Hamster Tales – Mom threw the hamsters in the garbage…


We have always had dogs in my family. I guess I didn’t really consider any of them my pet, because I never had to ask for one. Dogs were always part of the family. The first pet, I remember asking for was a hamster. I guess if you had to pinpoint one of my childhood experiences, that makes me such an animal lover, my first hamster would be one. I got a few things out of this experience other than a new pet. My first pet was Snowball, a white albino hamster. Yes, I did name my hamster Snowball. Getting a hamster taught me a few lessons. The lessons involved being a good parent, how our grandparents have so much to teach us and how to endure the tragic loss of a pet.

Two Lessons For Parents

I was really young when I asked for a hamster. I want to say I was 6, but I may have been seven. I remember a lot of my childhood like it was yesterday. Some things, well, I don’t remember. Things like the several times my parents told me “No.” I know it is a case of selective memory. On the weekend my parents finally caved and said “Yes,” I remember how excited my dad was while we shopped for the hamster. We bought my hamster, Snowball, and my brother’s hamster…??? Well, I don’t remember his hamster’s name. Lesson number one was treat your kids the same. No favoritism. If I was getting a hamster, my brother was getting a hamster. For the record, this was not just my father. I give my Mom as much credit for this as my dad.

Along with the hamsters we got a Habitrail hamster cage. The first cages with tubes and accessories like additional rooms and tower boxes. We just got the starter house, that is, at the first pet shop we visited. My dad can go overboard sometimes. We proceeded to visit many more pet shops. By the end of the weekend, we had a cage and accessories to fill our playroom from wall to wall. I will talk about the playroom later in the post. My dad was unwavering when it came to making sure me and my brother had things. Sporting equipment, toys, pinball machines at Christmas and, yes, even pets. The funny thing about the hamster and the cage was that I don’t ever remember him once holding or touching a hamster. It wasn’t his thing, and we didn’t notice or care as kids. His enthusiasm towards our reactions is what I remember, and I fully get it every time I get my daughter a new pet. My dad knew it would make us happy. Lesson number two is to do everything within your power to make your kids happy. Just for the record, that doesn’t mean buying stuff for them. It helps, but it’s not the pet that I remember most. Mostly, I remember the time I spent with my dad while getting the pet.

Grandpa Could Build Anything

Funny thing about the Habitrail enclosures. They were not very good at keeping hamsters in the cage. The tubes came loose all the time. Both hamsters got out one night. We were not sure what to do, when someone told us to place a pale, like you would use at the beach to build sandcastles, out in the middle of the floor at night. The idea is that a hamster can’t resist climbing the handle and checking out what is in the bottom. They end up falling in and they can’t climb out. Sure enough, Snowball was a curious hamster. We caught him the first night.

A few months went by, and we never caught my brother’s hamster. I still can’t remember the hamster’s name. We did however find him scurrying into what I can only describe as a mouse hole that looked like it was right out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Our grandpa was at the house one day and he built a trap out of our building blocks. It wasn’t some fall trap, but a very sophisticated box trap with a levered trap door. I need to find some pictures of these blocks for you to get the full picture. These were green and orange kids building blocks from the 1970s. From that, I learned that you could build anything you wanted with wood and nails. We did catch the hamster in the animal friendly building block home made trap. I loved watching my grandpa build things. I don’t know if my parents ever knew why I asked for it, but shortly after, I asked for a kids carpenter set. It was basically a toolbox with a hammer a saw and some nails. Let’s just say we would never give this as a gift nowadays to a child, because it is way too dangerous for kids. It was a real saw and definitely not a toy. If you have read some of my Aquarium posts, you may have seen a picture of my 90 gallon aquarium stand. I built that wood aquarium stand from scratch. I’m pretty sure my grandfather would have been proud.

Hamsters Live Short Lives…or…Hamsters Don’t Like the Cold

I mentioned I would talk about the playroom. Our playroom was an enclosed porch off the back of the house. We did not have central air. We had a window air conditioner in the dining room on the other side of the house, so the playroom was pretty much at the mercy of the outside temperature. We lived in Miami where it is rarely cold, but we do get a few nights, here and there, that can drop to the 40s. The importance of this fact will become apparent soon.

One morning we went out to find the hamsters were dead. Stiff as a board no pulse no nothing. My mom threw the hamsters out in the trash. We did get new hamsters after this tragic event. Months later, I was reading a book at the store about hamsters, and it turns out that hamsters hibernate. For all intensive purposes, hamsters appear dead when hibernating. The book said to hold the hamster in your hand to warm them up. I remember running through the store to find my Mom and show her the book. I now read at least two books and countless articles online before getting my kids any pets. I fear making a similar mistake. This has become a family story that rears its head every time we hear hamster. We call it the “Mom threw the hamsters in the garbage story.” The other family hamster story is way too intense. I will leave by saying, we found out, that hamsters are cannibals. We found out the hard way.


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