Friday, 29 March 2013

Hamster cage drama llama

There's been a fair amount of drama on a facebook group I am a member of recently, with a couple of members complaining about "hate" they've got for their hamster cages. Their theory is that the manufacturers wouldn't produce bad cages, or a pet shop wouldn't sell bad cages, and they will not listen to reason, recommended cage size guidelines, or common sense.

The Ferplast Laura, at a tiny 46x29 cm
Cage size guidelines vary between country to country. I found a great blog post by Dashing Hamsters that illustrates these different guidelines. In the UK, the RSPCA recommends that a hamster cage "should be at least 75 x 40 x 40 cm". Unfortunately, most commercial hamster cages available in pet shops don't meet these guidelines at all!

The people in question then argued that their hamsters had wheels, so didn't need a large cage. The wheels in question were of course the ones that came with the cage, and so were tiny six inch diameter ones. Now these wheels are fine for a Roborovski, or a smaller Campbells, Winter White or Chinese, but for a full grown Syrian they are not appropriate. To be comfortable while on the wheel and to avoid spinal issues and deformities, a hamster has to have a flat back while running on a wheel. For a Syrian this means a wheel must have a minimum of eight inches diameter, but a lot, especially here in the UK where we have some giant breeder hamsters*, need rat wheels of eleven or twelve inches diameter.

The Savic Hamster Heaven, at 80x50 cm
Out of the two members who were the source of this drama, the first ended up being banned from the group after getting nasty at other members for informing her of these things, and basically stating that she didn't actually care for the hamster. The second has actually been looking in to getting the hamster heaven cage and a decent wheel, though, so it's not all bad!

*when I say giant, I mean giant. The largest Syrian I know of weighs in at 317 grams, and a fellow hamster fanatic recently bred a litter who have all been dubbed "guinea hams" because of their size, with their mother being 300+ grams too. Compared to my Annie, who is 168 grams...

Saturday, 23 March 2013

I'm dreaming of a white... March?

I have no idea what is up with the English weather at the moment! We had snow on Monday, sun on Tuesday, snow on Wednesday, sun on Thursday, and now snow again Friday and today. It's got so bad that the Midlands Hamster Club have cancelled the show in Willington that was arranged for today. A couple of my hamster friends are gutted about this, as they had arranged to get hamsters at the show. One friend was getting the pair for her hamstery's foundation litter! (She has a facebook page if you want to go and have a look.)

Up in the Frozen Wastes of the North, aka Leeds, it's actually not too bad, at only a couple of inches at the most. But then I am right in the centre; I believe it is worse outside of the city. And it is still falling. It's definitely got colder, too! I've had to hurriedly work out how the storage heaters in the new flat work so that the hams don't get cold. Annie has made herself a cosy looking nest in her digging tower thing and hasn't taken any of the extra bedding I provided her with, so she's happy enough. Darla occasionally comes out of his house to grab some more bedding, he is so funny running past with pieces larger than he is! Both are very snug so I am not worried.

(Also a brief internet update: The phone line needs reconnecting and BT are swamped with work, so we might get a phone line by 11th April. I am burning through the data allowance on my phone like there's no tomorrow, I actually had to buy some more yesterday!)

I hope everyone else and their pets are coping okay with the weather, and stay safe!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Apologies for the radio silence!

I've had rather a hectic week, so not really had time to blog! I moved out on Wednesday, had an interview both Thursday and Friday, and packing and unpacking is taking up most of my spare time. Plus we don't have internet yet in the new house -- I am using my phone as a wifi hotspot, but it's not very quick and is limited so I don't want to use it all up. Of course, most of my internet usage is used by keeping up with hamster people. I am fairly predictable!

Annie and Darla, ready to go!
Both Darla and Annie were fine during the move. I was concerned at first, as while Annie's cage fits perfectly in the boot of my car, I was not happy with the idea of having her in there! Darla's carrier is still at my mum's house from when I moved out of there six months ago (Darla did the move in his old mini duna, something I would not have done if I had been the one moving him, but it was my mum making the trip with him), so I ended up putting Darla in Annie's carrier, and Annie in the mini duna that had spent the last six months in the shed. Darla was quite contented with sleeping the move away in the carrier, and Annie... Well, she decided that the best thing to do was to pile up the substrate into a mountain in the corner and sleep there!

The blog will be fairly inactive for another few weeks I'm afraid -- we're having a bit of drama getting the internet sorted out, all of the phone companies think there isn't a phone line, although there is quite definitely a socket.

Oh, and a small update on Annie's showing experience. She came fourth (out of six) in pet class at her last show, but since her mix change she has been looking healthier, with a shinier coat and better condition, so I'm going to go ahead and put her in the main class at her next show.

Monday, 11 March 2013

You can teach an old Robo new tricks!

I've had Darla since January 2012, and reckon he's nearly a year and a half old. He's never been the friendliest of chaps, and has always been the archetypal look-don't-touch Roborovski.

Recently, I've been looking for work, meaning that I've spent a lot of time at home. One of Darla's active times is mid morning, between eight and ten -- a time when I wouldn't be at home if I was working, but am while I am currently looking. This means that I have been able to interact a lot more with him than I have done previously. Normally, that means talking to him and letting him run around in his ball -- Darla has never been very confident in playpens, I think the enclosed nature of a hamster ball gives him a sense of security. However, because of the recent hamster diet issue I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I've been handling him a lot more, checking over him and making sure he is healthy.

Darla eating a grape. Because why not?
The upshot of this is that, for the first time ever, he has been calm enough while being handled for me to risk getting him out for just general interaction and "cuddles". Sunday morning, we had a good ten minutes of him running up and down my arm while I was sat on the sofa, something that I would never have risked a year ago. His age has probably played a part, as he has slowed down a bit, although he's still faster than Annie. It's lovely to be able to stroke him, let him walk over me, watch him sit in my palm and wash himself. It's an honour and a privilege, and I am so pleased that we have managed to get this far.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Bobtail Hamstery and Rescue

Posting this for my friend and fellow Robo fanatic.

Hi guys, Erin from ErinsHamsters here! If you haven't heard already my account has been the victim of hacking and has been deleted by said hacker. At the moment it seems unlikely that the channel will be recovered so there is a brand new channel which will be restocked with professional hamster care videos as well as many other animal care videos. If you were a Subscriber of ErinsHamsters please find the new channel by following this link to Bobtail Animal Rescue I'm so sorry this has happened guys but I do hope you will resubscribe to us! This channel is exactly the same as ErinsHamsters just with a different name.
I hope to see you all very soon on the new channel!
Take care everyone, Erin xxx

Her facebook page is here.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Hamster Species

One of my pet peeves is that time and time again I see people refer to the different types of hamster as hamster breeds, when in fact they are different species.

The difference between breeds and species? Well, think of it this way. There are many different breeds of dogs, from chihuahua to great dane, but they are all Canis familiaris, e.g. the domestic dog. There are five types of domesticated hamster, however, they are as different from each other as dogs and cats, or horses and snakes. The five species are:
  • Mesocricetus auratus, the Syrian or Golden hamster
  • Cricetulus griseus, the Chinese hamster
  • Phodopus sungorus, the Winter White dwarf hamster
  • Phodopus campbelli, the Campbell's dwarf hamster
  • Phodopus roborovskii, the Roborovski dwarf hamster
Because these are all different species, not breeds, they can't be bred together. Two breeds of dog, for example the husky and the terrier, can breed and have adorable puppies. You can't breed, say, a Syrian and a Chinese hamster and expect to get something in between.

One exception to this is that hybrids between the Winter White and the Campbell's are possible. However, this is not because they are different breeds of the same species. Rather, it is because the two species are similar enough to mean that mating the two hamsters can produce young. It is similar to how a horse and a donkey can breed to produce a mule, or lions and tigers can breed to produce ligers.

This hybridisation would not happen in the wild, however, and there are many potential risks involved with hybrids as opposed to their non-hybridised counterparts, so I would never recommend breeding them.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Awesome hamster homes

One of my favourite hamster pastimes is looking at other people's hamster cages. Recently, I found this awesome Ikea Expedit hack, built for a little Winter White fellow called Fred.

Rotlichtmilieu - Under a red lightPlanungsphase - planning phaseGrundgerüst - skeletal structureGesamtansicht - overall viewTiefstreubox und Aufgang links - Diggingbox and staircase leftTiefstreuhäuschen - House in the diggingbox
Innenleben Tiefstreuhäuschen - Interior of the house in the digging boxObere Etage, links - Upper level, leftObere Etage, rechts - Upper level, rightOben links, Detail - Up left, detailOben Mitte, Detail - Up middle, detailOben rechts, Detail - Up right, detail
rundes Häuschen mit fertigem Dach - round house with finished roofDach im Detail - Roof in detailDas runde Häuschen - The round houseTränkehalter - Holder for the water bottleTränkehalter mit Deko - Holder of the water bottle with decorationAufgang rechts - Staircase right
Aufgang rechts neu - The new staircase on the rightSteinhäuschen im Detail - Stone cottage in detailSandbereich - Sand areaSandbereich rechts, Detail - Sand area right, detailSandbereich Mitte, Detail - Sand area middle, detailSandbereich links, Detail - Sand area left, detail
Hamsterheim, a set by Ljossa on Flickr.

While I doubt I'll be able to pull off a hamster habitat to this scale any time soon -- money and space being the two huge obstacles -- it definitely is food for inspiration!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Cage Tours (March 2013)

So, since the hamster cages are lovely and clean, what better time than to give a little cage tour!

First up is Darla. He's currently in a bin cage made from the 62 litre Crystal storage box (I got mine from Wilkinson's). External dimensions are 79.5 by 39.5 cm, and it's 25cm tall. On the left he has a 6.5" flying saucer supported underneath by a DIY cardboard table, a sand bath, a T-shaped alfalfa tunnel, and two wooden tunnels (one leading down underneath the flying saucer to where he makes his nest) and a yellow strawberry chew toy.

On the right side he has a swing thing, a willow bendy bridge, a willow teepee filled with kitchen roll, his water bottle and house with his food bowl inside.

 Next is Annie. She's in a Ferplast Mary "rat" cage from the big green pet store, with dimensions of 82 by 52cm, and a height of 37cm. The left side has an 11" wooden wheel from, her burrowing box, a wooden bridge with a piece of slate on top to help keep her nails down, and her food bowl.

The right side has an old shoe box that she uses as a house, with the roof off her old house on top to disguise it, and two arches cut out of the sides with a bendy willow bridge and another wooden tunnel thing as doorways. She also has a wooden see-saw and a Tesco value jar as a sand bath/toilet.

Suspended from the bars, she has a rat tube leading from the house roof to the digging box, a daisy chain chew toy, a small sputnik, a cargo net hammock, and a wooden hanging bridge. (Her water bottle is also fastened on to the front of the cage.) 

Hope you enjoyed the tour!