How I Got Adopted by a Syrian Hamster

by on November 2nd, 2014
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“You have to help me.”

That was my boyfriend speaking, but it could have just as well been the hamster curiously sniffing my face. I was still in bed and opened my eyes to see a peaches-and-cream colored hamster staring back at me. My boyfriend was panicking in the doorway. “I have to go find something to keep him in! You hold him until I set something up.”

“Uhh, where did this hamster come from?”

“He squeezed right under the door!’

“What?” This was a bit much to take when I was only in my jammies. The guinea pigs knew that I was awake and demanded lettuce.

“I was watching television and I heard the door thump a bit and then there was this hamster that just squeezed right through and marched right on in. What should we do?”

What Was Going On Here?

Pet overpopulation is not limited to just dogs and cats. Many small pets like hamsters are indiscriminately bred by “backyard breeders.” It would take me days to find out what happened. Someone in our apartment building was breeding Syrian or golden hamsters. For some reason, that person decided to suddenly dump all or most of his or her hamsters. I was never able to find out which of my neighbors was the hamster-dumper, but I didn’t want to have anything to do with such a person.

Our rodent wanderer was perhaps tempted by the smell of food and decided that our place would make the perfect home. My boyfriend wondered if the hamster was attracted to the smell of guinea pig food and hay, but I doubt that. Hamsters are not too picky about their diets.

The hamster chose wisely. I had a 40 gallon plastic tote for transporting my model horses to and from model horse shows. With the lid off, I was able to apply a thick layer of hay and pine shavings (the guinea pig’s bedding) and hang an extra water bottle on the side. Later, he’d get his own cage, but this did okay in an emergency.

The Debate

“Should we take him to the animal shelter?” asked my boyfriend reluctantly.

We decided against it. We’d been there once before. It was always crammed full of too many pets and not enough personnel to care for the animals. It also was a kill shelter. This was the year 1999 and no-kill it would be years before no-kill shelters would begin to crop up in America. This hamster was an intelligent, friendly being that ate very little food. We cared what happened to him – and I had a pretty good idea what would happen to him if he was taken to a shelter. The pet stores in the area would sometimes buy unwanted pets, but adult hamsters were hard to sell and so usually would wind up as snake food.

We did tell the apartment manager’s secretary that we had discovered a hamster and if anyone lost a hamster to contact us. No one ever did. I really wasn’t expecting anyone to contact us. I named him Hamnesty, because he sought hamster amnesty in our apartment.

Another Refugee Arrives

A few days later, our roommate rushed into the apartment holding a hamster that looks similar to the one in the photograph. “I was outside having a smoke and two hamsters ran by me! I caught this one but the other one got away.”

“That better not be a female.” I said, but had to give her a home. I named her Miss Whiskers. Although we kept them in separate cages, one day we came home from work to discover Hamnesty’s cage empty and the escapee in Miss Whisker’s cage. She had eight babies.

Hamnesty was a delight to live with – much more so than my boyfriend. A year later, I walked out. I could not take the pets with me, but left money for their care. Unfortunately, no photographs of my hamsters survived. I heard that my ex-boyfriend took good care my last surviving guinea pig and the hamsters. I heard that ones that lived the longest were Hamnesty and Miss Whiskers.



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