If you’ve got a hamster and you’ve seen him running, you know he’s fast and relentless. For example my Teddy can run for a straight half hour and I can barely see his tiny paws, he’s so fast. But how fast do hamsters run ? And how much ?
This is what I’ll be covering today, and I’ll tell you why hamsters need this much exercise in the first place.
So how fast do hamsters run ?
Hamsters run at about 3-6 mph/5-9.6 km per hour. That’s for Dwarf and Syrian hamsters as well, with the Syrian being the fastest. The speed can vary from hamster to hamster, from breed to breed, but this is about the speed the can reach.
A Syrian hamster has larger limbs than a Dwarf hamster, and can cover more ground. The Dwarf is more agile than the Syrian and takes more frequent breaks while running.
Hamsters are built more for dodging, hiding, evading, so they’re more agile than they are fast. They’re amazing climbers and have a strong grip.
Now let’s take a look at why hamsters run in the first place, to figure out why the reach such speeds.
Why hamsters run in the first place
Hamsters have 2 main reasons they run, and it’s often a combination of both. It is both instinct and pure energy that makes the cover a lot of ground in a single night.
When I first got my Teddy I was amazed at how much he ran and kept running. Sometimes his wheel would wake me up in the middle of the night, so I know he runs pretty much all night. My Teddy is a Syrian hamster, adult, so if yours is the same kind you probably know what I’m walking about.
This is the main reasons hamsters run, and it’s become an instinct. Hamsters are prey, so that means they have a very quick reflex of running away. They run, and they have to be fast, but they have to be agile first of all.
So a hamster running in the wild will take frequent breaks to listen for predators, and figure out where to run if he hears one.
Hamsters need to be able to outsmart everything from wild cats, wild dogs, foxes, owls, snakes, and everything in between. So not only do hamsters need to able to run fast, they also need to be great at dodging an attack, changing their direction, and sprinting at the drop of a feather.
If you’ve ever tried to catch your hammy you know he can be incredibly agile and quick to dodge your hand. This is a reflex even pet hamsters have, since they’ve not forgotten where they come from.
Hamsters need to cover a lot of ground, in order to find all the food they need. They also need to find a mate, and they need to keep their territory in check.
A wild dwarf hamster needs about 3.5 square km, which is about 1.35 square miles. A Syrian will need double that, so you can imagine there’s a lot of ground to cover for such a small creature.
The food a hamster eats needs to be gathered, so the hamster will have to run around looking for food every night. There is a stash that hamsters keep in their borrows, but they still need to find fresh food every night, or else.
So, all around very busy little things. They need to be quick about it if they want to do all of that in one night, and make it home alive.
Hamsters have an incredible amount of energy, and it needs to be expended. this is why hamsters can be found spending most of their time in the running wheel, when they’re not sleeping.
This means that hamsters need a lot of exercise, and there are certain behaviors that will come up if the hamster doesn’t get enough exercise.
You can notice a hamster’s immense energy even when he’s just walking about his cage. He’s not just walking, he’s scurrying. Everything he does is fast, focused, and in a bit of a frenzy.
So how much does a hamster run in a night ?
The average hamster runs about 9 km/5.5 miles in a night, according to Wikipedia. Hamsters can cover more than that distance, or much less, but this is the average.
However this distance isn’t covered continuously. A hamster takes many short breaks when he is running, and will often check for predators or food around him. He will take breaks to drink some water, get back on the wheel, and then eat some more.
All of this, couples with how fast a hamster usually runs, means that your hammy needs more exercise than you’d think for such a small creature. So getting your hamster plenty of exercise is crucial for his happiness, health, and proper development.
Give your hamster enough exercise
You’ve see your hamster race around his cage often, and you’ve seen how fast he can run and how much distance he can cover in a night. Now let’s see how you can help your hammy get all the exercise he needs.
Hamster exercise wheel
An exercise wheel is what most hamster will get, and it’s what they love most, aside from eating. Getting your hamster a proper exercise wheel will mean you should keep some things in mind.
There is a certain size your hamster will need for his exercise wheel. Generally, a Syrian hamster will need a minimum of 7 inches/18 cm in diameter for his exercise wheel. A dwarf hamster can do with less, like a 5 inch/13 cm.
However studies have shows that hamsters and rodents will go for larger wheel, if they are available. So even if your dwarf can do with a 5 inch/13 cm wheel, if you place a a 10 inch/25 cm one in his cage he will choose that one as his new favorite.
The minimum diameters are only set in regard to how comfortable the hamster’s back is, not his preference. So always go for a large wheel.
If you want to know more about hamster wheels, and how to get a good one for your hamster friend, you need to read this article on hamster wheels. You’ll find all the info you need on how to get your hamster the best wheel, along with an actual example.
Hamster exercise ball
This is the second way your hamster can get some exercise, but outside of his cage. There are a few advantages to an exercise ball, and I’ll walk you through them.
First, your hamster will be able to explore your home. You know he always wants to know everything that’s going on. He’s always on the bars, looking for whatever you’re doing.
Second, if he ever starts to get restless and chew the cage bars, this is a good way to quiet him. It will give him something else to do, and a way to expend his energy.
Third, your hamster gets even more exercise, since he also has to push the ball itself in order to move it around. It’s fun, actually, for everyone involved.
Never leave your hamster more than 30 minutes in his exercise ball, since he can get dehydrated, and will start looking for food as well. You’ll know it’s time to put him back in his cage when you start hearing his dropping rattling around his exercise ball.
If you want to know more about exercise balls for hamsters, and how to use one for your hamster the right way, you can check this article right here. You’ll also find out what kind of exercise ball your hamster needs, and how to place him in one in the first place.
Playing with your hamster
Another way to give your hamster some exercise is to actually play with him. You probably won’t be able to tire him as much as his exercise wheel or ball, but it’s still an exercise for him.
You can try playing with him in your hands, but he will not stay for long there, no more than a couple of minutes at a time. And you can also use a toilet paper square, dangle it in front of him, and he’ll try to pull it from you, or climb onto it.
There are many ways you can play with your hamster, and they all improve the bond between you and your hamster. This is very important when you’re trying to tame your hamster.
So play with him as much and as often as you can, since he will not be around for very long. Hamsters live only for 2-4 years, so you should take advantage of the time you have together.
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Dangers of not exercising your hamster
There are dangers to not giving your hamster enough exercise. This means that the hamster either has no running wheel, or he only has the small one that comes with his cage. You know, the small plastic wheel that aren’t good even for dwarf hamsters.
You should know what will happen to your hamster if he doesn’t get enough exercise.
A very common problem for hamsters. This can happen to any hamster, since all that pent up energy has to go somewhere. So if you feed your hamster as usual, and he has no way to exercise, he will get fat.
Which is a serious health problem, for every creature but especially hamsters. An obese hamster will have heart problems much faster, which is not funny since his little heart stops very easily anyway. Hamsters die of heart attacks very often, mostly because their heart can’t withstand shocks like scaring them.
An obese hamster will also have joint and hip problems much faster and much worse. Please feed and exercise your hamster responsibly.
You can find out more about why hamsters can get fat here, along with how to slim him down to save his health.
And you can find here a helpful list of the foods your hamster can eat, as well as what he should never eat for his own good.
A hamster is a very anxious and stressed creature anyway. That means a lot of negative energy that needs to be released.
So if your hamster has no way to exercise, all that energy will feed upon itself and lead to a very anxious, possibly irritable hamster. He can develop stress based problems, like wet tail or a series or skin problems.
A stressed hamster will scale the cage walls, will click his teeth, and will possibly jump at you. He will be much harder to handle, and won’t really be your cuddly friend.
Pent up stress and anxiety can devolve into fights between cage mates, which is not something to laugh at since these usually take place at night, when you’re sleeping and can’t break them up.
So do you hamster a favor, and give him plenty of exercise options. Aside from the exercise wheel and ball, you can get your hamster an entire host of toys. Or you can DYI them, you choice.
You can find out more about hamster toys here, like what types to get or make for your hamster, and pick your favorites from there.
This must be one of the most hated habits of hamster everywhere. Every hamster owner I know deals with this, and fortunately it’s only for a few minutes every day, and then the hamster stops.
But a hamster with no way to release his energy will find other ways, like chewing the cage bars, or trying to bite on the glass tank.
This is of the most annoying and hardest to beat habits that a hamster can develop, and it only comes about in certain times. When he is bored, or when he is angry or stressed.
The hamster will chew and chew and bite some more at the cars of his cage, and not stop, possibly even for 15 minutes straight. You can hear his teeth chattering whenever he stops, and nothing will persuade him to leave those bars alone for more than a couple of minutes.
This can also be accompanied by scaling the cage, running around the cage, moving his hideout and any large pieces of his ‘furniture’.
A word from Teddy
I hope your found out how much us hammies can run, and how far we can get. We love to run and run and run some more, so please make sure you get your hamster a good running wheel or exercise ball.
If you want to know more about why us hamsters need such a large cage, and how much we eat and what to feed us, you should check out he articles below.