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To start with the bad parts of this book, there are a number of places where I find it lacking, either due to being outdated or actual bad information.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.

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