The Chinchilla Wheel
For the pet owner an exercise wheel is almost a must. Those who want a happy chinchilla need to provide ample exercise, and to do this you either have to provide a chinchilla wheel or let your pet out frequently during hours you'd normally be sleeping.
I say "chinchilla wheel" because hamster, degu and most other wheels are simply not large enough. You'll probably need a wheel of at least fourteen inches in diameter (that's measuring across the circle). The larger the better.
A wheel that is too small (and one that you'll probably find in a petstore) causes the chinchilla to arch his back unnaturally, causing discomfort and possible medical consequences. Fortunately, there are some wheels especially made for chinchillas.
Here's the GIANT Comfort Wheel from Superpet, advertised for rats and chinchillas. The giant size only has a 12 inch diameter, suitable for the youngest of chinchillas, not a full grown one. A quick search of all major pet stores revealed the same - the largest upright wheel they carried was 12 inches across.
There is another new option you can now find at PetSmart, but I'll talk about that in just a moment.
Better options, although more expensive, are the Chin Spin, Ed Wheel, Silver Surfer, and the exercise wheel from Valley View Chinchillas. These are wheels specifically designed for chinchillas, with all having diameters of 14 to 16 inches.
This is the Chin Spin by Quality Cage. Durable, attractive, and a favorite of my chins. The nice powder coated finish does does wear off, however. This is probably the most widely used wheel of knowledgable chinchilla owners. Just make sure to get the 15 inch, not the 11 inch (I use the smaller one for my degus). Very quiet if you have a sturdy cage, otherwise it will rattle the cage a bit (as all wheels will).
There are other similar wheels. The Ed Wheel (below) is 14 inches, but is otherwise very similar.
Need more choices? My first chinchilla wheel (before the Chin Spin existed) is still made by the Valley View Chinchilla Ranch in California. My chinchillas loved it, but I got away from the wire surface for fear of damaging their paws.
The Silver Surfer is a higher priced wheel, but it's also a bit narrower, and I really don't see the point unless you want a prettier wheel. It's also an inch larger in diameter.
There is yet another type of wheel: the saucer. This wheel takes up more space in your cage (so you'll need a large cage) and might take a while for your chinchilla to take to. But many owners swear that their chinchillas prefer it. And with this type of wheel there is probably no risk to the spine.
The original Flying Saucer has been available for years, but recently an imitator was spotted in PetSmart (right). Just as good? It's just plastic, so it's not as sturdy, and it will be chewed. For the times you'd have to replace it it's just not worth it.
You really can't go wrong with any of these wheels. They are extremely safe and well built - a big improvement over anything you can find in a pet store. For wheels, you really get what you pay for.Of course, for that bigger wheel you'll need a bigger cage!
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