Are Hamster Balls Safe? What You Must Know

Hamster balls are one of the most recommended exercise methods for hamsters. But with anecdotal evidence on forums, social media, and the news suggesting safety concerns, are hamster balls safe?

On the one hand, you have people who have experienced the downsides to hamster balls suggesting safety concerns, while others insist it’s the only way their hamster exercises consistently. It’s no wonder so many people are confused.

Brown hamster in a see through jar | Are Hamster Balls Safe? What You Must Know

This article will clear up any frustration and concern about hamster ball safety and whether it’s the best option for your small pet. No fluff, we will provide you with all the information you need to be educated.

This includes safety concerns you must be aware of before purchasing such a device, and alternatives should you choose not to purchase one.

Are Hamster Balls Safe?

Hamster balls are a commonly used exercise method, but they are ultimately not safe. They can cause fatal injuries to hamsters, or cause them so much stress that it threatens their long-term physical and psychological health. Experts, such as the RSPCA, recommend alternatives to prevent accidental hamster incidents.

While some pet owners insist hamster balls are safe for small periods, we do not recommend their use. Even twenty minutes is enough for catastrophic injury to occur.

As an inexperienced, youthful owner, I once made a similar mistake with my own hamster. With so many cool designs to choose from in pet stores run by staff without complete knowledge, it’s hard not to.

Now that I know the potential dangers, however, it’s not something I would ever do again. And I hope you’ll agree the potential risks far outweigh the potential benefits by the time you finish this article.

8 Reasons Hamster Balls Are NOT Safe

There are a lot of reasons hamster balls are not safe which are not popularized enough. Here are seven of the main reasons why you should not use a hamster ball to exercise your hamster.

Lack Of Sensory Information Input

Hamsters don’t have very good eyesight. In fact, they are almost blind. This means they largely rely on their other senses to make sense of their environment; especially their sense of smell, touch, and hearing.

A plastic hamster ball significantly reduces a hamster’s ability to utilize these senses, reducing the information they will receive from their environment. As a result, a hamster will have a harder time navigating its environment. In a statement from 2021, the RSPCA agreed this is very stressful for a hamster.

No Maneuverability

When a hamster is placed in their ball, they have to run for it to move. But they have no control over the direction the ball goes in, or how to slow it down to stop safely.

The lack of direction, combined with a hamster’s poor eyesight, means they are incredibly vulnerable to hitting other objects. Even if you make a hamster-safe room with no obstructions, it won’t be long before your hamster bumps into a wall or door.

Depending on the momentum your hamster has built up, it may lead to serious injury, or scare your hamster when they come to a sudden stop.

If your environment isn’t hamster-safe, results could be even more catastrophic, with stories reported of hamsters falling downstairs and even getting out of houses through the front door.

No Access To Resources E.G Food & Water

While in their ball, hamsters will have no access to their normal environment, and it may disrupt their usual routine. But more worryingly, they may not have access to their basic requirements like food, water, and bedding.

In the short term, your hamster is fine to be away from its resources. This is why people think using a hamster ball is safe for short periods (it isn’t; our other points reflect that).

But, if you utilize a hamster ball for exercise for longer periods, hamsters are unable to perform their natural instincts. The RSPCA says this causes extreme distress and anxiety, which may increase over repeated use.

Inability To Hide

Hamsters like to nest during waking periods, which is why bedding in cages should be at least three inches deep. Ideally, you should be aiming for at least six inches.

Putting them in a plastic hamster ball provides them with no way of nesting or hiding. While it is not different from a hamster using a hamster wheel for short periods, doing so for longer periods can make a hamster distressed.


Hamsters need a lot of space. It’s why the minimum cage size recommendation is so big, despite hamsters being such a small pet. Hamster balls are considerably smaller than this.

Admittedly, there are times when your hamster may need to exist in smaller environments for short periods of time. When you’re bringing them home from the pet store or taking them for veterinary treatment, a carry cage may be needed.

If it is not completely necessary for your hamster, however, small environments should be avoided at all costs. Putting them in small environments can cause them extreme distress and anxiety in the long run.

No Ventilation

What do you mean no ventilation? The hamster balls I’ve been looking at or already own have ventilation holes already! Don’t worry, I was just as confused when I found out this was something to be concerned about.

It turns out the ventilation holes found in hamster balls are for aesthetic reasons, and nothing more. In fact, they could be doing more harm than good for your hamster.

While the slits do provide some air, it’s not much, and hamster droppings often clog them up. This means your hamster will lose open access to oxygen and become stressed as they cannot breathe properly.

These slits commonly cause injury by pulling out their claws. Ouch!

Potential For Injury

As previously mentioned, there are lots of injuries that hamsters can sustain from hamster balls. In fact, it’s one of the most serious considerations when deciding whether to use a hamster ball for your pet.

Some injuries may only appear minor, like claws that can grow back, but unfortunately lots of them can be a lot more serious.

Back injuries are incredibly common, for example. If your hamster suddenly stops running, the momentum may propel them forwards, bending their back unnaturally. This may cause spinal injuries and require vetinary treatment.

It’s also not uncommon for hamster balls to break their legs, or cause problems with their claws. This can obviously be expensive, especially when not all vets will provide specialist treatment to hamsters.

Become Unhygienic Quickly

Healthy hamsters will poo and wee frequently, and this won’t stop when they’re in their ball. This means their environment is quickly overcome by their own urine and feces.

When this happens, it can clog the vent holes meant for oxygen circulation. But the rotation of the ball will also leave the hamster covered in their own urine and feces. While hamsters clean themselves, or use a sand bath if things get really bad, we shouldn’t be avoiding unnecessary exposure like this.

The ball itself also becomes unhygienic quickly. If you do use a ball, you must clean it before and after every use with an antibacterial solution. If you don’t, your hamster may become seriously unwell, and the consequences could be potentially fatal.

Easily Broken

This definitely isn’t the ultimate deciding factor in whether hamster balls are safe, but it’s something to consider. Often made of plastic, hamster balls can be extremely brittle and the sections may break apart with little warning.

Sellotape might seem like a solution if this does happen, but as someone who’s been there, it doesn’t work for long. Eventually, your hamster will break free and there’s a possibility they may go missing if your room hasn’t been hamster-proofed.

If it does break, there’s a small risk that the plastic shards could injure your hamster, too.

Safe Hamster Ball Alternatives

Hamster balls are incredibly effective for exercising purposes, but as the above shows, they are extremely dangerous. You might be struggling to find alternatives, but the good news is, there are plenty of things you can introduce.

Whether you have previously owned a ball, or are looking for exercising ideas for your new hamster, we have the best hamster ball alternatives below.


Free roaming hamsters is potentially the best form of hamster exercise, but also one of the most difficult. It involves allowing your hamster free roam of a room in your house that has been completely hamster proof.

This is a good alternative as it provides the same opportunities to explore as the ball, without the sensory deprivation and loss of a hamsters natural navigational instincts. Free roaming can also be done for longer periods of time than using a hamster ball, so it’s a great option for people able to provide supervision to their pet.

For new owners, however, it can be extremely overwhelming. If you do want to explore this option, our complete free-roaming hamsters guide shows you exactly how to do it safely and securely.


Another safe alternative for hamster balls that works especially well for smaller hamster species like dwarf hamsters is a playpen. You can buy readymade hamster playpens pretty affordably online already, but it’s also quite easy to make them yourself.

Once you’ve made a safe, enclosed area, fill it with enrichment activities like tunnels and allow your hamster to explore. They still need supervision during this time, but there is less chance for injury, and you don’t have to hamster-proof an entire room to keep them safe.

A Bath Tub With Toys & Blankets

If you’re looking for a more makeshift option that is friendlier on a budget, filling a bath tub with toys and blankets is also an incredible alternative. It works similar to a playpen as you are giving them ample space to explore and the ability to be safe while they do so.

Most, if not all, bathtubs will also far exceed the minimum cage requirements for hamsters, which isn’t the case for hamster balls.

Additionally, hamsters do not have plastic preventing them from interpreting their environment. They can still use their sense of smell, hearing and touch to navigate the bath tub and are far less likely to injure themselves as a result.

Cardboard Box

Some pet stores will provide complimentary cardboard carry cots for you to bring your hamster home in. If your hamster is anything like the Syrians I’ve owned, they chew through them extremely fast.

For this reason, using a cardboard box for the time your hamster spends outside their cage isn’t the best permanent solution. It can be a temporary solution while waiting for a more permanent one to come along if you supervise them.

To do this successfully, simply follow the steps above and provide them with plenty of enrichment tools so they stay entertained.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the answer to whether hamster balls are safe is no. There are far too many risks involved, which far outweigh any potential benefits.

Some hamster owners will be completely fine, but when fatal injuries cannot be ruled out, is it worth the risk? You could even lose your hamster if you aren’t careful!

The good news is, there are lots of alternatives. You could completely free-roam your hamster if your have the confidence, or utilize playpens for smaller species.

Often, pet owners turn to hamster balls because they are a cheaper option, but time outside the cage doesn’t have to be expensive. You can use your bath tub to give your hamster freedom; or a cardboard box as a temporary measure.

There are, ultimately, far too many alternatives to hamster wheels that are safe to risk your hamsters health and wellbeing in the long run.

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