If you’ve only seen the crepuscular little chinchilla dozing sedately in its hidey house in a pet shop, they you might think they are pretty chill, calm animals. But if you’ve ever lived with these bundles of energy, you know when the lights get lower these fuzzballs turn into very energetic critters that ping pong around their cages so much you might think you’ve found the real life version of a Pokemon. One of the most important things to provide your chinchilla is a safe way to run off that energy in captivity! You may not be able to provide an Andes mountain side for your furrbabies to run across and leap from crevice to crevice, but it is entirely unethical to coop up an active, exotic animal in a space no larger than your night stand and expect them to thrive. One way to allow your chinnie to get moving and be healthier and happier is to provide a safe, good quality exercise wheel so that she can run for miles in safety.
Safety is the first concern in selecting the right exercise wheel. But while pet owners have done their homework might realize the basics of avoiding dangerous wheels, like wire wheels, they may not realize how much wheel vary for different pets. What is safe for one pet can be dangerous for another. While hedgehog owners swear by Carolina Storm wheels and other bucket wheels and sugar glider owners and rat owners have great choices in Stealth Wheels, Wodent Wheels, and the like, such wheels do not work well with chinchilla anatomy. The chinchilla’s gait, or way that it runs, would make running in even the largest sizes or bucket-style wheels, uncomfortable and potentially hazardous. According to M. P. Hull, inventor and manufacturer of the Steel Flying Saucer Chinchilla Exercise Wheel™ “Drum-type wheels must be very large to avoid overarching of the back.” So large, in fact, they would likley be quite impractical in most cages. So Hull, at Meadowbrook Chinchillas, invented the Flying Saucer Exercise Wheel “to provide a safe exercise outlet for chinchillas and other small animals.”
According to the website, it works in this way:
EFFECTIVE DIAMETER vs. ACTUAL DIAMETER: The unique, patented dish design of the Flying Saucer Exercise Steel Wheel produces a running surface with a diameter substantially greater than the actual wheel diameter. This greater ‘Effective Diameter’ allows animals to use a full length stride and stride at up to 3 full strides per second. Very fast!!!
That means the standard wheel (the size appropriate for most chinchillas has an effective diameter: 20-22 inches and an actual diameter of 13 3/4 inches. That may seem like a small difference, but it makes a big difference to the comfort of your pet.
You get what you pay for
A bit of a personal account here: The Flying Saucer is not cheap. Including shipping it cost me $87.69.
I buy my clothes at Walmart and DI. I wear dollar store jewelry. I make a very limited income. So why did spend almost ninety bucks on an exercise wheel (and why am I totally glad I did?!)? Because I got smart!!!
Prior to buying the Cadillac of Running Wheels, I did the research and knew that the saucer shaped wheel was the safe way to go for my chinnie, Baby Fable. I had looked at real steel Flying Saucers, got sticker shock, then went to the pet store and saw the plastic flying saucer wheels by Ware for about $30 at the time. I bought that. In a couple of months she broke it a few times, then finally chewed the bottom to where it was not repairable. I bought another. This time it just wore out, not as much due to her chewing, though she did eat it like crazy, as to the quality itself. It was bad, but semi-usable, so we passed it on to a rescue. I got smarter, and found one on Amazon for about $20. That one lasted only 2 months. The next, another from Amazon, lasted a couple years, but it was noisy as can be. All of them were noisy, but at this time we had family staying in the room her cage was in. When she finally broke it, I am ashamed to say we let her go a few weeks with no wheel.
Including shipping, I probably sent over $100 on substandard wheels that she went through like tissue paper. Baby Fable is turning 4 years old this August. In the next 16 years or more of her life, do I want to spend $400 more replacing plastic wheel after plastic wheel? No. No I do not. $87.69 is much much cheaper. And I fully expect it to actually last her her life. The ball bearings occasionally have to be replaced (every few years (more often if you allow it to fill with dust or water. It’s not a bath!)), but they are very long lasting, durable, incredibly quiet, and she can’t eat it!!! The Steel was a Steal of a deal in the long run. I only wish I would have done it so much sooner.
Features to remember
- Provides necessary health benefit to your chinchillas.
- Expensive? Yes. But less than cheaper alternatives in the long run!
- Breeder and rescue approved!
- Just like people, all chinchillas learn at different speeds. If your chin struggles with learning to run on a wheel, give them time. Some take a few minutes, some hours, some days, some months! You can try to lead them into walking on the tricky thing by sticking a piece of raisin on the end of a stick.
- Very very quiet!!! All you hear is the footfall of the chinchilla. Nary a squeak from the wheel. It’s amazing!
- Effective diameter means it runs your animal like a much wider wheel
- Even obsessive chewers can’t chew it. That means no damage to wheel, and no risk of plastic ingestion.
- WARNING: People who buy one can’t stop talking about it. You may drive people crazy.
To purchase a Flying Saucer, you can’t go to your local Petco or Animal Ark, but you can go online. You can try Ralston Chinchilla Ranch, Quality Cage, or go straight to the inventor and buy it direct.
Just buy one. It’s beyond worth it.
Do you have a product related to exotic pets that you would like me to review (honestly)? Leave a message in the comments and I might just do it!
- The chinchilla basics
- The history of the chinchilla
- Keeping exotics cool this summer
- Summer Safety: Summer heat can kill chinchillas and other exotics
- Product Spotlight: Rollin’ The Hay hay holder