of your rodent. Some
are okay with plastic wheels, but some, such as Chinchillas,
Degus, rats and some others must have metal, they will gnaw
a plastic wheel into small bits in no time.
If your rodents are nesting, you may want to remove the
wheel until the babies are large enough that they can't be
trapped and injured under the wheel as the adults run on it.
Also the feet of the babies may be small enough to poke
through the holes if the wheel has spokes or holes, and the
baby could be killed when another rodent rolls the wheel.
Exercise balls and Habitrail machines also provide good
exercise outside of the cage for small rodents like
hamsters, mice and rats. With both of them you place your
pet into the plastic toy and it closes securely so the
animal cannot get out and be lost. When the rodent begins to
walk or run, the ball or machine (cars, etc.) begins to move
as well - Rodent powered rodent vehicles!
Always be sure to watch your pet when he is in these toys,
so that the ball can't roll downstairs or trip you or a
family member. Also remember that rodents will gnaw plastic,
so if your pet's toy has been around for a while, check it
for areas that may have been gnawed enough to allow him or
her to escape and be lost or injured.
When you buy a new wheel or exercise toy for your rodent, be
sure to give him time to get used to its presence and
investigate it for himself. If you try to stick him in the
wheel or ball when he is frightened, you may cause him to
dislike the toy or be frightened of it forever.
Most rodents will figure out the purpose of an exercise
wheel quickly, but if yours seems timid, try putting a few
pieces of his favorite snack inside the wheel and allowing
him to find them on his own. Once he is inside and the wheel
or ball is moving, he'll probably jump right into the fun.