Yesterday afternoon, after much deliberation and cursing at the general lack of quality of PetCo's inventory Lyssa and I finally picked up a new rodent cage and associated gear (silent running wheel, water bottle, plastic hutch, et cetera) to set up on the coffee table in the library. We then headed in the opposite direction to the other PetCo in our area to pick up a new addition to the family, a mostly white long haired hamster who won our hearts through his antics and, it should be noted, cluelessness. When we first saw him a couple off weeks ago he'd figured out how to soak the bedding and himself in his half of the tank by loosening the cap on the water bottle, no mean feat when the water bottle is twice the size of the rodent and no opposable thumbs are involved. You can't help but fall in love with cute like that due solely to the entertainment factor.
It wasn't too difficult for the clerk at the petstore to get him out of the tank by scooping him up in plastic hutch and holding it against his chest so we could get a sense for how he reacted to people and how tame he was at the moment. He ran around in circles a few times and reacted pretty well to all of us until he got it in his head to put his paws on the edge of the hutch and try to hop over the side. Hamsters are notoriously nearsighted and curious, so it wasn't entirely unexpected that he'd consider making a bid for freedom, but then something unusual happened: he appears to have gotten a good look over the edge and realized that he couldn't see the ground (in actuality, about four and a half feet straight down).
Did you know that hamsters can scream? I mean, scream in panic and terror? The little guy opened his mouth as wide as he could, so far that we could see inside of his cheek pouches, and gave a breathy shriek that chilled us to the bone. He was truly afraid and didn't know what to do.
We bought him on the spot, maybe due in part to not knowing how to handle such fear in something so tiny. He spent the entire car ride home scrabbling against the walls of the cardboard carton they put him in and the time between arriving and getting his cage assembled trembling like a leaf.
A minor digression about the cages they sell at PetCo: they're crap. Utter shite. A snap-together cage shouldn't require a pair of pliers to crimp the snaps together, nor should there be sharp spurs of metal and missing welds on the removable bits. It took Lyssa and I a little over an hour to assemble the cage and make it hamster-worthy. By the time we were ready to install our hamster in his new home he was sprawled out on the bottom of the carry-home carton and not moving. I think he exhausted himself from terror, but at the time Lyssa and I wondered if he'd dropped over of a heart attack.
We're not sure of what to call him yet. The name Lemmy is in the running, as is Valentine (he's an important hamster, after all: he has a tower) and Teddy Bear. I think Lyssa and I are going to wait a little while and see how he acts and how amenable he is to being handled.