Hamsters are clean animals with relatively sanitary toilet habits. So, you may wonder, “why does my hamster poop and pee in its wheel?”
Usually, hamsters pee on their wheels to transfer their scent to claim territory. Other common explanations include over-cleaning, urinary tract infections (UTIs), fear, and habitual behavior. However, many hamsters don’t realize they’re running on a wheel when peeing on it.
While hamsters are small and cute, they have many not-so-nice habits, one of which is peeing on their exercise wheels while they run.
Why Does My Hamster Pee on Its Wheel?
This behavior is normal, so let’s explore the different reasons for it in more detail:
Claim the Wheel
Many hamsters pee on their exercise wheels to claim them.
Even though captive hamsters aren’t at risk of rivals, they don’t know this. Peeing on their wheel transfers their scent and warns other animals to stay away.
Hamsters pee and poop when they’re scared. Hamsters also pee when threatened and attempt to escape danger while on the wheel.
Even something as simple as a loud noise or unexpected light turning on can startle your hamster. This is normal, but the hamster must have a comfortable, stress-free environment.
Hamsters are active between dusk and dawn, so keep the hamster’s environment quiet during these hours to prevent unnecessary fear.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are relatively common among hamsters.
As hamsters are so small and naturally stand low to the ground, bacteria can easily enter the urethra and grow within the bladder.
This condition causes hamsters to pee frequently, regardless of where they’re standing.
Hamsters like sticking to a couple of spots in their cage to pee.
This is usually the sand bath or one corner of the enclosure. However, some hamsters choose their wheels as the spot to pee and poop because it’s more convenient.
This isn’t unusual, but they eventually learn to associate their wheels with their toilet location.
You can break this habit before it begins by frequently cleaning the wheel and removing any soiled bedding that occurs around it.
Busy with Exercise
Some hamsters pee on their wheels because they’re too busy running.
While they have particular spots they prefer to pee in, they won’t stop what they’re doing to go to the toilet. When nature calls, they pee where they stand.
Lack of Understanding
Even though hamsters run many miles each night, wheels aren’t a natural experience for them. It’s possible that hamsters don’t even realize they’re running on wheels when peeing.
Also, hamsters don’t associate peeing and pooping with dirtiness and don’t see anything wrong with going to the toilet on their wheels.
While you may be tempted to deep clean the hamster’s cage daily, doing so will remove its scent, causing it to scent mark more frequently.
The more you clean the wheel, the more the hamster will pee on it. Wiping away excess pee is okay for keeping conditions clean and sanitary, but you must retain as much of the hamster’s scent as possible.
Do Hamsters Pee To Mark Territory?
Hamsters are territorial, which is why most species must remain solitary.
The Journal of Comparative Psychology explains how mammals commonly use odor-elicited scent marking to claim dominance and territory. So, many hamsters pee and poop on their running wheels.
Captive hamsters don’t understand that they’re in cages and safe from harm, so transferring their scent through urine and feces preserves their territory.
Do Male Hamsters Mark Their Territory?
Male hamsters predominantly mark their territory to avoid conflict.
During a study by the journal Hormones and Behavior, male hamsters that experienced social defeat – a psychological response to social conflict rodents experience due to hierarchy and dominance – couldn’t defend their territory from other males.
Social defeat is a severe stress trigger, so territory marking helps male hamsters avoid it. However, male hamsters predominantly use their scent glands to spread their smell.
Veterinary Practice News explains that the scent glands are located on the hips, which hamsters run along items and surfaces to transfer their unique smell.
Do Female Hamsters Mark Their Territory?
Females mark their territory to alert males when they’re going into heat.
Copulation is vital for survival due to their vulnerability in the wild, so even captive hamsters exhibit this behavior. Females go into heat roughly every four days, which is when they prepare to mate.
However, unlike male hamsters, females are less likely to scent mark for territorial reasons and do so to find a mate. Like males, female hamsters use their scent glands to spread their scent, although they also transfer it through pee and poop.
How Do I Stop My Hamster from Peeing in Its Wheel?
It’s not easy to stop a hamster from peeing in its wheel once it urinates there.
Hamsters are wild animals with strong instincts, which means that peeing on their exercise wheels is, in many ways, something they need to do.
However, you can try to teach it to stop seeing its wheel as a place to pee by doing the following:
You can discourage the hamster from using its wheel as a toilet by encouraging it to go elsewhere. Hamsters are clean animals; many naturally gravitate toward a litter box to pee.
You can encourage the hamster to use a litter box by placing a piece of soiled bedding inside the tray until it learns it can use it to pee. Hamster-safe sand is a good substrate to use in a litter box.
Hamsters don’t only pee in it, but they use it to clean their fur and coat.
Keep it Clean
Hamsters are more likely to pee on their wheels out of habit. However, keeping the wheel clean is more likely to encourage the hamster to use a litter tray or another spot within the cage as a toilet.
Over-cleaning has the opposite effect. A simple wipe with a damp cloth should eliminate the pee without removing too much of the scent, but you’ll also want to disinfect it with a hamster-safe product once or twice a week.
It’s normal for hamsters to pee on their wheels. You shouldn’t have anything to worry about as long as you keep the wheel clean, monitor it for signs of a UTI, and provide a quiet, stress-free environment.