Not exhibiting at SNAC this year

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While I am happily well enough to resume my regular pet sitting services, I will be unable to exhibit at this year’s Salon national des animaux de compagnie this weekend as previously planned. I’m told it could take weeks or even months for me to fully recover, but I’m well enough to get back to cats and hamsters as normal. I am grateful to all of my clients for their continued support and patience. Fred the Hamster is disappointed he won’t be able to showcase his booth babe skills, but perhaps he’ll have another chance next year.

 

Medical Leave through October & winter holiday pet sitting

Due to personal health issues, I am taking medical leave from pet sitting for the rest of the month of October. I am still available for small caged animal boarding (hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, etc.), as well as for consultation meetings for future pet sitting, however I will not be accepting cat visit reservations before November so that I can rest and heal. I apologize for the inconvenience.

That being said, I am accepting bookings for November onward. I strongly encourage clients to reserve their winter holiday pet sitting as early as possible, as December-January are the busiest months of the year.

Hamster vs. Degu vs. Hedgehog

So I’m researching my next hamster. Or maybe degu. Or possibly hedgehog. I haven’t decided. And I still haven’t cleaned out Maximus’s cage. ::sigh::

Hedgehog

I was fortunate enough to board a hedgehog for several days not too long ago, and she was sooo interesting. She’d huff and ball up. She licked me… then bit me. (Then my 3-year old started licking my arms and cheeks, too.) She was a lot bigger than a hamster, ate what I think was crunchy cat food, and I only saw her awake at 4:30am when I started my day for cat visits. Fluffy on the bottom, prickly on the top.

The downside is that I’d need a new cage with a hedgehog-appropriate wheel, as well as a heating lamp, fleece for hiding, and other toys. Also, the purchase price for a hedgehog is around $175-$400 if you go through a breeder; even the SPCA’s adoption fee is $75 (in contrast, a hamster is $10). Also, the set up would go where I usually put pet sitting guests needing an electrical outlet. Getting  a hedgie of my own would mean no more turtle or hedgehog guests in the future.

 

Degu(s)

Another hamster-alternative would be getting a couple degus. They are 3-4 times bigger than a hamster, they live longer, and are active and affectionate pets. Getting degus would be even more expensive than getting a hedgehog, due to all the accessories. The cost of two degus (because they’re social and need a friend) is about $30 for a pair, whether you get them from a pet shop or the SPCA, but they need a large cage with several levels and toys to play with. So roughly $350+ for a decent cage, plus accessories. Degu food might be hard to come by, since they are newly domesticated, so the pet shop suggested mixing hamster and guinea pig food together (I’ll have to look into whether this a viable long-term option, or if I would need to hunt for degu-specific food). They also eat hay like rabbits and guinea pigs, fresh vegetables, and can clean themselves with chinchilla dust. They like to burrow, so some sort of bedding is recommended. And they are messy, so degu owners often recommend getting a handheld vacuum, as well.

I have to say, I’m leaning strongly towards degus right now. The average pet hamster lives around 2 years; the average pet degu lives 6-8 years. It would be nice to have a longer time with my furry little pet(s) before they die. Sorry, I guess I’m just feeling morbid right now because Maximus died just a few days ago.

Hedgehogs are neat and fun, but their active hours rarely coincide with mine, so I wouldn’t get to play with them as much. They’re still really cool, though! They eat bugs and worms!

Degus are very active and social, and in addition to needing a spacious, durable cage, they need a lot of regular play time with their humans. I have 2 cats – I might have to separate them when it comes time for play time. Also, degus have tails which can be pulled off if they are played with too roughly. Sadly, this tail does not grow back, and the degu then has to learn how to balance without their long tail. I have a 3-year old human – will she be able to interact with the degus in an appropriate manner and not pull off their tails? Will she learn how to open the degu cage and let them out to be chased by the cats? Well, only one of the cats would be chasing. But that’s still not a good scenario.

Ah, decisions, decisions. But a pet – even a small pet – is a big responsibility, and welcoming another living creature into my home isn’t taken lightly.

Goodbye, good hamster

Maximus Decimus Meridius, my mighty mite hamster extraordinaire, died today.

Grief at losing a pet is real, and it doesn’t matter how big or small that pet is, or how long they have been with you. I can’t even count how many hamsters I’ve lost over the past 25+ years. Almost ten, I think. A few only lived a few months; some held on for over two years. Sometimes I cleaned out the cage and toys and got another hamster right away. Sometimes I gave away all my hamster things, thinking that would be the last hamster… only to buy a new cage and supplies a year later in order to welcome a new little fluff ball. Sometimes I cried, like when one had to be euthanized. Today, I sat numb and heavy all day, then took ten minutes to myself to sit alone and gorge on Welch’s fruit snacks and peanut butter M&Ms. Yes, it helped.

I’m already searching for my next hamster – the SPCA currently has one available. Or maybe a hedgehog, though that would involve a greater monetary investment and different set-up. Whichever comes my way first, I suppose.

It doesn’t mean that I’m ready to move on. I felt a bond with Maximus, perhaps because of the effort I put into taming him and his hamsterific courage and death-defying feats. He was very tame and docile, never bit me or anyone else, and he was easy to handle. I was actually planning on offering introductory hamster care workshops for new hamster owners, particularly those interested in getting a hamster but weren’t sure what it all involved. Maximus was going to be my assistant.

He liked it when I dropped huge chunks of carrot and broccoli into his food dish, which he would industriously drag back into his coconut abode. Unsalted peanuts and huge organic Thompson raisins were another favourite treat. Those, he would gingerly take one by one from your fingers, stuffing them meticulously into his cheek pouches to indicate that he wanted more; when he had enough, he would just start immediately eating one.

My 3-year old keeps repeating “Maximus is dead. Maximus is dead.” She suggested we bury him… but we live in an apartment, and I doubt the landlord would appreciate having a little hamster grave in the yard outside.

I need to clean Maximus’s things. I don’t know if I’ll get to it tomorrow. Trash pick up is Monday, so it can wait until then.

Bye, Max. Thanks for everything.

Good news: Bel-Rea Top 25 Small Animal Blog

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I’ve just been included in Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology’s Top 25 Small Animal Blogs of 2017! Thank you, Bel-Rea! I’m so honored and thrilled!

Bel-Rea is an American school for veterinary technicians. .Taken from their website:

Located in beautiful Denver, Colorado, Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology is one of the oldest and largest veterinary technician schools in the United States.  Since the program’s launch in 1971, over 6000 students have earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Veterinary Technology through Bel-Rea.

When I  take my cats or hamsters in for medical attention, I want the people handling my animals to be knowledgeable, experienced, competent, professional, and well-trained. I also want them to have good people skills, as I have had emotional moments, like when my hamster (Buffy) had to be euthanized and I cried or my new cat (Olaf) was sick and refused to eat or groom himself. Being a pet mommy and taking your sick/injured pet to the veterinarian’s office is just like being a human mommy and taking your sick/injured child to the doctor’s office – it has to happen, the patient doesn’t really know what’s going on, it’s emotional, it’s stressful, and it’s potentially expensive. I’ve seen (and heard) vet techs drawing blood from my screaming cats and shaving areas so they could do tests. Clients and pets often spend more time interacting with vet techs than with veterinarians. I might ask them for tips on how to administer medicine, or how to better care for my animals. As a client, pet mommy, and pet sitter, I need to feel comfortable with health issues clearly explained to me. It’s particularly comforting that Bel-Rea takes an interest in small animal blogs.

Thanks again, Bel-Rea!