Can Pet Rats Really Use Exercise Wheels?

Rats are really cool pets. They are smart, clean, active, easy to hold and fun to watch. As a pet rat owner, you want to keep it healthy and active. While you get the cage set up you may be considering a rat exercise wheel.

So, can rats use exercise wheels? The short answer is yes, rats need exercise to stay healthy and feel good and an exercise wheel is a great option. They are intelligent enough to figure out what the wheel is and to give it a try.

A pet rat is also a very social creature and will be a lot happier if you play with it every day.

Getting a wheel does not replace all of their needs for exercising and having a good time, it’s just a great addition. Even so, when it comes to getting regular exercise, a wheel is a great option.

Other toys that you can get them and options include:

  • Toys.
  • Hammocks.
  • Hiding areas.
  • Nesting materials to shred.

In this article, I will go over the things you need to know about getting a wheel for your pet rat.

Are Exercise Wheels Safe For Pet Rats?

Yes, exercise wheels are perfectly safe. In order to avoid any problems, you will want to get them the right kind of wheel.

Mouse and hamster wheels are too small and may cause damage to the spine of your pet. Also, the old fashioned wire wheels can injure their feet. So be sure to buy a wheel with a solid surface.

There are some pet rat owners who are concerned that it can cause them to have a wheel tail.

When they run on the wheel, their tail is held off to the side. This may cause the tail to become twisted. It is not very common and doesn’t seem to hurt the rat.

There are some rat owners who don’t use wheels because of these concerns. However, rats know the limits of their bodies and are very intelligent.

If the wheel is causing them discomfort, they won’t continue to run on it and hurt themselves, they’ll just simply stop using it.

It’s also important to note that even rats that have never run on a wheel can get wheel tail. Sometimes it can just be genetic.

What Are The Dangers Of Exercise Wheels For Rats?

Pet rats can face a few dangers while running on an exercise wheel. Most of the time it’s because they aren’t running a wheel that’s the right size for them.

If your rat is running on a wheel that is too small they can start to develop back pain.

Once that happens, it’s easier for them to injure their backs. Other injuries that can result from running on a wheel that is too small are muscle injuries and nerve damage.

All rats come in different shapes and sizes. So if you’re unsure of the right wheel size for a pet rat then you can check out my post on the perfect wheel size for your pet rat if you have any questions.

Do All Pet Rats Need A Wheel?

No, you don’t have to get a wheel for your rat, but you do have to keep it happy and healthy.

They are smart, curious, and creative animals. So like people, if they don’t have fun stuff to do, they will get bored.

With a wheel, your pet will be a lot happier, which will lead to a healthier life.

Rats can get stressed if they are bored or get no exercise. That kind of stress can cause a lot of problems.

One problem that can arise is barbering, which basically means they get nervous and start chewing their nails. This will cause sores on their front feet that might turn into a big problem if left unchecked.

Another problem that arises is just laziness. A pet that just lays around all day is not having very much fun. It is more likely to gain too much weight or get sick.

As pet owners, it is our responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Rats who are overweight don’t live as long. It is also possible that your rat will stop eating and drinking water if it isn’t feeling well.

Regular exercise can stop the problem of under-eating by stimulating their appetite.

So exercise is a great way to keep them active which leads to them being fit and healthy.

Do Pet Rats Like To Run On Exercise Wheels?

In general, pet rats love to run on exercise wheels. Still, some pet owners will put a shiny new wheel in the cage thinking their rat will jump right in and start running, but sometimes their rat just won’t use it.

It turns out that each rat has a unique personality. Some rats love to run all day and others will never get on the wheel at all.

If you see them not using it, try changing the location of the wheel in the cage or clearing out other debris that’s in the same area.

With a little tinkering, your pet may start using the wheel. On the other hand, your pet rat might just prefer other activities, and that’s perfectly fine.

What Else Can A Pet Rat Use For Fun And Exercise?

One alternative to an exercise wheel is an exercise ball. There is a door on the ball and the rat goes inside and runs similar to the exercise wheel, It can safely go all over the house, the yard, or wherever you want.

It can be very entertaining to watch, but honestly the least recommended option.

There are some drawbacks. First, the inside of the ball will get urine and feces and get a little messy. Be sure the ball is a large enough size that it is comfortable to use.

Also while they’re in there they can start to become a little confused about which direction they’re going.

So if you do decide to have them in the exercise ball just make sure to watch them and take them out if it looks like they are starting to get uncomfortable.

Here are some other ideas that are recommended:

  • Dig BoxRats love to dig. Just fill a small box a few inches deep with soil, birdseed, ripped up paper, rocks, and treats.
  • Edible Toys – String up some popcorn, sunflower seeds or peanuts in their shell using a thread and needle and hang it around the cage.
  • Tunnels and Ramps – A paper towel roll can be made into a bridge. Cut a sleeve off an old dress shirt to create a tunnel to get through an obstacle in the cage.
  • Hang It Up – Hang things around the cage, create a rope ladder, hang up bells or shiny objects around the cage.
  • Get Cozy – Rats love to nest. Provide boxes and bits of newspaper for them to make a nice bed. As you regularly change the bedding out, try hiding the newspaper far across the cage.

Wrapping Up

With a fun environment and a great rat exercise wheel, your pet will be healthy, busy, and happy. Of course, there is something that is more fun and exciting for your pet rat than every toy in the world, and that’s you!

Get your pet rat out of the cage and play with it. Let it run up your arm and lick the salt off your skin. Watch over it as it explores your room and finds places to hide.

These creative little creatures can really inspire us to see the world from a new point of view.

So can pet rats use exercise wheels? Absolutely. But it will never take the place of your love and attention.


Hi, I'm Mason, I've kept small animals as pets since I was 8 years old. I love to learn and talk about them basically every day. Over the years I've adopted small pets like hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

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