Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hamster Flashback: Tickles And Chewy

Hello hamster lovers! And welcome to Hamster Flashback! Hamster Flashback is a chain of posts dedicated to the memory of my past hamsters! Since this is the first flashback, I will also talk about my decision to adopt hamsters in the first place. Happy reading!

As a kid I was always somewhat of a lone wolf. I had friends, but not as many as most and for one reason or another I was often picked on. For as long as I can remember, however, I've been around animals, and animals never treated me the way many of the other kids did. Animals always seemed to be my closest allies, and because of that I adopted this connection with them. When I was in seventh grade I was at a really awkward phase (as most are at that age) and spent much of my time alone in the school library. They had many books about animals. Dogs, cats, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, small animals, everything! And I must of checked out every animal book they had in that library! But there were a few books I kept going back for: The hamster books. I was fascinated by the adorable little balls of fluff that reminded me of a cartoon I watched as a child called "Hamtaro". So I asked my mom if I could have a hamster, and do you know what she said? A big fat N-O! Can you believe it? Just because she didn't like rodents I couldn't have one! But I had my heart set on a ham ham, and I was going to get one! So I memorized the books and from then on everything I spoke of was hamsters. I drove my mother mad with all my ham chat. I'd rant on how to care for one, and what they eat, and how they bathe themselves, and everything until I finally broke her. There was only one condition: I had to pay for the hamster and all of it's things on my own. No problem right? A seventh grade girl with no job? Pay for her own hamster? Well let me tell you something: It's possible. Aside from a bit of Birthday money I had saved up, I did odd jobs for my neighbors until I had more than enough. My father loved fish and we had more aquariums in my house than the local pet shop did and luckily for me, someone was on my side. My dad had an unused tank that just so happened to have a screen lid. I'd hit the jackpot. I then bought the proper bedding, food, treats, wheel, and house for my new hamster. My mother drove my friend and I to the only pet store in our area. It was this tiny hole in the wall that never seemed to have the same employees. We ran in and looked into the tanks. Between about four tanks, they must of had around 20 Syrian hamsters, half male and half female, so I really couldn't of asked for a better selection. My friend and I watched all of the hamsters for awhile. They were all so cute, it was a really tough decision. The girl working in the shop came over to us to offer help. She looked to be around 25 and she was very kind. She opened the tank and let me stick my hand in. Instantly, a greyish brown hamster with tan on her stomach came up to me and started nibbling my finger. Almost at the same time, an orange, tan, and black one came up to me and climbed right into my hand! Her little feet ticked so much I started giggling. I was now torn between this nibbler and this tickler. Then the pet shop lady said: "Oh why don't you get both? That way they can be friends?" I had more than enough saved to afford both of them since this was when hamsters were only $8.99 each and the tank was more than big enough for two. So I bought both female hamsters and appropriately named them: Chewy and Tickles. The car ride home was another story. The hams were boxed separately and my friend and I each were holding one. Suddenly, my friend shrieks from the back seat! Chewy was indeed living up to her new name and chewing through the box! The car ride home wasn't even 10 minutes long and she already had a hole big enough to squeeze through and escape! Luckily, we got them in and safely into their new home before loosing either of them!

After that, the two lived happily together for around eight months until I noticed they were getting slightly more aggressive in their behavior towards each other. I chalked it up to sibling rivalry and added a second wheel and water bottle to their cage. When that didn't seem to help I added another food bowl and more houses. Still no dice. Then, one night at around 10:30 PM my mother and I heard hamster screams! Yes hamsters can scream, and when they do, something is terribly wrong. We looked to the tank to see bedding being tossed everywhere and a tiny bit of blood staining it and both hamsters. They were rolling all over and biting each other like mad. Without thinking, I ripped the screen lid off and reached in. I scooped up Chewy and gently put her in her hamster ball, while my mother ran for towels. Tickles was bleeding from her ear, and Chewy, while blood stained, was not injured. While the wound was not life threatening, I knew I could no longer house the two together so my mom took me to Walmart where I was forced to buy the only cage they had. It was small, cheap, hard to assemble and clean, and I hated it! But being so late, it was my only option. So for one week, Chewy lived in the small cage while Tickles lived in the big tank, and then they would switch for a week. They went back and forth like this for the remainder of their life because upon researching the internet, I found that same sex Syrian hamster will fight to the death if housed together in adulthood. I also found that many things I'd read in the library books was outdated information. So I spent much of my time at my neighbor's researching hamsters all over again to get my facts straight.

Aside from the big fight that separated them, Tickles and Chewy were wonderful hamsters!

Tickles: Tickles was, in short, a brat. Don't get me wrong, I adored her just as much as her sister! But she was always a bit more of a handful. She would rearrange her cage the way SHE wanted it, and as soon as I'd cleaned her cage it was a mess again. She often seemed grumpy, but I could tell it was just who she was. She loved to bury everything in her cage in bedding! Food bowl, houses, tunnels, she'd bury the whole wheel if she could! The fight between her and her sister left her with a battle scar on her right ear. Chewy bit clean through and left a very tiny hole and we'd often joke about putting an earring on her. While Chewy spent her days chewing everything she could get her teeth on, tickles climbed everything. And her favorite things to climb were people! Tickles lived healthily for almost three years and died of old age.

Chewy: As I said earlier, Chewy was named for her excessive chewing. I know all hamsters chew, but this girl chewed everything! She was slightly sweeter than her sister Tickles, though I loved them both. She was fairly shy around anyone other than me though. She always had a happy look to her but was somewhat lazy. When she was almost three, about a month or so after Tickles passed, I noticed she was getting very thin, and wasn't eating or drinking very much. She was loosing fur and was really weak. My mother and I found the only vet in town that would see hamsters and took her. Chewy had problems with her reproductive organs. She told me that they could spay her to try and help, but that because of their tiny size, hamsters that are put under anesthesia often don't wake up and if they do, there are often other complications. I decided not to have the surgery done, but the vet gave me medicine for her. So everyday I gave her medicine and after a few weeks she perked back up. She stared eating and drinking again and grew her fur back. For the last few months of her life, she was happy and spoiled. Chewy lived for just over three years and died peacefully one night.

Tickles and Chewy were my first hamsters. I learned a lot from them. I have many fond memories of them and I didn't let their scuffle turn me away from hamster adoption!

NEXT TIME IN HAMSTER FLASHBACK: Edward Naruto! The fastest Hamster in town!

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