American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the Jan./Feb. 1995 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Rodent Exercise Wheels

By Leo Braun

It has been my belief for many years that small animals find it very difficult to walk on wire, let alone try to run on it. Kind of like a human without shoes trying to run on a chain link fence laid out on the ground (That’s not for me!) I have always thought rodent wheels should be manufactured out of sheet metal. After expressing this thought many times to many people, the answer was always the same. The animals will not be able to run on something so smooth. Those comments kept me at bay for quite some time. This was something I had to prove to my own satisfaction. After all, what did I have to lose? We already manufacture the rodent wheels from wire, so now we use sheet metal.

Well, now we have the cage and wheel, but no rodent. Off to the neighborhood pet shop to buy my mouse or rat. They only had a mouse. The mouse would do just fine; on with the test. I tried the mouse on different sizes of wire before trying the sheet metal wheel. My findings: The mouse ran smoother, no stumbling, and ran faster on the sheet metal wheel. Well, now I know, BIG DEAL, now I really need help. Time to talk to the experts.

I contacted THE AMERICAN FANCY RAT AND MOUSE ASSOCIATION to help me prove the point. At a meeting I expressed my findings and got the same reaction. These animals cannot run on a smooth surface. I asked, Will you test them if I supply the wheels? The answer was YES, and for two months they did. Last week they held a meeting. The people who tested the sheet metal rodent wheels came to the conclusion that it was better all around for the animals. The sheet metal was easier on the pads of their feet because there were no holes for the animals to stumble through, and they also ran smoother and at a more even gait. They were also much easier to clean!

rat on wheel

Success! Now they had more requests. We need larger wheels with more width. Larger doors in the cages or no bottoms so we can get the larger wheels in. Shelves and ladders made of smaller wire openings would be best. I might add that the people involved in this test are serious breeders of show animals. That was good enough for me! Now the largest problem to solve: How to convince the pet industry to make these changes? After all, we have been doing it like this for years, myself included.

Each industry has certain inherent responsibility. The last being our bottom line. That will come if we fulfill our other responsibilities. The animal’s health and safety must be first. Just as important, our products must be safe for everyone to use, especially the children. Last but not least, make it as easy for the parents as possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of THE American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association for all their assistance and suggestions on how to improve an existing pattern of complacency. *

December 27, 2020