I had been telling everyone in my family for months that I wanted a pair of hamsters. Dad said no. Mom said no and I was frustrated. I was ten years old and I was fascinated by hamsters. Christmas came and Aunt Joan and Uncle Lloyd came to celebrate the holiday with their two children and our family. Uncle Lloyd was vibrating and I knew something was up. He went out to the car and returned with a cage filled with two beautiful hamsters. He wished me a Merry Christmas and handed me the cage. I was so pleased.
My Dad was not. He questioned Lloyd about the gender of the two hamsters, asking if they were the same sex. Uncle Lloyd chuckled, as only Lloyd could. “Why no Ron, one is male and one is female”. Now Dad was really not happy.
For the next several days, I watched my hamsters nonstop. I named the female, Mutt and the male, Jeff. I was not happy because Jeff was not very nice to Mutt. He would ride around on her back and I thought he was going to kill her!
About three weeks later, we were having dinner. We had put the hamster cage in the dining room. I looked in and said to Mom “What is that pink stuff in the cage?” It was three hamster babies. Before I could explore further, Mutt ate her babies, just as Jeff was coming to investigate.
My next several weeks were spent reading about breeding hamsters. The books all said that once the female was pregnant, the male and female needed to be separated to keep the female from eating her babies to protect them from the male! NOW they tell me.
As time went on, and I did more reading, I learned that hamsters have a twenty-day gestation period. That meant that we could have a boat load of hamsters in a very short time! The other aha moment came when we realized we were going to have to inspect each litter and figure out which babies were males and which were females so we could separate them and they didn’t inbreed and continue multiplying!!
My sister’s boyfriend (now her husband) helped me build hamster cages out of chicken wire and cookie sheets. In a very short period, I had over one hundred hamsters, six cages and a very smelly basement.
I was getting ready to go to my two week stay at Camp Blackhawk in Antigo, WI. Mom said all the cages had to be cleaned before I left. My sister Sandy said she would help me because it was a big job.
I went down the basement to get started. I was shocked when I realized all the cages were empty. Apparently, Jeff had unhooked each of the cage doors and there were no longer any hamsters in the cages.
Mom was not happy. She said I needed to find every one of my brood before I left for camp the next morning. Sandy agreed to help me search. We found hamsters in the strangest places ever. They were under the hot water heater, in the bottom of Dad’s golf bag, nesting in Dad’s stationary drawer with shredded stationary around them. There were more hamsters in Dad’s tool box, snuggled up to the base of the furnace, and even in a laundry basket full of “clean” clothes. We literally searched for hours until we were sure that everyone was back where they belonged. We double wired all the cages shut and felt sure that no one could get out again.
When Mom was satisfied that my little monsters were all accounted for, she agreed that I could leave for camp. It was now the wee hours of the morning and I had to catch the bus by seven A.M. I threw my camp things together. Dad and Sandy took me to the bus. I made it just in time. They waved goodbye and I found my seat. I was exhausted, full of anxiety and excited about going off on my adventure. When I closed my eyes, I could still hear Uncle Lloyd chuckling, as only Uncle Lloyd could.