HAMSTERS SOUTH AFRICA
EXCUSE THE MESS! * SITE UNDERGOING UPGRADE *
WHEELS & BALLS
PROVIDING THE CORRECT SIZE & STYLE OF WHEEL IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BASIC ESSENTIAL ITEMS FOR YOUR HAMSTER.
ABSOLUTE MINIMIM WHEEL SIZE
In the wild, hamsters run 5 to 9km a night, and in captivity some can be serious marathon runners on the wheel. It is therefore vital that you invest in the correct wheel to avoid damage to spine, neck, hips, and feet. A good quality wheel could also last you through many hamsters without having to replace.
DWARF HAMSTERS - 21cm - 30cm (7.8-12”)
A really small dwarf can use an 18cm (7") wheel, but NO smaller
SYRIANS/TEDDY BEAR – 27cm-35cm (11-14")
(FLYING SAUCER WHEELS need to be about 5-10cm larger.)
~ courtesy of Ham-Ham Love group.
THE LARGER THE WHEEL, THE BETTER.
The hamster should look like it’s running straight and on flat ground.
NOTES OF CAUTION
Hamsters can become trapped in the narrow space behind the wheel, particularly in the case of those wheels that attach to the bars or side of a habitat. Case in point: One of our member's hamster got trapped like this and in his desperate attempt to free himself, his jaw was broken and his skull crushed. Sadly, he had to be mercifully euthanised.
We therefore recommend freestanding wheels that can be placed with a decent gap behind the wheel, or anywhere else in the habitat.
Hamsters can sometimes develop quirky little antics when using an upright spinner or a flying saucer. Some appear to simply like "flying off" the wheel, either when stopping or mid-spin. Others may initially be inexperienced with 'appropriate' stopping. In any of these cases it is a good idea to clear a 'flight-path' and remove hard objects to make a clear soft landing onto bedding, or you can opt to change to a wheel that has a front covering with holes in it (e.g. Orbital Wheel).
With long-haired Syrians, it is best to avoid wheels that have long spokes protruding from the center. The fur can get caught, stuck and twisted, causing much pain. If this is the only kind of wheel you can find, rather get a super-large one.
We recommend that you seal wood and cork before using, in order to prevent urine from soaking in and making it smell. Two or three coats of Gripseal or Wondaseal will do the trick. Wipe down regularly.
Note: your hamster may gnaw the wheel because it's wood, or they rip up the cork lining because it's fun. Sealing may help to prevent the attraction to do this.
The BEEZTEES WHEEL is 29cm or 30cm and great for Syrians or Dwarfs. Most are very silent.
Mesh wheels are usually listed as bad wheels, but the MPET “TRAINING WHEEL” is a really good one, since it doesn't have the dangerous cross-bar across the opening, but YOU HAVE TO LINE the inside to make the running surface solid before letting your hamster use it (e.g. textured card, lightly textured place mats, flattened corrugated cardboard/corrucard, duct tape, etc.)
BE SURE TO BUY THE XL/LARGE SIZE (27cm)
Small and Medium are too small.
Great for Dwarfs and Syrians
(If you have a super-large Syrian, please look at other 30cm wheels)
Highly recommended for the reasonable price compared to other wheels, and they're super silent and wide.
Other mesh wheels have a cross-bar over the opening and definitely need to be avoided for hamsters
LINING the MPet Wheel is not very difficult - no special skills or tools required.
The clips can also be lifted slightly from the back to slip the lining underneath them to conveniently secure cardboard, cork, or a placemat.
If necessary, depending on what the lining is, 3 or 4 tiny pieces of strong flat double-sided tape under the front section and the join will secure any flapping ends.
Optional: The outside can also be covered to hide all mesh and make the wheel more attractive. Decorative duct tape or contact paper works well.
Some people with neat hands prefer to line with duct tape, in which case the outside WILL be needed to cover the sticky underside of the tape exposed through the mesh and prevent substrates from sticking to it.
LITTLE FRIENDS / YOU & ME WHEELS
There have been rumblings that one or both these brands may be coming to SA soon.
Same info applies as with the MPet Wheels above: correct size & inside to be lined.
LITTLE FRIENDS - Large (27cm) size only. M and S are too small.
YOU & ME - Chinchilla (27cm) size only. The ones "for rats" or "for hamsters" are too small.
At this stage, we do not know if they are as silent as the MPet wheels, or how they spin.
DON'T BOTHER WITH THESE woven lining hacks.
They may look pretty cool but the hamster will destroy your efforts in one night! Some twines can also be abrasive and harsh on the little feet, risking bumblefoot and painful abrasions.
(Note: Cork sheeting looks great, and is kind on the feet, but unfortunately many hamsters love ripping that up. Worth trying though, in case your particular hamster isn't a ripper).
Note that because plastic is slippery, most hamsters will pee in them to make sticky for extra traction. You will therefore have to keep an extra eye on hygiene:
Open front styles can simply be wiped clean every day or two, and then given a proper wash every week
Enclosed styles will need to be completely taken apart every few days in order to clean out joins and frames.
Leaving urine to accumulate and get gummy tends to attract nasties (like mites, ants, & flies), and will also affect the health of your hamster's feet.
Available from most pet shops in different sizes. Please get the largest.
Long central spoke - not for long-haired Syrians.
Cheap but VERY NOISY!
PAWISE SILENT SPINNER WHEELS
Relatively cheap and may not last very long before they seize up, start rattling or squeaking.
Decent style but please make sure you get the correct size (many sold in shops are the unsuitable smaller sizes).
Available in sizes 21cm, 25cm, 30cm
for Dwarfs and Syrians.
Usually sold via Takealot.
Sturdy and silent.
ORBITAL WHEEL (30cm)
Dwarfs or Syrians.
Central spoke - not for long-haired Syrians
Some can be rather noisy.
Usually sold via Cat Box Hyper.
NVI530 DARO WHEEL (25cm)
for DWARFS ONLY.
(NOTE: The NVI548 is 16cm, so too small)
Excellent spinner and super silent.
FLYING SAUCER SPINNERS
These can be used instead of a a standard upright wheel but will take up more space in the habitat.
Some websites and groups feel that you should still have an upright wheel if you have a flying saucer, but we're not sure of the reason since the hamster will be getting it's exercise either way.
However, please be aware that these need to be quite substantially larger than the minimum sizes of the upright wheels. Your hamster should look quite small on it.
Dwarfs: MINIMUM 27cm (10.5")
Syrians: MINIMUM 33cm (12.9")
DO NOT BUY THE SMALL ONES THAT MOST PET SHOPS SELL.
Note: Many people report that these saucers do not last as long as uprights - apparently the mechanism/axle wears out or it starts squeaking quite quickly.
TIPS FOR SQUEAKING OR RATTLING WHEELS
Many good wheels can be disassembled if you look carefully at the mechanism. Those that develop squeaks, or where the mechanism gets a bit worn and starts rattling, can often be remedied.
Wind simple plumbers tape around the axle should stop squeaking.
Some people use olive/vegetable oil, Vaseline, or glycerin, for squeaks. This does eventually attract dust and goes gummy and scratchy but it should be easy enough to give periodic cleans.. Be sure to wipe any excess away to avoid your hamster being tempted to lick.
Rubbing candle wax or unscented soap on the squeaky parts also works well to stop squeaking and is less likely to get gummy.
One of those fabric covered hair bands can be wrapped around the mechanism to stop rattling.
SO DO CHECK OUT THE MECHANISM OF YOUR GOOD WHEEL BEFORE YOU RUSH OUT AND REPLACE IT.
If all efforts fail, then get a new wheel.
REALLY BAD WHEELS
DO NOT BUY / REPLACE IF YOU HAVE ONE
MESH AND RUNGED WHEELS need to be avoided as these pose risks of serious injuries in hamsters, e.g. broken legs and toes, or a painful condition called Bumble Foot, all of which will require urgent veterinary attention, and possible amputation.
(The only safe mesh wheel is the MPet XL, because it doesn't have the cross-bar, but still needs to be lined on the inside of the running tread.)
WHEELS WITH CROSS-BARS across any part of the open side/s are an ABSOLUTE NO-NO because there is little that you can do to eliminate the risk posed by that bar.
Many hamsters stop running and then stick their heads out, or jump out, while the wheel is still spinning or swaying and then get chopped by the bar, often causing an injury serious enough to warrant an expensive and traumatic trip to the vet, not to mention the pain.
Never ever get one of these wheels for any hamster, even if “your aunty’s” hamster never had a problem with it. The risk is not worth it! There is a hack on the DIY page where you can use the barrel of these kinds of bad wheels to make a new safer wheel.
JUST BECAUSE A PET SHOP SELLS IT, DOES NOT MEAN IT’S SUITABLE.
UNDERSIZED & MINI WHEELS
Do not waste your money on buying a small or mini wheel, even if your hamster is still a baby. It'll need to be replaced by the time he is 5 weeks old!
As explained above, a small wheel will cause irreversible damage & pain.
Furthermore, common logic should visibly tell you that it is uncomfortable for your hamster to run on. Herewith a reminder of the correct sizes:
DWARF HAMSTERS - 21cm - 27cm (7.8-10”)
A really small dwarf can use an 18cm (7") wheel, but NO smaller
SYRIANS/TEDDY BEAR – 27cm-35cm (11-14")
(FLYING SAUCER WHEELS need to be about 5-10cm larger.)
SIZE & STYLE MATTERS when it involves your hamster’s wheel! If you are not going to bother with providing a correct wheel, rather don't get a hamster.
Main causes of this incredibly painful, and often irreversible, condition:
Wheels with rungs, exposed mesh, and very hard surfaces.
Open bars on levels/shelves and ladders in travel cages (pet shop cages).
Foot getting caught in the crossbar of a dangerous wheel.
It starts with tissue becoming infected when the skin on the feet is abraded by an unsuitable surface, or the foot/toe gets injured. If left too long without veterinary medication and correction of the cause, the infection will reach the delicate bones in the foot or leg and the hamster's leg will need to be amputated.
It is important to regularly check your hamster's feet, regardless of which wheel you have, since some hamsters can still develop bumblefoot from prolonged running on a hard surface (solid metal and hard plastic wheels).
Get him to an exotics vet as soon as you notice anything that looks like a sore under or around his feet.
In this case, we recommend removing the wheel until the infection has cleared up, and then lining your good wheel with something soft e.g. cork sheeting, a lightly textured place mat, or slightly flattened corrugated cardboard.
Never line the wheel or large shelf sections with anything too abrasive like sandpaper.
Like most people around the world, HSA does not recommend hamster balls because of various risks, and also the stress of trying to escape the tiny space that is so close to freedom but, like a nightmare, he just can't get there! It's frightening!
Most rescue centers will even smash up such donations.
Why Hamster Balls Are Very Dangerous And Should Not Be Used
~ Information courtesy of How-To-Care-For-Hamsters (Tumblr) ~
Unfortunately many pet stores and hamster owners aren’t aware of the dangers that come with putting your hamsters/mice or any other animal in a hamster ball.
Here are 10 REASONS to never put a hamster (or any other animal) in a hamster ball:
1. INJURIES + DEATH
As the animals cannot really maneuver or stop the ball they often collide with walls or crash into furniture or even fall down stairs resulting in sprains, traumas, fractions and other (inner/often invisible) injuries, sometimes even death.
2. STRESS + FEAR
Hamsters are flight animals! This means they always have to be able to hide somewhere if they feel threatened otherwise they are highly stressed and fear for their lives. (That’s why you always need hideouts + houses in the habitat.)
While in a ball they have no possibility to hide or really run away, they are locked up for everyone to see and watch which is directly the opposite on how hamsters should be kept or handled!
The feeling of being in horrible (mortal) danger leads to running around even faster and crashing into things (often resulting in more injuries) which the owner then interprets as “a cute hamster having fun and exploring the room”. That’s the opposite of what’s happening here!
Hamsters would normally never willingly decide to enter a hamster ball, lock it up and use it for running around! They like exploring everything first hand.
But even if they really loved it - some hamsters love chewing on electrical wires but you still wouldn’t let them because it’s dangerous. Hamsters cannot always evaluate the danger they are in - it’s your responsibility to do so.
Hamsters and other animals love to explore their enviroment directly with their senses. They need to see/hear/smell/feel everything around them (not behind a layer of plastic). As hamsters do have an excellent sense of smell and great ears but are very shortsighted they don’t really see, hear or know where they are going which makes them feel helpless and increases their stress level.
Hamster mark their territory by using scent glands, feces and urine. As they are stressed they often pee and defecate even more which leads to a dirty unsanitary interior. As they can’t leave the ball when they please they are forced to run in their own feces and urine which can lead to infections and them feeling very uncomfortable.
6. POOR VENTILATION
Due to being stressed, frightened and looking for somewhere to hide they often run very fast which leads to even quicker breathing. A hamsterball is never ventilated enough as the vent slots are MUCH too small and often get clogged by feces. Therefore hamsters feel like they are slowly suffocating and the panic increases which again results in faster running, trying to get out and hyperventilating. Your hamster can actually die at this stage!
7. FOOT INJURIES
The vent slots are much too small but often big enough for their toes/claws or feet to get caught, clamped or even amputated!
Hamster balls are WAY too small. Compare them with recommended hamster wheel sizes. For dwarf hamsters their wheel should be about 21 - 30cm,, for Syrian and bigger hamsters the correct size is about 27 - 35cm. Most hamster balls stocked in pet shops are about half that!
As a result, hamsters have to arch their back with consequences such as massive spine problems, back pain and injuries and a general feeling of pain and discomfort!
Hamsters always need a wheel (not ball) in their habitat where they are able to run with a completely straight back on a closed surface with a closed back wall. They have to be able to get out and in any time they want. Anything else results in injuries, stress or pain.
9. OTHER ANIMALS
Sometimes when putting their hamster in a hamster ball the person thinks it’s fine for them to “meet” other pets as they are “safe” in the ball (which is unfortunately a very dangerous and terribly wrong assumption).
As hamsters cannot orientate themselves and do not really understand or know where they are going because using their senses is almost impossible they can run into other animals and be thrown around or attacked by them.
Even if those animals do nothing at all and are very friendly, hamsters are flight animals which means that they want to hide and run away from potential predators (NOT “meet” them!) which isn’t really possible for them when stuck in a hamster ball with no to little orientation. This can lead to enormous stress, panic, injuries and even heart attacks.
10. VETS AND ANIMAL PROTECTION SOCIETIES:
In some countries, for example Germany, hamster balls are already listed as “unsuitable animal supplies with high injury risks” and are highly criticized by vets and animal protection societies as well as popular hamster care websites.
“But my hamster isn’t stressed at all and has fun in their hamster ball!”
I’m sorry, but you can’t really know that!
But even if your hamster had fun in it, it would still be very dangerous, unsanitary and simply unsuitable for them and their needs - so please consider an alternative!
“What should I do now?”
Build a fenced/walled area for your hamster to explore and exercise, like a playpen, in a safe room for free-roaming times.
Make sure your hamster's habitat is at least the minimum recommended size.
These combo ball-wheels are incredibly dangerous because of the cross-bar, so please don't think you can get an all-in-one!
Similar exercise items, e.g. runabouts for sugar gliders, are also not safe for hamsters. The mesh poses a risk to the feet and, even if lined on the inside with something clear, there is a possibility that it could topple over and then your hamster is even more trapped if you're not watching, and could injure his teeth chewing at the mesh to free himself. While this may seem better than the ball, we're also not sure how well it will turn around corners, and also how good the visibility would be through the mesh for a hamster.