IKEA is introducing LURVIG, a comprehensive pet collection designed to help out in all aspects of life with dogs. The new collection was created by IKEA designers with support from vet Barbara Schafer and covers all the bases of sharing life with a dog. Beds, toys, leashes, bowls, and more! I don’t have an IKEA […]
It should be little surprise to readers of this blog that I have always been a bit into animals. My childhood dogs have featured heavily on this space, but the truth is I’ve had a wide variety of animals when I was a kid.
From grades 4-6, I was a hamster fanatic. At the time, it was very difficult for North American children to buy dwarf hamsters. The mainstay of the hamster world was the golden or Syrian hamster, and there were very few people breeding for docility in pet hamster strains. The goal was to produce as many different morphs as possible with very little regard to the temperament of the hamster.
As a result, many children from my generation have horror stories about biting hamsters. Over my years of hamster keeping, I came to accept their bites as part of keeping them.
I got into hamsters rather on a lark. I was always reading the Barron’s pet guides, many of which were translations of German pet manuals, and the one on hamsters was written by Otto von Frisch.
The book was not just a pet care manual. It was full of anecdotes about pet hamsters, as well as discussions of scientific studies on their behavior. It also talked a lot about the Central European ideas about hamster, for as I learned from that book, that there are hamsters native to Germany and Austria (the very large common hamster). The species was well-known to farmers in the region as an agricultural pest and as a rather vicious creature that shouldn’t be messed with. As someone who predominant ancestry is from that region, I was quite fascinated by these accounts.
And I knew I had to have a pet hamster.
After much pleading, I was given permission to get a hamster, provided I kept it at my grandparents’ house. My mother was an extreme murophobe, and I had to accept her conditions.
The first hamster I got was what was called a black-eyed cream. I named her Linda, because I was a child and thought that was a nice name. And her variety may have been black-eyed cream, but her tendency to bite led to her receiving the moniker “the black-eyed bitch.”
I soon found that it was very easy to get hamsters. People were quite literally giving me new ones, including an old long-haired female that live for about two weeks then fell over dead from old age.
I longed, though, for a true “wild type” hamster. I wanted one that was marked just as the wild ones are in Syria, with white cheek flashes and sabled golden coats.
I never was able to purchase such an animal. The closed I got was what was called a cinnamon hamster. She was marked just like a wild type, but she had no black hair at all on her pelt.
She had come from Walmart, where she had been kept in a cage with several banded hamsters. The banded ones were wild type in color, but they had a white band going through their mid-section. I had managed to get two females from that cage: this cinnamon one and a banded one.
Two weeks later, the cinnamon hamster dropped pink babies all over her cage. Apparently, a male hamster had been kept with her, and she was just in the early days of her pregnancy when I got her.
In five days, their fur started to grow in. 9 were wild-type but banded, but one was wild type in full!
I didn’t understand my Mendel in those days. The banded trait is dominant over the non-banded, and the wild-type markings are dominant over the cinnamon. Cinnamon bred to a banded wild-type would produce young that were banded wild-type, but if the wild-type were a carrier for a non-banded hamster, it is possible to get at least one in the litter that lacked a white band.
That’s what this hamster was, and I was instantly transfixed. I spent my summer that year handling hamster babies, knowing fully-well the stories of mother hamsters eating their young if they were stressed.
The young wild-type hamster was a male, and he became the tamest hamster I ever knew. I named him Houdini, after a children’s book I had read, but he really didn’t live up to his namesake. He escaped a few times– always because I left a latch on the cage a little loose– but he was easily recovered.
One time, he did escape and was gone for several days. I was certain that he had wandered out of the house and had eventually fallen prey to some nocturnal predator.
I had all but given up on him, so I sat with a heavy heart in my grandparents’ guest room watching Nature on PBS. I heard some rumbling sounds in the wall. I thought I was hearing things, but the rumbling sound grew louder and louder.
I then caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was Houdini crawling along the side of the wall. He stopped and sniffed the air, and he scurried right up to me and let me pick him up.
My childhood mind said that Houdini came to me because he loved me. My adult mind now recognizes that Houdini recognized me as a source for food. He had spent several days wandering around the walls of my grandparents’ house and had become famished in his freedom. He caught my scent on his evening travels, and he came to me to figure out if I might have some food.
But a child’s mind saw Houdini as the Lassie of the hamsters. He’d come home out of the walls just because he loved me.
Despite that childhood flight of fancy, the hamsters taught me much. I learned what it was like to be around an animal that utterly has no use for humanity. Dogs and horses are personable animals, but a hamster is solitary, remote, and mostly nocturnal (at least in captivity).
The world they reveal is a world in which territory matters the most. The males have greasy scent glands on their hips that they rub along their tunnels to mark their realms. The females have a musty odor, and when they are receptive to males– every four days if not bred–they get quite stinky indeed.
I got to where I could tell if a female hamster was receptive just by the intensity of the odor. This odor is an adaptation to a species with such hyper territorial behavior that they are forced to live pretty far from each other. The strong estrus odor of a female hamster is necessary to announce to the male that it is okay for him to enter her territory and mate with her. When she is not receptive, she will attack any hamster, male or female, that comes near. In this species the females are bigger and fatter than the males, and males that don’t heed the odors wind up with a dangerous situation indeed.
These captive hamsters– all derived from a single litter captured near Aleppo in the 1930s– opened my eyes to another world.
The solitary Syrian hamster lives and breeds well in captivity, but it is still mostly a wild animal. In the past few years, breeders have produced truly more docile strains of hamster, but I knew them in the raw.
In fact, I think that if I were ever to be a hamster keeper again, I would try to get a little more of the more rugged strain. I would not be buying a cute pet for the kids. I would be be buying an animal that I wish to appreciate as a wild being with its own instincts and drives and desires. I would want to be the naturalist hamster lover again. I would keep them with the cool detachment of an adult who understands animal behavior and not the childhood anthropomorphism or “cynomorphism” that turned them into furry people or severely debased dogs.
The Syrian hamster will always mean a lot to me. They were terrible pets for the typical child, but they were the ideal subjects for a budding young naturalist who needed to know animals that weren’t dogs or horses.
They opened my mind to something else, and I will always appreciate them for their indifference and their solitary grumpiness and their general remoteness.
This is my contribution to Rodent Week.
Did you know that most stores currently carry brands of dog food that have been linked to recalls, class action lawsuits, and serious health consequences?
Dog Food Blog | Best Dog Food Guide
Swimming pools can be a lot of fun on a hot day, but they can also be dangerous. The Kennedy family on the Gold Coast of Australia had reason to be grateful for their smart dog when they were reminded of those dangers!
According to 7 News, The West Australian, Marilyn Kennedy suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The Mayo Clinic notes that this progressive disease “is the most common cause of dementia.” It affects 1/10 of Americans age 65 and older, notes The Alzheimer’s Association. However, like many couples of all ages, Marilyn and Barry enjoy having a pet as part of their family. They have a beloved dog, Bob, whom they adopted from a shelter.
On a recent day, Marilyn was outside while Barry was doing laundry indoors. Suddenly Bob interrupted Barry. Barry told reporters, “Bob the dog came in barking and staring at me, and he was whimpering and I knew there was something wrong.”
Bob had been outside with Marilyn when she fell into the pool fully clothed and was unable to get herself out. Thankfully, he ran inside to find Barry and lead the concerned husband outside to Marilyn. Barry was able to help his struggling wife safely out of the pool. Despite the ordeal, Marilyn ultimately ended up being unhurt by her fall.
It was Bob’s quick thinking that saved her life. Barry told reporters that, but for Bob’s intervention, he “would have probably have been two or three more minutes in the laundry which would probably have been fatal.” Barry continued, to praise Bob, saying, “He saved my wife’s life, it’s fantastic. It really bonds us as a family.” We’re happy that Barry and Marilyn once saved Bob’s life by adopting him, and that then he was able to repay the favor by saving Marilyn’s life when she needed help. What a good dog!
Milo’s Sanctuary & Special Needs Cat Rescue, Inc. located in Burbank, CA, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) founded on the belief that all cats deserve a second chance at life, especially those that have physical disabilities, are seniors, have a terminal illness, or have been abused and need someone to care for, love, and understand them.
Milo’s Sanctuary received the donation thanks to a Halo partnership with White Coffee Cat, a British Shorthair who is a recent cancer survivor. With over 1.5 million Instagram followers and almost 500,000 Facebook fans, Coffee is one popular cat!
Here’s what Milo’s Sanctuary had to say about their Halo Pets donation:
“The donation of this food has helped us in a great way. Because of the donation we have been able to use funds that were previously ear-marked for our food allowance have been put toward new rescues. We are so excited to not only be providing our cats with the amazing food they love but because of the generosity of everyone involved more special needs cats and kittens have been and will continue to be rescued.
Rayth is a blind boy we rescued from the high desert he has always been very picky about any food. When we gave him a bowl of Halo he got so excited and didn’t stop eating it until the bowl was clean. His fur is softer and his health is much improved!
Daisy is a cat that came to us from a horrendous hoarding situation with 200 cats and 150 dogs in a 1500sf house. She has always had dietary problems with vomiting and diarrhea. We put her on the Halo food and within 48 hours saw a huge improvement in her dietary issues. She seems to be a much happier cat now!
We are so grateful to everyone involved for this opportunity to not only feed our cats the wonderful HALO food but to be able to in turn use funds towards rescuing more cats and kittens with special needs.”
Thank you Milo’s Sanctuary for making a WHOLE lot of difference for pets in your community.
Halo has now added even more WHOLE meat, poultry or fish and use OrigiNative™ (humanely sourced) Proteins, saying “NO” to factory farming, growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. And all our fruits and vegetables are now Non-GMO – sourced from farmland that prohibits the use of Genetically Modified Seeds.
Halo feeds it forward, donating over 1.5 million bowls annually. As always, Halo will donate a bowl to a shelter every time YOU buy. Thank you for helping #HaloFeeditForward.
Thank you for this honest assessment. I am a wolfdog rescuer/sanctuary owner and sadly, we are in no position to help with 60 in our sanctuary now.
Education is what will save the true wolfdogs AND keep bad backyard breeders from making money.
I helped in Katrina with Pitties, and I share your pain. Prayers up for the innocents that will loose their lives.
www.fullmoonfarm.org – We rescued Karma – https://www.facebook.com/karmathemythunderstood/
BAD RAP Blog
You are so awesome and wonderful for what you are doing.. THANK YOU SO VERY VERY MUCH
BAD RAP Blog
From Fox 8 News: A new strain of dog flu, known as H3N2, is rearing its ugly head in Northeastern Ohio. It’s highly contagious and potentially fatal. The strain was first identified in 2015 in Chicago and has been slowly spreading across the country. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, lack of appetite and vomiting. Check with […]
Mondays are rough, but they also feel like a fresh start to the work week, and sometimes that motivates me. Tuesdays, on the other hand, can seriously drag. You’re already a day in but the weekend still feels so far away. Sometimes I need a boost to get inspired, especially when I have a creative project for work. I’ve discovered that taking a few minutes to hop on Pinterest or my favorite clothing and/or home websites just to look around can work wonders. Today I thought I’d share with you a few of the images and things (I’m looking at you, rad Badlands pullover) that are helping me pick up the pace for me today in terms of getting work projects done. I hope they do the same for you!