I can tell you right now that there’s one area of journalism where the BBC News has it all over us. I’m talking about new stories about hamsters. They’re not quite up into bus plunge range, but they’re a definite staple:
25 August 1998: BBC, Levi’s Jeans assure public that Kevin the Hamster is not dead. :: 06 September 1998: “A Hamster Ate My Granny” cited as example of sensationalist headline. :: 30 September 1998: Record number of complaints received over ad showing hamster’s death. :: 11 November 1998: Study finds hamsters navigate by dead reckoning; have excellent sense of direction.
27 April 1999: Drunken soldier demoted, jailed, for ironing hamster. :: 25 June 1999: ”______ ate my hamster” cited as example of sensationalist headline. :: 08 December 1999 - 27 December 1999: Sir Cliff Richard versus the singing hamsters.
21 January 2000: Apparently deceased hamster revives; gnaws hole in coffin, tunnels out of grave, and finds its way home. :: 20 April 2000: Male Djungarian hamsters make excellent midwives. :: 01 August 2000: Missing snake found stuck in hamster cage after eating neighbor’s hamster. :: 23 August 2000: Scientists develop see-through hamster skin.
12 February 2001: Germany faces reprimand for failure to protect natural habitat of endangered black-bellied hamster. :: 17 September 2001: Hamster in plastic exercise ball found rolling along the M6 motorway at Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham. (The Birmingham RSPCA named him “Roly”. See also 24 September 2005; 04 July 2012.) :: 28 February 2001: Six-foot fiberglass hamster from Millennium Dome fetches £3000 at auction.
13 May 2002: New mobile phones allows text messages to be read out loud by talking hamster. :: 18 June 2002: “My hamster died” cited as example of poor excuse for missing school. :: 23 August 2002: Bus company apologizes for charging hamster 10p for ride; issues lifetime bus pass. :: 30 December 2002: RSPCA rescues hamster left out for rubbish pickup.
29 April 2003: Runaway hamster eludes would-be rescuers. :: 14 May 2003: Escaped hamster starts house fire by chewing electrical cable. :: 4 October 2003: Church holds pet blessing. :: 29 October 2003: West Yorkshire hamster breeder may have world’s smallest hamster. :: 03 December 2003: Oldest hamster food cache found. (Miocene, 17 million years old.)
08 January 2004: Siberian hamsters used to study obesity. :: 01 March 2004: New hamster escapes in car, runs up £370 repair bill by gnawing ignition cables. :: 01 March 2004: SSPCA calls for boycott of shop selling hamster-fur coats. :: 05 March 2004: Shop removes hamster-fur coats; issues press release. :: 10 March 2004: Family fights council pet eviction order. :: 12 May 2004: Bristol couple banned from pet ownership for two years after leaving gerbil, hamster to starve. :: 13 May 2004: Bob the Hamster rescued from inside the dashboard of new owners’ car. :: 20 May 2004: Scientists use citrus peels to lower hamster cholesterol. :: 24 May 2004: Fat Hamster Cheats Vacuum Death. (The best headline of the lot.) :: 20 August 2004: Callous thief uses “lost hamster” scam. :: 27 August 2004: Shop sneaks hamster-fur coats back onto sales rack. :: (27 August 2004: The Telegraph also disapproves of the sale of hamster-fur coats.) :: 19 December 2004: Five hamsters perish in burning home.
08 January 2005: “Bitten by hamster” cited as example of inappropriate calls to NHS help lines. :: 12 April 2005: Passing police constable rescues hamster from cat; owner sought. :: 25 May 2005: Hamster virus kills three people. :: 27 May 2005: Hamster survives rat poison feast. :: 24 June 2005: Cambridge postman rescues hamster mailed in unprotected envelope. (See 17 January 2006) :: 23 July 2005: Firemen rescue two each hamsters and parrots from blazing house. :: 27 July 2005: Girl, 7, finds hamsters torched. :: 23 August 2005: Pet shop rents out hamster by the week. :: 25 August 2005: Teenage inventor builds hamster-powered phone recharger. :: 20 September 2005: Fluorescent green hamster sperm used to study human fertility. :: 24 September 2005: Hamster in exercise ball rescued from busy street in Somerset. :: 8 October 2005: Pet rodents ‘a salmonella risk’. :: 24 November 2005: Man jailed for 60 days after drop-kicking ex-girlfriend’s hamster. :: 02 December 2005: Youths strap hamster to firework.
11 January 2006: Firefighters rescue hamster with head stuck in cage. :: 17-18 January 2006: Drunken Cambridge students who mailed a hamster (See 24 June 2005) receive heavy fines; are banned from owning animals for ten years. :: 19 January 2006: Rodent-eating snake befriends snack-hamster. :: 27 February 2006: Steroids cause mad hamster aggression. :: 14 March 2006: Nanotech helps blind hamsters see. :: 13 April 2006: Mistreated snakes, lizards, fish, rats, and hamsters found living in makeshift containers. :: 05 May 2006: RSPCA appeals for information on five baby hamsters abandoned outside pet shop in Cornwall. :: 25 May 2006: The Sun says: Freddie Starr ate my hamster. (See also.) :: 02 June 2006: Hamster survives trip through giant industrial metal shredder at recycling plant. :: 06 July 2006: Scientists successfully detect asymptomatic Mad Cow Disease in hamsters.” :: 26 September 2006: Fudge, a hamster with serious escape-fu: (1.) escaped from his cage in Devon; (2.) turned up in his owner’s golf bag while his owner was on a golfing holiday in Scotland; (3.) accompanied his owner around several major golf courses; (4.) was left for safekeeping in a cardboard box in his owner’s rented car; (5.) escaped, could not be found, and was assumed lost for good; (6.) remained lost while his owner flew home; and (7.) reappeared inside the car when the next person rented it. The nice lady who rented the car is adopting Fudge permanently, with his previous owner’s blessing.
09 January 2007: Hamster escapes from cage in trunk of car; car stops working; hamster found by auto mechanic. Bill for gnawed wiring: £1000. :: 05 February 2007: Hamsters thrown out with rubbish. :: 16 February 2007: Hamster survives cooker fire. :: 14 March 2007: Trapped hamster saved by vacuum. :: 14 March 2007: BBC Radio Lancashire thrown into chaos by escaped hamster. :: 12 April 2007: Boy is treated with hamster cells. :: 28 April 2007: 477 animals (including hamsters) hurt, 70 killed, in parked unventilated pet shop delivery truck. (Judging from the photos, the guinea pigs got the worst of it.) :: 22 May 2007: Argentine scientists find Viagra reduces hamster jetlag recovery time by 50%. (See 04 October 2007.) :: 30 May 2007: Hamster bite puts man in hospital. :: 03 July 2007: Obese hamsters invited to participate in charity pet-slimming initiative. :: 26 July 2007: Hamster rescued from rubbish dump. :: 23 August 2007: “Hamster trapped behind wardrobe” cited as example of inappropriate 999 call. :: 25 September 2007: Hamster rescued from suspicious blaze in block of flats (along with five adults, four children, two dogs, a rabbit, and a rat). :: 4 October 2007: ‘Gay bomb’ scoops Ig Nobel award; other winners include work on treating hamster jet lag. (See 22 May 2007.) :: 23 November 2007: Hollywood actors set to play guinea pigs, hamster, and mole in animated film. :: 05 December 2007: Harrogate boy guilty of putting sister’s hamster in freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer.
03 January 2008: Man denies hamster-hurling charge. :: 10 January 2008: Devon animal shelter reports tough holiday season for abandoned pets (including hamsters). :: 14 January 2008: Jury hears hamster-hurling claims. :: 15 January 2008: Hamster-hurling Dumfries man found guilty. :: 29 January 2008: Hamster-throwing man given 12-month sentence. :: 31 January 2008: Man who tied hamster to firework (see 02 December 2005) found guilty of animal cruelty. :: 12 February 2008: Hamster prices triple in China. :: 05 March 2008: Hamster firework youth sentenced . (See 31 January 2008; 02 December 2005) :: 07 March 2008: Pet hamsters banned in Vietnam. :: 16 May 2008: Study shows fruit juice reduces risk of atherosclerosis in hamsters. :: 11 June 2008: Runaway rodent collared by police: Hamster was taken into custody after walking into Cheltenham police station. :: 22 August 2008: Hamster rescue was start of East Sussex Rodent Rescue operation. :: 22 October 2008: Fire crews hunt escaped hamster in East Lothian :: 23 October 2008: On-the-run hamster pops back up. :: 04 November 2008: Smoke detector saves lives of Launceston family, three parrots, one dog, but not hamster. :: 24 November 2008: Thieves steal homeless family’s caravan, Christmas savings, pet hamster. :: 02 December 2008: Meet the Radio Humberside Saturday Breakfast show team: Rag. :: 02 December 2008: Hamster included in list of unemployed members of Glasgow household. :: 18 December 2008: Two hamsters, 50 African snails, die in Newport Pagnell house fire.
15 January 2009: BBC keeps straight face while reporting five-day-old story about theft of one-eyed hamster (also game console, half bottle of milk) as breaking news. :: 16 January 2009 & thereafter: UK news organizations which fail to get joke, and run stories deprecating BBC report of theft of one-eyed hamster (plus game console and half bottle of milk) as breaking news, include the Sun, Telegraph, and Daily Mail. :: 26 January 2009: Monday’s quote of the day: “After they exhumed Mr Itch they were very apologetic.” :: 02 February 2009: REVEALED: Sid Vicious named after one of John Lydon’s hamsters. :: 06 March 2009: Hamster rescued from suspicious house fire in Little Canfield, Essex. :: 11 March 2009: Hamster juice saved my life. :: 11 March 2009: Secrets and Lies: Jamie Peacock tells how she killed her family’s pet hamster. :: 19 April 2009: Fancy that: Peter and Christine Logsdail on operating a hamstery. :: 25 April 2009: Derbyshire fire crew rescue hamster trapped behind bath panel. :: 19 June 2009: Stoke-on-Trent animal hoarders plead guilty to harming nearly 60 animals (including hamsters). :: 29 June 2009: James Campbell and the dead hamster sketch. :: 03 July 2009: Hamster owner who rang 999 for help with hamster stuck under floorboards cited as example of misuse of emergency lines. :: 29 July 2009: Tory Leader David Cameron reveals plan to deny his children’s request for hamster. :: 29 July 2009: Charity calls for more care for school pets over the holidays. :: 05 September 2009: Bath animal home blames recession for high levels of pet abandonment (including hamsters). :: 10 November 2009: Hamsters Go Going off the shelves. :: 07 December 2010: Manufacturer insists Go Go Hamster toy Mr Squiggles is safe for children. :: 10 December 2009: New exotic animal veterinary training center will teach care of hamsters, chinchillas, lizards, and snakes. :: 21 December 2009: Bicycle and hamster only childhood Christmas presents remembered by Gemma Godivala of Leighton Buzzard.
07 January 2010: Footless hamster found abandoned in Grangemouth, Scotland. :: 26 January 2010: Hamster lifecycle cited as poor model for macroeconomic growth. :: 05 February 2010: Northamptonshire teenager’s hamster-microwaving sentence adjourned. :: 07 April 2010: Wolf escapes from Scottish wildlife park; park’s animal collections manager claims pet hamsters are a greater threat to the general public. (See 08 September 2010.) :: 23 May 2010: Stuart Kettell runs Coventry half-marathon dressed as a hamster. :: 28 May 2010: Compost heap sets Buckinghamshire house ablaze; hamster rescued. :: 11 June 2010: Northamptonshire boy sentenced to four months in youth detention unit for microwaving brother’s hamster. :: 08 September 2010: Princess Anne opens newly reinforced wolf enclosure in Scottish wildlife park; BBC repeats claim by park’s animal collections manager that hamsters are a greater danger to the public. (See 07 April 2010.) :: 22 September 2010: Hartlepoole man jailed for killing hamster in microwave oven.
21 January 2011: EU court threatens France with fines for failure to protect native population of the Great Hamster of Alsace. :: 06 April 2011: Kitten and hamster rescued, homes evacuated, after chip pan fire in St. Saviour, Jersey. :: 08 April 2011: Photo of hamster “Splodge” chosen as cover image for Workers Playtime EP. :: 27 April 2011: Eight people and one pet hamster taken to safety after a fire in a flat above a bookmakers in Milford Haven. :: 07 September 2011: Guernsey hamster owners warned over speedy breeding. :: 09 September 2011: Hamster abandoned at Arthur’s seat.
10 February 2012: Hamster found dumped by bins in the cold. :: 12 April 2012: Smurf the hamster gets stuck to cage with magnet. (See also.) :: 01 May 2012: Escapee hamster Houdini causes £1,000 car damage. (See also.) :: 04 July 2012: Hamster rescued from ball after Kidderminster midnight dash. :: 11 July 2012: Frightened hamster found in Northallerton bin. :: 03 August 2012: Young boy opens up ‘hamster hotel’ to earn pocket money. :: 17 August 2012: NHS Wales sees summer rise in ‘inappropriate’ 999 calls (including a woman whose hamster bit her finger). :: 30 July 2012: Hamster rescued after window fall and cat chase. :: 06 September 2012: York student accused of cooking live hamster.
14 January 2013: Weymouth hamster rescue fire woman criticised. :: 07 March 2013: Animal ban for student who fried flatmate’s hamster. :: 20 March 2013: Hamster found during blizzard on Edinburgh street. :: 11 April 2013: Sick leave, Bras, Hamsters (podcast). :: 28 April 2013: Brooklyn blogger blames UK journalistic kerfluffle of 16 January 2009 for subsequent steep downturn in total annual BBC hamster-related news stories. ::
And the moral of the story is: (1.) Hamsters have mighty escape-fu. (2.) Never leave a hamster in a cardboard box inside a car. (3.) Since there’s now a hamster-directed Roomba, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before one turns up on a British motorway.