November 20, 2011 - Written by:

All Creatures Great and Small: Love Thine Hamster!


So I know this is random but I have been thinking a lot about hamsters recently, and after a two hour discussion with my flat mate about this particular type of domesticated rodent I thought I would air my anxiety over current ham-conomics. If there is one thing I whole heartedly lament over is the treatment of hamsters (both on a personal level AND on behalf of society).

Let’s face it hamster’s really get the shitty end of the stick in most households. They are so cute and fragile yet seem to be so disposable. Before we, as children, are permitted responsibility of a puppy, kitty or pony many of us will buy a hamster as a sort of test run. It’s like a mock exam – you sorta study, kinda take it seriously but at the end of the day if you fail you can say ‘well it was only a mock. I’ll do better on the real thing’; ‘Hammy died but rodents don’t live long anyway’; ‘Nutkin kicked the bucket. It was self mutiliation! Completely natural death’ (When you know damn well the reason she chewed off her own foot was to ease the pangs of hunger as a result of you forgetting to feed her – which consequently led to her bleeding to death in her own feeding bowl.) Natural causes. Hmm.

My first hamster’s death was not entirely my fault but to this day I often grieve the fatality that occured after a particularly savage encounter with Shnuckums my cat. So here’s the story…

Delboy, like all hamsters, became particularly active at night. It was like he was training for a marathon or something – the hours the little guy clocked in on his wheel was astounding. Consequently his late night marathon training would keep me up at ungodly hours and so one day I moved his cage from the safety of my bedroom book shelf into the sitting room. I closed the door to the room satisfied both parties could resume their nightly activities (Mine: sleeping, Delboy: Athletics) in peace. That was the last time I saw Delboy in his natural state…

The next morning my 7 year old self innocently trotted into the sitting room with my Frosties to find a cataclysmic scene of chaos. Delboy’s cage had been pushed… yes pushed from its secure standing and was now smashed open on the floor. I can still smell the sawdust. It was aweful, terrible… Delboy was nowhere to be found.

After a few hours of searching I finally found him under the kitchen sideboard. He had been chewed and was dragging his head along the paisley carpet…. He died a few hours later.

Hamsters really get the shit end of the deal. If my dog would have mauled my cat he would have been severely punished or even put down. BUT if a Hamster dies it seems no one gives a damn! It’s not fair. Do I judge my parents? The people who put such a feeble life into the incapable hands of a seven year old? Do I judge society for deeming small creatures less important than the larger? Was the unconscious attitude that hamsters were not really that important responsible for my carelessness?

Delboy’s memory lives on and I will never leave a hamster out in an open space within the reach of predators again. When you have carnivores and herbivores living in the same home it is the human’s responsibility to protect all the parties involved. Although I feel awful, I feel comforted in knowing Delboy’s death was not in vein. I have learnt my lesson.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone who has a hamster undervalues them. I have come across many who absolutely adore their little fluffy friends. But as the next story demonstrates; can you really trust anyone with your hamster?

A friend of mine was babysitting her boyfriend’s hamster a couple of years back when tragedy struck!! The lil guy (hamster not bf) was running around in one of those ball contraptions. My friend was going about her chores when suddenly CRUNCH! She stepped on the ball by mistake. Amazingly the hamster was unharmed and scampered across the floor only to run into the jaws of her Tibetan Terrior. It was like a scene from Final Destination. Brutal.

My friend, out of reflex, booted the dog in the chops, scooped up the bloody remains of the wheezing fugative with care and delicacy and then she proceeded to have a raving fit!! Her boyfriend would most seriously consider breaking up with her after this. He would be inconsolable. How could this have happened? She should have treaded more carefully. What to do? What to do?

She decided to cover her tracks. She delicately placed the corpse back in the cage, strategically positioning its head under the wheel to make it look like a routine hamster training accident went terribly wrong. When her bf returned home he was dismayed. His love for his hamster was something quite special, unique and beautiful. Not taking the piss; it really was. He, his family and my friend sat around the dining room table and reminisced about the good life Fluffy had had up till this point in time. To this day my friend is haunted by his mother’s sigh, ‘He loved that Hamster’.

I don’t know why but I always hear of these kind of ham-horror stories and it makes me think maybe hamsters are just ill-fated.

I know loving David Attenborough doesn’t exactly make me qualified in Hamster studies but if there is anything I learnt after watching the BBC Life series is that animals are far more intelligent than we care to acknowledge… even hamsters.

My flat mate’s cousin actually trained her hamster to use a teeny tiny litter tray! Who would have known?! Just because they are small, fluffy rodents doesn’t mean they don’t deserve love, care and respect.  My friend’s boyfriend loved his hamster and that is an attribute I regard highly in a person’s character. My friend made a mistake, don’t we all? The emphasis of the story should not be on the moment of death but on the way Fluffy was rightfully grieved.

I have been thinking and there are definitely some things we can learn from Hamsters.

  1. Hamsters are resourceful  – think about how they store food in their cheeks! I think we can totally view this as an allegory for saving money in these tough current economic times.
  2. They are health conscious and active. I have never encountered a lazy hamster. I personally think that hamsters should be the official mascot the Olympics in 2012.
  3. They are cute yet feisty. Ever been bitten by a hamster? So unsuspecting. So painful. I like to think that cute and feisty is a rather flattering behavioural combo. If dogs are domesticated wolves, hamsters are domesticated squirrels (sort of), they have wild instincts just like any animal and deserve RESPECT!

Come on people! Let’s all try and eradicate hammy-phobia. Love your hamster. I believe we can make a change.

For hamster lovers… I came across this movie I think you might like. Check out the site… These guys have the right idea.

A story about one man and his Hamster!




Have a fabulous week peeps!








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