Back to previous post: Swine flu and information hygiene

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Open thread 123

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

April 30, 2009

The eternal cycle of hamsters
Posted by Teresa at 01:30 PM * 100 comments

If hamsters lived longer, they’d be just about perfect.

I’m sorry to report that the hamster once introduced to Making light as young Hiro Frumentius grew old in hamster years, and departed this world a couple of days after we returned from Europe. He died of what looked like a stroke. As Jim and Abi and others have observed, he waited until we got home.

Many thanks to Velma Bowen for keeping an eye on him while we were gone. It was a great kindness.

Hiro is now the subject of a narrative photo set on Flickr, with cameo appearances by Jim Macdonald, Debra Doyle, Elise Matthesen, and Patrick’s bedroom slippers. I’ve also put up much smaller photo sets for our previous hamsters, Porco Bruno and Arthur, the Hamster of Consolation.

There’s a photo set as well for our newbie hamster: Agnes Margaret, a.k.a. Aggie Maggie. Both are tiny but expected to grow.

Most evident characteristic so far: Aggie’s a finger-biter. We’re trying to teach her not to do that. What’s odd is that she bites when she’s apparently calm and comfortable, like a human making an offhand remark. If you don’t scream and jerk your hand away, she goes on being calm and cheerful while you bleed all over everything.

What else? She’s athletic, and runs all night in her wheel. She climbs the walls of her cage when she’s wheedling snacks, and stuffs the goodies in her mouth one-handed while hanging from the bars by her other hand. So far, she’s eaten a quantity of hamster chow equal to several times her original volume, and is visibly larger than she was when we first got her. She’s a sound sleeper. For about half an hour after she wakes up, she takes frequent pauses to yawn, and stretches like a Slinky. She builds elaborate nests for such a young hamster. Her tail’s a bit longer than the average hamster’s. And she has mobile and expressive ears.

Comments on The eternal cycle of hamsters:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:23 PM:

Farewell to Hiro, and my condolences.

#2 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:39 PM:

Farewell to Hiro, and condolences. I'm currently dealing with the loss of my rabbit, Marble, so I know how rough that can be.

Welcome to the newcomer, too.

#3 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:39 PM:


I'm sure you guys gave him a good home and much love.

#4 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:40 PM:

A good journey to Hiro, and welcome Agnes Margaret.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:44 PM:

Hiro was my friend and an outstandingly good hamster, and so I mourn him; but he had an excellent life which he enjoyed a great deal, and he died when he had a mind to.

#6 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 02:49 PM:

Tabitha, the family cat, dies about three weeks ago. Old age. She walked onto the farm, apparently abandoned, and was always a very well-behaved domestic cat. We were never quite sure how old she was. When we arrived in Barnetby, she scared us all with an overnight exploration the first chance she got, and then settled down. She'd been a rather shy cat on the farm: here she became a careful, but friendly, cat.

She was waiting for me when I came home from hospital and, at about 4am, insisted on grooming my moustache.

There are still times I expect to see her, coming around a corner.

We were very lucky.

#7 ::: arkessian ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Inquiring minds wish to know... why you named your newest hamster after my mother.

#8 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:23 PM:

Sorry to hear about Hiro, he seemed such a likable little fellow in stories you shared. But a rousing welcome to Agnes Margaret, who sounds opinionated and promising, already.

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:29 PM:

Sympathies, Dave.

#10 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:32 PM:

Welcome to Agnes Margaret. I'm sure you'll enjoy her company. I hope she learns not to bite.

#11 ::: Melynda Huskey ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:36 PM:

Condolences. Your loss brings memories of Tim the Enchanter, the best hamster ever, fastest and most entertaining destroyer of an empty paper towel roll in the known universe, and as his Sharpie-markered gravestone reads (in my son's first-grader handwriting), "A Good Friend."

#12 ::: adelheid ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:37 PM:

My daughter's hamster, Chubby Bunny, is very old for a hamster and, the other day, I heard a dismayed, "Oh No!" from my daughter and my first thought was that she had discovered the hamster dead. It turns out that she thought the hamster had died, but it was, in fact, very sound asleep and roused when my daughter opened the cage up to investigate further. We were both relieved. Still, we know that the hamster's time will come. I don't know if there will be another hamster fur-grandbaby. My daughter also has a gerbil, which is younger, called Skittles. My condolences on your loss of Hiro. May Agnes Margaret have a long life with you.

#13 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:49 PM:


... why you named your newest hamster after my mother.

is your mother my second cousin? (she has a twin sister named maggie aggie, where the maggie is probable magda but i forget what the aggie could be.)

#14 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:51 PM:

My condolences on your loss. It's never easy, but taking on a furbaby that we know we'll outlive -- accepting the inevitability of that loss, and loving them nonetheless -- is part of what makes us human.

#15 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:54 PM:

When we make the movie of this, should it be Night of the Living Hamster or The Eve of St. Agnes?

#16 ::: Liza ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 03:56 PM:

Patrick appears to have the same slippers I have. (I bought mine in the boys' section, since they were the same size but much more practical than the slippers offered in the women's section.)

And condolences, but I'm happy to hear about the newcomer.

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 04:28 PM:

Margaret goes with Agnes because they're both heroic virgin martyrs of uncertain historicity, and because Maggie rhymes with Aggie, and because I have a certain fondness for name.

Why Agnes is more complicated. The shortest version is that I named her Agnes because she bit me and drew blood several times. She didn't have a name at the time, just epithets, so for a while she was called Little Monster, Lilith, Carmilla, and Drusilla. However, I didn't want to formally give her any of the vampire names, because the goal is to make her a friendly non-biting hamster.

If you're not a Buffy fan, give up now.

No devout Catholic family would have named a daughter Drusilla. Her original human name is not in canon. At one point I got to wondering why she repeatedly sings that song about the lamb caught in the blackberry patch. One of my rules of thumb is that when you can't understand what someone is talking about, the first possibility to consider is that they're talking about themself. "Right," I said. "She was named Agnes."

I don't stand by that interpretation, but it suited me; and when I recalled it the other day, it struck me that Agnes/Aggie was a good name for a hamster.

For those who collect rules of thumb, there's a sibling to the one I cited: when people speak generally about classes to which they belong, examine the possibility that they're talking about themselves. It explains any number of statements writers make about writers.

#18 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 04:29 PM:

Condolences both to Teresa & Patrick, and to Dave.

One good thing about having just moved is that the new place is not haunted, although the click that one vent flap makes sounds just like the old cat door.

#19 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 04:29 PM:


#20 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 04:40 PM:

(Domestic crisis now averted. Damn distractable writers who forget to re-activate their phone ringers.)

#21 ::: Elaine ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 05:01 PM:

Agnes is very cute, and quite sleek. I left a comment there. I also added your flickr id and marked you as a friend. You might know me from Eve.

Or not.

#22 ::: Lawrence Watt-Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 05:58 PM:

Was Drusilla definitely Catholic? I thought she was high-church Anglican.

19th-century Anglicans might name their kids anything.

#23 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 06:43 PM:

LWE@#22: Was Drusilla definitely Catholic?

Well, she was going to become a nun before Angelus turned her, and while there are a few orders of Anglican nuns, they aren't precisely thick on the ground. (All this is assuming, for the sake of the argument, that the people involved with the show actually knew anything at all about the religious history of 19th-century Britain. Because the speculation is only fun if you do that, unwarranted as the assumption probably is.)

#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 06:52 PM:

Lawrence: Catholic, unless the Sisters of Mercy have an Anglican branch, which I'm pretty sure they don't. On the other hand, it's a Joss Whedon historical flashback.

#25 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 06:59 PM:

"Eternal cycle of hamsters" -- sounds like my friend's "neverending dynasty of rats", a problem caused by the fact that it is considered by most experts on the subject to be cruel to keep just _one_ rat (them being social, heirarchical animals). And it's not like they die in synchronized pairs.

#26 ::: Leslie in CA ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 07:54 PM:

Condolences to Teresa and Patrick, and Dave.

And welcome to Aggie Maggie, who is very cute despite her bloodthirstiness. (How does one teach a hamster not to bite?)

I am a latecomer to Buffy, and in fact am still watching the series for the first time on DVD. I'm in Season 5. And speaking of Joss Whedon, have we had a Dollhouse thread here yet? I don't recall seeing one.

#27 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 08:10 PM:

((Oddness -- the link hooked to "Frumentius" takes me to the front page when I'm on the front page, and the comments page when I'm on the comments page; and the little Firefox URL locator thingie on the lower bar returns the local URL when I roll over it.))

The hamster is dead. Long live the hamster!

(snd, of course, condolences...)

#28 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 08:17 PM:

#s 19 & 20: Ah. Now we all know the secret of getting TNH to answer the phone: write to her in all caps in the comment section.

I wish I had a technique like that for my husband who only turns on his cell phone when he wants to call me.

#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 08:20 PM:

Kathryn: Mea maxima culpa.

Debra: Just so. That universe has an 18th C. Puritan family that named their son Penn. I mention that detail so as to avoid thinking about the circumstances and given date of Darla's first death.

#30 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 08:51 PM:

Adieu to Hiro, who was indeed a Fine Little Fellow. And all hail Agnes Margaret, who is quite a beauty. Tell her I do recommend that she learn to stop biting the hand that feeds her, lest in an unguarded moment said hand might, um, fling her against a wall. Neither Patrick nor Teresa would do such a thing, but a startled visitor might react first and think later.

#31 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 08:51 PM:

Is the "eternal cycle of hamsters" a kind of exercise wheel?

#32 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 09:12 PM:

Condolences and congratulations--may Agnes be slightly less crazy than her (sort of) namesake.

#33 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 09:48 PM:

In my limited experience, the female hamsters bite, and the males don't.

Condolences, and congratulations!

#34 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 09:54 PM: 18th C. Puritan family that named their son Penn.

<snnrrrk!> [choke] [splutter]


#35 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 10:30 PM:

Condolences and congratulations to you, Patrick and Teresa, and welcome to Aggie Maggie.

#36 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 10:31 PM:

We just lost one of our rats* so I'm particularly sympathetic.

*I'd say it was damn careless of us except that we took him to the vet's about three days earlier and he had no visible symptoms of anything wrong.

Little Agnes will grow strong on your blood. Fear the hammie!

#37 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 10:33 PM:

Leslie, #26: My first thought would be bitter apple painted on the target area. But I've never had a small-rodent pet, so that's just a SWAG.

#38 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 10:33 PM:

I'm sorry about the loss of your hamster, but I must add that I think Agnes is a great name.

#39 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 10:55 PM:

One doesn't exactly teach a hamster not to bite. They like to bite, and they do it well. One encourages the hamster to bite non-human items. Non-flesh, even.

Condolences on the passing of Hiro Frumentius, and welcome to Maggie Aggie.

#40 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 10:57 PM:

both condolences and congratulations. Alas, I will never have a prey animal again, at least until I decide to quit having cats around. I had to rescue Amber Hamster, my last hamster, about a gazillion time from my first cat, Aja cat. Fortunately shucking a hamster out of a HabiTrail house makes a lot of noise... (Amber lived a hugely long life for a hamster. When she got a tumor on her neck and could no longer reach her head up for the water bottle, my vet euthanized her for me at no charge. And I don't think he 'benched' her. She was nearly four years old.)

And Aggie Maggie is adorable. Despite the fact she bites.

#41 ::: Leslie in CA ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2009, 11:28 PM:

Paula, #40: When I was a sprite, my cat ate my first (and only) hamster; I have not had a rodent pet since. Frederick was a beautiful little cream fellow, and even understanding the nature of things (I was old enough), it was pretty traumatic.

Lee, #37: I have no idea, but wondered if there were actual techniques.

#42 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 01:08 AM:

Bon voyage, Hiro! And welcome to the feast, Aggie Maggie!

My cat used to do that when younger, bite when obviously calm and happy. We have scars. Well, I do. She didn't bite my partner but once in a very great while.

She doesn't do it so much now; perhaps Aggie Maggie will grow out of it.

#43 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 01:12 AM:

Church of England nuns started showing up in 1841. Not thick on the ground; not unknown either. It was part of the Oxford movement; a trend towards some of the attributes of the Roman Catholic church.

#44 ::: Lawrence Watt-Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 01:32 AM:

Ah, I'd forgotten about her intention to join the Sisters of Mercy. (Oh, dear -- now I have Andrew Eldritch muttering in my head.)

#45 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 01:59 AM:

I'm sorry to hear about the passing of Hiro.

#46 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 02:04 AM:

Aggs Maggs, hey!!

Don't bite! It only teaches us how to bite....

#47 ::: Heather M ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 03:29 AM:

My condolences to you and Patrick. What a cute little guy Hiro was. Enjoy your new friend and say hello to your vampster* for me!

(*a rare creature indeed; half vampire, half hamster, and 100% adorable.)

#48 ::: arkessian ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 03:29 AM:

miriam beetle #13. I suspect not, unless your second cousin is from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales.

My mother was named Agnes Margaret, preferred to be called Peggy, but was known with exasperated affection as Aggie Maggie to all and sundry when she was causing trouble...

#49 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 03:43 AM:

Heather, #47: You've reminded me of how my late cat Mina got her name. When she was a little bitty kitten, she was a vampire kitty -- she'd climb up my front and nurse on my neck! So the obvious choices were Mina or Angelique, and she didn't look like an Angelique.

#50 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 03:49 AM:

Teresa & Patrick: sympathies for the loss of Hiro, and I hope you have at least a coupe of years of enjoying Maggie Aggie.

Dave Bell: Sympathies for the loss of Tabitha.

Cats co-habiting with hamsters: I found it effective to introduce the cat to the hamster. The cat understood that any small furry (or feathered, later) creature I introduced it to was mine, and therefore not to be eaten if encountered later away from me. Worked with two cats and a number of hamsters, ducklings etc. Both cats were Siamese; don't know if this was relevant.

#51 ::: Essi ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 04:12 AM:

Chinchillas like to nibble on people's fingers as a sign of affection. It's very gentle and similar to what they do to each other as well, groom each others' fur and ears to bond together. So perhaps the biting has something to do with that, but Agnes just hasn't learned what's the approriate force to use.

#52 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 04:21 AM:

Kevin J. Maroney: that seems to be the way with rats. Either that, or hanging tenaciously on for months despite quite clearly being at death's door. I believe it's an evolved characteristic caused by their competitive social structure -- a rat that shows signs of illness will move directly to the bottom of the pile and probably get itself killed; if it successfully hides them, it may just recover...

dcb: Our house cat here was afraid of our rats when we had them. He'd sit at a safe distance, watching, but never dared approach.

#53 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 05:30 AM:
Hooray! Hooray! The First of May!
Come Aggie, come Maggie with flowers so gay!

But Hiro with April has passed far away,
With the lilacs and cherries, and fast-fading day.

And Tabitha too, with such sadness we say,
Has gone as we all go, though we hold it at bay.
#54 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 05:53 AM:

Ave in perpetuum, Hiro,
Ave atque vale.

#55 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 06:12 AM:

It was a long time ago that we had, as part of the Bell pack, a black dog called Vicky, of thoroughly mongrel breeding.

There was a ginger tomcat who came from across the road at the backof the farmyard. Had a savage little reputation.

I've watched the two of them working together, hunting mice.

Even Ginger's people were wary of him. But, if he got locked in our workshop at the end of the day, we could let him out, and carry him home, purring.

My uncle was never much with livestock, on the farm.That was the side of the business my father handled. There areald photographs of small Bells, myself and my brother, apparently unconcerned amongst cattle.

My uncle's mistress (it's a long story of sustained foolishness) is of the "my baby" school of cat keeping.

Tabitha would avoid her at high speed.

I don't think we've ever consciously tried to treat cats like cats, but we didn't treat them as if they were humans. People, yes, but that's not the same.

Which brings to mind the Freefall comic, in which it's sometimes easier to think of some human characters as alien monsters.

#56 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 07:28 AM:

The beleaguered husband and I think you've adopted a teenager. The teenager thinks you've adopted an art student.

Sorry about Hiro.

#57 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 08:45 AM:

Sympathies & congratulations.

#58 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 09:50 AM:

Goodbye and hello, to hamsters past and present. Just gave the 19 year old cat sitting on my lap an extra squeeze because of this.

#59 ::: Strata Chalup ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 11:53 AM:

Perhaps a peculiar Hamster Sacrament:

This is the body and blood of My Feeder, who bringeth treats and deconstructible burrows of cardboard from which no tussocks spring. I shall not fear. Fear is the rodent-killer. I shall bite My Feeder, and allow it to bleed around me and thru its fingers. Only I shall remain. With this bite, I set my soul in motion.

(My condolences for the turning of the Hamster Wheel on your Hiro.)

#60 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 12:02 PM:

Dave 55: I don't think we've ever consciously tried to treat cats like cats, but we didn't treat them as if they were humans. People, yes, but that's not the same.

Thank you for that. This distinction (and Always Coming Home) is why I sometimes catch myself referring to "human people."

#61 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 04:07 PM:

I'm sorry about Hiro...he seemed like a very loveable critter, based on the photos and stories over the years.

That's too bad that your new girl is biting the hand that feeds her, but with luck she'll grow out of it. Hopefully she doesn't laugh at you when you say "no" like my little finger-biter has taken to doing.

I love her name and your Drusilla retconnage makes perfect sense to me.

#62 ::: Ron Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2009, 11:38 PM:

"Eternal cycle of hamsters" -- sounds like my friend's "neverending dynasty of rats"...

Friends of ours have long had a sort of line-marriage of guinea pigs, for just that reason. Usually Boston marriages, but the current one includes a neutered male.

Since Matt the Cat moved in on us, he's learned to point prey critters rather than present their corpses to us. (We do know he flirted with our next-door neighbor by bringing her a dead mouse.) He's pointed escaped snake-chow and, rather more urgently, a dojo loach who'd managed to jump out of the aquarium. That was a couple of years ago and the loach is still with us. He points birds too. Hummingbirds seem to worry him.


That's enough like our domestic communications to make me laugh twice.

My condolences about Hiro, and best wishes with the education of young Agnes Magness. Ow.

#63 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2009, 12:17 AM:

Sympathies for your loss.

And joy for Aggie Maggie, who will be much loved, despite her bloodthirstiness.

(Although probably you shouldn't give her a switchblade.)

#64 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2009, 03:53 AM:

Vampsters are nothing but hamster propaganda to hide the plain, unbearable, truth; I quote:

"If there's one thing that small-pet breeder Pip Wallace has learned over the years, it's that mankind's greatest ennemy is the hamster.

The horrifying truth is that their cute and fuzzy exteriors conceal a deep and uncompromising evil.

Over the Years, Pip has been able to discern these hateful creatures' malevolent intentions.

Their goal is nothing less than genocide.
Even now they are preparing to rise up, throw off the shackles of their habitrails and fun wheels, and gnaw the throats of our children while they sleep.


Fortunately, they're just hamsters."

(From Vertigo's Jack of Fables number 29; written by Bill Willingham. Wanted to upload the image, but can't from this computer it seems.)

First thing I thought about when reading the title was the new Burning Wheel game, I intend to play as soon as I'm done with the translating and playtesting of this.
The hamster names confirmed that first thought.
Let me just say I'm glad no weapons appeared on those photos. My (now well justified) fear of hamsters would have triggered a panic attack.

All that to say... condolences, and plenty of adventures to Aggie Maggie ( ! DM sense tingling : I can has new NPC).

#65 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2009, 04:02 AM:

If there were a furry version of The Maltese Falcon, would Sydney Greenstreet be a hamster?

#66 ::: Eirin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2009, 05:48 AM:

Farewell to Hiro, and welcome Aggie Maggie.

Essi @ #51:

So perhaps the biting has something to do with that, but Agnes just hasn't learned what's the approriate force to use.

Going out on a limb*

With the exception of certain dwarf hamster species, I think hamsters are solitary animals. Apparently they can be quite vicious toward each other.
It would be strange for them to have a bond-with-grooming instinct outside of mating rituals, if then.

Serendipitously connecting blood-thirsty hamsters to Buffy in a roundabout way, I've recently been watching a show called Talking to Animals, featuring Anthony Steward Head's partner, Sarah Fisher. She has a quite amazing rapport with animals, but she employs techniques that can easily be tried at home as well. With small and/or excitable animal, a feather on a stick seems to be particularly effective. It appears non-threatening to the animal, and the light touch is soothing and pleasurable. And if the critter bites anyway, at least it wont be your finger. That's always a good thing.

*It's been years and years since I worked with animals and I might misremember about hamsters in particular.

#67 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2009, 06:54 AM:

I love the idea of biting someone as an off-hand remark.

Oh, by-the-way ::CHOMP:: I just read that book you suggested.
::GUSH BLOOD WILDLY:: Oh. Did you like it?

#68 ::: Sarah W ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2009, 12:24 PM:

I'm sorry for the loss of your small friend. I hope Agnes Margaret will be a consolation, if never a replacement.

I was roommates with an middle-aged Chinese hamster in college, a gift from a graduating friend. He was a fine study partner and saw me through my senior finals before passing away two nights after the last exam. They know, don't they?

Dave 55: I don't think we've ever consciously tried to treat cats like cats, but we didn't treat them as if they were humans. People, yes, but that's not the same.

Our current (and currently only) cat believes that I am his mother. My younger daughter, who is just two and doesn't know that he isn't her natural brother with a couple of odd habits and physical attributes, displays the same kind of affection and sibling rivalry she does toward her older sister.

Not only is my lap prime real estate to be fought over (I've always thought so myself), but the phrase, "But Toby dood it!" has become the refrain around here. If he can climb onto the top of the bookcase for a nap, then she can do it, too. If he gets a small fish-flavored pellet, then she gets 'candy', too.

I kind of wish now that we'd trained Toby to use the toilet when he was a kitten . . .

#69 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2009, 08:13 PM:

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of Hiro. I lost a series of guinea pigs. I think the hardest thing about it was that they all died so suddenly. Prey animals try to keep up a good act until they just can't go on any longer. It's terribly sad.

I think Aggie Maggie hasn't yet learned that fingers aren't edible. She keeps trying. If you've recently handled a carrot or some other treat your fingers smell like food, which is bound to be confusing.

#70 ::: Helen ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2009, 11:00 PM:

I don't suppose any of you know the book _Aggie, Maggie, and Tish_?

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 02:09 PM:

O, when she's angry, she is keen and shrewd!
She was a vixen when she went to school;
And though she be but little, she is fierce.

#72 ::: Tina Black ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2009, 05:40 PM:

Yes, my new one is an athletic biter, too. She got her cage so messy in 2 weeks I had to empty it. The move was a great trauma for her, and in the new cage she barricaded herself in The Tower. She got that so filthy that in one week I had to extract her. She had completely jammed the tube with fluff and food, and the top room was gross. I ended up having to disassemble the entire cage to get her out, and she is still twitching from the experience -- though she did make an exception to come grab some raisins from me. Ah yes, raisins will soothe the savage hamster.

#73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2009, 09:28 AM:

What kind of cage do you have, Tina? Teresa's beests started out with a Crittertrail (with (eventually) a couple of add-ons), but before long that became too small for Arthur, so we got a rat cage for him, which turned out to be perfect. (The Highrise, in black, with the flip-top lid.) It's filled with toys and stuff for exploring, and is much admired by all hamsters who see it.

#74 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2009, 12:23 PM:

The Highrise is a swell cage, and remarkably inexpensive considering how much you get. No two hamsters have taken the same view of what its different spaces are for.

Tina: Porco Bruno, my hamster before last, tried to do something like what you describe. For a while there, he was living upside-down in one of the vertical tubes, because it was the most defensible and inaccessible space in the cage system.

What I did was confine PB to just the core cage space until he and I got more comfortable with each other. If you're using a CritterTrail or Habitrail system, you can get stoppers to block off tubes. I gradually removed stoppers to open up the additional cage spaces when I was confident that he wouldn't try to hole up in them.

The other problem like that is when a hamster will try to live, store food, exercise, and relieve itself of bodily wastes in its wheel. It makes an unbelievable mess, especially if you have a side-mounted wheel that throws bits of that mess outside the cage. The only fix I know of in that case is to replace it with an unenclosed wheel that's good for exercise but not for hiding out.

#75 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2009, 12:47 PM:

Paula (40), congratulations -- "nearly four" is the longest hamster lifespan I've ever heard of.

I've been making better friends with Aggie and teaching her not to bite. Last night I held my finger right up against the bars of her cage, and though she repeatedly butted it with her nose, she didn't give me a single nip. You know the squirt bottles some people use when training cats? The hamster equivalent is to blow on their faces. You don't have to blow long or hard. One puff will do it.

Leslie, sorry to hear about Frederick. When you hang out on hamster forums, you do see the occasional post from some kid who's come home from school to find half a hamster laid out on his bedroom rug. It's never good.

The only time I've strongly disagreed with the best online hamster maven I know was when he was chewing out some newly bereaved kid for having a cat, a hamster, and an insecure cage in the same household. As I said to him on that occasion, the kid surely understood why that had been a mistake, and was not likely to ever forget it.

Dave Bell (65), all of them could be hamsters. The little critters have a wide range of temperaments.

Eirin: Feather on a stick. I'll have to try that.

#76 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2009, 02:58 PM:

Late condolences on Hiro (via con Dios, Hiro-san!) and welcome Maggie!

My guinea pigs all go through what I call the "niblet" stage. Nearly as I can tell, it's equivalent to the pupal human tendency to put everything in the mouth.

They eventually grow out of it, aided by the loud protest of "OW!!" whenever they forget.

Junior Sr. (who is now rolling up on 7.5 years) has so gentled that even when you hand him food, he grasps it very gently, lest he accidentally inflict harm.

Junior Jr. (who is into his third or fourth month), not so much.

#77 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2009, 10:19 PM:

Tonight, Aggie Maggie not only jumped into my hand, but let me pet her. Yay!

She's turned into a demon hamsterballer, and may be even more of one than Arthur was. She streaks across the living room, finagles her way out of tangles of cords, and gets up enough momentum to jump the .75" barriers to the kitchen and bathroom -- all while running in a ball that's technically still too large for her. I can snag her any time she's afoot and looks like she's getting into dangerous territory by waving the ball at her -- she jumps straight into it. The only problem with the ball is that, like Arthur, she's unwilling to leave it.

#78 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2009, 10:23 PM:

Jacque, I think you're on to something with the niblet stage. Maggie was about as young as a hamster for sale in a pet store could be. Also, I noticed that she isn't sure about things she should bite, like snacks.

#79 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2009, 10:50 PM:

I've never been prone to hamsters. We've kept guinea pigs. Man I loved them.

My favorite was Tweed. A big boar. Sweet tempered and solid (in that way cavies, and pigs are solid. Most animals have a bit of give at the surface. Not those two... where the skin is the solid begins, it's why they are so hard to catch).

He was a brindley calico-ish fellow. We'd built a run out doors, from cinderblocks, pallets and large fence gating (for a removable, predator proof roof. That and the geese and there were no worries. If something showed up (oppossum, racoon; God forbid, a coyote) the geese would hiss, Maia would wake (I never could train myself to hear the hiss when sleeping), and we'd go out; she with the light, me with the air-rifle. Problem solved).

We were keeping him away from the sows he was too closely related too. Somehow he was getting between the sides. Finally I saw how.

The wall was three cinderblocks high. There was nothing near enough to let him climb up to the top, that he might get over. He would tear about, doing a couple of laps (the entire enclosure, both sides, was about nine feet wide, by about four feet deep, so they had a fair bit of room. More with the layers of pallets and cinderblocks not in the walls. They had hideyholes and caves and hills to climb, and then he jump up against the back wall and ricochet over the wall.

So I added another layer of block to the back, and he couldn't do it any more.

But I'll never forget the sight of him flying almost three feet into the air to get into the harem.

#80 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2009, 08:26 AM:

Sorry to hear about Hiro. The short life spans of rodents are a major reason I've never wanted one for a pet. Like Kelly at #58, I have a 19 year old cat (and a couple of 6-ish ones also). While he has no terminal illness as far as I know, he's declining enough in old age that I doubt he'll make 20. It seems too short a time to have such a sweet furry fellow.

#81 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2009, 09:01 AM:

I had mice for a while, but I couldn't stand the short lives. This is also why I've never seriously contemplated getting a ferret, despite an abiding love for the little fellas.

#82 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2009, 11:33 AM:

This is why vampires associate less and less with humans as they age (in my favorite stories). Human lives are too short, and vampires have feelings just like we do (or a little more emo, depending). Having your heart wrenched out over and over gets to be hard after a while.

The recent rash of deaths around me, with a couple more coming up (probably) this year, have made it clear that immortality is not for me. I have several friends (in addition to the one who probably won't make it to Christmas) I expect to outlive as it is; outliving everyone I know for hundreds of years would really suck.

I probably should have had hamsters for dealing-with-death practice. Too late now.

#83 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2009, 01:19 PM:

Xopher: It's too late for the now, but I hope you'll live long enough that you could perhaps start.

Apart from the grief part. I don't know, honestly, that having dead pets is a huge help, it might take some of the time off, but the pain is pretty fresh; and with people the more so.

I don't think it's because, in the grand scheme of things people are more vauable, but because we share so much more with them.

I've had a lot of pets/animals die. Some of them were/are trivial (we have too many mice to become fond of all of them is one part of it, the other is most of them don't die of old age, but become food for a snake. This is something of a comfort when an old, and personable one, develops a cancer, or incurable disease), and some pain me still.

I have a put, into which I think I shall move my bonsai olive (assuming it survives the summer. That worry was one I had thought passed, now that my former, "bitch mistress" has no hold on me, but alas life interferes with the best laid plans), into a lovely pot; one which has the skeletons of two snakes slowly melting into plants.

#84 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2009, 01:46 PM:

Dieth hamster, dieth kitten, dieth man the same:
But word-fame dieth never, for him that earns it well.

#85 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2009, 03:07 PM:

Xopher @82: I recall a Star Trek TNG episode with Jordi talking with Data, wondering what it would be like for him to outlive all his friends:

Data: I expect I'll make new friends.

LaForge: Of course...

Data: And outlive them too.

#86 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2009, 04:15 PM:

I see Teresa's been adding more stories to the BBC hamster post to keep it up to date.

#87 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2009, 12:09 AM:

What Xopher (#82) said about vampires is, I think, one of the important issues in Tolkien's elf/human relations, and the way different elves reacted an underlying theme*. (Dwarves can have longer lifespans, not sure how much.) I have wondered if that was intended to have application 'IRL'.

Rob (#85) androids as Neo-Elves? Over at there's a re-watch of Star Trek: TOS, where 'What Are Little Girls Made Of?' and other android episodes are discussed. (Prepare yourself for the first picture at that link.)

*Hmm. And how different humans did, too. But I get that less strongly in the story. OTOH, haven't re-read any for 8-10 years.

#88 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2009, 12:46 PM:

Love to the once & current furries.  And speaking of wheel-loving hamsters

#89 ::: Tina Black ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2009, 09:07 PM:

#73 Jim -- I have something akin to the rat cage as a normal cage, and I used the Habitrail as a backup -- mistake!

#74 Teresa -- I long ago disconnected the wheel, because every hamster has thought it was the perfect nest and food storage place, and I had seeds and surf scattered everywhere.

The big cage still has a couple of plastic tubes, and she spends a lot of time hiding in them. I may have to go for a real rat cage instead. I am also planning to go find a plastic pail and shovel so I can shovel out her cage without putting her in another cage. She is so athletic I've never been fast enough to pick her up!

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2009, 01:53 AM:

Marna showed me this, and I had to share: Traditional Pub

#91 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2009, 02:49 AM:

Terry, that's hilarious!

#92 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2009, 02:14 AM:

Mary Aileen @86, congratulations. As far as I know, you're the first person to have noticed.

Epacris @88, much appreciated. I'll swap you one.

Great sign, Terry. They must play Baldur's Gate.


This evening, Aggie did one of the silliest and cutest things I've ever seen a hamster do. I gave her a small snack of overripe banana. It was new to her. She raised way up on her hind legs, held up the banana like a priest elevating the Host, and nibbled on it rapturously with her eyes nearly shut. Then she fell over backward. She continued to lie on the cage floor, kicking her hind legs in the air, while she finished her snack.

It's wonderful to be able to make a critter that happy.

#93 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2009, 01:27 AM:

Teresa @92, thanks for the link, there are some other lovely things nearby too *wallows in furry cuteness*

#94 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2009, 01:39 AM:

Does Flickr still do “Take me to the kittens”? It hasn't to me lately :(

#96 ::: Earl requests more stringent spam cleanup ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2009, 11:57 PM:

When this spam gets zapped, could the mods please also zap its view all by page too? That's collateral damage to the site.

#97 ::: Raphael joins those who comment on the spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2009, 12:27 AM:

Well, it is cyclical, in a way.

#98 ::: Lee sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2009, 12:03 AM:


#99 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 08:50 AM:

Maybe it would be possible to convince hamsters to consume spam?

#100 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 09:28 AM:

Wouldn't you have to thoroughly shred it first? Not that this group doesn't do its best at that.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.