Let’s get this out of the way right now: Hamsters are rodents. Mice are rodents. And yet one elicits an “Aw … cute …”, while the other delivers “Eeeeeekkkkk!!!!!!!!”
I don’t get that.
It’s true that my youngest daughter didn’t panic over the mice that invaded our house when she was a kid. In fact, she got a big kick out of seeing one climb out of the stove and do a back flip trying to jump into a cupboard. Just the same, she agreed the little guys had to be taken care of, in the same way a crime family takes care of its little annoyances.
And yet, after I spent all that time and effort to kill off the rodents, a few months later she wanted to bring one into the house – on purpose. “They’re so cute! I’ll keep them clean, and feed them …” The same thing kids always say when they saddle parents with “their” pet.
This was before I got remarried, so I responded with, “Can I bring home a Victoria’s Secret model? I’ll feed her and wash her every day, I promise! I’ll even help her get dressed!”
“Sure, dad … if you can afford her.”
Ouch. The hamsters only cost ten bucks.
Still, I stuck to my guns. “We can’t afford it. You’re only here half the time, and when you’re not here I keep the thermostat set at 60 degrees! How would the ASPCA react if they found out your hamster died of hypothermia? I’d have to pay for food and bedding, and I’d have to pat you on the head when it dies, and you finally remember you had one. No way are we going through that. It’s not gonna happen. Forget it.”
The first thing I noticed about the pet store was how loud it was. There are more animals there than in the rain forest. I kept expecting a gorilla to leap down from the ceiling, but I settled for a salesman, instead. “Which ones are male, and which ones are female?”
He waved at a big table, with a Plexiglas divider running down its middle. “Usually we divide them up, but they managed to get through this, so we’re going to have to get it fixed.”
Notice he didn’t answer the question. But forget that: This little animal, small enough to crawl inside my clothes, had chewed through Plexiglas. Think about it. The little guy my daughter picked out was smaller than most–a Pygmy Hamster. All the better to climb up pants legs.
While my daughter, assisted by cranes and a construction crew, put together the little guy’s new house, I researched the care of Hamsters. I learned they’re solitary animals, and like to live alone.
Except Pygmy Hamsters.
Pygmy Hamsters, it seems, are social animals. They have to have friends to run around with, or they curl into a depressed little ball and develop all kinds of ailments that require time consuming, expensive visits to the veterinarian.
I warned my daughter she would have to simply talk to it a lot, because no way was I spending money on another one of those things, especially with no idea whether the one we already had was a boy or girl. No way, no how. Not gonna happen.
The first thing I noticed when we walked back into the pet store was that the hamster enclosure was empty. Maybe they ate their way through the floor and were tunneling to the center of the Earth. Well, under no circumstances was I chasing all over the country in search of an animal whose
cousins were probably stalking the wiring in my house as we spoke. Not a chance.
The next pet store was even louder than the first. It had a display of hamsters, clearly labeled “male” and “female”. Unfortunately, we didn’t know which kind we already had. But what the heck – fifty-fifty odds are better than your chances of getting through a year in Indiana without hitting a deer.
My daughter named them Ranger and Morelli, and said if one turns out to be a gal, she’ll change its name to Stephanie. That doesn’t make sense unless you read Janet Evanovich, but it’s a lot more imaginative than “Spot”, or “Fuzzball”. I wanted to name one “Snack”, which didn’t go over well at all.
I learned a few things about hamsters in the next few years, which passed quickly because I had to take care of two hamsters:
Social animals, my ass. They fought more than my daughters.
Small teeth leave big ouches.
Running wheels squeak, especially in the wee hours. All the WD-40 in the world won’t silence them.
It’s possible to catch hamsters when they get loose, but either you or they will have a heart attack.
Hearing my daughter say “do you want to help sex Morelli?” WILL freak me out.
We never had any incidents to prove one of them is a Stephanie. And I’ll never “sex” one to find out. No way, no how. Not gonna happen.
until my granddaughter gets one.