Hamsters are prone to obesity and other diseases that stem from lack of exercise. They also get bored easily and need to be entertained. It’s important for your pet to be active on a daily basis so they can stay healthy.
Hamster balls are one toy available to help your pet exercise. But, while exercise balls do help hamsters stay active, but they have many risks and dangers, too.
Read on to learn more about hamster balls, the safety risks associated with them and choices you have for a hamster ball alternative.
- Do Hamsters Like Hamster Balls?
- Are Hamster Balls Good for Exercise?
- Are Hamster Balls Healthy and Hygienic?
- Do Hamster Balls Cause Injury?
- How to Safely Use Hamster Balls
- Alternatives to Hamster Balls
Do Hamsters Like Hamster Balls?
Hamsters have mixed reactions to hamster balls. Sometimes they are afraid to even get in the ball, or they won’t run once inside the ball.
Even if they do run in the ball, it’s generally a stress reaction rather than a fun time.
Hamster balls may restrict your pet’s senses. Hamsters have poor eyesight, so they rely on other senses, like smell and touch, in order to safely explore their space.
Hamsters have no control over their environment when they’re in hamster balls. They have no access to resources like their nest, food or water.
Are Hamster Balls Good for Exercise?
If your hammy runs in a hamster ball, yes, they will get exercise. However, the key is to minimize your pet’s stress level while it’s exercising.
When hamsters run in an exercise ball, they gather momentum. This means that it’s more difficult for them to stop.
It also means they’re forced to keep running just to avoid possible injury. For this reason, it’s very important to limit your hamster’s time in an exercise ball so they don’t become completely exhausted.
Are Hamster Balls Healthy and Hygienic?
Some hamster balls are made of toxic plastic. Be on the lookout for that if you’re considering purchasing one.
Because the ventilation holes are so small, hamster balls may not provide the cleanest, freshest air. And if balls are opaque in color, they may absorb and retain heat. This is a bad combination for the hamster inside, who could experience overheating and dehydration.
Hamsters will urinate and defecate inside the ball (sometimes due to high-stress responses). Fecal matter and urine will get lodged in the ventilation holes, which leads to even less fresh air and toxic fumes inside.
If they are not regularly cleaned, a hamster ball can quickly become an unhygienic place that can cause bacterial infections or ammonia burns.
Do Hamster Balls Cause Injury?
Hamsters are unfortunately prone to injury while they’re inside hamster balls. Depending on the quality of the ball, it may break open easily. Other injury risks include the following.
- Limbs can get stuck in ventilation holes, possibly fracturing bones.
- Hamsters can become disoriented inside the ball, crashing into walls or furniture or rolling down stairs. This can cause sprains, trauma, broken bones or life-threatening internal injuries.
- If the ball is too small, a hamster will need to arch its back while it’s inside, causing spine problems and back pain.
Other pets or small children may also see the ball as a plaything and shake it, throw it or knock it around.
How to Safely Use Hamster Balls
If you are considering trying out a hamster ball, you must be willing to put in the time and energy it takes to keep your furry friend as safe as possible. Follow these guidelines!
Purchase an Appropriate Size and Color
Hamsters must be able to stand up straight while inside the ball.
Syrian hamsters (also known as teddy bear, black bear or golden hamsters) need an 11- to 12-inch ball, depending on their individual size.
Dwarf hamsters need a 7- or 8-inch ball.
Only use a transparent and clear-colored hamster ball. This will prevent extra heat absorption. Plus, you can better observe your hamster while it’s in the ball.
Remember to keep the hamster ball out of direct sunlight!
Acclimate Your Hamster First
Before your hammy rolls around for the first time, get them used to the ball. Follow these steps to help it along:
- Allow it to climb in the open ball for a few days. Never force your hamster inside the hamster ball. Get it to climb in on its own by placing a treat inside the open ball.
- After a few days, if your hamster will climb in on its own, close the ball and monitor its reaction to being enclosed.
- Once your hamster is comfortable with the ball, place it on the floor for its first roll.
Never roll the ball with your hamster inside it. Always let the hamster move the ball on its own (or not).
Secure the Hamster Ball
Close the ball securely by twisting or locking it. If there’s any doubt that it might open, you can use some tape to secure it shut.
Check for cracks and weaknesses before your hamster uses the ball.
Limit your hamster’s first roll to only two or three minutes.
Once your hamster is used to the exercise ball, a workout can be up to 10 minutes long. However, never exceed the 10-minute mark without giving your hamster a break with access to its nesting, food and water.
You must constantly monitor your hamster when it’s using the exercise ball. Don’t leave it alone with small children, either.
Close off an area where no small children or other pets can reach the ball, and where there are no dangerous obstacles for it to crash into.
Only Use on Even Ground
Keep the hamster ball far away from stairs, hard flooring or uneven ground like gravel. Don’t allow your hamster access to downhill rolling.
Soft carpet is the best ground for hamster ball exercising.
Wash the Ball After Every Use
This is no joke. Hamsters will urinate and poop while inside, so it’s extremely important to thoroughly wash the exercise ball after each use. A hamster ball can easily become unhealthy for your hamster and for the humans and other pets in your home.
Washing the ball will also keep it better ventilated, so your hamster can breathe more fresh air and avoid unhealthy exposure to fumes.
Listen to Your Hamster
If your hamster never wants to get in the exercise ball, don’t force it. There are alternatives to hamster balls that will give your pet less-stressful exercise.
Respect your hamster’s comfort level with its surroundings. If it stops running or seems agitated while inside the ball, it’s time to let it out.
Hamsters are nocturnal creatures, which means they will sleep most of the day. Never wake up your hamster so it can exercise. It’s disorienting and unhealthy for your hammy.
Alternatives to Hamster Balls
With all these health and safety risks, you may decide to skip the hamster ball altogether. That’s OK. There are great hamster ball alternatives that can give your hammy the exercise it needs.
Play pens (like this one) are great options if you want to give your hamster a secondary location for running and exploring.
Hamster wheels are tried and true. Make sure they have solid flooring, with no latticing or crossbars, and are large enough for your hamster (remember, they shouldn’t have to arch their backs).
Providing enrichment items like tubs, boxes and chew blocks in your hamster’s cage will also give them activity and exercise.