Cat Exercise Wheel
- Product Review (submitted on March 23, 2016):
My cats are terrified of the wheel and even though I've tried all of the suggestions that the company sent, and used my own background working in the animal field extensively and training professionally in feline behavior, my cats won't use it. They aren't food or toy motivated cats. Even if I try to withhold food and use it motivationally, they will approach the wheel but that's it. I received the wheel in January and the best they'll do is eat off their food bowl on top of the wheel. If it would have worked for them, it would have been such a great use of money but unfortunately, it didn't work out for me. I think if it was less wobbly or had a little more resistance to it, they would not be so afraid of it.
This wheel is huge and while it's simple to put together, if you have limited grasp strength, it sucks. I ended up getting blood blisters trying to get everything to click into place correctly. Being that I live in an apartment, there's also only so much hammering I can do to the thing before my neighbors would complain. Also, the track pads didn't quite line up correctly but that could be my fault. By the time I got to that point, I was so frustrated that I tried to pull the waxy paper off all in one go instead of gradually like in the video. I've considered selling this and while I might have had a buyer, the trackpads look bad, especially after I attempted catnip as an incentive.
However, I am still giving 3 stars because I like that the wheel does not have spokes and I like that it's not electrical like a human treadmill or anything like that. It's also a mostly sturdy wheel once you manage to get it together.
One design flaw that could be addressed is that it does fall over at times. I wouldn't know if it falls over during cat use but when I've had company, if they bump into it, it falls over. I think that's another reason the cats fear it. No matter how much they make nice with it, as soon as it's upright and company comes over, they hear it crash at some point. While it would take away from the simple elegance, perhaps an option for a stability bar that could be installed to clamp loosely around the top or a square frame with sort of "external spokes" would give it more stability.
Another thing that could be nice would be drilling holes to allow for installing hooks around the edges for cats that are not motivated by anything. If I withhold food and place it on the treadmill, they will at least climb onto it. If I could get them to associate a ferris-wheel-like hook-able cup to the edges, that could provide incentive for them to learn independently. One of my cats is a 3-legged feral with trauma issues. So, while she is eager to play near and even on it, she is afraid of all humans and training has to be done from a distance. If she could see modeling or piece together mentally the point of the wheel, she might actually like it. These could all be accessories that are optional for exceptionally difficult cats like mine (given my background, I only adopt cats with major problems).
All of that said, it is well designed and executed for cats that are not so timid and who are energetic. This could be a wonderful thing for cat shelters, at least if it can be washed well enough to prevent disease transmission. If I were adopting a kitten, it would probably be a breeze to train them to love this. I suppose in some ways, it's sort of like with us humans; some of us hate the treadmill while some of us figure out a way to stay motivated to use it. I also appreciate the videos that they have on the site. I hope it works out better for others than it did for me.