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


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!

Centre d’Animaux Safari – Centre Rockland. It’s like a mini aquarium.

While I encourage adopting from a shelter or rescue if possible, sometimes it’s not possible to find what you’re looking for from those routes. There’s nothing wrong with buying your next pet from a good pet shop, as long as the animals for sale are healthy and housed in clean areas, and it is not an impulse purchase. I would steer clear of pet shops that have sick, overweight, underweight, dirty, overcrowded, or pregnant animals. People sometimes claim to have “rescued” their new pet from a bad pet shop situation… but I think it would be more honest to say that they bought their pet from a bad pet shop, who is going to use that sales profit to buy/breed/sell more unfortunate little animals for others to “rescue” from them. Despite my best efforts, most of the animals I have bought from pet shops have not lived long, and were not friendly. My healthiest, friendliest hamsters have come from shelters and hobby breeders.

My track record buying hamsters from pet stores isn’t good, though my current hamster, Maximus Decimus Meridius (the adventurer mentioned in my last post), came from the Centre d’Animaux Safari – Centre Rockland, and is a healthy (and durable!), friendly hamster. I had previously searched the SPCA and online communities like Craigslist and Kijiji, but had no luck finding a hamster. I checked out the hamsters at one pet shop on St-Laurent, and found not only one litter…but the daddy mating with the mommy right over the babies, creating the next litter right there. I did not want one of these hamsters, since there was clearly a sexing problem (that is, they were not able to separate the males from the females, and prevent unintentional breeding). It’s possible these were meant as feeder hamsters – I didn’t want to find out.

I kept looking. No visit to the Rockland Centre is complete for me without a stop at the pet shop to coo over the animals and fish. Walking through their aisles of fish tanks feels like being in a mini aquarium; it’s common to see babies and toddlers held up to see the fish tanks during their mall visit routines. They no longer have cats, but there’s always a bunch of hamsters, mice, rats, guinea pigs, degus, hedgehogs, gerbils, birds, and fish to gawk at. There are also aquatic turtles and a couple lizards, as well as live insects to feed said animals. I was really looking forward to getting a cup of mealworms to feed a hedgehog boarder I had recently, but alas, I wasn’t given permission to feed her outside food. Maybe next time…

Anyway… when I looked over the hamster selection, the staff member was very friendly and helpful, and even kissed the hamsters when she put them back into their bins. Unfortunately, the store isn’t able to separate the males from the females due to lack of space, but they can try to sex the hamsters for you to ensure that you get either a male or female. This is one of the reasons why I prefer getting male hamsters over female hamsters. Their small furry animals always look healthy, active, and well cared for (must be due to all the kissing).

I like the pet products they carry for hamsters and cats. They have a nice selection of high quality food, bedding, set ups, and toys for hamsters and cats. Things are attractively displayed, well-ventilated, and kept tidy. Scratching posts, carriers, grooming products, etc.. Small animals seem to be bought quickly, and there are rarely empty bins. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly. They have sales and a loyalty card. Mall parking is free, there’s a bus stop right out front, and you can multitask your visit buy doing other shopping at the same time.