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Training and Exercise

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Keep Fit Fun for Hamsters

Make your own hamster playground
By Carina Norris

Even if they live in the most sophisticated hamster-home, hamsters enjoy the chance to explore the big wide world outside their accommodation, and it helps to keep them fit too.

But running round the bedroom floor must soon become boring to an inquisitive little rodent like a hamster, and also brings the risk that your pet will escape under piece of furniture that you can't move, or - worse still - under the floorboards!

So, why not combine play with exercise - hamsters like nothing better than a really good work-out!

You can buy a wide range of ready-made exercise toys for hamsters including wheels, see-saws, houses, slides and tunnels. Many of the new multi-level homes have tunnels, tubes and add-on rooms to provide extra exercise areas.

But with a little ingenuity you can construct your own exciting and ever-changing fantasy hamster gym - outside its everyday home - from bits and pieces you can find around the house. It's also a fun idea for children.

Here's what to do...

  • Ask your local florist for one of the long low-sided boxes that flowers are delivered in to form your playground.
  • Gather together a collection of small empty cardboard boxes and stick these one on top of the other in decreasing sizes to make a climbing tower for your hamster. Cut the tube from the inside of a kitchen towel in half lengthways and attach it to one side of the top of the tower to make a slide.
  • Cut two cardboard tubes from the centres of toilet rolls in half and lay wooden rulers across each pair so your hamster can practice its 'tightrope walking' skills.
  • Take a strong tube from the inside of a roll of kitchen foil and cut it in half. Make two holes about an inch from the top of each tube and thread a piece of thick string or thin rope (about 12 inches / 30 cm long) through the holes, securing with a knot. Holding the string tight (so that it looks like a washing line suspended between two poles) stick the tubes to the sides of the box across a corner. Your hamster might enjoy trying to swing from the rope.
  • Cut away the ends and one side of several empty cardboard food packets and turn them upside down to make tunnels for your hamster to run through. You can place tunnels at an angle to one another to make a continuous run.
  • Cut the top off an empty square food packet and make an entrance hole in one side of the packet. Fill it with hamster bedding for your pet to play in.
  • Make a climbing wall by cutting two pieces of stiff cardboard about ten inches by four inches. Tape two pieces of the cardboard together along a short edge so that you have a shape like a pitched roof. Glue the egg container portions of cardboard egg boxes to the slopes of the wall so the hamster has something to cling on to.

Put all of your hamster gym equipment inside the large florist's box - you can glue the pieces to the base if you wish. You can also add some manufactured toys if you like.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. You will have to replace the homemade pieces from time to time as they become chewed, shredded or 'played out'. Manufactured toys are built to last longer, but many hamsters will still destroy them, given long enough!

Safety first

Remember that your hamster will probably think that exercise equipment is for eating as well as working out! Ensure that there are no staples or sharp edges in your gym, and do not use newspaper, in case your hamster swallows the ink.

You should also consider safety when buying toys for your hamster. Once again, avoid any with sharp edges, or openings which plump hamsters could get stuck in. Also, if your hamster chews a toy so that pieces snap off, file any rough edges smooth, and remove any small pieces completely. If you are in any doubt as to whether a toy is safe, throw it away.

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