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Brief lives - John C. Kirk

Oct. 16th, 2008

11:52 pm - Brief lives

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The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

Last November, I adopted three Roborovski hamsters from what is now Starlight Trust. I named them Phoebe, Piper, and Paige (after the three sisters in Charmed), although I still have trouble telling them apart from appearance, so I have to rely on behaviour.

On July 21st, I checked their cage in the evening, and I saw that Paige was crouching behind the flying saucer, curled up into a tight ball. I took her out of the cage, and I could see her breathing, but she died within an hour. I'm not quite sure when, because she stayed so still, but I'm glad I was with her, and I avoided the others turning cannibal. I'm not as attached to the hamsters as I have been to any of my cats (since I spend less time with them), but I was still sorry to see her go.

I've been careful with the other two since then, and avoided hand-feeding them, just in case that caused any trouble. When I checked in on Tuesday evening, they were both behaving normally, but yesterday morning Piper was lying on her back with her legs twitching in the air. I rolled her over, but a bit later she was on her back again, and she didn't move when Phoebe trampled over her. These hamsters normally dash around all the time, so it's very noticeable when they stay still, and it shows how quickly they can deteriorate; that's why I always arrange for someone to hamster-sit if I'm going to be away overnight. Realistically, I figured that she only had another few hours to live, but I went along to the vet just in case. (My boss was very understanding about giving me a day off at short notice.)

The vet checked her over, and it was slightly odd to see her use a stethoscope that was almost as big as the hamster! The vet said that her breathing was quite fast, and gave me some antibiotics (Baytril), and a couple of syringes: I need to administer 0.03ml twice a day, then go back tomorrow morning for a follow-up. I gave Piper the first dose when I got back home, and it was a bit of a challenge to squirt the syringe into her mouth (since it's so small), but the fact that I could hold her still with thumb and finger was quite worrying. Also, I noticed how cold she felt compared to Phoebe (something else the vet commented on), so I've put their cage near to the fireplace in the lounge.

Yesterday evening I gave the second dose, and this time she was a bit more energetic, running up and down my arms; I never thought I'd be happy to have a hamster poo in my hand! Anyway, I got the liquid in, and after that she ran on the wheel a bit, as well as being more enthusiastic about eating. This morning I gave the third dose, and this time I had to take the cage apart to get at her, while preventing her from setting off on a journey of exploration. I didn't notice it at the time, but later I realised that she didn't feel cold, so that's encouraging; she's still a bit sluggish, but definitely getting back to her old self. Tonight she's been a bit more grumpy, and nips my fingers whenever I get close, so I've soaked her dose into some food and I'll wait until she starts moving again (so that Phoebe doesn't eat it first). It's understandable that she's wary of me, since I can't really expect her to understand why I'm being mean to her, and hopefully I'll have a chance to regain her trust.

Anyway, yay for modern medicine: the drug has had an amazing effect, and hopefully the vet will have good news tomorrow morning.

Edit: Vet said that Piper looks healthy, so I'll keep her on the antibiotics but she should be fine after that. Also, I think I now have a way to tell them apart (Piper has a slightly longer tail).