August 16th, 2004

rat on computer - 2

(no subject)

I stayed home from work on Thursday, having a stomachache in the morning. I've been a little mopey and minorly depressed, and when I was feeling better in the afternoon I thought I'd go browse at a pet shop. I did not set out to get a hamster; some time ago, I decided that my next hamster was going to be a female golden Syrian, like Paisley and Nita in Wisconsin were. Agouti (the wild coloration -- brownish tan, with cheek flashes and a gray belly) Syrians are actually hard to find in San Diego; you can get black hamsters, spotted hamsters, longhaired hamsters, gray hamsters, dwarves of every breed, but the basic no-frills hamster is, bizarrely, rare.

So I went to PetSmart, browsed around, and looked at the hamsters. They actually had some agouti-with-white females, which surprised me. These hamsters were huge, though, fully grown and probably not easy to tame at that age. Only a couple of them were awake, with others sleeping inside their little nest box. Once in a while another would come out, look around, and go back in. Having nothing better to do, I watched them for a while. I was tempted, since they were probably the closest I was going to find to agouti; but still, I really didn't want to get an adult hamster.

Then a little bitty agouti came out of the nest box, half the size of her cagemates. Perfect color, perfect age. Well, crap. I flagged someone down and had them box her up. Petsmart, in their handling of hamsters, does not totally suck, by the way. They keep their rodents on aspen shavings, and they go beyond separating cages by sex: they separate stores by sex. I guess it means less worry about potentially being wrong when sexing a critter, though it's unfortunate if you have a gender preference that doesn't match what's kept at your nearest store. When the cage was opened, all four hamsters in it ran to the door and stood on their hind legs, not showing any fear at all. If they've learned that the cage opening is a good thing, they've been cared for well.

New Hamster is young and energetic and excitable, curious and a little jumpy but not fearful. When I take the lid off the tank (she's temporarily in a 10-gallon aquarium), she gets up on her hind legs and looks around with great interest. She's obsessed with getting out, of course. When I stuck my hand in the cage the first few times, she looked nervous but after a few sniffs ignored it. When she was doing her maniacal rounds of the cage, I put my hand, palm flat, in her path, and she ran across it a few times. I've slowly reached in to offer her yogurt drops and sunflower seeds and bits of torn-up paper toweling (all of which, even the toweling, promptly disappeared into a cheek pouch).

Today, when I put my hand in she came right up and put her tiny paws on it. She sniffed my fingertip and very, very gently touched her teeth to it. But it's easy to avoid curious bites -- I just moved the finger a tiny bit. She did not bite down. Instead, she just stood there with her paws on me. The sheer quantity of cuteness is a little overwhelming. She seems to have decided that since Hand comes from outside the cage, Hand is somehow the key to getting out of the cage herself. She halfheartedly tried to climb up my arm tonight. I still haven't tried to pick her up, but I don't think it's going to be a major problem -- she seems to have the right attitude.

I'm sure she'll be a lot happier in the big wire Martin's cage, once I get a new drop-in pan for it. I just hope she doesn't turn into a bar-chewer. I wish there were a good way to channel hamster OCD into wheel-running rather than futile attempts at escape.