Behold, The Rat Exercise Wheel Controversy
Having a rat exercise wheel is a controversial topic among fancy rat owners. Surprised? Before you order one for your little buddies, here’s what you need to know.
A cage wheel isn’t necessary for a rat. But it can be beneficial for getting some exercise while they hang out in the cage. Many owners do not believe there’s any harm that comes to the rats with wheels. Others stand by the belief that it is bad for their tails and spines.
What Is Bad About Rat Exercise Wheels?
Cage wheels have been considered to possibly cause a deformity that can’t be fixed called “wheel tail.” Rats with wheel tail have tails that curve upward. A wheel might force the rat to contort in unnatural positions and this slowly alters the muscle shape around the spine, misshaping the tail.
There’s not really any significant harm linked with wheel tail. But some owners insist that unnaturally curved tails impact the rat’s ability to balance. However, there’s no direct link between running on a wheel and having this deformity. Nonetheless, many rat owners refrain from buying wheels because of this risk. Some other owners argue that wheel tail is not actually caused by running on a wheel. They say it’s a mutation in the genetics that happens regardless of the use of a wheel.
Are Running Wheels Beneficial?
As super intelligent animals, rats won’t force themselves to do something that is really uncomfortable for them to do. Exercise balls, for instance, trap the animal within an enclosed area and they cannot get out on their own. However, they can easily jump off of the wheel if they get uncomfortable, tired, or bored.
A large wheel is great for promoting overweight rats to exercise, and many rats enjoy having one. Make sure that the wheel is 12” or bigger to reduce any likelihood of spine curvature. Buy a plastic one instead of a wire or mesh one so you can help prevent tail and foot injuries.
Ultimately, there are some rats with the condition of wheel tail that have never even touched a running wheel their entire lives. This means that there’s no direct link to spine damage and running wheels. However, rat owners are still very conflicted over the issue.