My twins bugged me for years about getting hamsters, but since we had a cat I told them “no.” So when the cat died (of old age) the boys and I went to the pet shop and bought hamsters. I wanted two males or two females – of course we got one of each sex. And they had little wrestling matches (delighted comments from the boys) I rushed out and bought a second cage – too late – at 6 a.m. we were woken up by Sebi screaming that “Brownie has Kittens!” And sure enough – in Brownie’s cage were five tiny pink…things. Baby hamsters are Not cute in the beginning. The twins (aged 10) named the new babies (Verb, Adverb, Paragraph, Page, and Cootie.) Cootie being the runt of the litter.
My daughter, aged two, loved to play with the hamsters and would take them out of their cage. I would tell her to put them back or they’d bite. She didn’t care. She got bitten a few times but it just made her stop squeezing them so hard.
One day I was vacuuming the dining room and my daughter (2 years old) came running in screaming “Stop Stop – the babies are all over!” She’d taken them out to play and left them in the dining room. Horrified I stopped the vacuum cleaner and started to look for one-inch-long baby hamsters. I found four, but not Cootie. Hands shaking, I started to take apart my vacuum cleaner, when I noticed our dog, Fudge, lying under the table licking her paws.
Eyes narrowed, I crouched down and said, “Fudge, bring it over here!” Sheepishly, she got up and walked over and spit a tiny hamster out onto my outstretched hand. The hamster was a little wet (well, a lot wet) but intact and perfectly fine. I sighed and put all the babies back with their mother, and put the cage high, where my daughter couldn’t reach it.
The baby hamsters all found good homes with the twins’ schoolmates. (The hamsters were also invited to spend a week in my daughter’s kindergarten class, where the mother hamster promptly bit the pricipal’s thumb much to the children’s delight.)
About a month later my daughter set the father hamster free in our garden. (“But he wanted to play in the bushes!”) and the mother hamster lived on for a few more years and then died peacefully in her bed. (Hamsters only live about 3 years, so don’t get too attached to them)
The twins, by then, had another hamster that they “rescued from a bunch of ‘wild hamsters’ in the pet shop that were picking on him” – he was the smallest hamster I’ve ever seen. He looked like a gray walnut with long, wild, Einstien hair.
He was so weak and sickly the boys named him Kenny – after the South Park character who was always dying. Kenny didn’t grow very much bigger, but he lived to a ripe old age of nearly 5 years – an amazing feat for a hamster. He was also the sweetest hamster, and never bit anyone, not even children or principals. When Kenny died, an old hamster practially all white by now and moving stiffly like an old man – (he died sitting in his food dish, so it took us a while to figure out he was actually dead) we decided to give away the hamster cage and not have anymore small animals. Until my daughter wanted goldfish. But that’s another story.