Get to Know your Hedgehogs Wheel
About WheelsA wheel is a circular device that is capable of rotating on its axis, facilitating movement or transportation whilst supporting a load (mass), or performing labour in machines.
Wheels are exercise toys used by hamsters and other rodents. Most of these toys are composed of a runged wheel held on a stand by a pair of stub axles. Hamster wheels allow rodents to run even when their space is confined.
Most wheels are constructed of steel or plastic, both with advantages and problems. Solid plastic wheels are safer for some types of pets, such as hamsters and hedgehogs, because the space between rungs is solid and the animal's feet or legs cannot get stuck between rungs, a injury risk in steel wheels. However, some rodents (such as gerbils) will quickly chew on and destroy plastic wheels, but not steel wheels
Need for WheelsHedgehogs are highly mobile creatures at night. They will constantly run around and explore their surroundings while the cover of night is there to help protect them. When hedgehogs are cooped up in the small space of a cage, they will often run rampant trying to get out and explore. One easy way to combat this urge of movement was using a modified hamster wheel.
Hedgehog wheels need to be solid, or else their long legs can get stuck in the bars and break. If there are any gaps in the wheel surface toenails can also get stuck easily. Hedgehog wheels need one entirely open side. If the wheel is supported from both sides by a metal bar the hedgehog could get trapped between the bar and the legs of the wheel injuring itself. The picture to the right shows one of the unsafe wheels.
Hedgehogs and WheelsMost hedgehogs will use a wheel if supplied with one, and it is mandatory that you do provide your hedgehog with a wheel. If a hedgehog is given a wheel and you do not think that the hedgehog is using it, DO NOT REMOVE THE WHEEL. The hedgehog may not be used to the device, or the hedgehog may only run if you are not watching and it is dark. One way to tell is if there is poop on the wheel. If you constantly have to clean the wheel, you know your hedgehog is using it.
If a hedgehog is not supplied with a wheel it may run it's nose back and forth against the cage rubbing it raw and causing injury. Hedgehogs, much like any zoo pet, will do this if they are not properly entertained. A hedgehog needs many enriching activities, and running on a wheel is number one on their priority list.
There are hedgehogs that only use their wheel as a potty and do not run, but these are few and far between.
Pooping on the WheelWhen a hedgehog runs it releases its bowels and urinary tract. By running the hedgehog is kick starting its metabolism and urgently needs to expel waste, much like a human does after a warm cup of coffee. When a hedgehog is running it believes it is leaving it's waste behind it and unlike a dog will not search for a place to go to the washroom. Hedgehogs on a wheel will release their bowels much like they do in the wild, but in this instance the hedgehog does not leave its feces behind, but continues to run through it.
With a hedgehog this is inevitable. Likely you will have to clean the wheel daily and provide your hedgehog with weekly foot baths in a shallow sink or on a damp cloth to get off the poopy boots.
Wheeling AgesHedgehogs need wheels to stay active and health as already described, but at what age can a hedgehog start using a wheel?
Many breeders will supply their hedgehogs with a wheel when they are weened from their mother at 6 weeks of age, and some will be given the chance to run on a wheel during a supervised play time at 5 weeks of age. Any sooner than that and you can risk injuring the hoglet.
When a hedgehog comes home at 6-7 weeks of age, it should be provided with a wheel full time as it is becoming more and more active. If you notice your hedgehog is not being active and just sleeping, this is normal. As hedgehogs get older they sleep less, and will begin using the wheel more.
Moms and WheelsWhen a mom becomes pregnant and reaches the 20 day mark her wheel should be removed. While wheeling the mother could accidentally hurt the babies, or even accidentally give birth. After the mother has the babies, the wheel should not be given back until the babies are weened as the mother will ignore the babies and use the wheel instead of taking care of them. Some mother will even pick up hoglets in her mouth and put them on the wheel when she wants to run so that she doesn't leave them behind. By doing this she will most likely trample the little hoglets, or they will fall of the wheel and severely injure themselves.
If your hedgehog suddenly has babies, make sure you remove the wheel, as it could be disastrous for the health of the babies.
Different WheelsThere are many different kind of wheels on the market, some good and some bad. Below is a list of good and bad wheels for hedgehogs. Each wheel has its pros and cons, and when in doubt, head over to Hedgehog Central Forums and look for more information, or just ask!
There are numerous things to keep in mind when looking for a wheel...
Cake Walk SupremeThe Cake Walk Supreme is a wheel developed and manufactured by Hog Wallow Industries. Hog Wallow Industries is owned and operated by Reaper. The Cake Walk Supreme is the most highly revered and coveted wheel, and is recommended by many hedgehog owners, breeders and enthusiasts. The Cake Walk Supreme features a flat non stick running surface that is extremely safe for hedgehogs. Feces doesn't stick but soft little feet do. The wheel contains no sharp edges and uses a hedgehog safe lubricant for its bearing making it one of the quietest and safest wheels around. The wheel is made from a cake cover and the stand is made of PVC and the cake cover base. The wheel has an adjustable pitch for your hedgehog and allows urine and stool to run off onto the catch plate. The wheel and base is dishwasher safe and is competitively priced. Check out Hog Wallow Industries site and order your Cake Walk Supreme today!
Flying SaucerThe flying saucer wheel is commercially made by Ware Manufacturing Inc.
It features a flat running surface with indents that allow for grip for your hedgehog. The wheel does not have any bearings, and its on a metal rod that extends from the base. The wheel is very low laying, but for a hedgehog you will need the 12" size.
Bucket WheelBucket wheels are much like the name depicts. They are the bottom half of a bucket (often ice cream tubs) connected to a bearing that often hangs off a PVC stand. The bearing is connected to the bucket, and does not come apart easily. The wheel needs to have a 12" diameter and is very tall. Bucket wheels often need to be fastened to the side of the cage, and like all wheels are covered in stool in the morning.
DIYA bucket wheel can be done as a Do It Yourself Project. Instructions are listed on the following sites:
Comfort WheelThis is another commercially sold wheel for small rodents that some have used for their hedgehogs. This wheel is readily available at most pet stores, and is the closest pet store rendition of the bucket wheel, but it not ideal for hedgehogs. You also must purchase the largest size. With adequate modification, this wheel would be be acceptable.
Silent SpinnerSilent Spinner is a wheel for small rodents. This wheel was never meant for use with hedgehogs, but some people still use it. The The wheel is noisy and it has a high lip that the animal must crawl over to get into the wheel, as well as drainage holes in the bottom of the wheel for urine to run out because of its large sides. This wheel is not ideal for hedgehogs and should not be used.
Some people choose to use Wodent Wheels for their hedgehogs. Wodent wheels feature a solid running surface, but contain a series of holes on the front of the wheel. If you hedgehog is larger it may or may not be able to fit through these holes. On most Wodent Wheels the holes are above the running surface of the cage allowing no place for feces or urine to run off. Hedgehogs also like to jump on and off their wheels mid run. With Wodent wheels the holes make it very hard for hedgehogs to jump on and off, and can cause serious injury or death.
Quality Cage WheelsThese wheels are manufactured as chinchilla wheels. There are three distinct types of Quality Cage Wheels. This first in a steel running surface that has a solid wooden back, and attaches to the cage. It has a solid running surface, and no moving cross bars. The second is a steel flying saucer that is mounted to the wall of the cage, and has an adjustable height. This third type of wheel is a steel solid running surface supported on either side by cross bars.
With repeated washing all of these wheels are capable of rusting, and often get sharper as rusting occurs if they are not sharp at the times of purchase. Some owners use the first two types of Quality Cage Wheels without any harm ever coming to their hedgehogs, but these wheels are often priced very high as they are made with steel. You can easily find a better wheel for a much cheaper price, or even build a bucket wheel for your hedgehog.
You should never use the third type of wheel as the cross bars can seriously hurt or kill a hedgehog. As such that wheel is omitted from the pros and cons.
Mesh WheelsThese should not be used with a hedgehog under any circumstances. The spacing between the mesh could catch a hedgehogs nail and tear it causing injury. Your Hedgehog could also be caught in the 2 metal bars supporting the wheel causing sever injury or death. Please do not allow your hedgehog to use a mesh wheel if you value its safety and well being. If this is currently in your hedgehogs cage, and there has not been an accident as of yet, please remove it as it is not worth the risk.
Runged WheelsThese should not be used with a hedgehog under any circumstances. The spacing between the rungs could catch a hedgehogs leg and break it causing injury. Your Hedgehog could also be caught in the 2 metal bars supporting the wheel causing sever injury or death. Please do not allow your hedgehog to use a runged wheel if you value its safety and well being. If this is currently in your hedgehogs cage, and there has not been an accident as of yet, please remove it as it is not worth the risk.