An important part of chinchilla care to ensure a healthy and happy pet is to make sure your pet chinchilla gets plenty of exercise. This can be achieved through a few different ways. The first and most obvious way is providing your chinchilla with exercise time outside of their cage every day. That can be done in a chinchilla-proof room or in a freestanding chinchilla playpen. The next thing is to make sure your chinchilla has a large enough cage to hop around and explore, with plenty of cage accesories to keep them active. One of the best accessories to encourage activity for your pet is a chinchilla wheel.
There are many different styles and types of wheels available that are made for chinchillas. Just like other chinchilla supplies, you want to pay attention to what materials the wheel is made out of. You should try to avoid plastic which your chinchilla will chew up. Wire wheels are dangerous because your chinchilla may get their feet caught and break a leg or otherwise injure themselves. We have some recommendations for safe chinchilla wheels below. Also, since there is a learning curve for most chinchillas when it comes to using a wheel, we have some instructions on how to teach your chin to use it.
Chinchilla Wheel Recommendations
For our recommended exercise wheels, we looked for options that meet the following criteria:
- Minimum 15″ diameter to avoid injuring the chinchilla’s spine
- Solid running surface to avoid injury
- Minimum 5″ wide running surface for safety
- Bolts or other mechanisms to secure the wheel to the side of the cage
- Made of a chew proof matieral that is safe for chinchillas
Chin Spin Chinchilla Exercise Wheel
This is a fantastic traditional exercise wheel option for chinchillas. It meets all of our specifications for chinchilla safety. This 15″ wheel is made from metal and wood, so it’s chew proof and chinchilla safe. It comes with mounting brackets and bolts to securely fasten to the wall of your chinchilla’s cage.
The running surface is 6 1/4″ wide, plenty of space for even the chubbiest of chins to run. Plus it is a solid, powder-coated metal surface for your chin’s safety. This wheel comes with installation instructions and an extra set of bearings.
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Pet Revolution 16″ Silent Chinchilla Wheel
If you want an all-metal exercise wheel which is completely silent, this is a great option. This 16″ wheel is the perfect size for a chinchilla and a chew proof option made entirely of steel. This wheel was designed and updated through lots of trial and error to be safe and quiet.
Since the wheel is made from galvanized steel it will not rust and is sturdy to last a long time. It also comes with mounting screws to easily attach to the side of your cage. This wheel is designed to be as lightweight as possible and shouldn’t bend or break your cage bars.
HappyChilla 16″ Chinchilla Metal Wheel
This wheel is similar in design as the Pet Revolution wheel, except you can buy it on Amazon! It has a 16″ diameter and is made of chew-proof steel. The steel parts mean it is sturdy and easy to clean and disinfect.
The bearings make it virtually silent and the wheel features a 4″ textured surface so your chinchilla won’t slip while they’re running. Some reviewers do say that it starts to get noisy over time or your pet’s cage bars may rattle, so keep that in mind if you order it.
Chinchilla Flying Saucer Wheel
One of the coolest wheel options, the flying saucer is an invention by MP Hull. Created to help replicate the natural running posture of a chinchilla, this features a flat wheel that is tilted for your chinchilla to run on. It does have more of a learning curve than regular chinchilla wheels, but owners and chinchillas love it. This wheel mounts to the cage wall.
Unfortunately, this wheel is only available to purchase directly from the creator, but it is well recomended by many chinchilla owners.
How to Install and Use a Chinchilla Wheel
There is a learning curve for chinchillas when they first get an exercise wheel. At first, they will not understand how it works so you will need to take some caution and install it in a way to reduce any chance of injury.
It’s best to install the wheel on the lowest level of the cage or on a level that stretches across the entire width of the cage so if they fall off they will not injure themselves. The wheel should be close to the floor surface so your chinchilla cannot climb under it or become trapped. To prevent your chin from hopping on top of it, you should mount a shelf close to the top of the wheel. Make sure there’s enough space for the wheel to spin unobstructed and that it is securely attached to the side of the cage.
Training your Chinchilla to Use an Exercise Wheel
Once the wheel is installed, the next challenge is teaching your chinchilla how to use it. For some chinchillas, you simply need to put the wheel in the cage and give them a few days. They will naturally be curious about it. If they play on the wheel they may figure out how to run on it on their own.
If your pet can’t figure out how the wheel works on their own, you can teach them. Get a piece of their favorite treat and lure them onto the wheel. Once they are on it, slowly move the wheel so they get used to the spinning motion of it. You may need to do it a few times, but once your chinchilla realizes how it works they should start running on it.
Some chinchillas will start using the exercise wheel regularly in a day or two. Others may take a few weeks or months. There are even chinchillas who will never really take to the wheel. Make sure you give it plenty of time and patience. In some cases, your chinchilla may be using the wheel at night while you are sleeping. Traditional wheels are usually easier for chinchillas to learn to use, while chinchilla flying saucers have more of a learning curve.
Remember: a chinchilla wheel is not a replacement for daily exercise and run time. It is merely a supplement to provide a way to exercise in their cage and help keep them entertained between playtimes.
If you need some inspiration, check out this adorable video of a baby chinchilla learning how to use a chinchilla wheel:
Some pet stores sell round plastic balls that they advertise for chinchillas. These are similar to hamster balls and the intention is that you put a chinchilla inside the ball and let them run around the house. However, these plastic balls are actually very dangerous for chinchillas.
Most exercise balls are too small for a chinchilla, even if they say they are made for them. Also, because chinchillas are heat sensitive, they can easily overheat inside the ball which can be fatal. (Learn more about keeping a chinchilla cool.) Other minor issues include your pet using it as a bathroom, which will cause them to get dirty and is unsanitary. You should never use an exercise ball for your pet chinchilla.
Instead of buying a chinchilla exercise ball, you can provide your pet with a chinchilla wheel in their cage so they can exercise at any time. You also need to provide your chin with daily playtime outside the space. This can be done in a chin-proof area or room (many people use a bathroom). If that’s not available, you can buy a chinchilla exercise playpen to create a safe play area anywhere in your home.