hamster Tale – Warning: Balls inflate around small children

Let me first start off by saying I am neither a rodent expert, nor a fan.

The truth is, I cannot stand them. Anything  remotely resembling one of those critters freaks me out something fierce. I can remember working as a nanny and catching a mouse by surprise in a pile of socks I was folding in the basement laundry-room. That tiny sucker sent me shrieking up two flights of stairs until I remembered, oh ya, I had left my OWN baby down there with the laundry pile and the mouse.

Soooo, I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of my son getting a hamster or anything of the like for his 8th Birthday last year. Yet, every time we went to the Pet Store he begged and pleaded to have a little pet that he could really cuddle, and hold and care for on his own. He would drag me over to the cages of rodents where I would peer through one half-opened eye as he excitedly pointed each one out.

To me, hamsters appeared to be the least offensive looking: No freaky long tails or icky pink eyes. However, when reading the fact sheets it didn’t seem their life-spans where particularly long (only about a year) which I thought would surely be saddening for my young son. Yet, upon consulting the pet store “experts” they advised they did sell one breed of hamster which lived longer: The Chinese Dwarf Hamster, with a life expectancy of about 3 years. So, with my daughter agreeing she would assist her brother in the care and maintenance, I relented. Somehow one turned into two, and so our hamster Tale began.

For one thing, I somehow missed the part that these mother-truckers are nocturnal. Ya. So just when I am getting ready to turn in, they start cranking that hamster wheel into high gear. As if  the squeaky wheel isn’t enough, I have to contend with the whining of my boxer Bosco. He wants himself a hamster, and he wants himself one real bad. So even though I command him to silence, he will still let out an occassional pained sigh every so often each night just to let me know he is aware there is prey in the house and he wants it.

But that is not the worst of it!  Just a few weeks after getting the hamsters my son came dashing down to my room to tell me that, not one, but both of his hamsters were very sick. Mind you, I try my darndest not to even look at these bad boys. However, since he said something was wrong I figured I should at least check them out in case they needed the care of a vet. I run up to his room, peer into the cage to find, holy cow, both had rears swollen to almost half their size.

I knew most rodents died of cancer, and I thought they must be tumors of some sort -but figured I’d do a little googling first.

Imagine!?! My very search first pulled up this: “Male Chinese Dwarf Hamsters gain obvious testicles,” with accompanying photos confirming that this was exactly what was afflicting my son’s hamsters. Puberty! Obvious testicles? These balls were so ginormous the poor fellows could barely walk, and were literally dragging their sacs around. Gro-oss!

When I purchased hamsters I had no idea I would be giving anatomy lessons to my 8-year-old a few weeks later. While my son knows there are boy parts and girls parts, he was certainly not aware of male genitalia inflating to such extraordinary size. So I let him know his buddies were a-ok, it was all a part of them developing during puberty. I should’ve guessed he’d next ask if this would happen to him during puberty. Oi!

The next day I phoned PetSmart to ask where the freak was their Warning Label about these inflatable balls.

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