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The Why of Hamsters

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.


Wow, Phoebe looks just like you when she makes that skeptical expression! Very cute hamsters.

Your hamsters are very cute! I have a bug-eyed little bunny at home who gives me the same pleasure as the hamsters afford your son -- the opportunity to care for, and be needed by, an innocent little creature. If existence needs a point ... this seems like more of a point than lot of people I know.

Posted by Anonymous October 20, 2009 at 1:29 PM

Instruct Bill NOT to stick his finger in electric sockets while playing with a hamster; we wouldn't want anyone harmed (especially not the hamster).

It's a good thing Chet Baker already has a turned-up nose. He'd ruin his good looks, tryin' to get a better look at those hamsters, otherwise.


Posted by Anonymous October 20, 2009 at 4:17 PM

My two Russian dwarf hams (Johnson and Clark) delighted me, especially when they ate fresh broccoli. Those little paws holding the veggies were adorable, but I can't keep a caged pet again. ~Amy

Posted by Anonymous October 20, 2009 at 7:10 PM

Awww. And, where do I sign up for a tail-abbreviating incident?

I have a feeling there may be more Chet posts to follow from this new family addition.

Murr's the one to beat on this thread!

I thought the same thing about flying squirrels after I removed a colony from a friend's attic and installed them in a huge flight cage in my kitchen. Did you know those things BREED?

Big kitchens are a major selling point in real estate, and I thought I knew why, until now.

cyberthrush has it correct. I was going to suggest the picture as one might post on his site for captions.

oh birder

Posted by Anonymous October 21, 2009 at 3:00 PM

I have two, Browny (a brown chinese dwarf hamster) and Mint (A white chinese dwarf hamster) They are perfect to each other and even have a beach house!They are awsome and so fun.

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