Friday, October 17, 2008
Hamsters and Heat
Catya is a judge with the California Hamster Association. She shares her experiences in hamster ownership from a high school student's perspective.
Hello, everyone! It was great to hear what you had to say about my last blog. Yes, some fancy cages — although they’re pretty and fun — might be easier to escape from. They also might pose a problem for larger Syrian hamsters if they get stuck in the tubes. I love all the neat questions I get from readers, and I think I’ll devote a blog to answering them next time.
Hasn’t the weather been just crazy lately? In California, it seems that Mother Nature can’t decide if it’s summer or fall just yet. One day I’ve been reaching for my scarf and sweater, and the next I’m thinking about cranking up the air conditioning! It’s tempting to think that, in mid-October, our days of battling the heat are done. But Indian summers can be downright dangerous with their days of scorching heat — just when we were about to dig our parkas out of storage. A couple of years ago, when we had a hot spell, I heard about a hobby breeder whose hamsters — dozens of them — died when the air conditioning went down. That inspired me to learn how to keep the house cool without it.
I got some good information from the California Hamster Association and combined it with some strategies my grandparents have used for years to save money by avoiding turning on the air conditioning. The first thing I usually do is to check the local weather. If it’s going to be over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, I make a heat-management plan. The most important part of my plan is a thermometer that sits right next to the hamsters’ house. My goal is to keep the temperature below 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The next part is to prevent heat buildup as much as possible. It’s easier to stop a room from getting hot in the first place than to cool it. I open lots of windows in the morning before the sun hits them. Then I check every hour to close any that have started letting in heat instead. After doing this all summer, I’ve learned which windows are best to open at certain times of day.
I’ve also learned that light means heat! If sunlight’s coming into a room, then so is heat. Mom loves dainty, semi-sheer curtains, but they don’t do a thing when it comes to keeping out heat. For that, we use our ugly, green curtains — not as pretty, but much more effective. We also have to turn off any unnecessary lamps and appliances, because those make heat too. Sometimes, I have to move the hamsters to lower places in the room or in the house, because heat rises. It gets tricky, because drafty places aren’t good for hamsters either, which means if I turn on a fan I have to make sure it’s not blowing directly at the hamsters.
Of course, if no one is home to do all this, we are stuck using the air conditioning. With a good strategy, however, we can limit the number of hours we need it. So far, I’ve never had a hamster get sick from the heat. And living in Southern California with more than 70 hamsters, I consider that quite an accomplishment!
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