Walking a hamster on a leash seems like a fun idea, but there are risks to consider. Hamsters require far less daily exercise than other pets, as long as they have a large enough cage to move around in.
You can walk a hamster using a harness or leash, but they can cause stress and risk injuries to the neck and spine. Also, hamsters can chew through leashes and escape.
You must never walk a hamster outside, as exposing them to the elements and outdoor dangers, such as parasites, can be harmful.
There are safer ways to exercise a hamster than by using a leash, such as setting up a playpen with toys and accessories for it to play with. You should also place a large exercise wheel in the cage to provide your hamster with entertainment and enrichment.
Can Hamsters Wear Leashes?
There are some benefits to walking a hamster on a leash.
For example, it gives hamsters the chance to exercise outside of their cage and explore without the risk of them squeezing into a small gap or escaping.
Because hamsters are vulnerable prey animals, their instincts guide them to hide, often where their owners can’t reach them.
However, while hamsters can technically wear a leash, it’s not a good idea. Leashes are a source of discomfort, and they can be dangerous if they’re not used or fastened correctly.
Another thing is that hamsters don’t require daily out-of-cage exercise. While many hamsters enjoy spending time playing outside, they’re happy enough foraging inside their cages and exercising on their exercise wheels.
For this to be effective, their enclosures must measure at least 80 x 50 cm for dwarves and 100 x 50 cm for Syrian hamsters. Providing an enclosure with ample space to explore prevents them from becoming stressed and exhibiting stress-related behaviors (stereotypies).
Are There Leashes for Hamsters?
Hamster leashes are available to buy in pet stores.
They don’t fasten around the neck but wrap around the body like a harness. This provides better support and reduces the risk of choking.
Unfortunately, many hamster leashes are made too tight, leaving them in pain and discomfort. There’s also the risk that owners could pull too hard, injuring their hamsters.
Instead of being an accessory to enrich their lives, most owners see hamster leashes as a gimmick that shouldn’t be used on their pets.
Are Leashes Bad for Hamsters?
Unfortunately, the risks outweigh the benefits when it comes to using a hamster leash.
There are many dangers to be mindful of, such as:
Perhaps the biggest danger with hamster leashes is that they cause significant stress. It’s not natural for hamsters to be tethered to a leash, as they are used to having plenty of space to roam and explore.
The restriction from being on a leash is likely to make them feel as if they’re caught in a trap or predator’s grip, making them feel vulnerable.
Not only that, but as the MSD Veterinary Manual describes, stress precipitates sickness-causing bacteria, resulting in various health conditions.
Most hamster leashes are too heavy.
Hamsters are only small, so they don’t have enough strength to bear a heavy harness on their backs. In the worse cases, the heaviness can cause spinal damage, particularly with prolonged use.
Encourage Outside Use
Leashes encourage owners to take their hamsters outside, but this must never happen.
Being outdoors can be too traumatic for hamsters, and exposure to the elements can be harmful. They can also catch parasites, which captive hamsters don’t have a resistance to.
Inability to Understand
Unlike dogs who can be trained to learn what a leash represents, hamsters can’t.
They can’t understand why they’re being restrained and pulled around. This is unnatural for them and something they’d never experience in the wild.
Though leashes are designed to keep hamsters safe, hamsters have sharp, strong teeth that can chew through even hard plastics. They can chew through fabric leashes in minutes, setting them loose and increasing their escape risk.
If your hamster manages to do this without you noticing, you could lose it in a hidden corner of your house. Even worse, outside.
Hamsters can choke if the leash is tugged too hard or they get caught around something, causing the leash to wrap around their necks. Improper fastening is also a serious choking risk.
Similarly, if your hamster manages to chew through the lead and swallow the fabric fragments, they can cause a blockage inside the digestive system.
This can cause impaction, which can lead to more serious health conditions.
Can Hamsters Wear Harnesses?
Harnesses are a safer option than leashes that fasten around the neck like a collar. Because they tie around the body, they are slightly less of a choking risk.
That being said, even the most expensive harnesses are dangerous. Even worse, they risk breaking or seriously injuring your hamster’s spine.
The best harness should fit snugly without impeding your hamster’s ability to breathe or move. It shouldn’t be tight, though. Choose a harness with a Velcro fastening, which is secure and safer than other buckles.
You should also discard the leash that comes with the harness. Most are too heavy and come with bulky clasps that add unnecessary weight. A light yet strong material, such as paracord, is the best material to use.
What Can I Use Instead of a Leash?
We’ve established that a leash isn’t a good idea with hamsters, as there are far too many risks.
Similarly, hamsters don’t respond well to being taken for a walk. As a result, you should look for an alternative option instead.
When it’s time for your hamster to roam outside its cage, allow it to do so without restraint. If you’re concerned about the escape risk, board up any gaps or cracks under furniture and focus on making the space as safe and escape-proof as possible.
Another option is to use a playpen filled with toys and other accessories. This will prevent your hamster from escaping and will provide it with enrichment. It’s also a good chance for your hamster to stretch its legs and roam freely outside its cage.
If you don’t have a playpen, you can use a bathtub. Fill it with some of your hamster’s favorite accessories and allow it to play safely and securely.
While it’s possible to take your hamster for a walk, it isn’t safe. Hamsters don’t need to be restrained. Instead, provide a secure environment for your hamster to roam and supervise.