The Wheels Are Turning
Small animals, like hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, chinchillas and ferrets, all require daily exercise, as physical activity can impact their health as well as their mental wellbeing.
“Exercise helps keep their weight under control, provides behavioral enrichment and keeps small animals’ brains active,” Carolyn Gates, VMD, said. “Small pets that don’t get enough exercise tend to have behavioral problems and medical issues.”
Physical exercise requirements vary among species. Hamsters, gerbils, mice and rats love to tunnel through their cages, and hiding food at the end of a tube inspires pets to venture farther in search of it, ultimately making them work for their food.
Super Pet’s Hay and Treat Dispenser is an exercise wheel with a twist. One compartment dispenses hay while others provide sneaky hiding places for treats. As it spins, it releases the goods. This encourages small animals to interact with the toy and figure out the trick to scoring delicious treats.
A Challenging Task
“When it comes to exercise, there are a lot of variables to consider, including the species, the diet and the animal itself,” Gates said. “It’s tough to force many small animals to get enough exercise. It’s not like a cat, where you can dangle a toy in front of it, or a dog that you can put on a leash.”
Exercise wheels and balls certainly come to mind when owners are considering their pets’ exercise habits, and many manufacturers have expanded these product offerings to include some pretty creative options.
Ware’s Flying Saucer is an exercise wheel of sorts. Its dish shape makes running across the saucer more challenging than a traditional wheel.
Super Pet’s exercise balls range in size from a “mini” size for tiny mice, to a “mega” size for guinea pigs. As an added bonus, most children are enthralled by the idea of their tiny pet running around the house while still in captivity.
For those who see a traditional exercise ball as old school, perhaps a super-deluxe version like Super Pet’s Dazzle Hamster Exercise Carriage would be more appropriate.
This ball is surrounded by a chassis of sorts, which makes the whole thing resemble Cinderella’s carriage.
For those who want their pet to roll in style, Super Pet’s Critter Cruiser is a tail-finned sports car wrapped around an exercise wheel.
Some owners worry about the noise some of these items may make when used by nocturnal animals while the rest of the family is sleeping. Products like Super Pet’s Giant Silent Spinner, address that concern. It’s a wheel that’s specifically designed for quiet, middle-of-the-night workouts.
When it comes to ferrets getting enough exercise, they can be walked on a leash, but should always be in a harness, not a collar, because their tube-like shape makes it easy for them to slip out of a collar.
Marshall Pet Products’ Ferret Walking Jacket is a stylish purple harness that features Velcro closures and quick-snap buckles for easy on and off. It comes with a matching, elasticized leash.
- Kristen Ryan is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.