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Hell on Wheels

As the avid Eek-o-fans and other rodent lovers probably already know, rodent front teeth grow constantly. Using their teeth wears down the teeth, keeping the length in check and, by design, also sharpens them. Therefore rodents must gnaw and chew. As one friend commented, rodents hit the evolutionary jackpot on that one. We primates only get one set of replacement teeth which, once in place, never grow and are never replaced.

Our problem is that Eek really (really!) likes to chew on her beloved Wodent Wheel.

A Wodent Wheel is a a product by transoniq, designed specifically for larger rodents like rats. Available through a variety of vendors and recommended by many rodent enthusiasts, it's reduced "pinch" factor makes this kind of wheel the only model approved by the ASPCA. The Wodent Wheel, like nearly all exercise wheel options, is made of hard plastic.

Eek and her wheel are like dolphins in the water, like bees and spring flowers, like monkeys swinging on branches... Eek loves her wheel. She runs on it, typically a few revolutions at a time with occasional longer bursts, very frequently. For Eek, running on her wheel is also an expression of rattie happiness and excitement. If she believes a treat may be forthcoming, she runs on her wheel. If she senses someone approaching her cage and she would like to come out and play, she runs on her wheel. If Eek's wheel was hooked up to enable it to generate electricity, she could regularly power a few household appliances.

However, loving her wheel in another way, Eek also finds the face plate to be especially desirable for gnawing. She chews on her wheel almost as much as she runs on it, until one day, to her surprise, the wheel can no longer revolve. This has been the sad demise of a number of wheels. Not to ever let a possibly valuable potential construction object go to waste, Eek has disassembled a destroyed wheel more than once and used the parts in her building projects - quite a feat when comparing her size against the size of those parts! Additional replacement face plates have been ordered, received and used to resuscitate wheels, only to have them be gnawed away as well. An array of alternate chewing options, including parts from previously gnawed-into-dysfunction wheels, have been consistently provided but unfortunately met with little interest. Various tactics have been employed in attempts to discourage her destruction of this critical cage apparatus, including the application of thick tape and aluminum foil, but all to no avail. Eek wreaks hell on her wheels.

There are some additional rat specializations, worthy of discussion at this point in the tale, that make them truly fantastic gnawers. Rats, like most rodents, have diastema regions - lengthy gaps along their gum lines, upper and lower, between their molars and incisors where other mammals might have canine and pre-molar teeth. And rats also have small flaps of cheek tissue on either side of the inside of the mouth which can be closed behind the incisors, protruding into the diastema. This means rats can chew without getting unwanted debris in their mouths. In short, Eek does not appear to be swallowing any of this immense volume of gnawed off plastic.

Enter an Eek-o-fan who is also a very kind machinist. A super nice fellow who was willing to help out, Jerry was willing to craft a custom metal face plate insert for Eek's wheels.
Wodent Wheels, insert, and mangled wheel parts

Though the black back plate makes it hard to see, Scribble's wheel, on the right, looks pristine and unused, because, well, it is unused. The face place on Eek's wheel, on the left with the white back plate, has visibly been extensively gnawed. Eek has gnawed completely through two of the "spokes" and the wheel is close to failure. In between the two wheels are two other previously "customized into oblivion" face plates. And in front is a unmolested face plate along with Jerry's fabulous custom insert.

When assembled, the face plate on Wodent Wheels, by design, are slightly concave - the center post with the connecting cotter pin being slightly narrower than the width of the outer rim. The new metal insert, however, not being attached to the outer rim, does not flex, and so had to be taped to the plastic face plate to match its curve.

The metal insert has now been added to Eek's wheel and is a great success! There has been no gnawing and lots of happy running! Many thanks to Jerry!

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Blog_post | by Dr. Radut