Irreverent Mama

Monday, October 23, 2006

We have a crisis!

A hamster crisis. Not a crisis with our hamster, a hamster in crises. The hamster is having one.

We have a hamster, Pipkin. She lives in a cage. A nice, bright cage with attached penthouse. You've seen them - a box affixed to a tube jutting out the side. Oh, look, I found a picture (also a link to one of your very own, should you so desire):

See that little yellow box attached to the main cage? It's put there so your hamster, presumably a digging animal in the wilds - though how such a succulent little appetizer would survive past breakfast in the wilds is beyond me - but assuming they do, they like to dig. I probably would, too, if I were nothing more than a pre-dinner morsel for something large and carnivorous. They like to dig and run through tunnels tubes. They like to hang out in tiny plastic boxes hanging off the side of their home.

This one loved it so well, she spent her entire life in that box, far as we could tell, though her water bottle did empty night by night. Once or twice a week we would clean and empty the box, and within a day it would be packed to its green plastic roof with wood chips. Chips which she must have ferried up there in her cheek pouches, though we never caught her at it.

Food, too, was stuffed into her cheek pouches and scurried away into that little nesting box in the sky. Scurried and then buried in the wood chips of her little green-lidded paradise int he sky.

Which box was getting to be a problem. Despite its weekly, then twice-weekly cleaning, it got horrifically rank. We couldn't eliminate the stink. The plastic had been saturated with pee so much and so often that even clean, it reeked of ammonia. You may think plastic can't be saturated, I know I did, but we'd be wrong. That box was vile. Completely vile.

It had to go. So, this afternoon we removed it and taped over the hole in the side of the cage with a dozen layer of packing tape each side. We put a box into the cage as her substitute green-lidded, pee-stinkin' box. We gave her a paper towel tube to replace her poop-studded bendy plastic tube. All this activity woke her up in the middle of her night, but she seemed to be coping well. Doing just fine, she was. Friendly, inquisitive, happy.

Until she approached her food dish. She industriously crammed the food pellets into her cheek pouches, and then - what else would she do? - headed for the tube to her nest. Because what you do with your food pellets, see, is climb through your tube, take them to your penthouse box, bury them in your bedding and pee on them!! That's what you do, because that's what you've always done. Tradition matters to hamster.

Except, "Oh no! WHERE IS MY TUBE? WHERE IS MY NEST BOX???" She nosed around, inceasingly frantic. "It must be here somewhere!" She found where the hole should have been. "Must. chew. out. nest. box." She'd made a small hole in the first layer of packing tape when we found her.

(How does one stop a rodent from chewing? This is easy, a lesson learned through rodents long since expired. You paint desired object with tabasco, aka hot sauce. Most don't even get closer than the first, disgusted sniff. Heh. Pipkin took a cautious nibble, leapt a full bodylength back in spring-loaded, tabasco-fuelled revulsion. Thus endeth the chewing.)

Now we just have a neurotic hamster, wandering about in full daylight with her cheek pouches full, saying "HOW CAN I EAT? HOW CAN I EAT IF I CAN'T BURY MY FOOD AND PEE ON IT???" She tried to get into the paper towel tube we put in - because I HAVE TO CRAWL THROUGH A TUBE SO I CAN BURY MY FOOD AND PEE ON IT!! Good in theory, but the paper tube is a little narrower than the former plastic tube, and her bulging cheek pouches won't fit.

Poor, confused Pipkin. Will she starve in the midst of plenty? Will she learn to eat her food sans urine? Or will she learn to pee direct into her food dish?

We await with baited breath.

And plugged noses.

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  • OMG, I think I peed a little!

    Isn't Pipkin the vicious little beast who requires protective gear to handle?

    You know, I'm generally opposed to rodent ownership, but I'm thinking watching a neurotic hamster could provide some excellent entertainment :)

    By Anonymous Kimberly, at 10:55 p.m.  

  • This has to be the most unusual way of using Tobasco I've ever heard of. Have you ever thought of animal training as a career?

    By Blogger f:lux, at 6:57 a.m.  

  • Kimberly - Nope. The vicious beast is gone. You're right, 'Pipkin' was one of the names being considered for the beast, but she was out of the house before she was ever named, nasty little puff of tooth and claw that she was. Check out the links if you're curious...

    f:lux - That idea came from my eldest, when her rabbit started chewing the baby gate we used to keep him in the living room, so we wouldn't lose him in the rooms upstairs. (Said rabbit has been dead for several years now.) SHE (eldest, daughter) wants to be an anthropologist, though for years (age 4 - 10) she wanted to be an elephant-keeper.

    - Laura

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 7:35 a.m.  

  • You have a very smart daughter! One to watch :)

    By Blogger f:lux, at 8:54 a.m.  

  • We have a hamster who does the same thing! Maybe get her a new box, and then replace it when it is unbearable again. Repeat...

    (We have a Siamese fighting fish that will not eat, cannot swim, but will not it a zombie fish I wonder??)

    By Blogger crazymumma, at 9:54 a.m.  

  • f:lux - She graduates this year from university. We'll see what she does next. It's nice, this stage: she's well launched, so I await the next step with interest, but not intimately involved as I was ten years ago. Like turning the page of a really good novel, of which I am not the author (we will not get bogged down in the biology of parenting here...) All the anticipation, none of the angst.

    crazymumma - She seems to have made the adjustment, creating instead an immense mound of wood chips in one corner of her cage. No way to really tell if she's peeing on her food pellets, though, for which I am grateful, frankly.

    And just how long have the fish been in this state?

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 8:10 p.m.  

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