Fix-It Fred: Squeaky Hamster Wheel

I enjoy fixing (most) things and extending the useful life of stuff as long as possible. I find the challenge of diagnosing and remedying problems mentally stimulating and gratifying. My family is more than willing to oblige me this pleasure. In fact, I am often greeted with a pile of broken items when I walk in the door after work. They have even created a designated spot on a shelf in the kitchen to store their damaged goods. Some may call me strange for enjoying what others call mundane; not my family, though. They call me Fix-It Fred.

Our daughter, Natalie, has a hamster. She has had several over the years, but only one at a time. One thing they have all had in common is they love to run. A lot. Usually at night. And they prefer to be really loud during workout time. We have had several different styles of wheels and other running devices over the years. It seems each critter has its own preference as to how to burn off energy. The current hamster, Professor Ham, is very fond of his metal wheel. While he sometimes runs on his plastic wheel, the metal one is his go-to item for burning excess energy.

Cute, but loud
Cute and fuzzy, but loud

The plastic wheel is our favorite, as humans; it makes very little noise as he runs the night away. The metal one? Not so much. The squeaking noise of metal on metal is not the easiest to sleep through. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? What sort of grease/lubrication do you put on a wheel in a cage with a neurotic animal that chews on everything in sight? That is a tough question. The best, non-toxic solution I have come up with over the years is vegetable oil.

Cheap, non-toxic lubricant
Cheap, non-toxic lubricant

The vegetable oil is not a permanent solution; it only lasts about a month. However, I would rather reapply the oil monthly than choose something that may make the hamster sick and give him a one-way ticket to the backyard hamster cemetery. Comforting a distraught child over her deceased pet is much more challenging than taking two minutes once a month to oil a squeak.

The oil application process is quick and easy. There are two places that need the oil–both points of rotation in the center of the wheel. There are countless ways to apply the oil, the fastest one I have found is to simply rub it on with my finger. I pour a small amount of oil in an old medicine cup and dip my finger in that. I doubt my wife would like it if I dipped my hamster cage finger in the bottle of vegetable oil. The oil could also be applied with a medicine dropper or oral medication syringe if you don’t want an oily finger.

The two lubrication points, highlighted with red arrows
The two lubrication points, highlighted with red arrows

I have been oiling the wheel like this for a few years, with multiple hamsters, and have never had an issue. It is quick, simple and safe. And we no longer have to listen to the squeaky wheel.