Hamster Not Using Wheel – What To Do?

There are many reasons a hamster might not be using their wheel. We all know hamsters need their exercise, though, as hamsters in the wild might run several miles a day. An active hamster is a happy hamster. So what can you do to make sure your hamster and their wheel make a great match? We've done all the research and have some excellent information for you. 

Some reasons your hamster might not use their wheel include:

  • The wheel isn't the correct size
  • The design of the wheel is uncomfortable
  • The wheel makes too much noise
  • Your hamster doesn't have enough energy due to poor nutrition
  • Your aging hamster has grown too tired for the wheel
  • The hamster has an injury
  • Your hamster could be using the wheel in private

Now that we have a list of reasons your hammie might be seemingly lazing about let's talk about each in detail, as well as how to potentially correct the issue. We'll answer some additional questions you might have as well. Keep reading!

Dwarf hamster looking in camera, Hamster Not Using Wheel - What To Do?

Why Your Hamster May Not Be Using His Wheel

The wheel isn't the correct size

Most hamster lovers would argue the size is the most important aspect of your pet's wheel. If the wheel is too small, it could cause your hamster to have to arch their back uncomfortably to use it. This could lead to so many health problems. Your fuzzy friend's back should be as straight as possible when they run in their wheel, so consider the stretched-out length of your hamster when purchasing a wheel. 

Additionally, the wheel could be too large. A wheel that doesn't coincide with your pet's size will be heavy and awkward for them to maneuver. Because of this, they're likely to avoid the wheel altogether. 

To avoid these faux pas, research hamster wheels before purchasing one. Know how big your particular breed of hamster is likely to become and purchase accordingly.

The design of the wheel is uncomfortable

To those who have never owned a hamster, the image that likely comes to mind when envisioning a hamster wheel the kind made up of numerous metal bars, such as in this picture:

Hamster wheel

It's true that at one point in time, these were the most popular and likely only available types of hamster wheels on the market. However, we've learned they generally aren't the best for our tiny friend's feet. With the bar spacing, it's all too easy for your hamster's foot to get stuck between them. At the very least, this is uncomfortable; at most, it could injure your pet. Try obtaining a wheel with a solid circle so your hamster can run with ease. 

View this hamster wheel on Amazon.

Additionally, you want to make sure the wheel's width is enough to keep your hamster comfortable. If their body is too wide for the wheel, they might avoid it altogether. Be sure to take the chubbiness of your pal into account when making your wheel purchase.

The wheel makes too much noise

Some wheels are just going to be noisy. For many hamsters, this isn't an issue, but for others, this could keep them away from their toy. Routinely spin the wheel to ensure it is spinning as intended. Sometimes an offbeat noise could be due to something being lodged in the moving parts of the wheel.

It could also be due to the wheel somehow becoming unlevel. Check the wheels positioning. If nothing works to stop the noise and you have to purchase a new one, be sure to get one advertised as silent. Most of them are nowadays. 

View this hamster wheel on Amazon

Your hamster doesn't have enough energy due to poor nutrition

A hamster that isn't getting a well-balanced diet isn't going to have the energy for rigorous exercise. Check what you're feeding your pet. Are you ensuring they're getting fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, as well as hamster pellets? If all you've been giving your hamster is pre-packaged hamster food, this could be the cause of their lethargy. Always ensure you're giving your bed the correct amount of food without over or under-feeding them. 

Want to know more about what your hamster can eat, as well as how much? Check out our post, "Are You Overfeeding Your Hamster?"

View this hamster food on Amazon.

Your aging hamster has grown too tired for the wheel

Adult Djungarian dwarf hamster sitting in pet wheel

As hamsters grow older, they will naturally become less active. Most hamsters live about 2-3 years, so if your hamster is approaching this age, it could simply be that their energy level has decreased. If you've gone through all the other options in our list and your hamster still isn't interested in their wheel, they likely don't want to or don't have the energy anymore. 

The hamster has an injury or illness

Another reason your hamster might not be getting on their wheel can be due to illness or injury. As we mentioned above, the metal wire hamster wheels can cause injury to a hamster's foot. A hamster might even get ill or injured right inside their cage, like from spoiled foot or rough bedding.

If you notice your hamster is inactive, check their eyes for discharge or a runny nose. Make sure your hamster still has an interest in eating and drinking. To check for injury, pay attention to your pet as they move. Are they avoiding putting weight on a specific leg? Check their body for any cuts or wounds. 

Your hamster could be using the wheel in private

Did you know hamsters are nocturnal? This means they are more active from twilight forward as opposed to during the day. You might assume your hamster isn't using their wheel because they sleep so much during the day. This isn't necessarily true. Many hamster owners report their hamsters only using the wheel at night, much to their annoyance.

However, if your hamster isn't in the same room where you sleep, you're potentially missing their activity. Seeing as hamsters are nocturnal, many owners choose to set up a night vision camera to see their goings-on at night. It's a wise idea, especially if you're concerned about your hamster's health.

View this surveillance camera on Amazon.

How do I encourage my hamster to use the wheel?

If you've ruled out the size as an issue and know the wheel you've purchased is perfect for your hamster, sometimes they need a bit of encouragement. Many hamster lovers have enticed their hamsters into the wheel by putting treats or food inside the wheel. Once the hamster has found their way inside, it only takes a little movement for them to realize how fun the wheel can be!

Is it bad for a hamster to not have a wheel?

A hamster without a wheel is not an ideal situation. If your hamster doesn't have a way of exercising, he or she runs the risk of obesity and all the health issues that come along with it. Not only could it cause health problems, but it could also cause an undue amount of stress to befall your hamster. If they're not getting enough exercise, a hamster is bound to grow anxious. Keep a wheel in your hamster's cage. 

One adult female Djungarian hamster is standing on its hind legs in the plastic orange cage

How do you know if your hamster wheel is too small?

The best and most accurate way to tell if your hamster's wheel is too small is by observing his or her back while on the wheel. If their back is arched and making a "u" shape, the wheel is much too small. A hamster should be able to run with a mostly flat back inside their wheel. 

Check out our post, "What Size Wheel Does a Hamster Need?" for more info. 

Is a 9-inch wheel good for Syrian hamsters?

Most Syrian hamsters will do well with a 9-inch wheel. However, if your Syrian is a female, expect her to get to be on the larger side of the Syrian hamster scale. As with any hamster, observe your pet while they run on the wheel. If their back arches, a larger wheel is needed. Some Syrians need up to a 12-inch wheel to run comfortably, but definitely no less than 8-inch. 

View this 11-inch hamster wheel on Amazon.

Can a hamster run too much on a wheel?

A happy hamster running around his small green colored hamster wheel, Why Does My Hamster Pee Or Poop In His Wheel?

A hamster can develop sores and blisters on their feet from running too much. They can also become dehydrated or exhausted. To achieve injury, though, the hamster would have to maintain a new constant loop on the wheel.

It might seem like your hamster is running excessively, but there isn't a reason to worry unless they aren't resting at all. If your hamster seems to be addicted to his or her wheel, try redirecting them to other activities. Make sure your hamster has plenty of toys, and you also give them plenty of time to play outside of the cage with supervision. 

Is it ok to take the hamster wheel out at night?

The short answer to whether or not it's okay to take a hamster's wheel out at night is, "no." As we mentioned above, hamsters are nocturnal and will run several miles at night. If the sound of the wheel is bothering you, buy one of the silent wheels or consider relocating your hamster to another room. By taking the wheel out at night, you're potentially cutting into a large chunk of their exercise routine, leading to health problems. 

In Closing

A hamster wheel is an important part of your hamster's health and wellbeing. They reduce stress and keep your little buddy happy, so if they're not using them, it can cause concern. Make sure you have the perfect wheel for your fuzzy friend before getting too concerned about potential health problems, but stay vigilant in the task of maintaining your pet's best quality of life. 

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