Ever since he was been old enough to walk, my grandson has wanted a hamster. He was drawn to the hamster cages in pet stores like a moth to the light. We had to pry him loose with promises.
“When you are old enough to take care of it, you can have one.”
The other day the topic of small animal pets came up again. I don’t remember why now — probably my brain is trying to block out the memory. “When he is old enough…” I began. Then I remembered that he was nearly eight years old.
He was old enough.
Some preliminary checking on the Internet revealed that cages had changed a lot since I was last in the hamster market. They are no longer simple wire cages with exercise wheels. They are colorful multi-level habitats with towers and tunnels for the hamster to play in — in other words, rodent condos.
We decided to let my grandson pick out the hamster he wanted. Of course, he was thrilled when he got the news. We had to wait until after dinner to tell him as we knew he wouldn’t eat otherwise.
“I can have a hamster? For real?” he squealed. “I’ve always wanted a hamster!”
We knew that.
I remember the first hamster that my kids had for a pet, Squeaky. Shortly after bringing it home, it had three babies. I will be sure to get a male this time.
At the pet store there were dozens of hamsters. His mother somewhat favored a small gray longhaired one. However, my grandson wanted the very active, brown and white shorthair. I had forgotten how much they look like rats. It was too late to back out now, though.
The Internet promised that hamsters are inexpensive pets after the initial investment. My grandson chose a habitat. By the time we added litter, food, an exercise wheel, an igloo to sleep in, vitamins and chew sticks, the bill was more than I care to think about, especially when buying a rodent.
Was it only last year that I was trying to trap mouse rodents in the garage? Of course, I didn’t mention that out loud. “Besides, this is not a mouse,” I keep telling myself. I’m thankful that he didn’t want a gerbil. Talk about looking like a rat! At least hamsters don’t have long creepy tails.
And so, we have a new member of the household now. The new addition is named “Buddy.” He seems to be adjusting well to the new environment, climbing up and down the tunnels of his habitat and running for hours in his exercise ball, which is about all a hamster knows how to do. He loves lettuce and stuffs it in his pouches like a squirrel.
I remember that hamsters are escape artists and can learn to open a cage. One pet we had even learned to roll its plastic exercise ball against the furniture until it would pop open.
Buddy has already cracked out of his habitat twice. I don’t know how he managed to unlock the door, but he apparently spent the night in the heat vent and came out the next morning tired and thirsty and rubbing his eyes. Just what I need, a rodent loose in the house.
The second time he escaped, he was apprehended behind the living room curtains. His doors are now securely taped shut. We may have to add a barbed wire fence, alarms and spotlights.
“You have to remember to wash your hands after you play with it,” I told my grandson. “And keep its cage clean so it doesn’t get sick, and give it fresh water every day. And be gentle with it so it doesn’t bite. And…”
Oh, well, I might as well save my breath. He isn’t listening anyhow. It is good for a child to have a pet to care for and love. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
I just wish it didn’t look quite so much like a rat.