Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Old Man Rufus The Hamster
Catya is a judge with the California Hamster Association. She shares her experiences in hamster ownership from a high school student's perspective.
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Rufus the hamster is done with his bath and ready for his drink.
Photos Courtesy of Catya
Nightly hydration helps Rufus, an older hamster, stay healthy.
Hello, everybody! We’re almost to the end of the school year, so my hamsters and I are starting to get ready for summer. This summer, there are going to be a lot of hamster birthdays! One birthday that’s particularly noteworthy is coming in July — on the 6th, Rufus is turning 3 years old!
Very few Roborovski hamsters make it to three years old, but Rufus is doing well for his age. What’s the secret to his success? Lots of stubbornness and willpower from him, and plenty of TLC from us! Rufus — along with all the other geriatric hammies — is on a special care regimen. He gets his tofu in the morning, his veggies and “moose mush” at night. He can’t reach his water bottle so well these days, so I help him get the water and electrolytes he needs.
I mix up equal parts water and Gatorade. Then I have to wake him up and roust him from his nest. When I pick him up, I wrap him in a soft washcloth. This is for a couple of reasons — first of all, it keeps him warm. Second, it stops him from squirming around too much (or trying to nip my hand!). Third, sometimes, if he does squirm, the water gets everywhere, and the washcloth stops things from getting messy. I fill a little syringe with the water, sit down on the couch with him, and coax him into drinking it, drop by drop. Sometimes, he will lap it up eagerly from the syringe, other times he takes a little more convincing. But he’s so much happier when he has enough water in his system.
Hamsters will usually clean themselves and don’t need baths, but when they get as old as Rufus is, they sometimes need a helping hand. So, I help him keep clean by giving him saline baths. I make a mild salt solution for him in a mug, and get it nice and warm — but not too hot! — in the microwave. Then, when it’s all ready, I get a shallow bowl, a couple of washcloths, a basting syringe and Rufus. I put one washcloth in the bottom of the bowl for him to stand on, so he won’t slip and fall in the water, then I put him in.
By this time, he’s usually figured out what’s going on, and he squawks! He doesn’t really like bath time (Roborovskis are not good swimmers!), but he loves the way his skin feels so soft and clean afterward. Then I use the big syringe to gently run a steady stream of water over his back and down his belly. I don’t let the water go past his knees. Once that’s done, I gently pick him up in another washcloth and hold him in it until he’s dry. Sometimes, when he’s drying off like that, he’ll make happy, little chirping noises — I think it’s hamster-ese for “ahhhhh…”
Having older hamsters means a lot more work, but it’s really rewarding. I know Rufus appreciates it!
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Old Man Rufus The Hamster