Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Hamster Pups

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.

papa and pup roborovski hamsters
Photos Courtesy of Catya
Teddy, the male in my first breeding pair of hamsters, watches over his pups.
roborovski hamster pups eating
Roborovski hamster pups enjoy some spinach.

Hi, everyone! Happy New Year! I hope your 2009 has been good so far, and that it will continue to be. This looks to be quite a year for me, with lots of exciting things coming my way. Hopefully, one of those things will be presenting original research at a research conference. In addition to my high school classes, I take classes at my local community college, so I have the opportunity to participate in an honors research conference this spring, if my abstract is accepted. After planning the research project, writing the abstract and working on the presentation, I found myself looking back on how this got started.

I had wanted to breed hamsters for a long time, even before I got my first pair of Roborovski sisters. But hamster breeding is a big responsibility. Breeders have to be careful when they’re choosing which hamsters to breed, and hamster mothers need extra care. And then of course there’s the small matter of finding homes for all the pups — or perhaps it’s not such a small matter.

Despite the hard work it involves, I knew that hamster breeding was what I wanted to do. First, hamster babies are indescribably cute, and there’s just something magical about watching them take their first wobbly, awkward steps across the cage. Second, I knew that the hamster world always needs more conscientious breeders. But I could never go into hamster breeding unless I had a very good, very specific reason.

My reason came soon enough. Apparently, Roborovskis are more sensitive to inbreeding than the other hamster species, and so the California Hamster Association breeders were having some trouble keeping their lines going. In particular it seemed like they could lose the white-faced gene, which is the only known color mutation in Roborovskis. I had been a member of the CHA for some time then, and they asked me if I could help with some of the breeding.

I was so happy when my first breeding pair, Teddy and Cassie, had their first litter. Watching their babies grow up was an amazing experience, everything I had hoped for and more. Every hamster is wonderful and special in his or her own way, but knowing a hamster throughout his or her entire life is truly rewarding. I learned a lot about the family behavior of the Robs — how the fathers help raise the pups and take care of the mothers, how an older litter of pups help look after their younger siblings if another litter is born while they are living with their parents, and how aunties bring the mother food if they share a cage with her.

Teddy and Cassie’s kids have gone on to have their own litters, we finally got some white-faced Roborovskis, and I got a bunch of great data for my project. Who knows — maybe hamsters can help me get into college!

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