Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Hamsters And Hoarding

By Catya
Catya is a judge with the California Hamster Association. She shares her experiences in hamster ownership from a high school student's perspective.

Click image to enlarge
Kruge the hamster
Kruge the hamster is ready for his evening treat.
Hamsters Hippolyta and Namine
Photos Courtesy of Catya
Hippolyta hamster looks for a snack while Namine guards the stash.

Hi everyone! I just got back from a “preview weekend” at a university that I’m considering. I had a lot of fun and met some awesome people, but I missed my hamsters over the weekend.

Every time that I come back to my hamsters after a few days away from them, I’m always struck by all the wonderfully quirky things they do. Hamsters are such funny little critters, but I sometimes forget that because I get so used to their zany behavior. One thing that I was reminded of when I came home is their hoarding antics.

Hamsters and hoarding go hand-in-hand. In fact, the word hamster comes from the German word hamstern, meaning “to hoard.” Anyone who owns a hamster has seen them stuff their cheek pouches, with a few seeds or a whole baby carrot!

My hamsters aren’t content to limit their crazy hoarding habits to just their cheek pouches. Each of my hamsters definitely has a favorite kind of seed (although they all love sunflower seeds), and they’ll sort their seeds out by type. When I clean Hippolyta’s cage, I’ll find the sunflower seeds, the pumpkin seeds — all the good stuff — hidden in her little strawberry house. In the water bottle corner, she’s buried the seeds that she thinks are just OK. And then in the far corner, I’ll come across her “midden” — the garbage pile. Hippolyta always throws the shells of the sunflower seeds there, along with the corn — with a single bite taken out of the center of each of the kernels!

I’ve known some hamsters who sorted by other priorities, too. Tom Bombadil always organized his treats by color, and Spoon thought that certain seeds tasted best when eaten upside-down! But some of the funniest hoarding behavior that I’ve seen revolves around the little metal plates that I put their vegetable treats on. Most of them know that the sound of the plates clanking means that it’s chow time, but some of them have figured out that the plate is really where it happens. Those hamsters – like Tut, Ulysses, and Lursa and her daughters — will actually sit on the plates when I start my nightly rounds. I’ve had to nudge hamsters off the plates so that I could switch them out!

Some of the brightest of the hamsters have actually somehow figured out that the old plates go away each night. With these guys and gals, I never find a midden when I clean their cage. That’s because they make me take out the trash! They take all the seeds that they consider undesirable, and any leftover old treats, and place them neatly on the plates for me to remove!

Even though hamsters are quirky, they are well-organized in their strange way. Being a person who can never find her shoes in the morning, I guess I could learn a thing or two from my hamsters!

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Tommy, Pocatello, ID
Posted: 3/4/2010 8:31:40 AM
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