Thursday, 28 February 2013

Hamster shows

Since I'm off to a hamster show this weekend, I thought it might be fitting to ramble about hamster showing.

In the UK there are three separate clubs, all affiliated with the National Hamster Council (NHC). I'm a member of the Northern Hamster Club, and there are also the Midland and Southern versions. Each club organises roughly ten shows over the course of the year, and anyone can turn up, member or not!

There are multiple different classes that you can enter your hamster in, but the best one for beginners I believe to be pet class. It's easy -- you can turn up on the day, with your hamster in a suitable carrier, and enter. All the other classes involve sending your entries in advance, special show pens, the chaos that is benching your hamsters, and judging to a specific standard. In pet class your hamster is judged on how tame your hamster is and its condition.

Annie won first place in pet class at her first ever show!
Because entering your hamster into pet class is much more simple than entering into the other (main) classes, I feel it is ideal for a first time shower. You can concentrate more of your energy on talking to people, meeting everyone and expanding your knowledge. (Also drinking coffee!)

If you're only just entering the world of hamster showing, you probably own a pet shop hamster. Most of the hamsters you see in the main classes are breeder hamsters -- that is, bred by members of the NHC to conform well to show standards (among other things). Since hamsters originating from pet shops are highly unlikely to be bred to any standard, they are unlikely to get good marks in the main classes.

That doesn't mean you can't enter a non-breeder hamster into the main shows though! I am planning to enter Annie into the main classes myself in the not-too-distant future, and she is a pet shop hamster I acquired from a certain big green pet store's adoption centre.

One thing I will say: Don't turn up to the shows when doors open if you are not entering any hamsters into the main classes. Pen labels for the show pens have to be collected, and then the hamsters all have to be benched, by a certain time. This is so judging can start promptly. The last thing everyone wants is to get distracted talking! If you want to arrive early, wait until judging for the main classes has started (usually around 10:30 or 11:00, but the show schedule on the NHC website will clarify). Then everyone else will be sitting down to get a relaxing cup of hot drink of their choice, and much more inclined to talk.

(For more information on hamster shows in the UK, the best place to visit is the NHC website. The standards for the main classes can be found in the NHC handbook, which can be downloaded here.)

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Making of a Mix

Recently I discovered that the mixes I have been using for both of my hamsters have been causing problems for other people. I was first alerted when a fellow hamster fanatic, who had been using the same mixes as me, had confirmation from their vet that the mix was the cause of her hamster's digestive problems. The high protein percentage, coupled with a relatively low level of fibre and lack of added vitamins, minerals and probiotics, seems to be the cause of a range of problems a number of fellow hamster addicts have been seeing in their pets, from fur loss to diarrhoea to kidney failure. The problem wasn't purely the high protein content, but the lack of other digestive aids added to most commercial mixes, which help aid digestion of protein.

Of course, as soon as I found this out, I rushed out to get something to replace mine. The problem was, what to get? Some of the worst cases had been prescribed probiotics and fibre supplements by their vets, so I looked at making something high in fibre (and lower, but not too low, in protein). I also wanted to use commercial mixes as a base, for the added supplements, but dislike the lack of variety in most commercial mixes.

This is what I have currently come up with. It is 1kg of Pets At Home Premium Muesli, 700g of Burgess Supahamster Dwarf Hamster Harvest, and 900g of Wilkinson's Finch Special Mix.

I chose the Pets At Home Premium Muesli as a base, as it has a lower protein and higher fibre content of the mix I was using. I have used the regular Pets At Home Muesli before and did not like it, but never used the premium one. A number of fellow hamster fanatics were using it as a base as well.

To add to this, I bought a bag of Burgess Supahamster Dwarf Hamster Harvest. This was to add variety, and also to up the fibre content, as it has a higher fibre content than the Pets At Home Premium. It also had the added benefit of lowering the fat content slightly.

Finally, I added the bird seed. I deliberated with Trill, but ended up going with the Wilkos brand because it had a high fibre content, which was one of the things good for aiding protein digestion. Lots of seed mixes out there are very high in fat and not high in fibre, which made me discount them. It also had a large amount of millet, which both my hamsters like. I know some people have issues feeding their Syrians smaller seeds like the ones in this bird seed, but luckily for me my Syrian loves them, and is quite happy to eat them. (I was more concerned about having large bits in for my Robo, who has been picky on food before because of the large pieces.)

The mix overall has a fair amount of variety, with two different types of extruded nuggets and two different types of pellets from the two hamster mixes, as well as flaked wheat, flaked maize, flaked soya, flaked oats, whole peas, whole maize, canary seed, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, red and white millet, sunflower seeds, mealworms, niger seeds and rape seeds.

The mix will probably still need tweaking. It's lower in protein and higher in fibre than the mix I was using originally, but is also higher in fat than I would like. However, because of the added supplements in the commercial mixes, I am happier feeding them this mix than their previous one. The hamsters seem to eat most parts of it too, which is a good start.

(It's not something I'd recommend for diabetes prone species of hamsters due to the large amounts of maize, an ingredient that is high in natural sugar.)

As for the mix that started the issues, it is still being sold, but with an addendum that hamsters require an additional supplement to prevent deficiencies occurring again.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Introducing Annie!

Annie's first piece of cheese!
And now it's time to introduce Annie, my little monkey!


Lady Annie Surprise, aka Annie.


Annie is a golden short haired Syrian hamster.


I adopted Annie on 22nd September 2012. I've estimated her birthday to be 2nd June 2012.


I adopted Annie from the adoption centre of a certain big green pet store.


I just had to. I had a spare cage at home, and this little bum was sticking out at me in the adoption centre. I asked to handle "him", got her out... and then she immediately pee'd on me and bit me. Well, any sane person would have left her, but I am not really that sane when it comes to animals! I couldn't bare to leave her there, so I took her home.

Opening her Christmas present!
Her name was because she was called Lennox in the adoption centre, and Annie Lennox happens to be one of the singers on one of the Lord of the Rings soundtracks, which I had been listening to recently. The Surprise part was because I may or may not have brought her home to the house the boyfriend and I share without letting him know about it first. He may or may not have found her before I could explain. He may or may not have been very exasperated at me and go on about how she was a surprise hamster.(Don't worry, he loves her really!) The Lady was because I already had a Lord Darla!

  • Toy: Her bendy willow ladder thing that she uses to sit on and stare at me, begging to come out. Or her wheel.
  • Treat: Dreamies cat treats.
  • Time of day: Late evening.
  • Activity: Digging her substrate everywhere so that I have a lovely mess to clean up in the morning.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Introducing Darla!

He does love his food!
In my last entry, I mentioned Darla. Well, in this one, I'm going to give you a full bio for him!


His Imperial Majesty Lord Darlaman Fuzzbum, aka Darla.


He's an agouti Roborovski hamster.


I got him on 17th January 2012. I've estimated his date of birth to be 17th October 2011


I aquired him from the adoption centre in a certain big green pet store.

As I said in a previous post, I had decided I wasn't going to get a Roborovski hamster. The only thing was, I saw him in the adoption centre, with a small boy and his family eyeing him up, and I couldn't let such a tiny cute thing go to live in the minuscule cage, to be roughly handled by that boy. I am so glad I did take him, because he has been a real joy to own. He's skittish and not really one to be handled, but I can't not love his little face!

Isn't he the cutest? (Maybe I am a bit biased!)
I started calling him Darla when I first got him, back when I thought he was a she. Of course, I discovered I was wrong a few months later, but by that time the name had stuck. I decided to extend it to Darlaman Fuzzbum instead. The "His Imperial Majesty" and the "Lord" parts came from my boyfriend, who for some reason thinks I spoil Darla. I have no idea where he gets that idea from!

  • Toy: His wheel.
  • Treat: Mealworms or millet.
  • Time of day: The middle of the night!
  • Activity: Running like a loon on his wheel.

Feel free to ask any questions!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

All about me

So. Hi.

Darla's grumpy face. Because why not.
I am a (currently) 22 year old girl (I feel weird putting "woman" there) who, among other things, loves hamsters.

When I said I love hamsters, I mean I am slightly obsessed by hamsters. I spend too much time reading hamster forums, hamster articles, looking at hamster cage designs, reading about hamster diet, looking at cute pictures of hamsters... Of course, that means the best thing to do is to start a hamster blog, right?

I was one of those children that had hamsters as a kid, but my obsession began shortly before my 21st birthday. I was in third year at university, and my boyfriend of nearly two years had failed his second year. After two years of being so close (we met at uni), suddenly the relationship was long distance. It was something that I struggled to cope with, and one of the things that I struggled with was having someone or something physically there to love.

Half way through third year, at Christmas, I started to think about having a pet. I had always had cats at home, so that was my first thought, but having a cat in student accommodation is a bad idea. I settled on a hamster, researched lots, and once I was back at uni after the Christmas break, I went to get myself a Russian dwarf or a Chinese.

I had actually decided against Roborovskis during my research, as they were widely described as non-snuggly hamsters, and I really wanted something to snuggle. I didn't feel like I had the space for a Syrian-appropriate cage, though, so a dwarf it was. And then I got to the big green pet store, and there was this young boy who wanted the "cute" "tiny" hamster in the in-store adoption centre. As much as I had told myself I wasn't getting a Robo, I couldn't leave this little girl, who had probably never been handled in her life, to a roudy boy and the tiny cage his parents were holding. I adopted her before they could, took her home, and renamed her Darla.

This is Darla's cute face.
It turns out Darla was a boy, and he was everything I hadn't wanted in a hamster -- skittish and virtually untameable -- and yet I could not help but love him, and could not help but fall in love with the whole species. Who could not love this little face?

Since then, I've gained another hamster (a Syrian called Annie, who was also missexed in the big green pet store), attended my first few hamster shows, and have decided that hamsters have got to be an important part of my life. I suppose that means that the main reason for this blog is to catalogue my owning, showing, and eventually breeding, of these gorgeous critters.

Well, it's taken me an entire blog post to come up with a sentence describing what I am doing here. One more important point -- I tend to ramble. I suppose that can only be a good thing when you're starting out a blog, right?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


... to Unexpected Hamsters! My name is Cat, and I am ever so slightly obsessed with hamsters -- so much so that I have decided to dedicate a blog to them.

I'll have some more posts up shortly, but for now, here is a picture of the hamster that started it all:

His Imperial Majesty Lord Darlaman Fuzzbum
aka Darla