Between caught toes, disfigured backs, and tail injuries, the exercise wheel can be a very dangerous territory for domesticated rats. If you plan to buy a wheel for your rats to run on, it is necessary to do some serious research and find the right wheel for the health and safety of your rats. Here, we will highlight some do’s and don’ts, as well as link to some appropriate wheels!
The Best Option: Sturdy Metal, Safest, and Silent!
This 14″ metal saucer wheel is silent and made of metal. Most wheels are made of plastic, and they eventually begin squeaking; even breaking if you have a particularly creative (AKA, destructive!) ratty. This one also has ball bearings that keep it going, so no plastic to eventually wear through on you. While it costs more than our next option, it is the item you need if you expect your rat’s wheel to take some serious abuse and running. If your ratty seems to be less of a chewer and more of a napper, you might like the next one!
Next Best Option: Rat Saucer Wheels
Rat saucer wheels are an odd type of wheel, as you can see in the product description to the right. They are more horizontal than vertical, keeping the rat’s head at a much more natural angle. There is very little risk of toes or tails becoming snagged, and no rusting, breaking metal. They are resistant to chewing and provide great exercise for the rats. Oh, and how about easier to clean as well?
Use Large, Rabbit Sized Wheels
Huge rabbit wheels are the next best bet. There are both wire ones and plastic enclosed ones, and I recommend the plastic ones. They are safer and easier to clean. The wheel needs to be large enough that the rat is not severely arching his or her back to run on the wheel. As a matter of fact, some ratties are so large that no wheel is large enough, other than the saucer mentioned above.
If you must go with a wire wheel (only the largest), ensure that the wheel is easily accessible with no distractions in the immediate vicinity of its placement. This way, nothing gets in the way of the rat entering or exiting the wheel. Opt for a wheel wit the tightest mesh, in an effort to prevent toes from getting stuck. Any sharp edges are a no go, and are common with cheaply made wire wheels.
Never Use Small Wheels!
Small wheels are notorious for causing back problems for rats. If the wheel causes the rat to arch its back downwards, it is too small. The rat will run in an upwards fashion, but there is a severe arching with wheels that are too small. The rat may enjoy the exercise wheel quite a lot, but that does not mean that he or she will not experience spinal curvature, back injuries, muscular injuries, nerve damage, and much more. If the wheel seems to be too small, remove it as soon as possible and opt for a larger option. Again, some rats are simply too big for any wheel models on the market; requiring an alternative method of exercise.