Menifee Mom: Time to Begin Another Hamster Adventure

By Karen Thomas

This week we finally let our daughter buy a hamster. This is our second time having one.

The first one belonged to a different daughter. We consented that time because we figured a hamster is one pet you know will not be a long-term commitment. It’s not like a dog or cat that you know will be a part of your family for many years. Let’s face it, hamsters just don’t live that long. Besides, I always wanted a hamster growing up, so deep inside, I kinda wanted one, too.

It turned out, hamster ownership wasn’t quite as easy as we expected. First off, those cages get pretty smelly and are more work to clean out than a litter box. The next surprise came when our daughter went to check on the hamster one day and it had disappeared. No, it wasn’t hiding, it was gone!

We first suspected the dog, but our daughter was certain her door had been kept closed. We searched all over, but just couldn’t find it. Later that day, we noticed some carpet next to her closet door was chewed up. After digging a bit deeper, we found the stuffed animals weren’t the only things that had made the closet their home! We found the hamster hiding in the back corner.

It had a little bloody spot on its body, which had my daughter in tears. We think it must have scratched itself on the carpet tack strip. As we consoled her and assured her the hamster would be just fine and certainly didn’t need a vet (no way am I taking a $12 pet to the vet!), we noticed a package of fruit snacks had been chewed open. Apparently, our hamster had a sweet tooth!

What really irritated my husband and I, though, was that our carpet was now damaged! We managed to patch it with a little square of carpet from inside the closet, but it will never look the same. Lesson learned: Dogs and cats aren’t the only pets that can damage your home!

After that, our hamster cage got a lock on it. Our little Houdini was not getting out again.

It was only a few months later that we noticed a stench in the bedroom. This was not the normal, “It’s time to clean the cage!” stench. It was much worse. We set out to clean the cage and noticed that a large bulge was forming on the hamster’s side. Over the next week or two, it got bigger, and the symptoms got stinkier. We think it had cancer.

It was not a pleasant ending for our pet.

Thankfully it was over quickly, but our daughter was pretty upset. My husband and I saw the thing mostly as a dead rodent, but to her it was her PET and she mourned its loss. We did our best to comfort her, but in our heads all we could think was, “How are we going to dispose of this thing?”

It didn’t seem right to throw it in the trash. That definitely wouldn’t go over well with our daughter. So the only alternative we saw was to bury it on the hill in our backyard. My daughter found a little shoebox and some tissues to wrap it in. My husband dug the hole. My daughter found a nice smooth rock and made a gravestone.

When it was time to bury the hamster, all of our children came out to watch the event. It was raining and cold and we were all gathered around the hole with umbrellas.

It was a classic funeral scene. Our daughter started crying. My husband, who never liked the thing, had compassion and said a few kind words about the hamster. (This was turning into a full-on pet funeral!) The kids all took turns sharing some good memory they had of the hamster.

As I stood there listening to our kids and realizing the experience this had been for them, out of the corner of my eye I noticed our dog looking on from the distance. I knew he was just waiting for us to leave so he could finally get the prize we had kept from him! My husband and I just looked at each other. It was all we could do to not laugh at the situation we were experiencing. It was a classic sitcom episode.

So, here we go again. We’ve begun another adventure with a pet hamster. Pets, and kids, certainly keep life interesting!

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.


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