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!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Gosh, it's been a while...

... nearly ten days since I last posted! Blame real life, my boyfriend ended up having to have his appendix removed.

The hams are doing well! Darla is starting to look even more like an old man, he's getting a bit of fur loss on the inside of his back legs. A friend of mine had her Robo go bald from the waist down before he passed, I am wondering whether Darla will do the same. As long as he is happy though!

Annie has had no issues since her teeth trim, which is good. She hated the JR Farm hamster food though, so I now have two bags of it that I am not sure what to do with! I might feed it to Darla, with his fur loss and age I am thinking a lower protein diet might be beneficial.

Darla, Winter and Rocco love the JR Farm dwarf food, so they're currently eating a mix of that and Burgess dwarf. Winter and Rocco are back to their flying saucers, though, as I noticed today that Winter has managed to injure his food somehow on the wooden wheels I had given them. It seems to be healing well, so I am not going to stress him out with a vet visit.

And next week I am off on holiday, so no ham updates. Have a picture of Winter now instead!

Monday, 13 May 2013

How much does a hamster cost?

It's easy enough to think that hamsters are cheap pets. Walk into any large chain pet store and they'll be on sale for £10 or less. Just because the hamster is cheap, however, doesn't mean that their care is cheap!

(I'll be going through this as if the hamster being bought is a Syrian, however getting a dwarf hamster is honestly not much cheaper.)

The RPSCA minimum recommended cage size for any species of hamster is 75 by 40 centimetres, which equates to 3,000 square centimetres of floorspace. For a Syrian hamster, my personal recommended minimum cage size is 80 by 50 centimetres, or 4,000 square centimetres. This is far more space than most cages sold as suitable for a hamster -- in fact, the only cage suitable for a Syrian hamster sold in store in the well known big green pet store here in the UK is the Ferplast Mary rat cage. At 80 by 50 centimetres, and 37 centimetres tall, it is widely regarded to be too small for a pair of rats, but makes a good sized Syrian home. This cage, however, currently retails in said pet store for £70. (The store also sells the Hamster Heaven, but only online, not in store, and it can be found cheaper elsewhere.)

Buying online is definitely the way to go to get a good sized cage without breaking the bank. The Alaska, at 84 by 48.5 centimetres, is larger than the Mary and is currently available at for £39.90. The Mamble 80 is also good value for money, currently at £34.99 at If you want to go larger, the Mamble is also available from littlepetwarehouse in a 100 by 54 centimetre version for (currently) £44.99. Another cheap option is making a bin cage; the Ikea Samla bin at 78 by 56 centimetres makes a good sized Syrian home. This does, however, require a bit of DIY!

Lets say you decide to go for the Alaska cage. That's nearly £40 spent on the cage alone. The next important item is the wheel. Most wheels aimed at Syrian hamsters are only suitable for the dwarf species, and a wheel with a diameter of at least eight inches is needed, as a hamster needs to have a flat back when running. Personally I would not recommend buying a wheel less than eleven inches in diameter for a Syrian, as there is no such thing as a too big wheel, but a too small wheel can cause back pain and spinal issues. Since we're on zooplus already, lets get the Trixie Rodent Wheel. This is a plastic wheel, so is easy to clean, that isnot going to break the bank -- the 28 centimetre (eleven inch) version is currently available at £7.99. Other options include the 12 inch flying saucer and the 29 centimetre Karlie Wonderland wheel (both currently £11.90).

Annie's old Ferplast Mary and Trixie Rodent Wheel, plus
her Ferplast rat tube
Next on the list of necessities is a water bottle and food. Both of these are easily got from the big green pet store, with a 75 millilitre classic water bottle at £1.50 and a 700 gram bag of Harry Hamster food for £2. In my experience, more expensive brands of water bottles are not worth the extra money, and the 75 millilitre is fine for a Syrian even though it is branded as the "mouse" sized bottle. Harry Hamster is the only food endorsed by the National Hamster Council and is actually cheaper than the store's premium brand (called Healthy Handfuls). Also from the big green pet store, you can get an extra large pack of Snowflake brand shavings for £9.49. These shavings are dust free and the only brand of shavings I'd recommend using. The best bedding material you can get is actually torn up tissue paper or kitchen roll (the fluffy cotton wool bedding is actually really dangerous and should never be used -- even if it claims to be pet safe, it can tangle around limbs and cut of circulation, or cause a blockage if ingested. There's a thread about it on one of the hamster forums I frequent).

There are also other things that you may want to buy for your hamster that are not strictly necessary, like a house (a cardboard box will do fine from the hamster's point of view) or a food bowl (scatter feeding is actually an enrichment activity for the hamster). If you want to buy a house, a "guinea pig" corner house that is the perfect size for Syrians is currently on zooplus for £7.49. Similarly, a hamster food bowl is currently £1.59 on zooplus. A "must have" toy in my opinion is the bendy bridge, with the medium one, ideal for Syrians, currently £2.79 on zooplus. A Ferplast rat tube (most "hamster" tubes are too small for Syrians) is currently £6.99 from zooplus. A small hamster climbing frame from zooplus is currently £3.99. If you want to potty train your hamster, a Trixie corner toilet is currently £3.29 from zooplus, and a kilogram of chinchilla sand is currently £3.99. Most Syrians will use sand bath as a potty, and they may also love digging in it and using it to clean themselves like dwarf hamsters will.

Then there are also hamster treats. A bag of JR Farm mixed flavour yoghurt drops is £1.39 from zooplus. Dreamies cat treats are loved by my Syrian, and a 60 gram bag of these is currently £1.49 from zooplus. A 200 gram bag of mixed nuts by JR Farm is currently £2.99.

Finally, there is pet safe cleaner for cleaning out the cage, which can be got from the big green pet store for £3.50.

Even with buying all of this online, often at discounted prices, this comes up to a lot:

An old layout of Annie's Ferplast Mary.
Cage: £39.90
Eleven inch wheel: £7.99
Water bottle: £1.50
Food: £2.00
Substrate: £9.45

House: £7.49
Food bowl: £1.59
Toys: 13.77
Sand bath/potty: £7.28
Treats: £5.87

Pet safe disinfectant: £3.50

Total: £100.34

Yes, you read that right. It costs just over £100 to get this rather basic set up for a £10 hamster. True, some of the things are not necessary, and you can buy cheaper toys or make some yourself, but hamsters are not cheap to look after properly. This total would be even higher if it was all bought in stores rather than online; obtaining all of the essentials, a handful of different toys and treats from the big green pet store would cost nearer £150 to £160. Plus there is the emergency vet fund to consider, which depends on how expensive your local small animal vet is.

If you think hamsters are cheap children's pets, well, think again!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

All change! Winter and Rocco's new cage

So, a while ago I changed Annie's cage, meaning that her old cage, the Ferplast Mary, ended up being put in the bottom of the wardrobe. I thought about selling it, but to be honest wasn't keen on the hassle. It just sat there, taking up space, forgotten about.

Recently, I had a thought. The Mary, at 80 by 50 centimetres, is larger than the zoozone the boys are in (72 by 46 centimetres). While it's not much difference in size, I figured it was a big difference when you're only a couple of centimetres long!

I had two worries. One was access -- while the zoozone has a large top door, the Mary has one small side door and one larger top door. The other was the bar spacing. However, I know many people who have successfully kept Roborovskis in cages with one centimetre bar spacing before, and tested it out with Rocco. He could not fit through the bars, and I decided more space for the hams beat any access concerns I had, so today I swapped them over.

Whole cage

I've tried to leave the layout as similar as possible to the one from the zoozone, although I did swap their wheels to eight inch wooden wheels rather than the flying saucers they had. Winter had started doing impressions of the Amazing Flying Robo off the saucers, which was concerning me. The eight inch wheels are larger than necessary, but there's more space for them to run together in an eight inch wheel than there is in a six inch one, the smaller size down in this particular wheel. (I coated them in plastikote, a waterproof child safe paint, so that they're easier to clean.)

Left side
Wheels on the right side
The rest of the right side
Usually I scatter feed, but because of the new JR Farm food I've received recently (eventually -- parcelforce were a pain in the backside about it, but that's another story), the boys have two bowls, one with their old mix and one with the JR Farm, to see which they prefer. The jury's out with these two, although Darla prefers the JR Farm.

As for the zoozone, well... Darla got it, so the last cage tour for him is out of date already, although I did try to keep the layout as similar as possible.

Darla's cage

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Darla cage tour May 2013

I mentioned doing a cage tour of Darla's cage a while back now... so here it is!

Here it is. It is still the 62 litre Crystal storage box from Wilkinson's, external dimensions 79.5 by 39.5 cm, 25cm tall. On the left he has his little house which he stores his food in, a bendy bridge up to the roof, and his sand bath with a wicker teepee over it.

 In the middle he has his wooden swing thing and a tube leading under his platform. You can also see his T-shaped alfalfa tube.

Then we have his platform, made by the lovely woman who also let me adopt Winter and Rocco! It's made from an Ikea magazine rack, and there's a detailed thread about her making them over here on one of the hamster forums I go on. On the platform he has his flying saucer, a hedgehog shaped antos dog chew and a strawberry wooden chew. His T-shaped alfalfa log leads to his water bottle, and as you can see he likes sitting half in the log to drink.

He also nests under the platform.

And a bonus Darla pic!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hamster food saga take 2

Why does hamster food have to be so hard? A couple of months ago I did a post about making my hamster mix, but a lot has changed since then.

For the mix in question, I tried to please both Annie and Darla. They kind of have very different tastes, though. Annie ignored a lot of the smaller seeds I had put in the mix, making me concerned at the lack of variety, and Darla left all of the nuggets that contained the majority of the vitamins and minerals. Plus a component of the mix, Pets At Home Premium Muesli, has been discontinued in favour of something I have not heard the best reviews for from my fellow hamster nuts. As it seems I can't please them both with one mix, I am going to have to make two!
Burgess Supahamster Dwarf Hamster Harvest
 Annie is currently eating Harry Hamster, a mix which I avoided for a long while because Darla refused to eat most of it. This was partly because I saw it in Pets At Home and partly because Winter and Rocco came to me eating Harry Hamster too. Darla is currently on Burgess Supahamster Harvest Dwarf, but he preferentially eats the small seeds and leaves the green sticks and the flaked peas a lot of the time. Similarly, Winter and Rocco preferentially ate Burgess over Harry Hamster once I had introduced them to Burgess, but still ignore the green sticks a lot.
Supreme Harry Hamster
 For the Robos, at least, I think I have found the answer: JR Farm. A friend of mine feeds all her dwarfs on it, and another friend uses both the dwarf and Syrian foods as components in her hamster food. It looks tasty, has good variety, and seems very promising. I ordered both the dwarf and Syrian versions from zooplus, and they shall hopefully be here by Saturday. Whether I will mix the Burgess in with it, I am not quite sure.
JR Farm Dwarf Hamster Feast
As for Annie... I have ordered the Syrian mix as well, but I am wary of just how low it is in protein. While I know adult hams need less protein than growing babies, and that too much protein is bad for the kidneys, the protein content seems just too low. I will probably end up mixing it with Harry Hamster, at least at first, although whether she will ignore my efforts by selectively eating the JR Farm is another matter. Hopefully it will not come to that!
JR Farm Hamster Feast

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A nice evening out

Or, well, maybe not.

I had to take Annie to the vets yesterday. Her teeth were on the long side, and her bottom ones were behind her top ones instead of underneath them, like they should be. Vet number one diagnosed her with dental malocclusion, potentially caused by a gum infection, or a vitamin D deficiency. One suggestion was putting her on a course of baytril (antibiotics) and metacam (anti-inflamatory), which would cure any potential infection and hopefully make chewing less painful so she'd wear the teeth back down herself. Option number two involved putting her under general anaesthetic and looking properly in her mouth, filing down any spurs or protrusions that might be hiding in there, and trimming the errant incisors.

I ended up going with option number two, and we sat in the vet waiting room for another hour and a half until vet number two was free to root around in her mouth. He said afterwards that there was nothing wrong with her back teeth, so all that he did was trim her bottom incisors. Possibly the anaesthetic was unnecessary, but then the baytril would have been too. She may still end up on a brief course of metacam if she has issues after the trim, but it is apparently unlikely.

She recovered really well from the anaesthetic, too. When I put her back in her cage, she sat looking at me with a really dopey expression on her face until I put her in front of her house, and then she slunk in, but about twenty minutes later she was running around being her normal self. I'm keeping an eye on her food intake and weight to make sure her teeth are better, but hopefully I will not have to take her back to the vets any time soon!

Thursday, 18 April 2013


I know I promised cage tours, but this is much cuter!

Winter apparently doesn't mind being a pillow!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

My gorgeous Robo boys

I took a couple of pictures and videos of the Robos this morning!

Darla was not co-operating!

I think this is Winter on the wheel and Rocco behind

Rocco in front and Winter under the cork

I need to do a cage tour for Darla too, as you can see he has a new platform in there! Today is clean-out day, so we shall see.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Winter and Rocco

So, I picked up these little guys today! I suppose that means it's intro time.

Roborovski squish!

Winter and Rocco


They are both husky Roborovskis, and are a father-son pair. They are also technically brothers, as Winter's mother is also Rocco's. They are the result of an unexpected, unintended litter.


I picked them up today 13th April 2013!


After commenting on the thread about the unexpected litter on a hamster forum I frequent, I ended up talking via PM to their owner. She offered to let me rehome a pup or two when they were older and I leapt at the chance. Since there was only one male pup and Winter did badly without company, I ended up taking the father-son pair.

  • Toy: I have it on good authority that they love their flying saucers!
  • Treat: Millet, apparently! Imaginative of them!
  • Activity: Digging. Dear lord, these two know how to dig!


Mary needs a new home

Hope this girly finds herself a new home soon!

Mary needs a new home
Mary was found last week on the Roecliffe to Bishop Monkton road where the road regularly floods. She had no hair on her tail or back and despite being only 4/5 months old she was pregnant and very skinny!!
Mary was first spotted cowering at the side of the road by our MD’s wife who stopped and Mary ran under her car. With a little gentle persuasion the Kitten was coaxed out and allowed herself to be picked up - she was shaking. The poor little thing was wrapped in one of Basil’s old dog towels and driven straight to the vets. She spent the entire journey purring and kneading into our MD’s wife’s lap - she was clearly very happy to be found.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Oh dear...

In good news, I finally have internet!

The bad news is I dropped my laptop while trying to stop Annie from going behind the sofa cushions. It's quite dead! Since I have been thinking of getting a new one for a while -- it's over four years old and been through a lot -- I've taken the opportunity to buy a shiny new (blue!) netbook. But yes, my internet usage now depends entirely on whether my boyfriend wants to use his laptop or not!

Thirdly, Winter and Rocco are arriving tomorrow! I have a picture of Winter being sleepy for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The "best" pet shop in Leeds

I moved to Leeds about 3.5 weeks ago, and of course one of the important things to do is to scope out the local pet shops! There's one not too far a drive from where I am that claims to be the best pet shop in Leeds, so of course I had to take a look. Their website didn't fill me with confidence, to be honest -- their reptile and aquatics sections looked extensive but the rodent ones didn't -- but I know not everything shops sell will be on their website, so I thought a look wouldn't hurt.

Oh my. Pulling into the car park, I saw a row of rabbit hutches sitting outside the front. They were tiny, though, 3 or 4 feet long at the most, and certainly not suitable for a rabbit!
At first glance, inside seemed to be better. Closer inspection, however... Their toy selection was not as extensive as it looked, because they had so little that was actually suitable! They had those horrific metal barred wheels that can break a rodent leg, and the metal mesh ones that can trap toes. Most of the selection was tiny -- while they did have the 12" silent spinner and the largest size comfort wheel (I think it's 10"?), those were swamped by the piles of tiny wheels and the horrible mesh ones. What was worse was that the wire barred ones were the ones provided in the hamster and gerbil enclosures!

The actual animal enclosures were a mix of good and bad... but mostly bad. Their Syrians were separated, their dwarfs were in single sex groups with clearly labelled enclosures... But some of their rabbits and guinea pigs were also alone, their gerbils had a thin layer of wood based cat litter and nothing else for digging in, and none of the cages were properly secured off from the public. The Syrian pens were open to the roof and the rabbit/guinea pig/dwarf/gerbil pens all had the doors on the top half of the front of the cage open. I could have easily pocketed (literally!) any of the smaller rodents, there was no one even visibly watching the section. There was a sign saying do not touch the animals, but nothing to actually prevent it.

As well has the horrible mesh wheels, the enclosures were full of fluffy cotton wool bedding. Actually jammed full, in the case of the house in the female Robo cage. They had an extensive area of shelving dedicated to selling it, too. And the cages... the big green store has a better selection. Their guinea pig and rabbit cages were too small, and most of the hamster cages were tiny things like the Ferplast Laura, or habitrail or rotastak monstrosities. Their one redeeming cage was the duna multy, (and possibly the largest critter choice, but at £80+, would anyone buy it?), but nothing else met RSPCA guidelines, or could fit in an 8" or larger wheel. Even the big green store's horrible new range of pick and mix cages can fit an 8" wheel, and the big green store stock hamster suitable "rat" cages. These guys didn't even have anything "rat" sized -- okay, so I didn't see any rats in store, but they did have a selection of ratty books and a couple of degus, who also require far more space that any of the available cages.

It's weird. It's not like the shop was filthy, or the animals were obviously being neglected, but I still left the shop without buying anything and went to the big green store instead!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Thursday, 4 April 2013

My new boys!

I've been sitting on a little secret for a while!
Hamster squish!
This is Rocco (on top) and Winter, a son and father pair. A member of a certain hamster forum rescued a pair she thought was a mother and daughter, who she called Autumn and Winter, a gorgeous agouti and husky pair. However, they turned out to be mother and son! We ended up talking while their unexpected, unintended, pups were still young, and she agreed to let me have one or two, which I was so pleased about! I love husky Robos, they are gorgeous, and the litter was highly likely to contain a husky or two.

Little Rocco
The pups were the most awkward babies to sex, even an experienced Robo breeder was stumped! When pictures didn't help, the pups were actually taken to visit her, and she still wasn't sure. One was definitely male, and paired off with Winter at four weeks old. The other two were an awkward pair and stayed with mum for a bit longer.

Handsome Winter
Winter loved having a friend again, he did really badly alone, so when the other two pups turned out to be female, it was decided that I would take Winter and Rocco. I'm picking them up on 13th April, when Rocco will be seven weeks old, and I am really looking forward to finally meeting my two husky boys!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Totally addicted to bar chewing

Bar chewing in hamsters is a bit of a bizarre one. It's really not a good thing, as it can cause cause teeth to break or even be ripped out in extreme cases, yet it's something "everyone" seems to know that hamsters do. Whenever someone mentions that their hamster is bar chewing on one of the forums I frequent, the immediate response is 20 questions -- How big is the cage? How big is the wheel? What toys are there? Often it's a case of cage too small, wheel too small, hamster is bored out of its mind and chews accordingly. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes the hamster has learnt bar chewing means food, or playtime, or something else it wants. Sometimes a hamster can become addicted to chewing bars.

The Ferplast Mary, not exactly small!
Annie was in the latter category. With a spacious cage (80 by 50 centimetre Ferplast Mary "rat" cage), an eleven inch diameter wheel, and lots of things to play with and chew, she still chewed the bars! My first action was to mesh the cage with left-over six millimetre square mesh from making Darla's bin cage. While I only had enough to cover about two thirds of the cage, it actually stopped her chewing for a fairly long time, even in the areas that weren't covered. Then she started up again, chewing on the cage door, or the corner closest to the sofa where I sat, which looked a lot like "get me out!" bar chewing. For a while, a couple of the general remedies worked -- hanging chew toys in the area, weaving cardboard between the bars, coating the bars in olive oil. (I also tried lemon juice. She loved the taste, daft ham!)

It then got to the stage where she was chewing the bars anywhere she could, not just the door or near me, and had even started chewing the metal hooks that held up her cargo net hammock. It was this final development that made me realise it had probably become an addiction.

A friend of mine has a couple of hamsters who became addicted to bar chewing. One was a Roborovski in a converted rat cage, with really deep substrate, 100 by 50 centimetres of floorspace, and tonnes of toys. A second was a Syrian who became addicted twice, once when she was in a huge Rotastak set-up with a Savic Hamster Heaven, a Ferplast Mary and a three tier bin cage attached, and the second time when in her current two tier five foot long converted rabbit hutch. The first time, housing her in a barless setup for a couple of weeks kicked her out of the addiction, so I decided to try the same with Annie. Unfortunately, the only thing I had to hand was the old mini duna in the wardrobe or Darla's bin cage -- both too short for Annie's wheel -- and an eighty litre bin that had about the same floorspace as a mini duna but with enough height for her wheel.

She spent about a week in the bin (with the cage top of her Mary as the roof to provide ventilation), and in that week... she learnt how to wedge her wheel so that it couldn't turn, so she could climb up the back of it and chew the bars. My only option seemed to be getting hold of more 6mm mesh for her Mary, but that was easier said than done -- Wickes was the only store I could find that seemed to do it, and the nearest one was 5 miles away. Normally that'd be okay, but this weekend has also had some drama with the garage door key, resulting in my car being momentarily unavailable!

The Hagen Zoozone 2, a hamster paradise!
Then I found a gem at the local indoor market. A zoozone 2 -- 100 by 50 centimetres of "guinea pig"/"rabbit" cage, shockingly small for either but both larger than Annie's Mary and a tank style with bars only on the roof! Since it had been previously used (by a ferret for only one week, poor ferret!) I was offered it at just over half the recommended retail price, so I was not going to say no! The only thing it needed was the bars on the roof meshing, as the bar spacing is designed for guinea pigs and rabbits, so too large for a hamster. Off came the six millimetre mesh from the Mary, and on it went onto the zoozone lid!

I had to make a few other alterations because of Annie's metal-chewing habit. She's having to drink from a water bowl rather than a bottle after chewing the bottle spout so much she soaked her face and worried me about her teeth again, and anything that was hung with metal hooks is now hung with cable ties to prevent her chewing them, but I am loving the space and the fact that she can no longer damage her teeth on metal bars! I'm sure she'll find something else to exasperate me soon, but for now I am no longer anywhere near as stressed about her as I was!