If like many of us, you owned a hamster or a gerbil as a child, you might be wondering if your rat would enjoy running in a wheel as much as your childhood pet seemed to. You may have seen warnings online about unsafe wheels for rats, so how do you know? Can rats use a wheel? Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which are marked with an asterisk.
Safe Wheels For Rats
A safe rat wheel shouldn’t have anywhere for claws or feet to become stuck. Any kind of grill on the wheel isn’t safe. Instead, the wheel should be made from smooth plastic or metal.
Rats need a much larger wheel than other small animals. Too small a wheel will damage your rat’s spine. Many wheels labelled as suitable for rats actually aren’t, so don’t trust pet shop or website information. Instead, just go by size.
For kittens or small does, you can use a wheel of 12″. 12″ is the absolute minimum for a rat wheel, but is only really appropriate for smaller rats. For adult does, a 14″ wheel is a better minimum size. For large bucks, the minimum size is 16″.
It’s worth buying the biggest wheel you can afford, even if you only have does, in case you need a bigger wheel in future.
The best, and most popular, wheels on the market are the Tic Tac metal wheels. These are the Rolls Royce of rat wheels. They’re not cheap (keep an eye out for options on clearance), but they’re sturdy, last for years, are a safe size, are deep enough for two rats to run together and are totally silent.
Can rats use a ball?
If you’re remembering that childhood hamster, you might have considered buying a large ball for your rat to run in, as a free-range option.
No matter how big it is, no ball is suitable for a rat. It doesn’t have suitable ventilation, and the slits in these balls risk your rat’s feet getting caught, which could cause a nasty injury.
These balls are also highly stressful for rats. They can’t see out properly, and their whiskers tell them they’re in a very, very small room. When this room moves with them, this can be terrifying.
Even if your rat seems to enjoy it, there aren’t any balls available on the market that are large enough, meaning the ball will badly injure it’s back in the long-term.