Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Hamsters Helios And Ra

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
Helios the hamster
Helios, a blind Roborovski hamster, isn’t afraid to leave his hiding place.
Hamsters Helios and Ra
Photos Courtesy of Catya
Blind Roborovski hamsters Helios and Ra feel safe in my brother Kevin's hands..

Hello, everybody! I hope that everyone who went to the Pet Expo had a wonderful time!

This morning, I was giving my hamsters their morning treats (it was scrambled eggs today), and when I reached the brothers Helios and Ra, I had to stop and marvel a little bit. The remarkable thing about Helios and Ra, aside from the fact that they’re as sweet as can be, is that they’re both blind.

I’ve seen that a lot of Roborovski hamsters lose some eyesight with age, but these fellows were nearly completely blind by their first birthday — much younger than most hamsters with vision problems. That’s probably why it took me awhile to realize that they were blind. I only figured it out when I noticed that they were much less skittish than most Roborovskis! They had always been a bit tamer than most, but now then they wouldn’t even flinch when they saw me — because they didn’t see me.

Once I knew that they had vision problems, I was worried that it might affect their quality of life. Hamsters are creatures of routine; what if they couldn’t follow their daily patterns anymore? Would they be afraid because they couldn’t see what was going on, and worry about what might attack them unseen?

Then it dawned on me that hamsters are subterranean, nocturnal animals — they’re used to living where there is no light. Their excellent sense of smell means that they know how to find everything they need in pitch-black conditions, and their sensitive whiskers let them know what is going on right in front of their faces. Hamsters don’t really have good eyesight to begin with because they don’t need it.
Helios and Ra are as content as the proverbial bug in the proverbial rug. They seem to think that since they can’t see any predators, predators can’t see them, and so they’ll merrily run out in the open in their cage. They sleep where we can see them, unlike most cautious Roborovskis. In fact, because they can’t see me, if I pet them — even tickle their bellies! — they both just assume that it’s the other brother moving in the nest. I can hold them in my hands and they’re not in the least bit scared. Helios and Ra are great for photo shoots, too, because in addition to being as cute as can be, they’re unafraid and not bothered by flash photography. They’ll happily sit still (if bribed properly!) while we line up the perfect shot.

Another sweet thing that they do is “talk” out loud to each other. When Helios is on one end of the cage and Ra is on the other, they’ll have a lively little conversation. At night I can hear them “chorking” and “cheeping” to each other happily. Watching them sleep all curled up together, as peaceful as can be, I’m so glad that Helios and Ra don’t seem to notice or care that they are vision-impaired.

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