Thursday, 15 September 2011

A tiny adventure

Roborovski hamsters are very small, very quick, and almost impossibly cute.

We have one. She’s called Hattie. We adopted her, after seeing one of those “I’m looking for a good home because nobody wanted to buy me” pieces of emotional blackmail in the local pet shop.

She’s over two years old. If she were human, she’d be sitting in a rocking chair, knitting socks for her great, great grandnieces. She’s not exactly friendly, but she’s far from unfriendly. A bit grumpy, we think. She occasionally sits and taps her wristwatch meaningfully when dinner’s a bit late, you know the sort of thing.

She might be small, but she’s definitely The Boss.

She lives in our spare room, in a ... no, let’s not call it a cage, there are no bars, no metal, it’s a series of variously-sized and -functioned modules connected by hamster-friendly tubes. (She struggles a bit when the tubes go uphill. She really is very titchy.)

Yesterday morning, I went in the spare room to open the blinds and do something computer-y. I could hear a scratching noise. Ah, I thought, Hattie’s up and about. I couldn’t see her, suggesting that she must have been tucked up in bed -- her normal state during the day -- but the scratching noise continued.

Mice. Must be mice. Under the floorboards, probably. Yuck. Have to buy some poison or something, can’t worry about it now, got to get ready for work.

You’re ahead of me, I expect.

When I got home, I fed the cats then went to feed Hattie.

It was only then that I realised that her cage/enclosure/podsystem was wide open.

That instantly explained the scratching noise, of course. Not mice. An escaped old lady of a Roborovski hamster.

She could be anywhere, I told myself.

But I thought about it; she’d probably been out all night, and she hadn’t gone so far in the first few hours of her freedom that she couldn’t make me think we’d got mice in the floor.

So I started searching. I didn’t honestly expect to find her, you understand, I just hoped I would.

Spent a while peering into random corners, behind random objects, trying to think myself into a hamster’s mind and assuming that a systematic search would take hours and be fruitless anyway, I let my inspiration lead me.

Just after my inspiration led me to put a few small items of yummy hamster food (dried apple, the most noticeably smelly stuff she eats) on the floor in the hope that she’d be tempted away from snacking on carpet or electrical cables or cardboard or paper or plastic DVD cases or any of the other zillion things I thought might attract the attention of a small and hungry rodent, my eyes settled on a box under the table on which her (oh stuff it) cage sits. A cardboard box, flaps closed but not closed and I thought she might be behind it so I gently pulled it out.

In the spirit of thoroughness, I looked inside the box. In there was a Hallowe’en exhibit, a toy (well, maybe not a toy, it’s a bit too realistic to be considered in any way cuddly or cute) rat. And a small pile of artificial rat fur.

It was a moment before I spotted Hattie. She’d clearly been trying to extract the rat’s stuffing in the hope of making a warm bed, in the absence of her normal bedding.

I nearly cheered.

Instead, I gathered her up (with a little difficulty, she’s not used to being handled and Roborovski hamsters don’t often take to it, apparently) and put her back in her (yes, that’s the word) home.

She wandered round, checked I’d put something in her food bowl, stopped for some water (she’d managed without for the best part of 24 hours) nibbled on something that wasn’t artificial rat then, with what was to my eyes a clear sigh and a bit of a What-Kept-You sort of a Look, put herself to bed.

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