So I think we can all agree that this is a weird Christmas. No Christmas markets, no ice skating, no dinners with friends and family, just an impending sense of guilt and doom. I would like to offer a suggestion to help salvage this dumpster fire of a year and create a covid proof magical Christmas…
Is it Hamster Time?
I think the answer is YES! Hear me out!
The natural impulse is to get a dog. I know what you are thinking: I have all this extra time. I am at home so much. It would be great to take more walks and a dog would be the perfect incentive. A dog would totally ease the guilt I feel about the kids not having the magical Christmas I want them to have… I urge you to resist the impulse! I mean, if you want a dog nothing is stopping you (please consider a rescue dog) but I will remind you that dogs live a really freaking long time. My dog is now 20 years old. Yes, 20. He is deaf and mostly blind and he sleeps all day. He is still a super healthy and happy dog, though so that’s nice. We love our scruffy and hope he stays with us a while longer but jeesh. 20! One impulse Christmas purchase now could result in 20 years of walks in the rain before work, vomit on the floor, overturned garbage bins in the kitchen, vet bills, and yes, love and cuddles and all that as well. It’s a long haul investment!
So why a little rat type thing? I’m glad you asked. Fish are gross, pretty to look at but a major pain in the ass. The tank needs to be cleaned at least once per month and it’s a smelly, slimy ordeal. All for what? An animal that doesn’t even cuddle. Rabbits and guinea pigs are big. Basically oversized rats with bigger poop, bigger cages and no more cuddles. Birds are messy, loud and smell (never again in my house!). I won’t even go into the idea of owning crazy things like snakes or spiders, that’s just nuts. My daughter has been toying with the idea of a little pig. One of those tiny ones that lives in the house. I told her maybe after the dog is no longer with us. Anyone have one? Thoughts?
I have had many pets in my life. Most of them started out as a favor to someone who needed me to house their pet “for a short time while they got some stuff sorted out” (3 different cats) and the 3 rescue dogs that were supposed to be short term (one is Scruffy who will never die) and a bird who kinda adopted me. But a rat? NEVER. But kids can change your mind about things can’t they?
I swore I would never have a rat in the house. Gross little things pooping everywhere. One more thing I have to clean and take care of. We already have a cat and a dog, why more pets? Because my son became obsessed with hamster videos on YouTube. He started begging and didn’t stop. It was easy enough to put him off though. I was in the middle of a divorce, we were living in a caravan, OK so now we have a house but …… I had run out of excuses. There was no putting it off. He got a hamster for his birthday. We started out with a small cage that was given to us by a friend. According to the internet it was insufficient. We began the task of researching and upgrading the little beasts living arraignment. Soon, Minecraft Tornado (the hamster) had a cage fit for a king, or at least a very posh hamster. I was fine with it. He didn’t bother me. The cage has to be completely emptied once per month for cleaning and once a week or so it needs a freshen (this is to ensure the hamster stays healthy and keeps the house from smelling like hamster piss). Then, of course, my daughter wanted her own hamster. Fine, whats one more rodent? As we were in the store looking at all the furry little buggers and chatting with the nice hamster lady we learned that the two could not live together as I had thought. The lady actually looked horrified at the idea. Apparently, Minecraft would undoubtedly kill the new one. It’s a hamster territory thing. Who knew the fucking things were so fussy, they are rats after all. But, we were there, and the risk of a total 6 year old meltdown was growing by the moment, so I broke down and bought a second cage and I won Mother of the year. Introducing Red-stone Marshmallow. The kids are not permitted to name anything further until the Minecraft obsession ends, btw.
For the first few months we admired their cuteness but little else. The kids actually help clean the cages when needed and make sure they have food, these were stipulations made at time of purchase. The little bastards kept biting me when I tried to pick them up, so I gave up. I mean who wants to hold a rat anyway? Apparently, my partner in crime. She kept trying, and kept trying. Eventually Tornado would permit it, I think the addition of dried mealworms helped immensely. The little buggers go crazy for them. Hamsters beg, I had no idea. It’s nuts to watch. They come to the side of the cage and climb around and bite the bars and do whatever it takes to get my attention. I dutifully feed them the dried mealworms until they get full and go back to sleep. Then one day the hamsters were begging for attention and the kids wanted to try again to play with them. It worked really well! We took them one at a time and put them in the kids lap and they explored and played. Not a single bite wound! Now we try to get them out of the cage in the evenings for a little cuddle. They get more and more friendly as time goes by and have almost completely stopped pooping on us! They are actually little members of the family now. Who would have thought?
So what does your hamster need? A cage, ours like the multiple level ones because they have more room to play. A house with some cotton fluff in it. A bowl with really fine sand, they clean themselves by rolling around in the sand. Water, food, hay, and a wheel. Pretty simple, right? Oh, a little house that they live in with cotton fluff inside. If you get a cage new it will probably come with the basics. The cage we bought was pretty expensive, in my opinion, around 45 Euros, but it came with pretty much everything we needed. I did have to buy a bowl for the sand and realized how stupid I was for buying it at a petstore. It’s a freaking bowl and I paid like 5 Euros for it. Jeesh, how much do little bowls cost?!?! Since overspending on some items I realized that second hand shops are the way to go when it comes to hamster gear. We have upgraded both of the cages for pennies.
A note on the food. Apparently hamsters can be fussy so don’t buy a huge bag of food to start. I bought a fancy hamster food with all natural stuff like dried bugs, grass like stuff, grains, it looked like something that would be served in a fancy hamster salad bar. Now I am picturing hamsters at a hipster salad bar. One has a man bun. They are all drinking craft beer complaining about how Facebook is now too commercial. Sorry.. Your picturing it too now, aren’t you? Your welcome. I’m back….. do you know what the OG hamster did with the fancy food? He literally flung the stuff out of his cage. He would fling some out and then go to the corner and stare at me then go fling some more food out. I was shocked!!! Who told him he could have an opinion? And since when do hamsters have opinions? Apparently my fucking hamsters not only have opinions but aren’t shy about expressing them. The little shits. But we now have regular non fancy food that they love and it is actually cheaper. But probably in the same way that fast food is better and cheaper than salad but is killing people slowly. I’m going to choose not to think about it. I refuse to play “I’m doing this for your own good” with a hamster. Life is to short.
Another mistake we made early on was putting the cage in my sons room. After all, it’s his pet why not? Hamsters are nocturnal. I guess I knew that. It was logged away in my brain somewhere. But I didn’t put 2 and 2 together until the first night when I heard that wheel going at midnight and my son was complaining the next morning about not sleeping. Hhhmmm. Perhaps the hamsters are loud at night… Perhaps they should live in the living room where their nightly antics will not effect the sleep of the people… See how smart I am? I came up with that all by myself. Kids need sleep. See? Mother of the year! Really though, everyone will be much happier if they live away from the place that sleep happens.
So have I convinced you that a hamster is the perfect 2020 Christmas gift? You still have time. Start hitting the second hand shops now for cages and you will probably be ready to buy a hamster on the 25th. Think of all the magical moments over the Christmas break!
If I haven’t managed to convince you I would love to know why. Should I call my high school debate instructor and tell her that her lifes work is all for ruin because her student of 25 years ago can’t even convince strangers to share their homes with rats?
Maybe you already have one! Anything you would like to add to the hamster talk?