The Great (Hamster) Escape

When hamsters came into my house years ago they had little plastic balls, so they could run merrily all over. (Humans now have those, too. You’d think we could just walk.) We did have to close the door to the basement while they were out. I thought it would be kind of funny to hear the “thump-thump” of a rodent taking a ride, but the kids thought the hamster wouldn’t appreciate an E-ticket at Disneyland.

One day I found one of the balls in the kitchen, sans hamster. The lid had popped off. This triggered a panicked search, which was about as successful as panicked searches usually are. The hamster – Ranger, named after a slippery, hard to track character from a Stephanie Plum novel – was gone.

My daughters were very upset. I looked at it as a challenge … but before you congratulate me for my attitude, I should point out that I hate challenges.

After a time – a long time, during which I could have been doing more important things, like nothing – I found a little white puff ball behind the oven, as far back into the corner as he could possibly get. I could have done a few different things, but I didn’t have a gun on me, and in my experience napalm is dangerously unreliable. So instead, I tried to entice the furball out with a handful of his favorite snack, which looks suspiciously like shreds of colored paper.

Ranger instantly disappeared into the wall.

He’d discovered what I, in ten years, had not – the hole mice use to get into my house every fall. (They stopped coming after we got the pet snake, but that’s another story.) It led behind the cupboard and from there to – who knows? A rodent superhighway, perhaps, or a mouseport, or a hamsterteria.

The next morning, I found a very old mouse carcass on the floor outside the hole. I’m talking mummified. Ranger had not only made himself at home in the former mouse house, he’d even dug up the cemetery.


“Yeah, I’m bad, I’m bad–you know it.”

Now what? Offering amnesty wasn’t likely to help. There is a homemade trap you can build, making steps out of books that lead to a trash can. Water and food goes into the can, and once inside, the sides are too steep for the hamster to get out again. The problem is, Ranger is afraid of heights. Seriously. It took him a week to climb down out of the upstairs apartment in the hamster house.

I considered leaving him in that hole, until the squeaking started.

The only time they made noise was when they started fighting each other. Every now and then they’d get into a quarrel over who gets the best piece of trail mix, or who controls the remote. Then they’d squeak like crazy until they were all squeaked out, and ten minutes later they’d be happily sitting together again. And yes, it reminded me of my daughters.

The conclusion was inescapable: Ranger wasn’t alone down there. Hopefully we weren’t hearing loud rodent sex.


“You should have sent me in, couch–I’d have those rodents for breakfast. Literally.”


A few days later we found the little white furball, huddled behind a bookcase that turned out to be an excellent place to trap him. I was never so happy to be a book packrat. Or is that a bookrat? Ranger was none too happy, and who can blame him? He’d had free run of the house, so it was like moving out of the Taj Mahal and into a one room trailer. He was in a foul mood, and proved it with a couple of knock down – drag outs with his old roommate.

I never found out whether his mouse friend kicked him out, but later that day I saw the mouse trying to fit an entire soda cracker through its doorway. Eating for two? How friendly they were, I don’t know – can hamsters and mice cross breed? Was I in danger of being overrun by white mice, bent on freeing their dad? I’ve had a few disturbing nightmares.

All I know is, after his brief escape Ranger was awfully squirrely– if you’ll pardon my rodent-themed pun. I feel like I’ve separated Rangero and Julie-rat.

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