• Choosing A Wheel

    Wheels are an important accessory for hedgehog cages. There are many styles and sizes available for purchase, and even some that can be made at home with a bit of tool know-how.

    Carolina Storm Wheel
    When considering a new wheel purchase or build, there are some factors that can help you rule out inappropriate wheels very rapidly.
    Size- Anything below a 10 inch wheel is going to be TOO SMALL for almost all adult hedgehogs. 10 inch wheels are only appropriate for small adults, or if you are going to consistently have youngsters that can pass the wheel down to. 12 inch diameter wheels are appropriate for MOST adult hedgehogs, though if your hedgehog is larger than average, a 15 inch wheel is going to be necessary.
    Running Surface- Hedgehogs MUST have a solid running surface. Wire rodent style wheels are definitely not acceptable in the form that they are manufactured in, due to the hedgehogs' inability to place their feet specifically on the rungs.
    A mis-step can result in the hedgehog stepping into a gap, which can cause a leg to be bruised, skinned, or even severely broken. There are some hedgehog wheels that I see occasionally that are lined with sand paper. These are also not acceptable, due to the harshness on the soles of the feet. Some hedgehogs will develop calluses to cope, while others will end up with raw and bloody feet every time they get in the mood to run. A slightly textured surface can be convenient for traction control, but make sure that you can run your fingers across the surface a couple of times without experiencing any discomfort or rasping of skin.
    Ease of Cleaning- An easy to clean wheel is going to be very important when dealing with a species to naturally defecates while moving. Hedgehogs are VERY prone to pooping and peeing on their wheels, which will create some very nasty messes that need to be cleaned regularly. Screen wire, wood, highly textured surfaces, and in some cases, metal surfaces are going to be difficult to clean frequently, and may not hold up to the often daily scrubbing. Many wheels are available that have a plastic surface, with minimal texturing, that work great. You also need to make sure that the axle assembly is going to hold up to washing, if it is metal, it may end up rusting and needing frequently replaced. There are also some wheels out there that have a front panel that you have to remove to clean the wheel, which can increase difficulty of cleaning.
    Silent operation- Some hedgehog wheels squeak, some rasp, some squeal, some thump, and some end up removed from the cage due to the neighbors complaining about the racket. Check the stands to make sure they are sturdy and aren't going to rock back and forth banging against the side of the cage, and check the axle to make sure it is going to run smoothly and quietly. Some wheels are available that use an inline roller skate wheel for the axle, and they tend to be among the quietest.
    Design- A wheel with no side bars is preferable for safety. Many hedgehogs tend to look out the side to see if they have gotten anywhere while running, and a sidebar has been known to whack faces and cause severe injuries especially to eyes for the watchers.

    With these characteristics in mind, lets look at a few of the wheel options available.
    Wire Rodent Wheels- Basically, without adaptations, these wheels rank VERY poorly. The wire surface is unsafe, and must be covered with something like craft foam or plastic canvas to be useable, which makes it harder to clean. Finding a wheel large enough is going to be difficult, especially in small stores. These wheels tend to squeak or squeal VERY badly, and so far, I don't know of anyone who has found a way to prevent it. The side bars on these wheels are especially tough on hedgehog faces, especially when the hedgehog gets their face caught between the sidebar and the stand leg.
    Wobust Wodent Wheels- These wheels have a front plate that must be removed for cleaning, or for removing an uncooperative hedgehog, which makes them a real pain in the tush. The front panel has holes cut in it that are supposedly for the hedgehog (or other animal) to go in and out of, but the holes are often too small for larger bodied hedgehogs, making it dififcult for them to go in and out of, and in some cases, causing quill breakage. They can also be damaging to the hedgehog faces when looking and running. These wheels can also be hard to clean, partially because of the hassle of removing the front panel, and partially because ALL poops and pees are trapped inside, instead of running out of the open front.
    Bucket style wheels- These are made by a variety of different people and companies, in a variety of sizes. Basically, they have a wheel surface that resembles a bucket, with the flat side at the back of the wheel, providing a completely open front. However, not all bucket wheels are the same, so each needs to be evaluated individually. The ones with wire stands tend to be more unstable, while those with glued joint PVC stands can be quite solid, depending on the style of hte base. The axle assemblies can be anything from roller blade wheels to basically plastic pegs. The buckets can be anywhere from thin flimsy plastic to cut down 5 gallon buckets that are VERY sturdy.

    There are other styles of wheels available too, hopefully after reading this article it will be easier to evaluate them on a practicality basis.