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A hamster needs to run to stay healthy and happy. I am wondering, if a hamster was given a large enclosure (like the size of a room that is 300-400 square feet / 28-37 square meters), would the hamster ever need a wheel to run in? It would seem that the hamster could just run around the room instead of ever needing a wheel.

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    This would be a heaven for the hamster :) If you could realize a enclosure of this size, then your hamster need no wheel. It may be a challenge to give the enclosure hamster-proof borders – Allerleirauh Oct 27 '20 at 20:17
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    Do you plan to build a enclosure of this size, or do you have a spare room you plan to modify for this? I assume the answers will depending very from this... – Allerleirauh Oct 28 '20 at 13:06
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    @Allerleirauh In the question I meant build an enclosure of this size. – Jacob B Oct 28 '20 at 16:40
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No, if a hamster has sufficient space, they do not need a wheel. A wheel is just a way to work around not having enough space to exercise. I'm sure a hamster would love having a that much space to run around in!

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Not advisable unless you make certain modifications

Hamster proofing an enclosure of this size is quite hard. Hamster can climb to beds, sofas, heavy curtains and any wooden furniture with 3-4 cm separation from any flat surface. It is especially dangerous to have heavy curtains in the room as hamsters are excellent upward climbers but they are very clumsy when it comes to climbing down. Also, you have to make sure that they cannot squirm under the door. This is very hard to ensure as they would chew away the foam under the doors.

Long story short, this would work only if the room is solely dedicated to the hamster's use.

Hamsters require enclosures as much as space

Hamsters are especially stressed if they cannot find a good enclosure to build their nest. So, a hamster would run in the room until it finds an enclosure. If he cannot find one, he would go to a corner and make it his own uncomfortable nest.

Also, while young hamsters are more adventurous, old hamsters prefer a well known closed space over a larger area that hasn't been explored. Whether your hamster is old or young, they have to have access to their nest with the familiar smell.

Hamsters might not know if they are running on a wheel

This is still a theory as cognitive abilities of pet hamsters are yet to be studied, but hamsters may not know if they are not getting to anywhere. I have two stories:

  • One of my Campbell hamsters picked up a fight with his cage-mate and just before things turned physical, he jumped on the flying saucer and started to run for his life. He kept checking if he is putting distance with his mate and whenever he saw his mate just behind him, on the ground not on the flying saucer, he tried running even faster.

  • I put hamsters in large balls on a stand when I clean their cage. They usually run in the same distance for some time, stop and assess their environment and then run in the other direction for a similar amount of time. This might be due to them feeling they are too far away from their origin and want to return back to it.

In other words, large enclosures are not a replacement for a wheel/ball/flying saucer. A hamster would be happiest in such a large dedicated room with access to their nest and their wheel.

  • "In other words, large enclosures are not a replacement for a wheel/ball/flying saucer. " I assume you do not want to say, that the wild kin of hamsters are happier with wheels too, but it sounds like this... – Allerleirauh Oct 28 '20 at 13:08
  • @Allerleirauh Wild hamsters do not have the food resources available to pet hamsters so they like to conserve their energy. – C.Koca Oct 28 '20 at 13:18
  • But then one should adjust the food, right? Btw, how the question is worded, I assumed, that there should no room be modified, but instead a new enclosure would be built. – Allerleirauh Oct 28 '20 at 13:21
  • You can't adjust the food. The food has to be readily available. Hamsters are susceptible to hunger. How do wild hamsters deal with it when the food is not available? They either hibernate or die. Not everything in the wild is applicable to the animals in captivity. Also, if you have the resource to modify a 27 m2 room, you surely have the resources to buy a £15 pound quality wheel. – C.Koca Oct 28 '20 at 13:38
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    Thanks for the detailed answer. I was asking to see if it would be a good/possible idea, as I understand that creating an enclosure this large would be quite expensive. – Jacob B Oct 28 '20 at 16:46
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My experience with kids hamsters running loose , is that they do not want to go back in a cage and make homes in furniture. etc. I had a pet squirrel many years ago and he made a nest on the top shelf of the pantry by shredding toilet paper stored there. That is another point ,the hamsters will shred stuff to make nests. And what they decide to shred may not be part of your plan.

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    Yeah, it wouldn't be good to let a hamster roam around in a room I'm using, but what if it just had a really large enclosure. Would it still need a wheel even though it has so much space to run around? – Jacob B Oct 27 '20 at 16:31
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    This doesn't answer the question – Kat Oct 27 '20 at 20:29
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    Well ,yes you could do it, but it is a very bad idea. – blacksmith37 Oct 28 '20 at 0:15

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