Exercise is important to a pet rat’s health. There are many ways that they can exercise to keep themselves healthy and keep them from being bored.
Pet rats love to run around and play in their cage and on their exercise wheels. Those are all fun, but do pet rats like running balls?
Pet rats actually don’t like running balls as much because the curve in the ball can sometimes make their back arch in an awkward position. It can also hurt their toes and affect some of their senses when in the ball.
All of that can happen if you put your pet rat in an exercise ball that is too small, but what about an appropriate sized ball? Are bigger running balls safer?
Rats still require exercise either way and there are many other options for them if you don’t feel comfortable putting your pet rats in a ball.
Do Rats Like Running Balls?
Rats are intelligent and active animals that love to use their mind when exercising and playing, it helps them maintain their physical and mental health.
That being the case, it would seem like running balls would be the perfect toy for them to exercise in, while also giving them a chance to be independent and roam around your room.
But pet rats can actually feel very contained inside the small space of the ball.
It doesn’t give them enough space to use all of their senses. Pet rats, like any other animal, use their senses to find their way around.
They don’t like it when some of the senses that they’re used to using get taken away. This is exactly what happens when they get put in a running ball.
The main one that gets taken away is their smell. Like other rodents, pet rats use their sense of smell to identify a lot of what they come in contact with, it helps them get around.
When you put them in a ball it can take that away, and pet rats don’t like that.
Recommended: Can pet rats really use exercise wheels?
Are Exercise Balls Safe For Rats?
Even though most pet rats don’t really like being in them, some pet owners will still put their rats in an exercise ball.
It can be confusing because of the way that exercise balls are marketed towards pet owners that keep rodents. So are exercise balls safe for rats?
Exercise balls aren’t really all that safe for rats because being in them can make them lose some of their senses and extended use may also cause them to injure their back and feet.
When you put your pet rat inside an exercise ball their sense of direction will be limited which can be dangerous for a small pet.
Without their sense of direction, they’ll have a harder time figuring out which way to go when running in it.
That can be very dangerous because without knowing what’s around them, they could easily run into solid objects in the room.
Running full speed into a solid object is already bad but, running into one without seeing it coming is even worse.
That being said, pet rats are very intelligent and after they run around the room a few times, they will eventually figure out where everything is and won’t run into objects as much anymore.
The Reasons You Shouldn’t Put Your Pet Rats In Exercise Balls
So knowing that exercise balls aren’t the safest option for pet rats, what are some of the reasons you shouldn’t put them in one? We’ve already covered some like:
- Back injuries.
- Foot injuries.
- Loss of their sense of direction.
It can also cause injuries to their tail. The exercise balls have a curve in it that can affect your pet rat’s tail in an awkward way.
The curve can bend your pet rat’s tail in a position that isn’t natural for it to be in.
Some pet rat owners believe it can permanently bend their pets tail with extended use. So that’s something to keep an eye on if you put your rat in a ball often.
Another reason why you shouldn’t put them in a ball is that it can increase the chance of them overheating.
Unlike a properly sized exercise wheel, the small space that an exercise ball provides insulates your pet rat’s body heat.
If you leave them in one for too long they can start to become exhausted. That poor ventilation is not good for your pet rat over time.
Recommended: What is the perfect wheel size for my pet rat?
Can Your Pet Rat Use An Exercise Ball That’s Bigger Or Is It Still Unsafe?
If you do decide that you want to have your pet use an exercise ball the best thing you can do is make sure the size of the ball is appropriate for your pet rat.
Rats come in different shapes and sizes. That means one size exercise ball won’t fit well for all rats.
You should make sure the size of the ball is big enough for your pet rat before getting one.
So getting a bigger running ball for your pet rat is definitely a safer option than getting a smaller one. It lowers the risk of your pet rat getting a back injury and they will have plenty of space to move around and run.
To be safe, still limit the time that they are in the exercise balls. That way it lowers the chance of them injuring themselves.
Remember all pet rats have different personalities. So while one rat might hate being inside one, another rat might actually enjoy the independence of being able to roam around the room in a ball.
Just be sure to monitor them while they’re in it to see if they like it or not. If they like being in one then let them have their fun in it, but limit their time in the ball to be safe.
If you notice that they’re not as comfortable in one, then take them out and stop using the running ball altogether.
What Can Your Pet Rat Use To Exercise And Play With Besides Running Balls?
There are many other ways your pet rats can exercise and play besides using an exercise ball. Rats love to dig and use tunnels. You can give them different materials that they can use to make tunnels out of.
Exercise wheels are another great activity for your pet. You can place the wheels inside the cage and let them run on it. Just be sure that you’re using the right-sized wheel for your pet rat to be safe.
Climbing toys that can help them exercise and play can include:
- Stacked boxes.
Chewing is fun and also necessary for their dental health. Good chew toys include:
- Certain nylabones.
- Certain dog bones.
- Cardboard boxes.
- Cardboard egg cartons.
Rats enjoy shredding most lighter substances to pieces like toilet paper rolls. Small toys that can be pushed or pulled around are also fun for your pet rats, it’s also great for exercise.
All of these are great alternatives for exercise and play if you don’t want to put them in a ball.
If you do decide to put your pet rats in an exercise ball, just make sure you’re doing it the safest way possible. That way you keep your pet rats healthier and happier longer.