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Welcome to Dashing Hamsters. I created this website back in 2005, initially to have a place to share my love of hamsters. Throughout the years I have come across a lot of information that just often doesn't match up. Care standards and information are outdated, and these little creatures are misunderstood by many. So I decided to make this website as more than just a hamster lover's website, but a hamster website for modern owners who are looking for up to date advice on how to care for and understand their beloved hamsters. On DH you can learn about hamsters, see some cute pictures and read through a hamster filled blog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Opinion on Exercise Balls

Hamster Balls - Cruel?

     I have heard much debate as to whether run around balls are cruel. In my experience I have yet to find evidence of that if they are used properly. I have had a large amount of hamsters over the years and everyone of them has enjoyed spending time in their run around ball. Yet there are still those that argue that these toys are cruel. So I wanted to share my views on how the run around ball is not cruel, here are some of the most common arguments made against the Hamster ball.

Hamster balls have poor ventilation.
Properly made hamster balls have adequate ventilation and are designed so that no toes are caught in the holes. I have yet to ever hear of a hamster that has issues breathing in a hamster ball. Besides that hamsters are not in their balls long enough for ammonia to build up to cause problems with lack of oxygen. Hamsters also live in burrows in the wild, which also have little fresh air and ventilation.

Hamster balls have poor visibility, the hamsters can't see where they are going.
Hamsters have terrible eyesight as it is, they can only see a few inches in front of them. If you are truly worried about this, then buying a clear ball instead of a coloured one would solve this problem.

Hamsters don't enjoy the ball, but they have nowhere else to go so they have to run, which looks like they are enjoying it.
I have seen when hamsters have grown bored of their run around balls. They don't run when they want out; they stop and chew on the ball, go to sleep or start to eat food from their pouches. My hamsters go into the ball on their own terms and when they look bored then they are let out. Playtime in the ball should be supervised anyways. You need to understand your hamster and their body language so that you can understand what they want. After a couple of years it isn't difficult to understand when a hamster is not enjoying something.

The hamster is stuck in the ball until the owner lets it out.
That is why playtime in the ball should always be supervised so that when the hamster does want out the owner can let them out.

When a hamster ball crashes into a wall or an obstacle, it's like a car crash for hamsters.
How so? Hamsters aren't going nearly fast enough for the impact to be so devastating. Most hamsters become good at steering their balls anyways, given time. Some of mine had even figured out the layout of the room, steering themselves with amazing precision.

Playpens are better then balls for exercise.
Playpens are just as good as balls for exercise. I enjoy giving my hamsters the best of both worlds, free roam time and playtime in the ball. The ball allows them to explore further and in a safer environment while time in the playpen is just a good time to play around outside of the cage.

Hamsters are curious and will step into the ball without realizing what they are getting themselves into.
Perhaps the first time yes, but if they enjoy it then they will look forward to going in. They aren't stupid, they know what they like and what they don't like. When I hold the ball up to their cage for them to step into they rush in and try to start going before I can even put the lid on, I find it difficult to see how they hate it.
     In conclusion I believe that hamster exercise balls are excellent toys to provide physical stimulation; provided that they are used in a safe manner. By supervising the hamster while it is in the ball, blocking and eliminating hazards (such as stairs), limiting time spent in the ball, buying a well made ball and ensuring that you are vigilant in watching for signs of stress, discomfort or general displeasure then the supposed dangers of the exercise ball are eliminated. I have found that those against the exercise ball are looking at extreme cases such as hamsters left in their balls for hours at a time, hamster allowed to roll down stairs and other similar stories/videos. The ball is a great toy if used properly.
**A note about hamster balls: I would like to mention something about the run around ball. Let your hamster eat, drink and go to the washroom before allowing them into the ball. Only allow them to run for 15-30 minutes at a time. If they do not like their run-around-ball (they chew on it, go to sleep or pull out food to eat from their cheek pouches, seem distressed) then don't force it on them, find something else to do with them. Always supervise your hamster while it's in the ball, the ball is not a ham-sitter. Block off stairs so that they don't fall down them. Do not force your hamster to run, spin them around while in the ball or push them around - they are in the ball and should run on their terms only.

4 comments:

  1. This article helped me a lot. I've been wondering for some time, whether those 'devices' are safe or not. Now I'm sure we can try one. My Lilly may like it as she loves to explore :-)

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  2. I know that many people do not like them, and while I do see their point I do find that most arguments are made from very poor examples- of irresponsible people that leave their hamsters in the run-around balls a all day or force hamsters that don't enjoy them into them. I hope your hamster enjoys it. :)

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  3. Well... I still believe it may be safe (with a responsible owner included), but I gave up this idea. I was in few pet stores in my city, also scanned some web advertisements and found out that there are no proper for sirians (big enough) and high quality hamster balls in my country. Also I've noticed that: primo- my flat seems to be too small for running in this device, secundo - Lilly loves toutching, smelling and nibbling things while exploring, so remaining in such a ball mith only annoy her, I think.

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  4. Playpens and pet-proof rooms are far better in my opinion. While hamster balls aren't cruel if used properly, they don't let the hamster/gerbil explore in their normal way, since the ball muffles sound and the minimal ventilation doesn't let them smell very well. They are dangerous for gerbils because the gerbil's long tail can get caught in the vent. There's also the issue that gerbils want to explore with their tank buddy, and that can't safely happen in a ball.

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