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Hamster Haven

People and Pets

Rose and Gloria Boos with Chip the hamster (the lone survivor). Both girls are 9 years old, attend Great Falls Elementary School and are rising fourth graders.

Rose and Gloria Boos with Chip the hamster (the lone survivor). Both girls are 9 years old, attend Great Falls Elementary School and are rising fourth graders. Melodee Boos

If I left it up to my twin 9-year-old girls our house would be overrun with dogs, cats, chickens and any other varmint they happen to run across. I’m an animal person myself, so the nuts haven’t fallen far from the tree. Though we currently have two dogs and a cat, I decided 9 was an appropriate age for the girls to have a pet of their own. One for which they are fully responsible. Gloria wanted a bird. Rose wanted a snake. We took a jaunt to the local Petco and asked the experts. The snake was eliminated as an option pretty quickly. Who was going to feed it live mice? The bird was for more advanced pet owners so that option was rejected. The salesperson steered us to the rodents.

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June 23 in the Boos backyard: Evelyn O’Sullivan, Anna O’Sullivan, Gloria Boos, Rose Boos and Cecelia O’Sullivan, all of Great Falls, holding the 3-week-old rescued kitten Cyclops, who veterinarians deemed healthy, even though he only had one eye open.

Before I continue let me share a bit of my history. When I was young I was a hamster owner. Back in those days, I bought my hamster (there was only one type of hamster to choose from), stuck it in an aquarium with a wheel and that was that. If I remember correctly, I fed it sunflower seeds. Fast forward to today. Now there are many types of hamsters. The best-known species of hamster is the golden hamster, which is also called: fancy hamster, honey bear, panda bear, black bear, polar bear and teddy bear. Basically, if bear is in the title it’s a golden hamster. Other hamsters include the dwarf hamster and Roborovski hamster (better known as the robo hamster). They were all very small and fast (like a mouse without a tail). I didn’t recognize anything that looked like my idea of a hamster (slow and fat).

Our Petco expert warned us not to over-feed the hamsters and those hamsters living together must be from the same litter or they will fight. With that sage advice, the girls each picked a hamster. We were also persuaded to purchase a hamster habitat, which includes tunnels, slides and a wheel. Of course we had to buy a hamster ball, food and a chew toy as well. With our wallet quite a bit lighter, we headed home and set up the hamster haven.

Violence alert: if you are younger than 13, dear reader, please ask your parents for permission to continue reading and be forewarned.

Day 1: the girls set up the hamster habitat and deposited both hamsters into their new home.

Day 2: one of the hamsters died peacefully in the food bowl. There were waterworks as we took her little body back to Petco. Come to find out there is a 3-day guarantee for the little critters. After a five minute examination, the experts told us we had overfed her. We got another hamster. To us, the new hamster didn’t look so hungry, so we had high hopes.

Day 3: the girls fed the hamsters the exact amount of food per the experts.

Day 4: I checked on the hamsters and found that the new hamster had eaten part of the old hamster. Obviously he was hungrier than he looked. I had no idea hamsters were cannibals. Live and learn (though the dead hamster didn’t live or learn). It was a case of survival of the fittest (quite Darwinian). Since it was obvious how the hamster died, we didn’t take it back to Petco.

Several weeks later--we now have one lone hamster. The girls take turns caring for her and are very responsible. Perhaps there’s a snake in our future after all.