Saturday, 18 January 2014


... This time it really has been long time no post! Unfortunately not for the best of reasons, my Nan passed away last autumn so... yeah.

The hams are all doing okay. Darla is still going, though at at least 27 months old now, his time is probably soon. Annie is still having issues with fur loss, she now has a rather patchy bum, but she is still acting her normal crazy ham self, so the vets have said not to worry. Winter and Rocco were re-introduced after their separation back in August, lived together happily for a few months, and then Rocco started bullying Winter earlier this week (unlike last time, where it was Winter bullying Rocco), so they have been separated for good. They've also been to a couple of shows, and Rocco even won a rosette, which was nice.

All this has meant that there was much cage swapping this morning. When Winter and Rocco were separated, Winter was put in my spare mini duna for a few days -- I had to separate them late one evening and didn't have time or energy to swap everyone around until today. Darla has now been relocated to the mini duna, as he's been getting less and less active, and Winter is in the vacated bin cage. Rocco is still in the zoo zone 1, as it gives him more opportunity to dig like the little mole he is!

I'll try to post more regularly this year, but I'll just leave this post with a video of clips I took while cleaning the boys out. Enjoy!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Book review

The Dwarf Hamster - Good Pet Guide by Various (Magnet and Steel, 2012)

I have to admit, when I first saw this book I was disappointed. At only 23 pages long, it did not look like it could contain much information. And when I actually delved into the book, it was a bizarre mix of rather good and really rather poor that left me honestly confused!

The good first, to make a change. While it is only a small book, it does manage to cram a lot of topics into those 23 pages, with thirteen different sections including caging, food, health and breeding. It has good, if brief, advice about keeping multiple dwarfs, diagrams to help with sexing, and even mentions bin cages in its housing section. It mentions the risk of diabetes -- I'll forgive the book for saying that all dwarfs are diabetes prone when a low sugar diet is not going to harm the non diabetes prone species at all -- and even stresses the importance of using chinchilla sand rather than chinchilla dust for a dwarf's sand bath.

Then we get to the bad and just downright bizarre. The book suggests feeding treats like chocolate drops and honey drops, and then in the next sentence stresses to avoid treats containing glucose and honey. It also suggests using fruit as treats, something that is best avoided with diabetes prone species. It mentions that Syrians need a wheel of at least eight inches in diameter, but does not mention a suggested diameter for dwarf wheels, which is more on topic than Syrian wheels. The hamster anatomy section is literally four sentences of brief description and no pertinent pictures. It claims that only Campbells have furred feet, while all three species in the Phodopus genus (Campbells, Winter Whites and Roborovskis) have furred feet in actuality. The book also suggests removing all uneaten food daily despite hamsters being natural hoarders, and at different points says that the cage must be cleaned weekly and every three days.

One of the biggest issues I have with this book is in the caging section. While it does indeed mention bin cages, and state that the cage must be "big enough" and that a too small cage can cause behaviours like bar chewing and fighting, it does not actually state what "big enough" is. The pictures it provides are of the Savic Mickey Max (50 by 36 centimetres), which I feel is not big enough for one healthy active dwarf, never mind multiples; and the Ferplast Combi 1, (40.5 by 29.5 centimetres), which makes a roomy Syrian carrier but is far smaller than I would ever use for one dwarf hamster, even as a hospital or retirement cage.

And then there is the sentence right at the beginning of the book that states there are five "breeds" of dwarf hamsters: "Russian, Russian winter white, Campbell's Russian, Roborovski's hamster and the Chinese hamster". Firstly, it's species, not breed. Secondly, Russian? "Russian" can be used as an umbrella term for Campbells and Winter Whites (and sometimes Roborovskis), and it can be used as an alternative name for hybrids, but on the very next page this book lumps "Russian" in with "Campbell's Russian", and then it is not mentioned again for the rest of the book. It is obviously not a reference to hybrids -- which this book does not mention at all. Oh, and apparently dwarfs live from 12 to 18 months. I won't mention my 22 month old Roborovski or the multiple dwarfs I know of that are over 2 years old then...

It also states that the Chinese hamster "is more related to the genus of mice and rats" than other hamsters. Well, Chinese hamsters are in the genus Cricetulus, mice are in the genus Mus and rats are in the genus Rattus. Furthermore, Chinese hamsters are in the family Cricetidae along with all other hamster species, whereas mice and rats are in the family Muridae. I'm going to safely say that Chinese hamsters are taxonomically more related to other hamster species than they are mice and rats.

On the whole, I found this book to be, quite frankly, a waste of money. The bad outweighs what good there is, and I can't bring myself to give it a score higher than three out of ten.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Book review

Dwarf Hamsters by Judith Lissenberg (Rebo Publishers, 2006)

Dr. Judith Lissenberg brings us the deifintive text on the adorable and tiny Dwarf Hamster. Here, you’ll find all the useful information on setting up the perfect cage environment, optimal diet, special health concerns – even instructions on how to bring your hamster to a rodent exhibition. The author has published articles on the Dwarf Hamster and even introduced some new varieties.
(Yes, the spelling error in the quote above is in the original text.)

To start with the bad parts of this book, there are a number of places where I find it lacking, either due to being outdated or actual bad information. Sentences such as "[a]nimals which are younger than six weeks are usually still too weak to stand on their own legs" stand out from the rest of the material! There are also a few inconsistencies, such as labelling wire runged wheels as unsafe yet having them pictured in a "professional" housing set-up, and mentioning how dwarf hamsters "do not go well" with other domestic pets despite many pictures of them with rats, Syrian hamsters and even dogs. The various pictures of pups only a few days old (if that) being handled is another massive no-no, as this is highly likely to cause the mother to reject or cull the young.

As with pretty much every hamster book I have read, the housing guidelines are smaller than most would recommend, and the chapter on genetic mutations does not include some of the newer ones, especially in Roborovskis. (This is a pet peeve of mine, although since most Roborovski colour mutations are fairly new, not surprising!) Another minor irritation with the book is it refers to "Campbells" and "Russians" where I have always used "Campbells" and "Winter Whites", but I am fully aware this is just a wording difference between me and the author!

These things aside, the book is actually rather good. The first few chapters are all about the backgrounds of the various species of dwarfs (including Chinese) and their characteristics, and it has comprehensive chapters on their care, and illnesses and ailments. The first two thirds of the book are ideal for the average owner of dwarf hamsters. The latter third of the book is probably of little interest to the average pet owner, as it goes into breeding dwarf hamsters, discusses colour mutations and genetics, and talks about hamster shows. Highlights for me were the mentions of the dangers of fluffy cotton wool style bedding, some of the health issues associated with hybrids (although it could go into more detail here), and an adorable picture of a group (I believe a litter) of Chinese hams in a pyramid of toilet roll tubes!

Despite me dwelling on the bad parts of this book, I believe it is a good one overall, and would give it a rating of seven out of ten.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Update time!

I haven't been very active on the internet recently, so I figured I needed to do an update on the hams!

Darla -- my old boy is doing well. He's getting a bit bald on his legs in his old age, but he is 2 years old in October so I guess he is allowed! He's back in his old bin cage (the 62 litre bin from Wilkos), due to issues with my other boys I'll mention later.

He was feeling rather shy when I was taking photos!

Annie is being her usual menace. I've given up trying to get her to stop spider-ham-ing across the top of her zoozone 2, because it just meant she ended up in a cage devoid of toys and wanted to get out more. She's still crazy about exploring everywhere!

It's the fact that she's still acting the same that I haven't taken her to the vet yet, because she's starting to lose fur on her hips. She's not much over a year old if P@H are to be believed about her age, and I thought at first it might be related to the heatwave we had recently in the UK. I've been giving her extra vitamins in her water, she's not scratching so I don't believe it's mites, and like I said she's acting the same in herself, acting like there's nothing wrong. It's only getting worse though, so I figure I'll see if they have anything to say about it.

You can see her fur loss in this picture:

And some more of her cheeky face:

And then there is Winter and Rocco, my darling boys. Unfortunately they're not quite so angelic together any more! They'd been scrapping a bit, trying their dominance against each other, and I tried to keep them together but I knew it was time to separate them when Winter bit Rocco on the bum hard enough to bleed. Winter seems to be coping fine with being alone, but Rocco has been quite skittish since the separation, which is a shame because he was the friendliest Robo out of my three before.

Here's the last picture I took of them together:

Winter is still in the Ferplast Mary they shared, as he got more confident in a barred cage.

And Rocco is back in the zoozone 1 that they came to me in, that I gave to Darla when I moved the boys to the Ferplast Mary. He loves to dig, and there is more space for deep substrate in the ZZ1 than there is in the bin, hence why Darla got moved back to the bin.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

I don't like to judge a book by its cover...

... but when the book in question is entitled "How To Care For Your Roborovski Pet Dwarf Hamster" and has a picture of a cream banded Syrian on the front, it doesn't bode well!

I have been browsing Amazon looking at the various hamster books. I have two that I think are really good -- Hamsterlopaedia and the Dwarf Hamsters Pet Owner's Manual -- but I am definitely a bibliophile! I would love all good hamster books, but even reading through reviews on Amazon isn't enough. How do I know that all the good reviews on a book are by hamster-savvy people? I keep meaning to do reviews on the two I have, maybe this will give me the kick up the backside I need.

And so this post isn't all text, here's a video of Winter and Rocco. Rocco has now outgrown his dad and there have been a few scuffles for dominance, but Rocco is now four months old so in Robo adolescence (3-6 months), and I wasn't expecting complete peace from them!

(And apologies for the lack of blogging recently. Lets just leave it as Real Life Sucks.)

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Long time no post! AKA Annie's cage tour June 2013

So I am back from my holiday, all nice and relaxed, so I decided to do an overhaul of Annie's cage layout!

 This is Annie's cage, which is a zoozone 2 aka the zoozone large, which has dimensions of 100 by 50 centimetres. As you can see, the bar spacing on the top is quite large, and needs to be meshed to prevent escapes. I used 6 millimetre square mesh because it is impossible for Annie to chew it, but mesh with larger spacing such as 13 millimetre square mesh is also fine if you don't have to worry about your hamsters trying to chew anything metal or bar like!

On the left she has her coconut (currently containing nesting material), her hamster sized sputnik, her climbing frame with a piece of slate on top and a chewed up toilet roll tube underneath, a wooden log tunnel with a flavoured wood chew underneath it, a ping pong ball egg thing, and parts of her old daisy chain chew scattered around on the floor. I've filled this half with tonnes of substrate to try and encourage her to start digging again -- she did it all the time in her old barred cage but now she can't fling substrate all over the floor outside the cage she seems to have lost interest!

In the middle she has her sand bath/toilet jar and her "guinea pig" sized corner house, with a bendy bridge so she can climb onto the roof from the shallow substrate half of the cage. It's also the table for her water bowl (she can't have a bottle due to her metal chewing habit). At the bottom of the picture you can just about see her kitchen roll tube which I have torn into one long spiral so she doesn't get trapped in it -- the diameter of a kitchen roll tube, and a toilet roll tube for that matter, is perfect for dwarfs but too small for Syrians to get through comfortably or with full cheek pouches.

On the right she has her 11 inch wooden wheel, her see-saw, a grass nest and a hedgehog shaped antos dog chew that appears to be lying on its face! You can't see it in this picture, but there's also a carrot shaped chew meant for rabbits that's blocking the water bottle hole so she can't chew the plastic there, which is in the picture below. Also in the picture below, you can see her Ferplast rat tube, which spans across the cage, and the other part of her daisy chain chew which is hanging from the bars by a cable tie.


And that's it! It's a fairly big layout change for Annie, but she seems to be enjoying it so far!