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.