Rat owners often overlook running wheels as a standard rat accessory. Few pet stores have wheels in with their rats, and most people assume their pets simply won't be interested. But eight of the ten rats I've had used wheels at least some when offered, and a few of them have rivaled hamsters in the nightly miles they racked up. It's a great way to keep your rat in shape. But good wheels are hard to find -- often they are small and narrow, and have potentially dangerous metal rungs or wire mesh for a running surface. So when I saw Transoniq's innovative Wodent Wheel design, I was eager to have my four little test pilots take it out for a spin.
The Wodent Wheel looks radically different from the first glance. It is plastic, stands on a single painted (soon to be powder coated) metal leg, is closed on one side and has five circular entry holes on the other. The running surface is recycled plastic and has a soft bark-like texture. With the solid running surface and no support leg on the open side, this wheel is completely rat safe -- no foot or tail injuries possible. And while I feared the single leg (which bends to form the axle at the top and a triangular base below) would be wobbly, it was actually more stable than most traditionally shaped wheel stands I've had. The wheel easily dismantles for cleaning with a single cap-nut, which along with the single leg design made mounting the wheel to the sides or tops of my wire cages (with a few cable ties) effortless.
But what did the test pilots think? To be fair, I swapped out four different wheels to see which would get the most use -- the 12" (5.3" wide) and 11" (3.5" wide) Wodent Wheels, an 11" metal screen wheel, and a 15" powder coated sheet metal wheel. Nemo loved the textured, non-slip running surface, and once he had used the Wodent Wheel would simply ignore all others! Toby and Deprong Mori, who previously had never been runners, liked hiding and sleeping in the enclosed wheel. And Mori even became a runner! (But only in the Wodent Wheels.) Toby didn't run . . . although he often would climb in with Nemo, I guess hoping to go for a ride. (Some rats, two of the ten I've had, just aren't into running, so don't be too surprised if this happens!) Chupacabras would run in whatever was offered, but spent more time in the Wodent Wheel than any of the others. So it looks like two almost opposable thumbs up from all four!
The down sides? While the wheel doesn't have the annoying squeak of any metal wheels, things tend to get trapped inside and rattle around, making it sound as if a tiny maracca band has invaded your rat cage. Strangely the rats seem to like this --if the wheel is empty of debris, Mori will often purposefully place a lab block in it before he starts to run. The textured running surface, while a big hit with the rats, also traps and accumulates gunk quite well -- you'll be glad you can take it apart and soak the running surface, which is the only way to get it clean. Even the 12" size is a bit of a squeeze for a large adult male like Nemo -- I'd love to see a 15" version. And while my otherwise gnaw-happy "chew a hole in anything chewable" rats didn't touch their cherished wheels, the 11" test wheel came to a sad, permanently rat-dismantled end in one of James Kittock's cages of girls. (Be sure to tighten that cap-nut!)
My overall opinion? My rats love these wheels more than any other kind I've tried. They are relatively inexpensive -- $12.95 for the 11", $19.95 for the 12", and about half price if you can find a friend and order a box. And most of what I consider to be downsides are exactly the things that make my rats want to live in them. They're a little more of a pain to clean, but I (and two of my rats) wouldn't use any other kind of wheel I've seen. Just beware of using these wheels around chewers!
I'd recommend the 12" for most any rat, only small females or babies will get any use out of the 11". The 12" will not fit in a standard 12" tall aquarium with a top, though, so if you have small rats and a small cage, you may want the 11" model. There's also an 8" model for hamsters, although the 11" may be better suited for a large golden hamster. And don't even consider giving a plastic wheel to a gerbil!
Already available in many Oregon and Washington pet stores.
Manufacturers--Please send all products for testing to:
13075 Springdale St., #302
All products reviewed become the property of Rat & Mouse Club of America.