When I was a youngster I saved up my pittance of an allowance and bought a hamster. I don’t remember ever wanting one, but I do remember going to the pet store with my mother and picking out a cute apricot hamster – separating her from a bunch living together in a fish tank. I don’t even know why I picked her, and I was a little worried about being a good hamster parent, but I was sure she was the one for me.
When we got home my mother donated a bird cage to my new friend; we put down some newspaper, filled a dish with food (I can’t remember what we fed her), and left her to assimilate herself to her new surroundings. Somewhere I got some advice about leaving her alone until she got used to me, and at some point we got a little metal wheel for her to get some exercise. At the recommendation of a neighbor we named her Peaches.
I was fascinated by Peaches and watched her all the time. It didn’t take too long for me to lose my patience and risk getting bitten when I pulled her out of her cage, but she was very patient with me and never did bite me. We actually got along pretty well. I’d let her out to play when I got home from school, took her to visit the neighbors on the weekends, and on warm days took her outside to play in the grass, keeping an eye out for birds of prey and neighborhood cats.
One day I got brave and bought another hamster. I thought for sure they’d get along and Peaches would be happy to have another hamster to pal around with, but I was wrong about them being friends. The new one was very territorial and immediately picked a fight with Peaches, and by the time I got them separated Peaches had suffered a leg-break so severe it never healed correctly. For the rest of her life she ran around on three good legs and a stump. I felt really bad.
I gave the new one away and showered all of my attention on Peaches.
Things were good for a while, but I didn’t know about the short life span of hamsters, and when she died I was heartbroken. I had barely a year with her and I blamed myself for her short life. In those days there wasn’t any good information on pet rearing; Mom and I were guessing at what hamsters needed. Veterinarians were almost as uninformed as we were.
We had a grand funeral for her in the back yard. I never got another hamster.
Now, of course, hamsters are royalty! It’s much easier to get good information; we know so much more about animals in general, and pet stores have whole sections selling food and habitats for hamsters and other rodents. We’re better informed about good nutrition and the benefits of a varied lifestyle, and all of our pets can live a longer, healthier, interesting life. I’m sure if Peaches were a modern hamster, her leg could have been fixed easily. Even though I kept her pretty busy, she certainly could’ve lived a more interesting life.
I could’ve really used this book, Hamsters For Dummies, then.
I had to learn by trial and error what a hamster needs. Now I could be fully informed and educated before I spent my allowance on such a responsibility.
The internet is full of places to search for great information. You can even join a club to be part of a growing community of hamster lovers. Check out www.hamster-club.com to learn everything you’d want to know about hamsters.
I’m a dog owner these days, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for a pair of beady little eyes and soft fur. No rodent will ever live up to my memory of Peaches, though, so I don’t think I’ll try hamster parenting again.
I have a lot of cute little field mice in my yard, though.