December 3rd, 2007

Hello to the hamsters

A couple of weeks ago I adopted three Robo hamsters from Furry Friends; "Robo" is short for "Roborovski" (i.e. they're not cyborgs), and rhymes with "yobbo" rather than "hobo". They're dwarf hamsters, so they're a bit smaller than the normal Syrian variety, and they prefer to live in groups. In this case, someone bought two hamsters, thinking that they were the same sex, but it turned out that one was male and one was female, so this resulted in pregnancy as soon as the female was physically able. There were five female babies, who were kept with their mother at the animal rescue place; since they're so close in age, it's hard to tell them apart, and I either have three sisters or two sisters and the mother. For now I'm assuming that I have three sisters, so I'm naming them after the women from Charmed (Piper, Paige, and Phoebe), although Phoebe is the only one I can (sometimes) recognise so far.

My family had a Syrian hamster when I was a kid, but I never had much contact with it because it slept all day. The main thing I remember is that it used to enter its plastic house by pushing off the roof rather than going through the front entrance: Hazzard hamster! It also used to horde sunflower seeds in the house, so I'd tip them back into the bowl every week or so.

A few years later, when I was a Deputy Grecian at school (effectively lower sixth), one of the other boys asked me for a favour. His girlfriend had a pet hamster in her boarding house, but this was against school rules so she'd been told to get rid of it; she gave it to him to look after, since he could get away with it more easily. On this particular evening, he needed to work late in his study but the hamster was disturbing him, so he wanted to leave it on my desk overnight. I said that was fine, since I was going to bed and it wouldn't affect me. The following day it was still there, but it was peacefully sleeping so I couldn't see what the fuss was about. In the evening I settled down to do my prep (homework), and then the hamster woke up. It was quite lively, and enjoyed climbing the bars of its cage. I also learnt that I shouldn't put paper too close to the cage, otherwise he'd pull it in through the bars! I had to hand in one set of Maths answers with chewed edges, and explain to the teacher that "The hamster ate my homework!"

Still, I enjoyed the company, and I wound up looking after the hamster for a week or so. He was quite tame, so I'd often take him out of the cage and let him run around the shelves or just pass him back and forth between my hands. On one occasion I got a bit careless, and the hamster dropped a short distance before I caught him, so he nipped my finger. However, I think that he showed restraint; given that hamsters can crack open nuts with their teeth, I'm guessing that he could have left dents in my bone, but he didn't even break the skin. In other words, he just wanted to send a message of "Oi, watch it!" rather than actually trying to hurt me. I like to think that's a sign of intelligence, although I know that other people disagree with this.

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Anyway, I'm intending to have a hamster-warming party in due course (mainly when I've had a chance to tidy up my flat), but that will probably have to wait until January, so let me know if you'd like to meet the new members of my household. For now, I'm enjoying the company.