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Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The Story of Stapleton 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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The Story of Stapleton the Hamster
Courtesy of Catya
Stapleton’s “Zorro” scar from an attack by his hamster cagemates is barely visible.
Salutations! I got to make another trip to the veterinarian last week. This time, it was for one of my brother’s hamsters. You may remember Stapleton from the Christmas blog (he’s the one in the stocking looking all adorable). 

Recently, Stapleton developed a strange growth in his ear that worried us. It had been growing, and now it was the size of an unpopped kernel of popcorn. One of Kevin’s other hamsters — Isabelle — struggled with a similar growth that turned out to be cancer, so we were concerned that Stapleton had the same kind of tumor. Stapleton is doing fine now, and his growth wasn’t cancerous, but while sitting in the veterinarian’s waiting room we had a lot of time to reflect on Stapleton’s story.

Stapleton was born during the “pup rush” of the spring of 2007 to loving parents Heidi and Minja. He and his male littermates moved out of the parental house when they got old enough, and soon began figuring out who was the alpha hamster. Stapleton, unfortunately, was a bit of a runt, and so he was kicked out violently. He still has a scar on his back from the attack (it looks a bit like a Zorro “Z”). We worked hard to take care of him as he recovered from his injuries, but it was hard to hold him because the fight had traumatized him. He was very skittish and screeched and ran away whenever we came near him.

But with time, Stapleton began to trust us. At that time, Kevin was learning a song on the bagpipes that was quite beautiful, like a lullaby. We figured out that Stapleton loved this song! Whenever we held him or fed him, we sang that song in Canntaireachd, which is the solfege for bagpipes (think “em,” “in,” “o,” instead of “do,” “re,” “mi”). Before too long, Stapleton knew this song well and peeked his little nose out to see us whenever we sang it. I sang it to him when I brought him his treats, and soon he learned to love playing with us.

Nowadays, Stapleton is the mellowest of the mellow, so it really worried us when the growth showed up. We were so glad that he trusted us as much as he did, because that meant that when it was time to take him to the veterinarian and take care of his ear, he didn’t struggle or run away.

One of the things we’ve learned when we have to do something medical with the hamsters is to hold the hamster in a towel so that they don’t associate our hands with bad things (like teeth trimmings or ear cleanings). With Stapleton, this tactic has worked well — he still loves us and trusts us, even after all the fussing with his ear that we’ve had to do.

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I'm glad to hear that Stapleton is doing much better.
Mike, Columbia, TN
Posted: 7/16/2009 11:09:17 AM
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