6. It’s all about the exercise
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.
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.
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.