Monday, March 12, 2007

The Hamster Cage

"Do someone a favour and it becomes your job". Well it seems after this week, not only does this phrase hold true, I can replace the word 'someone' with 'hamsters'.

We rescued the mice, which due to something that got lost in translation turned out to be hamsters, bought them a cage and brought them to our apartment. We could have given them back to the pet store but having survived their time with the snake, we couldn't face the idea that they'd just become food for someone else's reptile. I don't know how many people have pet snakes here, but it seems like it's enough that the people in Korean pet stores bother to ask whether you're buying them as a pet or as food. If you're buying them as pets, they try to give you ones from the same cage that get on with each other, otherwise it doesn't matter.

So for a week, everything was fine for our rescued hamsters. My wife undertook extensive hamster research on the Internet and the cage was set up in exactly the recommended way with toys and so on. It didn't work out too well for us though. Being nocturnal, our hamsters kept us awake for significant portions of the first two nights on the cage's hamster wheel, which turned out to be surprisingly noisy. More surprising was the fact that they didn't get tired. At all. For a time, we thought they were taking it in turns, but on closer inspection, they were often both on the wheel, one running forwards, and the other running backwards. In the one room apartment, there was no getting away from the noise, though we tried various schemes in the following days.

Every once in awhile, a hamster scream would wake us up with a jolt, but aside from the occasional sideswipe they appeared to get along well, until the early hours of Sunday morning. We hadn't gone to bed (when you work until 2am every weekday it's hard to break the cycle at the weekend), and a full-blown fight broke out in the cage, sparked off by an attempt by one hamster to get on the wheel while the first was on it. Why the wheel should have such near-narcotic qualities I don't know, but it appears to evoke strong emotions. The emotions drew blood though and we had an injured hamster on our hands. During the next three hours we tried separating the cage into two halves using a pizza box, but what we are assuming to be the male hamster managed to eventually push his way underneath it to get to the injured female, which we rescued again just in time. After that we had to build a makeshift home for the injured hamster using a box.

So we spent yesterday morning touring pet stores with Korean Mother looking for another cage, and failing to find either a suitable cage or a pet store with the right kind of cage in the window that was open. Most stores here are open seven days a week but it turns out when you need a pet store around here in an emergency they are the exception to the rule. The store owner where the hamsters were originally purchased from by Korean Mother offered to replace one of them in the hope that the replacement would get on with the hamster we kept, but we turned it down. I think Koreans have at best a pragmatic approach to the whole pet business - though more accurately it felt like we were unusual for feeling any kind of emotional bond towards our rescued animals. Unfortunately said store owner not only had very small and quite unsuitable cages - I don't know what that says about what happens to most of the hamsters he sells - but he did spend a little time trying to convince us that they were suitable by trying to precariously add water bottles and the like, which the cages were not designed to take, which would probably have quickly led to some hamster-related accident had we bought one. He did however, manage to sell us two quiet hamster wheels.

Now in two separate cages, we got our first proper night's sleep in a week, but now the hamsters appear to be sulking.

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