Why Bringing Your Hamster Home Can Become A Game Of Beat The Clock
I recently published a children’s book, ‘Winnie Boo The Cockapoo’, based on my dearly departed dog, Winnie. But, the first pet I had in adulthood was a hamster named Murray. I figured that a hamster, with its 2–3 year life span, seemed like the kind of commitment I could muster.
The thing about hamsters, is that they seem to be easy maintenance. Aren’t they a child’s pet? How hard can it be if a six year old can do it? Of course, six year olds are not doing it.
For every pet hamster, there is a parent on their hands and knees, looking under the washer for a run-away rodent. And praying that, if they find one, it’s the rodent that they are looking for.
Anyway, I bought a hamster for less than $10. He was 30% off at the local pet store. I had already spent over $50 for a carrier, cage, bedding, food, hiding places, wheel, tube mazes, etc. Hamsters may be at bargain basement prices, but they live in penthouse luxury.
Getting him home was another matter. What I didn’t know was that the pet store was only going to supply a flimsy, small, cardboard box to transport him home.
When I say cardboard, I mean the quality that is used for light bulbs and eggs. It must be an inside corporate joke to put the most fragile, vulnerable objects in the most fragile, vulnerable packaging. I had left my carrier at home and didn’t want to go back and get it. Funny, since the term carrier should have given me the hint that it was going to be needed. As I said before, first time pet owner.
I lived only 15 minutes away by car, so I decided that the cardboard box would be fine. Surely, they would not give me something that could not handle a living being that is born to chew. Would they? They were professionals.
For the first five minutes on the ride home, the hamster seemed willing to rest in his confines until we got to our designation. About the time we got to the second stoplight, the box started to rattle. The hamster was moving around in his little box. I hoped that he was trying to get in a more comfortable position. Lord, please let that be it.
The rattling got a little more frantic and I realized that my hamster was trying to pull a Houdini. By the time I got to the third stoplight, he had carved out a little circle and I could see one eye peeking out. I debated in my mind whether to pull over or continue on. We were so close. I could see my subdivision from my car. I kept going.
Luckily, we made it home just as Murray got his head and one arm out of the box. I was so relieved, after I raced inside and put him in his cage, which I had all set up for him. He must not have cared for it, though, because the car was the first of his many escape attempts during our time together. I usually found Murray within a few minutes. He was, after all, an escape artist, not a hiding expert.
I had Murray for about six months or so. Just came home from work one night and he was in his cage, stiff as a board. What I didn’t know then was that hamsters will sometimes go into a state of thanatosis, or playing dead. They do it if they are feeling frightened or threatened.
Although, I sometimes wonder if Murray was in this state, I doubt it because if he was, he was doing it for a long time. Also, there was no reason for him to be in that state, unless he really wanted to be rid of me. Why would he want to get rid of me? I was the cashew god from above, giving him his favorite snack. Which is what I suspect was the reason for his state and fate. Maybe too many cashews.
Anyway, I don’t give hamsters a lot of credit for being smart, but he should have known that if you are being placed in a plastic bag, you better show some signs of life QUICK. At any rate, I double bagged him and put him in the outside trash bin. If he was still alive, I’m sorry Murray. You deserved better.
It took me another couple of years to feel confident enough to get Winnie. One of the best decisions I made in my life. It was another level of pet caring education. I did much better this time. We had so many adventures together. But that is for another post.