Anyone who knows me knows that I am scared of hamsters. Which is slightly weird considering I adopted four of them. I didn’t have a phobia before I started adopting hamsters. This is a fear that has developed and intensified with every hamster I brought home.
My first ‘hamster-parenting’ experience was when I first moved to London and felt the burning urge to get a pet to make the whole experience less lonely. I went to the local pet store, selected a gorgeous little Russian Winter White hamster, immediately dubbed her Marilyn Monroe and excitedly took her home with me.
Only, when I got her home I made the somewhat fatal error of attempting to take my new little friend out of the cardboard carrier she had been plopped into.
The ‘How to care for your hamster’ instructional book said that I should slowly put my hand into Marilyns enclosure, let her sniff it and then GENTLY pick her up and transfer her to the new cage.
The point was to make this transition as untraumatic as possible. So – I lowered my hand slowly (just like they told me to) and Marilyn edged closer and sniffed my fingers. I felt like we were having a moment, I really truly did.
She snuggled up to me, sniffed at me some more, looked at me with her big round eyes…
– and then –
She sank her little fangs deep into my thumb.
For a split second I was entirely numb. I remember thinking to myself:
“Well… shit. Would you look at that!”
And then the pain kicked in.
It was like having a splinter, only x 1,000 – and the splinter is made of fire and acid and invisible lightsabers because the splinter is actually a hamster tightening its jaw around my finger.
Then this happened.
I couldn’t get her off! I eventually resorted to shaking my hand.
You know – really gently.
I mean, as gently as possible considering a rodent was grimly hanging onto my hand by her teeth.
I tried to scare the hamster by making wounded dinosaur noises so she would let go of me.
Then I noticed something incredibly disturbing. I had started bleeding somewhat profusely from my thumb… and Marilyn was lapping at the blood between her teeth.
WHAT THE FUCK??! I had adopted a vampire hamster!
Then I had a brainwave. Maybe she was thirsty! I just needed to get her near the water pipet.
So I attempted to casually saunter over to her water bottle as if this was all incredibly normal, unhooked it from her cage (harder than it sounds with a hamster hanging from your hand) and started slowly dripping water on her head.
She immediately paused and looked up at me as if to say “What do you think you are doing, human?” But then miraculously released my thumb and let me bottle-feed her.
As soon as she was done (and I mean – AS SOON AS SHE WAS DONE) I plopped her on the bottom of the cage, shut the door and backed away as if I were Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Marilyn was trying to attach herself to my face.
When ‘How to care for your hamster’ said the aim was to make this transition as ‘untraumatic as possible’ I think they must have meant for the owners.
After that particular vampiric / mauling incident I only ever picked Marilyn up with my thick leather gloves on. My friends and family laughed at me for doing this but every so often Marilyn would dive at my glove while I was handling her and bite as hard as she could. Once she discovered this had no effect on me whatsoever she would look up at me with betrayal in her eyes as if to say: “I trusted you.”
Marilyn Monroe was followed two years later by George Clooney. Who was a dashing Syrian hamster in a sandy brown colour.
Unfortunately, George had a somewhat massive attitude problem.
The problem being – he was an asshole.
He didn’t so much bite me once in a way that put me off handling him with bare skin ever again – more like he repeatedly bit me whenever he got the opportunity.
Once I made the rookie mistake of leaving a pair of leather gloves on the top of Georges cage before going to work only to come back to discover what looked like confetti all over his cage and the carpet below.
Somehow George (an overweight bastard at best) had shimmied up the rungs of his cage, grabbed the gloves and PULLED THEM THROUGH THE BARS. He then proceeded to chew the ever-living fuck out of them until all that was left was the wrist band, which George was sitting on while making meaningful eye contact. Eye contact that said: “You’re next, bitch.”
I’m pretty sure if hamsters could make death threats this is what they would look like.
George died about six months later. At first I thought it might be from the sheer amount of leather he had consumed purely out of spite. But the vet informed me he was actually a really old hamster and not the young, virile thing I had been told he was. The pet store had clearly lied to me just to get rid of him. Which is understandable, because I think if George had been human he would probably have been one of those really mean old men you see in a park yelling at pigeons.
I decided to ring the changes a bit and get two smaller dwarf hamsters after George passed away. I called them Ben & Jerry. Because I was single and it made sense at the time.
The upshot was that although they were just as blood thirsty as Marilyn and George and would bite you as soon as look at you, these little guys were the best hamsters I ever gave a home to.
Until Jerry died from cancer about a year later…
Which is when Ben took up his weird habit of staring at me.
This was probably because he was grieving or something, but it was really REALLY creepy. He would just sit and STARE. Then play for a bit, stop and STARE… or be cleaning his balls – and STARE.
It got worse and worse until I woke up in the middle of the night instinctively knowing something was wrong. My spider senses were tingling. I turned on the light, looked around… and there was Ben… staring at me from his cage while I was sleeping.
Which is basically why I decided I would not be getting another hamster.