Friday 8 April 2011

H is for Hamster

Hamsters are small, cheap, cute and furry. They don't seem to mind living alone, and they make ideal pets.

Or do they?

If you want to introduce your child to the concept of accidents, heartbreak and bereavement, you could do a lot worse than buy him a hamster. Because for some reason, hamsters (and other small furry animals, but especially hamsters) tend to come to sticky ends (they also get literally sticky ends in the form of a disgusting hamsters-only disease called wet tail, which is always fatal).

I have known many hamsters, and they invariably die before their time*. My brother contrived to cook his by putting it too near a stove, and my sister starved one by forgetting to feed it. My own children had hamsters, and in a garden in Staffordshire, there is a flower bed full of tiny unmarked graves. There was the hamster that escaped and hid up the chimmney until it eventually got bored, came down and met the cat; the hamster that escaped and came downstairs, and met the cat (cats tend to play an important role in these tragedies); the dreaded wet tail...I could go on, but will spare the feeligns of any passing animal-lovers.

We had many funerals (which is probably why animal funerals, strangely, feature in all my novels). One hamster was buried in a shoebox together with this heartbreaking little note from its owner:

"Dear Wilfrid. I love you and I miss you very much. I hop you have a nis time in heven".

Eldest son played his part gallantly (they weren't his hamsters), carrying the shoebox on his shoulder and marching solemnly down the garden to the graveside as the bereaved owner wept (eldest son may have been doing his brother a kindness, but he wasn't taking the occasion as seriously as might have been expected).

Then there were Russian hamsters (or were they Chinese? We had both at some time or other) which leapt up and attached themselves to our fingers with needle-sharp teeth. They looked particularly cute, but cute they certainly were not. I can't remember what happened to them (probably just as well).

So, my conclusion? Avoid hamsters like the plague. If you must do something small and furry, get guinea pigs, which have the most gorgeous babies (born with hair, eyes open, perfect miniatures of their parents).

Or, if you can afford it, a horse.

*Actually, I don't remember my first hamster, Victoria, coming to a bad end. But she did shred the new dining-room curtains and make them into a trendy green-and-white striped nest.


  1. My wife wanted something small and furry so she married me.

  2. How I agree! They do pack a lot of adventures into their short lives though.

  3. You forgot one important thing about hamsters ... those little buggers are escape artists! They can chew through just about any habitat, and then they show up scritching and scratching in the corner of your bedroom in the middle of the night. Oh, and you're right about the guinea pigs. Cute babies.

    Fun post!

  4. I just love hamsters and kinders had many during their childhood. We had gerbils too.

    Sons learnt the facts of life through breeding their little furry friends.

    When youngest son was informed that he was to recieve sex-education at school this caused him a great deal of angst... poor little thing thought he would have to do - well what hamsters do, in front of the class!

    Anna :o]

  5. Oh Keith! How sweet! But I bet you don't chew curtains (and you'd better not keep a cat, just to be on the safe side).

    Teresa, this is true. But I'm not sure they actually enjoyed their adventures. Few of ours managed to survive theirs!

    Oh Susan, I didn't forget the escapes! How do you think they managed their fateful feline encounters?

  6. Hi, Anna. Our hamsters knew what to do, but it never quite worked. I think that if my children had taken instruction from the hamsters, I wouldn't now have my lovely* grandchildren!

    *Well, lovely some of the time.

  7. They are so cute and harmless.


  8. I've never owned hamsters - nor had any desire to! Give me a big dog any day. You know where you stand with them.

    By the way Frances, I got Dead Ernest out of the library and am thoroughly enjoying it. Am about half way through, and looking forward to reading tonight's instalment (with a Crunchie).

  9. Ernie, my son, has 3 pet rats... I love those furry things!!


  10. A hamster was the one and only pet my daughter had when young - she was so upset when it died that she didn't want another. I tried to 'bring it back' by putting it in a little box in the airing cupboard for a while, but he was definitely dead!

  11. Hi, Yvonne. Cute - yes. Harmless - I'm not so sure!

    Joanne, how sensible you are to avoid hamsters altogether! And thank you so much for your kind comments about my book. I do hope you continue to enjoy it.

    Hi, Doris. Yes - rats are intellgent pets, aren't they.

    Rosemary, at least you tried!

  12. I'm with you! I've had several hamsters (as well as mice, rabbits, and guinea pigs). Hamsters just don't live long and they always want to escape.

    Guinea pigs are the best out of the rodent bunch!

  13. HI, Dawn. I'm gld you agree! It's the guinea pig babies that get to me. I bought myself guinea pigs when my children had all left home because I missed them* (mad old bat!).

    * The guinea pigs, not the children, (although of course I missed them, too. Still do...).