Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Bill of the Birds asked, “So. What’s the point of this animal?”
I’ll admit that Bill of the Birds is not alone. That the whole idea of hamsters eluded me for a long time. Regular readers of this blog know that I really don’t need a whole lot more to care for. I won’t bore you with a list of current denizens. Two hamsters threaten to tip our house into the realm of menagerie. I’ve never been that enamored of the idea of a small rodent that runs on a wheel. But Chinese dwarf hamsters are really, really cool.
To start with, they’re cute in an undomesticated way. They look most of all like a young white-footed mouse who’s had a tail-abbreviating incident. They’re a gorgeous smoke gray with a dark racing stripe down the back. They are not as bug-eyed as Syrian hamsters or mice.
They’re unexpectedly fun to watch, especially in pairs. Our sisters—Phoebe’s Vetiver and Liam’s Verbena—get along very well. They even do tandem runs on the Silent Spinner. The technology of small animal keeping has improved quite a bit from the squeaky metal cage wheel days when the critters had to be kept in the basement lest they keep the whole house awake. Silent Spinners are the bomb!
They give a young boy something small and helpless to look after, to feed and clean up after.
But most of all they cuddle spectacularly well. Being nocturnal animals, they get jiggy somewhere around 11 PM, and they’re still going strong, streaking around their tank like lightning bolts, when Phoebe leaves for school at 6 AM. But when the kids get back from school, dog-tired, the hammies are sleeping, and are perfectly happy to go on snoozing in the warm hands of a child. Oh, they’ll wake up briefly and do cute things like clean their whiskers and feet while sitting in the palm of a hand
Which is disarmingly adorable, just seeing this creature going about its private grooming regimen in your hand.
But mostly they sleep.
How can a little animal be this adorable? How can it trust me, this enormous carnivorous primate, so completely as to fall back to sleep while I cuddle it, stroke its belly with a gentle fingertip? Dunno. They just do. And that is the magic, the point, of Chinese dwarf hamsters.
I have other ideas about the point of hamsters.