Cat Wheels - Do you need one? If so, which one?

Updated January 2022

Cat wheels are a relatively new concept for most cat owners.  Naturally, people want to know if they should get one and, if so, which one.  We hope to help you figure that out by sharing our experience.

First, do you need a cat wheel?  There is no one right answer that fits every single cat, but with a high energy breed, like the Bengal, chances are, your cat will be emotionally and physically more content if it uses a cat wheel daily.  According to the Smithsonian, feral cats roam a territory of up to 1,351 acres, and pet cats who are allowed outside roam a territory of nearly 5 acres.  That is a lot of walking to try to accomplish within the confines of a house.

We know letting your cat outside unattended is not safe. The average lifespan of a cat with outdoor access is five years; in comparison, an indoor cat's average lifespan is 17 years. So if your cat is unable to roam five acres of territory, clearly, it will need a way to satisfy that physical drive to walk.  One way you can do this is to make sure you play your cat to exhaustion multiple times a day.  However, it takes quite a bit of time to play with your cat enough to equal the amount of walking a cat would do while covering five acres of territory.  Another option is to have a second high energy pet that will play with your Bengal, but it is not dependable to think that both cats will have the same energy needs.

Having a cat wheel in your home is the most convenient and dependable way to offer your cat a method to regulate its own energy needs.  With our Bengals, we have never spent the time physically teaching them how to use a wheel, but because our cats are surrounded by other cats who use the wheel, they may learn by example. If you discover that you need to teach your cat how to use the wheel, there are plenty of videos on YouTube to show you different methods to try.  You'll want to get their favorite toys, a laser, and treats as positive motivators.  With Bengals being both high energy and highly intelligent, it is unusual to find an unteachable Bengal.  Most gravitate to a wheel.

Once you've decided to get a wheel, the big question becomes which one to get.  We own four different brands of wheels. The first one we acquired nearly ten years ago was on a center bearing, and I believe it was from the Cat Wheel Company.  Our experiences revealed a few things about it that made it potentially dangerous.  For one, it would hop, skip, and jump around as the cats got going fast, so there was no keeping the wheel in one place. This could be dangerous as one cat could be in the way of the moving wheel and get its toes squished.   Due to the center bearing design, there was no weight or gravity to push against, so it moved really easily. Most importantly, it didn't stop moving once the cat jumped off. There is sometimes a lineup of cats waiting to get on the wheel when one gets off, but the cat could not hop on at the speed the wheel was still spinning which would result in the cat falling off the wheel.  Finally, this wheel is a bit small.  For our longer-bodied Bengals, we were concerned about it not being big enough.  Their back is bent at an unnatural angle while running. 

Most recently, we picked up a Go!Cat!Wheel! from Facebook Marketplace during COVID.  New wheels were backlogged due to COVID shutdowns.  We wanted to try the Go!Cat!Wheel! because we liked the cleanliness of the design.  Each surface is a solid surface making it much easier to clean. Our cats, however, are not fans.  The sections of the wheel overlap in their construction which is why it comes with a colored film that goes around the outside of the wheel, but the uneven surface makes a clunking sound at each seam. The thin film does not even out the seams. Our cats will use the Go!Cat!Wheel! if they have no other option, but it is not their wheel of choice due to the constant clunking as the wheel goes over each seam.  The clunking sounds would make it harder to get a cat to start using this wheel if it did not have prior wheeling experience to motivate its wheel usage. We are not fans of the loud noise either - which was disappointing because we are fans of the easy-to-clean surface.

When One Fast Cat hit the scene, we were in love with the price.  We bought four at the Kickstarter, and over time have accumulated four more.  With our original wheels, we did not experience the difficulty in building them, the excessive tipping over,  or the clunking sound that others experienced.  We were happy for a while.  In less than two years, our small, running wheels which ran the big wheel needed replacing.  We ordered the parts to replace them, but the original, worn-out wheels were impossible to remove.  It seems that on every base, at least one of the four wheels could not be removed; thus, we could not use the base.  I contacted One Fast Cat to purchase new bases for our wheels since we could not replace them.  One Fast Cat told me the new bases they had would not work on my old wheels, and they offered me a discount on buying a whole new wheel - I declined.  We have since discovered that the current base does work with the original wheels.  We picked up the new model on Craigslist, and its base works just fine with our old Kickstarter wheels.  Now, One Fast Cat doesn't sell a base kit.  One can buy the pieces individually, but by the time you do that, you've spent nearly $100.  I won't put that much money back into One Fast Cat as our experience led to frustration and disappointment.

Before we got to the point of needing to replace the running wheels, we had bought a few more One Fast cat wheels. With the later models, we started to experience the problems others were talking about.  The wheels were falling off the base while the cats were using them, and one of the wheels we bought was so loud, it could not be kept in the house.  Now we have eight One Fast Cat wheels, and only two are still usable.  What we really have is a One Fast Cat graveyard.

As our One Fast Cat Wheels were breaking down, we looked around at other options, and we bought a Ferris Cat Wheel from ZiggyDoo.  When Jon started building our Ferris Cat Wheel, he immediately recognized a difference in the quality of materials.  The ABS plastic is strong and durable. The frame is held together with bolts and wingnuts, which make assembly straightforward and the structure very strong and stable. Furthermore, the quality of the wheel bearings is fantastic.  This was really important because the wheel bearings supplied by One Fast Cat prohibited us from replacing the running wheels, creating hypersensitivity to wheel bearing quality.  

The Ferris Cat Wheel is 12 inches wide, which is beneficial for three reasons - stability, safety, and added fun.  With the extra width, the wheel has space for grooves that hold the running wheels inside.  With the running wheels operating inside the groove, the Ferris Cat Wheel does NOT fall over.  We've had our first one over a year, and it has had a tremendous amount of use and has never once fallen over.  Furthermore, cats cannot get the paws or tails between the running wheels and the cat wheel, making the product safe.  And finally, the extra width means extra space for wheeling with friends.  We often get two cats walking side by side on their Ferris Cat Wheel. 

Another bonus of the Ferris Cat Wheel is the sound.  We live in a three-story house with wood plank walls and ceiling.  The noise amplifies and reverberates in our house. Jon would take the later model One Fast Cat wheels off the base at night, so they did not keep any family members up.  But the Ferris Cat wheels can run all night long without it bothering a soul.  Since the cats often love to use the wheels at night, this is particularly important.

Do cats need a wheel?  High energy, highly intelligent cats, such as the Bengal, will be happier with a wheel.  Unless you are actively out walking with your cat or spending hours playing it hard inside, it is not likely to be getting the energy output that its body needs to be content.  If you found our experience helpful in making your decision to purchase a cat wheel, we would really appreciate it if you would help us out in return.  Elizabeth Gujdan of ZiggyDoo is a kind and intelligent businesswoman.  For every ten people who we refer to  Ferris Cat Wheel, she will give our cats a new wheel.  Ferris Cat Wheels do cost more than One Fast Cat Wheels, and for that reason, we have not replaced all of our wheels with Ferris Cat Wheels yet, but we are working on it.  If you've decided the Ferris Cat Wheel is the right wheel for you, please tell Elizabeth that you were referred by Jon and Robyn Paterson of Quality Bengal Kittens, and we get credit towards another wheel. Click on any Ferris Cat Wheel links in the article or on the picture to the right.  If you are in the United States, be sure to change the currency in the upper left corner of the website from Canadian Dollars to US dollars. One day, we'll get enough Ferris Cat Wheels so that we don't have to worry about the wheel hogs who are keeping the wheels we have from everyone else.