Sunday, May 26, 2013

One Fuzzy Family

The Birth
Those close to me may have heard me scoff on more than one occasion when asked the ridiculous question of, "How can you tell what gender your hamster is?" My usual retort is, "How can you not tell what gender your hamster is?!" Seriously, if you have a male hamster--you will know. (Another of my pet-peeves is when people put a "p" in hamster and make it "hampster" like a hamper, but I digress...)

However, it turns out that, even if you do your research thoroughly and have more than 5 years of experience with this type of pet under your belt, there are still surprises. I've since learned that the "teddy bear" type of hamster can be, with all their fluffiness, misleading in the matter of gender...as has my best friend, who bought a hamster, believing it was a male, only to find out it was a female--and pregnant!

Paisley, the mother in question.
Much to her surprise, on the 27th of March, 2013, her hamster gave birth to a litter of eight wriggling pinkies (that's hamster-fanatic lingo for babies, by the way)!

For those of you who don't know much on the subject, let me inform you that the proper procedure is to keep the mother hamster's cage in a really quiet room where she won't be bothered. Hamster mothers will eat their babies if something upsets them (because they feel that it is an unsafe environment and that the babies will not make it), though this happens more often with dwarf hamsters (though we didn't know this until afterwards). Thus, we both were panicking and praying that these little sweeties would make it, and she was hesitant to even so much as peek underneath the blanket covering the cage to take a look whenever they squeaked.

The First Steps
Fortunately, they made it through those critical first weeks and soon they were at the age when the mother would leave the nest and let them move on their own. Though still blind, they had reached the point where they could now start being acclimated to human scent and touch, and so (after thoroughly scrubbing our hands so that no germs remained, might I add) I got to hold one of the babies in the palm of my hand. They were still pink and only had the slightest fuzz to indicate the pattern of their future fur, no more than an inch long. It wasn't for long, however, because they were surprisingly squirrely for little pinkies who couldn't actually see!

As for the future homes? My friend is much like me in the way that she really cares about what happens to the animals and who would be getting them (just another of the many, many reasons she is my friend) and I agreed it was an excellent idea when she said she was going  to check to make sure that the future owners would be people who would take care of them properly and not neglect or mistreat them (as many people, unfortunately do). My family and I were planning on taking at least two, but promised we would be available for more in the event that she couldn't find good homes.

In  a moment of weakness passionate love, however, my mother declared to me that she wanted them all. I checked to make sure she was serious (she was), and so it was that I told this to my friend. She knew she was going to keep at least one, and someone else had claimed another, so we were still in for about 6 hamsters.

A week or so later, my youngest brother came with me to visit them once more:

The pile of hamster babies.
They had more fuzz on them, and we could tell more of who might look like what. One of them poked his little nose through the bars to try and get to a piece of corn that was stuck in between the bars and the plastic! It wouldn't be long, we knew, before they would get to the point where they would start squeezing right through the bars! 

And we were right: soon after their eyes opened, one of them got out! We thought all hope was lost, but he was soon found again...until he got out again and had to be recaptured again! But, they were quickly moved to a cage of which they couldn't push their way through!

Coming Home
And so it was, on the 22nd of April, our family increased by number of six small, and quite fuzzy hamster babies. When we went to pick them up, each and every one of them had crammed themselves into the colored tube on the side of the cage, and so it took a while to get them into the carrier. When we left, the only one left was the completely ginger baby.

When we got home, we moved the six babies to a large tank, but they were squabbling with each other--most if not all of it playing, but better safe than sorry, we began to separate them (they were at the age that they needed to be sexed and separated...unless we wanted more babies).

Over time, we named them, and ended up with Blossom, Sacoora Buttercup, Roo, Shin, Cooper, and Tugger.

However, despite the fact that we were certain of their genders, we later discovered that Blossom was a boy, Sacoora Buttercup was a boy, and Tugger was a girl. But, as they were a month old by this point, they kept their names (which really, doesn't matter, because they're all so darn cute). My friend also discovered that her own Delilah was, in fact, more of a Sampson (as my mother so often says).

Growing Up
Since then, every day (give or take a few), the babies have come out to play, get exercise, and--most importantly--get used to being handled. It has definitely been a learning experience: I think I've finally grown almost immune to being nipped because I smell like some food that I ate an hour ago. They've finally, thank goodness, grown out of the stage where everything scares the pee (quite literally) out of them. Though some of them still don't like being touched, they have grown used to it and most respond to their names and come to the cage door voluntarily when they want to come out or see/hear one of us nearby.
Already, it's been almost two months, and they've gotten so big! I swear they grow larger everyday! :) At this point, the temperament and personality of each has become clear, and they've gotten to the point where the ones with similar colorings and markings can easily be told apart:

Tugger
Tugger is female (she belongs to me), has the shorter long fur in grey and white, with a bridge marking across her back, and has red eyes (like the rest of the babies). The first time I weighed her on the postal scale, she was about 2.2 ounces, and then the last time I weighed her, she was about 3 ounces...but since then she's really grown, so she's probably more now! She's pretty bold and doesn't like to be held, but has recently been getting better with it--she doesn't try and jump from my hands anymore. She really likes to climb! She wakes up at least two hours earlier than the other babies and comes to the door making cute faces until I take her out.
Roo
Roo is the only other female baby and belongs to my mother. She also has red eyes, and the grey and white coloring, but her grey is clearly more of the ginger color that her mother, Paisley, has, and instead of a bridge, she has a stripe that enters the white from the side. Her fur is also of the shorter long variety, about medium as far as the long-hairs go. She is one of the more nervous hammies, but has also been overcoming that skittishness recently. Before she had a cage, when she was in a tank, she kept on climbing her water bottle up to the top of the tank! This is the reason for the guilty look on her face in the above picture--she knew she'd been caught doing something she wasn't supposed to be doing.
Cooper
Cooper is a boy and he is also my hamster. He has red eyes and is completely gray and has very long, very fluffy and downy fur that is always sticking out everywhere like feathers, no matter how many hours he takes to groom it. I also weighed him on the postal scale, and he was .2 ounces less than Tugger, though since then he's also passed 3 ounces. Of the babies, Cooper is the calmest and sweetest. He will just sit there, perfectly still, in my hands forever! Nothing really bothers him at all, though it took him a long time to start venturing down from the top layer of his cage and voluntarily come to the door on his own.
Sacoora Buttercup

Sacoora Buttercup is a boy, and belongs to my youngest brother. He has red eyes and has the white and grey patterning with the bridge on his back. However, unlike Roo and Tugger, he has the longer, downy fur. He also loves to climb, though he's a bit timid and hesitant and won't come to the door when he wants to come out. However, he's also very mild-mannered and sweet.
Blossom

Blossom is a boy, and belongs to my younger brother. He has red eyes and is the only baby who is ginger colored (a slightly redder color than the mother hamster). He is, I believe, probably the largest of the babies! His fur is very long and fluffy. He has a very noisy wheel, which he unfortunately is constantly running in, the noise of which can literally drown out any movie you happen to be watching. I can't really be a judge of his personality, as I haven't held him after I trained him to get used to being held, after which my brother took over, but he is very athletic and, like the rest, doesn't like to sit still. 

Shin

Shin is a boy and belongs to my mother. He has red eyes and is also grey like Cooper. In fact, he is pretty much identical--the only way you can tell them apart is if you hold him, because he is significantly lighter and smaller because he is the runt (though you can't tell unless you pick him up). He is fast and fearless. When he runs in his hamster ball, he goes as fast as he possibly can and rams into things with a cringe inducing noise (it doesn't hurt him though). He's also very naughty when it comes to climbing water bottles.


Hazel

Hazel, though not one of the baby hamsters, still deserves some words, because she is the queen of the hamsters in the house and is the whole family's hamster. A gift from my oldest brother and his girlfriend, Hazel was a hamster given up for adoption by her original owner at Petco. She is beautiful and precious! She has black eyes, unlike the babies, is black with a brown butt (so cute), with a white stripe down her chin. Hazel is a very vocal hamster and is always making all manner of noises! :) She is definitely well loved here in our home.


Thus, our family came to be made up of 6 humans and 7 hamsters!

Long live the fuzz,
Bryn P.


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