My 6 year old finally asked for a pet. It was bound to happen. I didn’t want to say yes, but frankly I couldn’t think of a compelling reason to say no. She didn’t ask for a snake or a frog, she wanted a hamster.
Well, truthfully, she just wanted something that would fit in a ball. A ball that would roll around on the floor.
We researched rodents of all sizes. (But not rodents of unusual size) Personally, I have experience with rats. My brothers and I all had various rodents when we were kids. Mostly rats. I had a mouse once named Mary. Mice stink. They are cute, but they pee their weight every few minutes. They’re also twitchy and sort of like small meth heads. Always running to the next score, hiding snacks, licking themselves constantly. Nope, rats are way cleaner, way smarter, and just cooler. Pot head vs. Meth head, who are you gonna want to hang with?
The recommendation for rats these days is you get a pair to keep them stimulated and warm and happy and not lonely. Apparently they can waste away from loneliness and boredom. The thought of two didn’t turn me off necessarily, the thought of my six year old wrangling two and the size of the cage we would need is what made me reconsider. My cat certainly would have zero trouble offering to help find any wayward rodent.
We went to a few different pet stores to figure out what wouldn’t take a finger, and what my daughter couldn’t accidentally Hulk out of it’s spine. The Black Bear hamster won our hearts. Supposedly great personalities, rarely bite if handled often and well, and best on their own. A solo commitment. I’m in!
We were cruel and all sorts of evil by getting the habitat two weeks early. We wanted to be sure there were no cracks, we could fit it reasonably into her room somewhere and she didn’t wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about a square wire cube trying to eat her face.
Today was the day! Hamster Day!
We drove down and perused the available rodents. My daughter already had a name picked out for her dude – we had decided a boy would be best despite the bag of marbles they carry around under their tail – but this day offered a new option. Black bear hamsters that had white markings. As she was sitting on the floor with the aquarium searching for her new buddy, two of the critters began cirque du soliel acrobatics to try and escape. Of course she pointed to one and said, “That one!”
“Really? The acrobat? I don’t know if that’s a good idea..”
“I like that one, mommy!”
I stuck my hand into the aquarium for the nibble test. Mind you, I never had hamsters. I was always told “they bite. get a rat.” and this rang true when I was a Petco employee. I tried to squelch the nerves knowing full well if one of these effers bit me in front of my daughter I’d have to mask my fury and frustration. One of the two acrobats decided to taste my finger. .. multiple times. Truthfully it wasn’t malevolent or evil. No skin was broken, but I wasn’t about to pay $16.99 for something that started right off the bat with the teeth. I said, “Let’s get the sniffer, not the taster.” It took nothing more than that and we were locked and loaded for a new adventure. Once imagined “Surfer Dave” was now “Oreo”.
The adventure began the minute he was in the box. Brilliant idea! Let’s put the chew happy rodents in construction paper thin cardboard boxes for small children to travel home in a moving car with!! It’ll be great!!
We were halfway home when my daughter began screaming “His head is coming out!! He’s getting oooooutt!!!” Mind you, we were about a mile from where we had our car accident six months ago and I did not want a furry repeat. I calmly took the box and drove with it. I could concentrate much better on driving when I knew where and what the little bugger was doing rather than having to turn around and look at what was really happening.
By the way, “He’s getting out!” was not a false alarm. He had chewed through the side and was alternating poking his nose out with reaching out his little paw.
These are the sorts of driving hazards you need to practice when you’re taking drivers training, by the way. Those instructors need to have a box of randomness that pops out at you in varying moments.
Cup with a loose lid
Hot coffee without a sleeve
Wildly uncooperative hamburger wrapper
Drippy mustard hot dog
Terrified baby hamster in a cardboard box
Toddler screaming for goldfish
Baby screaming for a bottle – but you are given bottle/nipple/formula/water in separate intervals
We got home 1/4 millimeter in time. One more red light and that hamster would have been under my seat.
So far it has all gone smoothly except not counting on the hamster wheel to sound like a great dane running on plastic skates. I warned my daughter this was a nocturnal animal who was likely going to be very active considering the circus performance he put on for us at the pet store. He is quite curious and tenacious, but hot damn does he love that frigging wheel!
My daughter said, “It’s ok mom. I’ll try my best to sleep. If you see big bags under my eyes in the morning, it just means maybe we should get a different wheel.”
(as a side note, i DID actually scour the local animal shelter and found only hamsters with “No Children” warnings available. I also went one step further and contacted a not-so-local rodent rescue and reached out to them to no avail)