Cat exercise wheel

This is not a hamster.

(I could stare at that all day.)

Cat owners among you with hard floor coverings will recognise the eldritch skittering of tiny paws at the witching hour, when all cats believe they have become rally cars. The owner of Jasper and Ruben (who, when researching this post, I thought was called Jasper Ruben; he remains anonymous for now – please leave a comment with your name if you’d like to!) has mechanised the problem. With a Raspberry Pi, natch.


This is the web interface for Jasper and Ruben’s wheel. Cat-propelled, and Raspberry Pi-monitored, it logs distance travelled, average speed, duration of feline whirring, and all that good stuff, and displays the statistics in real time.

Here’s the back, where the clever happens. (And the top of Ruben’s head.)


The Pi’s GPIO is hooked up to a coil sensor behind the wheel, which is housed in an old DSL splitter box, held as close as possible to the wheel without actually touching it (the turquoise nubbin in the picture). A coil sensor detects magnetic field, so the wheel itself has some modifications to make it detectable and measurable: six small ferrous nails hidden in the lining.


The Pi drives a camera board and interprets the feedback from the sensor, so it can display live statistics as the cat runs. It also enables the user to record any particularly nifty bits of cat-sprinting.

Being human, you want to see more video of the setup in action. Here’s Jasper, being taunted by a laser dot, with real-time stats at the top of the video.

And here’s proof that the cats will use the wheel spontaneously:

You can see a comprehensive photo how-to on Imgur; Jasper and Ruben’s owner is also answering questions about the build over on Reddit.

We want to see someone modify this to use the wheel’s rotation to charge a battery. What would you use it to power? (I’m thinking kibble dispenser…)


snowballEarth avatar

i need this.
my cats are overweight.
but they’re probably gonna ignore it,
being more clever than hamsters

Liz Upton avatar

I suspect a bit of early-days encouragement with a laser pointer might help here; have to admit, my cats are in the same (plump) boat as yours, but they *do* have bursts of frenetic activity several times a day, which might well be aided by a GIANT WHEEL.

Jasper Ruben avatar

They are in fact not interested at all in the laser pointer on the wheel for some reason, so this was a one time only event. They prefer being looked at and stroked while on the wheel, attention is the key word.

Liz Upton avatar

Ha – it is with ours too; nothing pleases a cat quite as much as being looked at admiringly.

Thanks ever so much for sharing the build; please let me know if you’d like your real name attached to the post!

Nic avatar

I suggest you all read this before proceeding further.

The Hundred-mile-an-hour Dog

Toby avatar


beta-tester avatar

please do never ever use a laser pointer as toy to play with cats (or other animals)!
a laser pointer can be harmful for human eyes already, but can be much much more harmful for cats eyes because of their special “design” of the eyes to be able to have a better view at night (all those animals have much more sensitive eyes).
even an indirect reflection can cause permanently damage of cats eyes!

JBeale avatar

If your laser pointer is Class 1, it’s supposed to be safe for human eyes “under all conditions of normal use”
However I don’t know anything about cat eye physiology or damage threshold. Do you have any references on that subject? For example, if the greater light sensitivity of the cat’s eye is only due to a larger iris, that doesn’t increase the hazard from a thin (few mm diameter) beam relative to a human eye, because the same laser power could enter either kind of eye.

Jongoleur avatar

It could always be used to recharge a wireless mouse….

Liz Upton avatar

Oh, very good. :D

Homer L. Hazel avatar

If it would drag a toy rabbit on a wire, you could make millions selling it to the Jack Russell Terrier races. Well, Maybe not, the current system seems to work very well.

Richard Wood avatar

Cats don’t have owners, they have (human) sevants

ANON avatar

Now it just needs an RFID chip for each cats collar, so you can log who runs and when!

some1 avatar

Sounds good, might build that one day for my neighbor’s cats ;)
(I don’t know how my neighbor/his cats will like it but yeah, might at least ask the neighbor before I build it)

ak4oo avatar

very cool …this could be joined with spinning led display .

depending on the controller & config.
you could display time and mph…temp …..
great job on the treadmill. I see you can buy one for $250…
and modifications could be made on it…but ..$250 and
I like what you did..
sorry..I wont be building one ..I am a bird person..and…. I thought.. I saw a puddy cat:D

Scotty avatar

You could use an LED strip to make a dancing light always hanging out around 90 or 270 degrees, encourage the cat to try to run up the wall.

Victoria avatar

I saw this on Amazon some time ago. I always wondered if my cats would maintain the interest or leave it after a couple of uses. What is your experience ?


Gma avatar

I know that Bengal cats use it spontaneously and often. When you go to YouTube and search for “Bengal wheel” you’ll find a lot of those videos. Of course not so technically advanced as Jasper Ruben’s.

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