Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Old Man Rufus The Hamster

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.

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Rufus the hamster
Rufus the hamster is done with his bath and ready for his drink.
Rufus the hamster
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

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Reader Comments
Thank you for giving Pocoyo such a wonderful home!
Marylou, Irvine, CA
Posted: 10/19/2010 10:33:20 AM
My Robo's name is Pocoyo and sadly he only lived 2 years and 3 months. We are having him put to sleep tomorrow. He developed an infection on he’s right rear leg about 3 weeks ago. I tried Neosporin for 1 week, but he’s leg was still incredibly swollen and a little red. My wife took him to the vet, who said he had a severe infection. The vet gave him an oral antibiotic and an antibiotic cream, which I gave Pocoyo twice daily, but the infection continued. My wife took him for a 2nd time to the vet and he said amputating the leg would probably kill Pocoyo, so the best thing would be to put him to sleep. My wife and I both cried, because we love the little guy. Over the weekend he has lost so much weight and for the last 2 days has had Wet Tail. I gave him the antibiotics along with the Wet Tail medicine and water using a syringe. He looks so thin and it looks like he’s dying. Our little friend will be put out of he’s misery tomorrow. We will bury him in our backyard. Rest in peace Pocoyo (July 2008 - October 19, 2010). You will be missed!
Ghon, Tampa, FL
Posted: 10/18/2010 9:28:31 AM
Gaterade and water? I wouldn't have thought of that!
Elie, Redwood, CA
Posted: 7/25/2010 12:12:55 PM
When I was living in the UK I had a light grey Syrian named Husky. He lived to 3 years 3 months and I found that towards the end he only really eat purreed baby food, fruit ones and rice pudding were his fave. I'm sure that's what kept him going but I had to keep a careful eye on his teeth as he was off hard food and adjust his cage so that he couldn't fall and break any bones. there is so much to consider with older pets it's hard to keep up with it all but it's so worth the extra time and effort. The worst thing about it was, I put so much time and effort into his care that when he passed he left a massive hole in my life. It was then I realised how much I had enjoyed it.
Hannah, Coppell, TX
Posted: 5/26/2010 1:54:28 PM
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