Why Do Gerbils Run on Wheels?

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Equipping the home for your pets is an exciting and fun task. The most popular gerbil species that are kept as a pet are the Mongolian Gerbil. In the wild, they live in the steppes and dig tunnels to nest underground. Gerbils are energetic and curious little rodents. They do not necessarily need a wheel in their cage for their well-being, but many gerbils enjoy running on wheels, therefore you might want to give it a try. But why do gerbils run on wheels?

As a whole, gerbils run on wheels because just like many animals in captivity, the limited amount of space in a cage might not allow gerbils to exercise enough. Running on wheels will help them to fulfill their desire to run a lot.

In the following you will find more information on why gerbils like to run on wheels, and why some gerbils will not use their wheels.

Why Do Gerbils Like to Run on Wheels?

Gerbils have a lot of energy.

Unlike rats or mice, they won’t cuddle with their owners, or sleep in their pockets or in their lab. Instead, you will see them searching for food, building tunnels, jumping around, and playing with their gerbil-family members.

In the wild, gerbils have a lot of space to run around and explore. Because they are prey to so many animals, they are used to be alert at all times and used to moving quickly in order to survive. 

Gerbils have a natural desire to move and run a lot, and wheels help them to fulfill this need. 

Do Gerbils Need Wheels to Run On?

Gerbils do not necessarily need wheels in their cage. Not every gerbil likes to run on wheels and that is normal and ok. If you offer your gerbils enough opportunities to run around, for example in a big enough play area, or in your room, you might not need a wheel because your gerbils get more than enough exercise throughout the day.

There are several debates going on about whether wheels are good for gerbils or not. Some gerbil owners have experienced that their gerbils apparently got somehow addicted to running on their wheels, others report that their gerbils won’t even touch their wheel. 

If you decide to offer your gerbils a wheel, watch them closely to make sure that they don’t use it excessively and that they don’t hurt themselves. 

If you feel like your gerbils are on the wheel non-stop, you could introduce a “wheel-time”, and let them play with the wheel for only an hour a day.

Why Won’t My Gerbil Use Its Wheel?

Some gerbils love to run on wheels and seem to not get enough exercise, while others won’t even take a second look at the wheel. But what are the reasons that certain gerbils won’t use their wheels?

As a whole, Gerbils won´t use a wheel if it is too small, if the wheel is not suitable for gerbils (plastic wheels for example), or if the gerbil just doesn´t like using a running wheel. Some gerbils will never use a wheel while other just love it.

Some gerbils don’t run on their wheels, but rather use their wooden wheels as chew-toy, which is by the way absolutely ok.

There are some possible reasons for gerbils not enjoying their wheels.

The Wheel Is too Small

Gerbils are bigger than mice or hamsters, and they don’t bend their backs as other rodents do. Therefore a wheel for a gerbil needs to be bigger than for other pets. Do not buy a hamster wheel as it is not suitable for gerbils. 

There are wheels that are particularly made for gerbils such as this one, that are big enough for your furry friends.

The Wheel is Not Suitable for Gerbils and Hurts Their Back

Gerbils have soft feet that are not meant for climbing up walls. Other than rats, mice, or hamsters, they will slip on plastic wheels and might injure themselves. 

Many wheels for other small rodents have bars to run on. This is no problem for other small pets, but gerbils can get their tail trapped between the bars and hurt themselves. A wheel for gerbils should not have any slats or bars with openings in between.

A wooden wheel, especially for gerbils might be the right choice for your pets.

This Particular Gerbil Does Not Like Wheels

Not every gerbil loves wheels.

Every gerbil has its own personality and preferences. Your gerbil might simply not like to run on wheels.

Or maybe you offer your gerbils enough exercise by letting them run free in your room or in a play area and they simply don’t need extra exercise in a wheel. Don’t worry if your gerbil does not like the wheel.

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