Thursday, November 3, 2005

Take My Hamsters. Please.

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This story is copied and pasted (and modified to remove any off-topic babblings I may have added) from an email I sent to a friend a couple of years back, explaining my little predicament. I actually added the updated portion just now.

My son Jamie's teacher asked us if we would mind watching Koker, the MALE class hamster for the summer. The fact that he was (WAS!!!) male is important and the fact that I used the past tense is also significant. SO... I agreed. We went on a family vacation right after school got out, and the weekend after we came back from the beach my husband, Jay, took Jamie to visit his family. Of course Koker died while I was on the clock. I went to many pet stores looking for a look-alike, and found one. It was female, but I decided to take the chance that the kids wouldn't notice the lack of male appendages-besides, Koker had fairly long fur, so it wasn't that obvious anyway. And this new Koker was a dead ringer (no pun intended) for the deceased, otherwise. Well... Koker #2 seemed to be a hearty little eater. She got bigger by the day. But that was good, I figured, since the old Koker was hugely fat, and this one was younger and smaller at the time of purchase. One evening I picked her up (had to frantically tame the vicious little beast because Koker #1 was very docile) and I swear she looked as if she'd swallowed a tennis ball. And it was only her belly, the rest of her was still rather small. And the "tennis ball" felt like a tennis ball- kind of hard. Not mushy, like fat. I told Jay that I was concerned that maybe she wasn't fat. Maybe she was (gasp!) preggers. Jay hated the idea of one hamster in the house, so he was just THRILLED to hear that. I wasn't too happy, either. My little scam was foiled by those pesky rodents. I knew I would have some 'splainin' to do to Jamie's classmates when I brought back "Mr. Koker" and HIS babies. ("Hey, kids! You know that whole birds-and-the-bees story? Forget everything you've heard. You've had it all backwards!") Sure enough, early the next morning I peeked in Koker's cage and she was kind of curled up and uncomfortable-looking. And then I saw the little pink hamster feet peeking out from under her. I couldn't tell exactly, but upon closer inspection there appeared to be approximately 40 little pink hamster feet. It was confirmed about a day later when Koker left her nest to eat and I counted 10 babies. When they're that tiny, it's fun to watch them grow. At about 2 weeks they're adorable. They have fur and are beginning to open their eyes and they can be handled. They were about the size of a very small mouse at this stage. Still all wobbly and cute. But at around 4 weeks, cute as they are, they begin to fight, and they are sexually mature. I had to seperate the males from the females. There was only one female, so I named her Marie after Marie Osmond. (You know, she had like a billion brothers and no sisters). I was able to adopt out 2 of the males to our neighbor Bob's daughters. All the remaining males went into a seperate cage while Marie stayed with Koker.

Koker needed her "space", I guess, and no longer having maternal feelings toward her daughter, she started going after Marie. I moved Marie into her own place. Then the brothers fought. At first it was play fighting, then it started getting bloody. So the Instigator was placed in his own cage. That's 3 cages, so far. One hamster died- I think he was suffocated because all seven hamsters insisted in sleeping all crammed together in a little plastic tube thing. I had to divvy up those guys then, to avoid another fatality (although it WAS one less hamster to deal with...). Bought another cage and put 3 hamsters in there. (That cage is in Jamie's room. It's some futuristic habitrail thingy and is "soooooooooo coooooooooool"-Jamie's words). The two that remained in the original cage were to go to the school as the new class pets. And they seemed to get along fine. Until THEY started fighting. I couldn't buy another cage (Jay's exact words after the so-cool habitrail cage were: "If you bring another cage into this house, I'm going to be fucking pissed off." and he said it calmly, so I knew he meant it. Gulp.) So I devised a divider in the existing tank (an old plastic piece of crap habitrail that was basically held together by packing tape-it was the original Koker's cage and the cage Koker-the-sequel lived in when the "kids" were born) out of a cardboard box that my cell phone came in-just kind of crammed it in there and put a hamster on each side. I knew it wouldn't last, since the hamsters could chew through just about anything, but I figured it would do until the next day when I could figure something else out. The next day both hamsters were on the same side (literally and figuratively- they weren't fighting) so I took the box out. That's where they are, today. So I have a big wire cage for Koker, another big wire cage for Marie, an old piece of crap plastic cage for the as-yet-unnamed-school pets, a kick-ass (ha ha) cage for Oingo, Boingo, and Anthony (Jamie named Anthony, I named the others), and a small plastic "critter keeper" for the bully (I call him Bulldog). So, short-story long, "A funny thing happened on the way home from the pet store..."

Oh, yeah, and Jamie's pet mouse (and my namesake),"Val" has been on the lam for the past 2 weeks. We see her about every night but have yet to catch her.


I had the cage with the class pets in my room, all duct-taped together, bread twisty-ties holding various entrances shut, and it looked smashing. Rather, it looked as if it had been smashed. But there would be no escaping this cage. I woke up at about 5 am one day, needing a drink. Out of the corner of my eye I see a little light-colored creature waddling across the floor. No way! How did this little guy escape my hamster Alcatraz? I scooped him up and headed for his cage. I was a bit puzzled when I saw that the duct tape, twisty-ties, etc. were all intact. I had a little Houdini on my hands, it seemed. Just to make sure I had the right cage for the right hamster, I checked in Jamie's room. Oingo, Boingo, and Anthony were all happily doing little hamster things in their cage, so I peeked into the living room where Bulldog's cage was kept. Bulldog had been moved from his critter keeper temporarily to Jamie's mouse's cage. His hamster wheel was spinning, so no problems, there. I put whichever school pet I had in my hand back into his cage, having to undo duct tape to do it.

I went into the kitchen to get my drink, and passed Bulldog's cage on the way in. I noticed his little food dish, which attached to the exterior of the cage, had fallen off, spilling food on the fireplace hearth. As I reached down to refasten the thing, I saw a long tail coming out from the wheel area, which also attaches to the exterior. Val was in there! I didn't have time to block the opening where the food compartment had fallen off, so she was able to escape. Damn. And I realized I had just put Bulldog in the cage with the class pets, which could not lead to good things. Bulldog was rehoused in the critter keeper, and Val's cage was left by the fireplace with the food dish next to it. A day or so later, I found her running in her wheel again, and was able to trap her in there.

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