As the story goes, there was once a famous Hollywood actor who was rather fond of rodents. They have many uses (allegedly). But sadly in our house they’re about as useful as an inflatable dartboard.
I’m still not sure how the hamsters happened – one minute we were arguing the toss between a Labrador pup and a Persian kitten and the next I was flooring it up the A20 in a desperate attempt to get us all home before our new baby hamsters finished gnawing their way out of their cardboard boxes and impaled themselves beneath the brake pedal.
The idea behind pets is a worthy one of course – a fluffy little thing to keep you company, to entertain you and, if you have kids, something to help them develop a sense of responsibility and caring. Sounds great on paper. The reality? Don’t even go there.
Hamsters are about as interested in keeping you company as they are in cleaning up their own poo. Which they do lots of. About every five minutes to be exact. And it smells. A lot. Which is hard to fathom given that their food smells of bugger all. Ours are particularly fond of pooing in their exercise ball, though we haven’t yet decided if this is in protest at being plonked in said ball or simply to annoy us with the rattling sound they then make as they do laps of the living room floor, squishing little brown bits into the carpet as they go.
Contrary to their cute furriness, most hamsters hate being handled. They bite. Hard. Especially the hand that feeds them. And if you’re naïve enough to think you could get one out of the cage for a cuddle without it making a bolt for it, forget it.
Hamsters aren’t just antisocial with humans: Other than for the purpose of copulation they can’t stand the sight of each other and will fight to the death without fail given the slightest glimmer of opportunity. Hamsters, quite simply, are the psychopaths of the rodent kingdom.
Being nocturnal they spend all day sleeping peacefully in their beds and all night gnawing noisily at the metal bars on their cages. In our case this is compounded by the fact that we are also kept awake at night by the frantic scrabbling of our neighbour’s hamster, which has been living in a feral state somewhere inside the flimsy new-build wall that divides our homes for the past six weeks since making a bolt for freedom during a cage-cleaning exercise. I have little to add regarding the cleaning of cages other than do not expect any help from your children who urged you to buy the things in the first place.
The plus side? I’m reliably informed that hamsters only live for two years. Nonetheless, that feels like forever and I’m sorely tempted to let ours out of their respective cages and watch them fight their way to a mutually premature death. But that would probably result in a visit from the RSPCA who might also observe my deep hatred of anything with eight legs and incarcerate me for cruelty to arachnids. So for now I shall have to be content with consigning hamsters to Room 101 to spin pointlessly in a poo-filled plastic wheel for eternity.