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Questions And Answers

Can You Walk Your Hamster? (Leashes + Harnesses)

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 07:19 pm

Walking a hamster on a leash seems fun, but there are risks. Hamsters require less out-of-cage activity than other pets as long as they have a running wheel and a large enough cage.

You can walk a hamster using a harness or leash, but they cause stress and risk injuries to the neck and spine. Also, hamsters may be able to chew through lesser-quality leashes and escape.

Never walk a hamster outside, as exposure to the elements (hot and cold weather) and external threats, like predatory animals and parasites, can be dangerous.

There are safer ways to exercise a hamster than putting it on a leash, such as setting up a playpen with toys to play with and providing a large running wheel.

Are There Leashes for Hamsters?

Hamster leashes are available in some pet stores. They don’t fasten around the neck but wrap around the body like a harness, providing better support and reducing the risk of choking.

Unfortunately, many hamster leashes are made too tight, causing discomfort. There’s also the risk that owners could pull too hard, injuring their hamsters.

Instead of being an accessory to enrich hamsters’ lives, most owners see leashes as a gimmick.

Can Hamsters Wear Leashes?

There are some benefits to walking a hamster on a leash. For example, hamsters can exercise outside their cage and explore without squeezing into a small gap or escaping.

Because hamsters are vulnerable prey animals, their instincts tell them to hide, often where their owners can’t easily see or reach them.

While hamsters can technically wear a leash, it’s not a good idea. Leashes are a source of discomfort and can be dangerous if not used or fastened correctly.

Another thing is that hamsters don’t require daily out-of-cage exercise. While many hamsters enjoy playing outside, they’re happy enough foraging inside their cages and exercising on their 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 Leashes Bad for Hamsters?

Unfortunately, the risks outweigh the benefits of using a hamster leash. These include:

Stressful

The main danger of hamster leashes is they cause significant stress. It’s unnatural for hamsters to be tethered to a leash, as they’re used to having space to roam and explore.

The restriction from being on a leash will likely make hamsters feel like they’re caught in a trap or predator’s grip, making them feel vulnerable.

As the MSD Veterinary Manual describes, stress precipitates sickness-causing bacteria, resulting in certain health conditions.

can hamsters wear leashes?

Heavy To Carry

Many hamster leashes are too heavy for them to carry.

Hamsters are small animals, so they don’t have enough strength to bear a heavy harness on their backs. In the worst cases, the heaviness can cause spinal damage, especially 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 get parasites, which captive hamsters don’t have resistance to.

Inability to Understand

Unlike dogs who can be trained to learn what a leash represents, hamsters can’t.

Hamsters don’t understand why they’re being restrained and pulled around. This is unnatural and something they’d never experience in the wild. 

Escape Risk

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 does so, you could lose it in a hidden corner of the home or, even worse, outside.

Choking Risk

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 the hamster manages to chew through the lead and swallow the fabric fragments, it can cause a blockage inside the digestive tract, which can cause impaction.

Can Hamsters Wear Harnesses?

Harnesses are safer than leashes that fasten around the neck like a collar. Because they tie around the body, they’re slightly less of a choking risk.

That said, even the most expensive harnesses are dangerous, as they risk breaking or seriously injuring the hamster’s spine.

The best harness should fit snugly without impeding the hamster’s ability to breathe or move. Choose a harness with Velcro fastening, which is secure and safer than buckles.

Discard the leash that comes with the harness, as most are too heavy and come with bulky clasps that add unnecessary weight. A light yet strong material, such as paracord, is recommended.

What Can I Use Instead of a Leash?

A leash isn’t a good idea with hamsters, as there are far too many risks. Also, hamsters don’t respond well to being taken for a walk. So, look for an alternative option.

When it’s time for the 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 make the space as safe and escape-proof as possible.

Another option is to use a playpen filled with toys and other accessories to prevent the hamster from escaping and provide it with enrichment. It’s also a good chance for the 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 the hamster’s favorite toys and accessories, allowing it to play safely and securely.

While it’s possible to take a hamster for a walk, it isn’t safe. Hamsters don’t need to be restrained. Instead, provide a secure environment for the hamster to roam and supervise its activity at all times.