do gerbils like exercise balls?
Gerbilarium Setup

Do Gerbils Like Running Balls?

Exercise balls are plastic spheres that small animals can run around in, without the fear of getting lost. They’re designed for hamsters, but gerbils can also them to stay healthy and as a boredom-buster.

Some gerbils like running balls, and some don’t. Many gerbils enjoy the exercise, whereas others panic and refuse to move. If you want to try your gerbil in a hamster ball, choose one at least seven inches in diameter. It should be well-made with a sturdy lid, so your gerbil can’t escape. Supervise your gerbil at all times.

We’ll look at whether running balls are safe for gerbils, and whether they like them. We’ll look at the three best exercise balls for gerbils. We’ll explain how to get your gerbil to run in its ball, and how to use it safely.

Can Gerbils Run in a Ball?

Exercise balls are spheres made of transparent plastic, which small animals can run around in. They were designed for hamsters, but can be used by many rodents. They’re also known as running balls or hamster balls.

You may be wondering: do gerbils run in balls too? Gerbils are smart enough to work out how to use exercise balls relatively quickly. Exercise balls are safe, as long as they’re used correctly.

The point of them is to protect your gerbil while it’s roaming freely around the house. There are several advantages:

  • Your gerbil can explore a different environment, rather than running on a stationary wheel in its cage.
  • Exercise balls are large enough to prevent your gerbil from fitting into tiny gaps, such as under furniture.
  • Your gerbil won’t be able to chew or nibble on anything it shouldn’t while inside the ball.
  • The ball makes noise while rolling around, so you’ll always know where your gerbil is.

Gerbils need exercise each day to stay healthy. According to Critical Care, exercise can even help gerbils recover more quickly after having a stroke. Using a ball is a great way for your gerbil to exercise without problems.

Are Hamster Balls Safe for Gerbils?

Unfortunately, there are disadvantages to gerbils using hamster balls:

  • As gerbils are highly intelligent, some figure out how to take the lid off and escape. That’s why you must use a brand of ball with a secure, locking lid.
  • Some gerbils have a tendency to poop or pee inside the ball, out of excitement or fear. Due to the way the ball rolls, this makes your gerbil, the floor, and the ball itself dirty.
  • All exercise balls have slits for ventilation. If the slits are wide enough, your gerbil could get its tail caught.
  • Exercise balls are made of plastic which is easy for gerbils to chew. Plastic can cause intestinal obstructions if swallowed.
  • If your gerbil runs too fast in the ball, it could cause it to spin out of control. This may result in injury.

When using the exercise ball, you must watch your gerbil constantly to ensure its safety.

Do Gerbils Like Hamster Balls?

Not all gerbils enjoy the experience of running in an exercise ball, but some do. It depends on your gerbil’s personality.

If your gerbil enjoys exploring, it will probably love it But, if your gerbil is easily scared, it may not appreciate being in an enclosed space.

Seeing the world through a plastic ball can be confusing to a gerbil. Gerbils don’t have great vision, especially red-eyed gerbils. So, having their vision obscured by plastic can be frightening.

Some gerbils don’t understand how to use balls, and find it hard to navigate the world. They end up crashing into things, making a loud noise which can be panic-inducing.

It can also be frustrating for gerbils to be able to see the world, but not interact with it personally. In an exercise ball, they can’t burrow, climb, sniff, or touch their surroundings.

They also can’t scent-mark while inside a ball. According to Behavior Research Methods & Instrumentation, this is an important behavior that gerbils use to mark their territory. They may feel uncomfortable in their environment if they can’t mark it.

Regardless, many gerbils do enjoy their hamster balls, as long as it’s not their only form of exercise. Every gerbil is different, so you won’t know whether your gerbil will like it until you try it.

What Do Gerbils Like to Do for Fun?

Gerbils are active creatures, and enjoy almost all forms of exercise. That’s why many gerbils like hamster balls, once they figure out how to use them. Other forms of exercise that gerbils enjoy include:

  • Digging tunnels in their bedding.
  • Running on an exercise wheel. According to Animal Behavior, gerbils can run up to 5 miles a day in their wheel.
  • Solving mazes (especially if there’s a treat at the end).
  • Running around inside a bathtub, or secure playpen.

You can also exercise your gerbil by allowing it to run freely around a room, closely supervised.

The door should be closed so it can’t escape, and don’t allow it to chew anything it shouldn’t. This is a great alternative if your gerbil doesn’t like its exercise ball.

What is the Best Gerbil Ball?

When choosing an exercise ball for your gerbil, there are several things to consider. Not every “hamster ball” is suitable or safe for gerbils to use.

  • Size. A gerbil exercise ball should be at least 7 inches in diameter. Many hamster balls are too small, especially dwarf hamster balls.
  • Material. Many hamster balls are brightly colored, or contain opaque panels or glitter. This isn’t ideal for gerbils, as it can obstruct their vision. Try to find one that is entirely clear.
  • Quality. It should be sturdy and well-made, so that it can withstand bumping against walls.
  • Safety. Make sure there are air holes or slits for ventilation. However, they should be as thin as possible so that your gerbil can’t get its feet or tail caught.
  • Ease of cleaning. Some hamster balls can come apart into pieces, so that they are easier to clean. This is a good feature to look out for, as gerbil balls can get quite dirty.

There are many brands of small animal exercise balls available. We’ll now take a look at the top three exercise balls for gerbils on Amazon.

Kaytee Run-About Moon Glow Exercise Ball

Kaytee is a reputable brand that makes a variety of toys and accessories for small animals. Their products are usually good quality, but offered at a reasonable price.

The Kaytee Run-About Exercise Ball is the ideal size for gerbils, with a diameter of 7”.

do gerbils run in balls?

The plastic has a slight greenish tint, but it is mostly translucent with no opaque parts. The ball glows in the dark, so you’ll be able to see your gerbil better in low light.

There is a chance that your gerbil might not like the glowing effect. If you have a red or pink-eyed gerbil, they may prefer a completely clear ball.

Some reviewers have reported quality control issues, with the lid coming off easily at times. But otherwise, it’s a good quality ball offered at a low price point.

Van Ness Hamster Ball with Stand

The Van Ness Hamster Ball with Stand is a high-quality ball that offers three separate features. It can be used as a normal exercise ball, or used on the stand as a stationary treadmill.

It can also be used inside the gerbilarium, instead of a wheel. This ideal for glass-sided tanks that you can’t attach a wheel to.

Other benefits of the Van Ness ball are:

  • It is completely colorless and transparent, so your gerbil will be able to see the world clearly.
  • It’s well-ventilated, and the slits are too small for gerbils’ feet and tails to get stuck.
  • The ball and stand come apart completely, so that you can clean them easily.

The product arrives disassembled, so you will have to put it together yourself. Building the ball and stand can be quite frustrating, but it is worth it.

Unfortunately, the product is more expensive than the Kaytee ball. However, its quality is far superior.

Lee’s Kritter Krawler Clear Exercise Ball

Lee's Kritter Krawler is another completely clear and colorless exercise ball. It’s 7 inches in diameter, and also available in a 10-inch ‘jumbo’ version.

It’s made from shatterproof plastic, so it won’t pose a danger to your gerbil if it breaks. There are ‘ribs’ on the inside of the ball, allowing your gerbil to get a better grip.

Unfortunately, there is no way of taking this exercise ball apart completely, so it is not easy to clean. Some reviewers have reported some sharpness inside the lid, so you may have to file it down. 

This ball isn’t as good quality as the Van Ness or Kaytee balls. But it is cheaper, so better if you’re on a budget.

How to Put Your Gerbil in a Hamster Ball

Rather than putting your gerbil inside the ball, let it go in on its own. That way, it’s less likely to panic at being in an enclosed space.

  1. Leave the ball inside the gerbilarium, with the lid off. Put a few treats inside, such as sunflower seeds.
  2. Your gerbil will investigate the ball. After a while, it will become comfortable with the ball and will climb in and out freely.
  3. When your gerbil next goes inside, put the lid on and lift the ball out of the gerbilarium. Don’t tilt the ball or move it too quickly with your gerbil inside.
  4. Place the ball on the floor in an open space, within a secure room. Your gerbil will soon figure out how to move the ball by running.

Don’t put the ball near stairs, or on something that it could fall from. The ball should be on a carpet or rug, so there’s friction between it and the ground. Exercise balls can spin out of control on hardwood or linoleum.

Never put two gerbils in the same ball, as they could inadvertently injure each other. Limit each session to 20 minutes, so that your gerbil doesn’t get too tired, hot or dehydrated.

Always supervise your gerbil while in the ball. If your gerbil shows signs of distress, take it out straight away. Squeaking, scrambling to get free, and emptying its bowels or bladder are all signs of stress in gerbils.

Gerbil Won’t Run in Ball

If your gerbil doesn’t seem to enjoy the exercise ball, try it a few more times. It will take some time before your gerbil gets used to it.

It may be wise to try a bigger ball, as some gerbils prefer having more room inside. Try a 10” or 11” ball designed for rats, and see if it fares better.

But if your gerbil won’t run in its ball after three or four attempts, don’t force it. Some gerbils will never get used to exercise balls, and will panic whenever they are inside. If your gerbil isn’t enjoying the experience, there’s no point in continuing.

It is important for your gerbil to exercise regularly outside the cage, but exercise balls aren’t necessary. Instead, let your gerbil run free in a secure room with no way of escaping. Supervise your gerbil at all times to ensure it doesn’t fall off of anything, or get hurt.

Alternatively, you can let your gerbil run around inside an empty, clean bathtub. The sides of most bathtubs are smooth, so your gerbil won’t be able to climb out.