Chinchilla Exercise Wheels
Chinchilla exercise wheels are a critical component of health and happiness. Captive chinchillas need to be able to run and exercise, as they would in the wild. Physical exercise contributes to overall muscle tone, weight management, and cardiovascular health. Without the ability to exercise, chinchillas can suffer from obesity, depression, and endocrine dysfunction which in turn can affect fertility.
The mental benefits of being able to exercise at-will cannot be overemphasized. It is not uncommon for a chinchilla’s life to center around their wheel. Aside from running on a wheel, some chinchillas sleep in it, lay upside down on the top of it, rock back and forth in it like a swing, flip over the top of it on their back and land on their feet again, and cool themselves on it. Further, being primarily a ‘flight’ animal, having the ability to run when scared helps alleviate stress. The exercise wheel is perhaps the most important enrichment device for captive chinchillas.
A 12” diameter wheel is sufficient for most chinchillas, although a 14” wheel is generally preferred and large chinchillas require them. It is important to leave at least 2” space between the outside of the wheel and the cage. Additionally, always remove an exercise wheel from the cage before kits are born. If more than one chinchilla has access to the same wheel, the chinchillas should be roughly similar in size. Last, chinchilla wheels should be made with a solid running surface and preferably with rolled edges.
In 2022, an engineering team at Kansas State University clocked a single chinchilla running almost four miles on an exercise wheel in a single night! Unless a chinchilla has room to run outside of its cage on a regular basis, or access to an exceptionally large cage, it would be hard to provide this kind of exercise without a chinchilla wheel.