This is Part 5 of The Hamster Chronicles, part of Glenn's Hamster Page, by Glenn G. Chappell.

The Hamster Chronicles
Part 5

Wednesday, May 24, 1995

A good time to write another Hamster Chronicles would have been this Spring, say in late March. It would have looked something like the following:

For a while we had a plan to get Paul in the habit of getting up at 6:30 p.m., but it turned out to be a failure. He still prefers getting up at 9:30 or 10 no matter what we do. We decided to compromise and have him join us at the table when we finish dinner.

Once we put him on the table during dinner. He fought Joanne valiantly over a plate of crackers, but she was too tough for him. Seeing the futility of that effort, he ran over to my side of the table, grabbed a piece of lettuce from my salad bowl, and happily munched away. After this, we wisely decided to wait until after dinner to put him on the table, and he is now our official after-dinner entertainment. He doesn't seem to mind this too much, since there are so many interesting things on the table to smell.

After walking around a little, he usually heads over to the side of the table, to a spot between a vase, some candle holders, and the wall. We call this his "weird corner", since he like to go there and act weird. He wiggles, shakes, spins in circles, rubs against the wall, peers intently at the candle holders, sits up on his hind legs, and falls over. We have no idea why he does this. Maybe there are drugs in the wall paint. For a month or so we had a helium balloon tied down by a ribbon near his corner. He didn't like it at all. About once a week, he would chew through the ribbon, and we would tie it again. He did this four times.

After he is done acting strange, he usually dumps out whatever food he has with him in his corner. Anything he doesn't want goes into the crack between the table and the wall, after which he quietly eats the rest, while peering suspiciously at us.

I'm taking first-semester Spanish this spring. A few weeks ago, I brought up Paul in a discussion of pets. Ever since, the teacher has been asking about Paul: what's he like, can I bring him to class, etc. So, a few days ago, I did. He reacted the same way he reacts to anything else, the four BIG QUESTIONS in his life being "What does it smell like?" "Can I eat it?" "Will it eat me?" and "How can I go somewhere else?"

The answers, in this case, were mostly "I'm not sure," so he sat there with a dazed, confused look on his face for a few minutes, after which I decided he'd probably had enough -- it was his bedtime, after all. Joanne conveniently had the morning off, and was waiting out in the hallway to spirit him off to his beloved cage.

As of right now we have ourselves one pretty sick hamster. Starting in early May he's been sleeping almost all the time, getting up only to eat, drink and put some more padding in his bottle. He takes enormous drinks, walks very slowly, and never tries to climb out of his cage or run on his wheel. When he walks he falls over a lot -- so much that he can't handle his ball at all. A bit of informal testing indicates that he is also quite deaf. However, he seems to be able to see just about as well as ever.

I took him to the vet Monday. Since Joanne had the car, Paul got to take his first bus ride. Unfortunately, bus regulations required that he be securely packaged in a box that he could not get out of, so he didn't get to see much.

The vet's basic conclusion was that Paul is getting old. He should be right about two years old right now, which is getting close to his 2.5 year life expectancy. But aside from that x-rays showed that he has an unusually large liver. This could be some kind of tumor, or it could be a condition that is evidently quite common in older hamsters: protein deposits form all over the body and cause it to slowly shut down. For example, protein deposits on his brain could be producing a lack of coordination, which would be what makes him fall over so much. In either case, there isn't much that can be done.

The vet gave him from one to six months to live, which isn't all that much different from his normal life expectancy. In the mean time, it looks like he won't be too active. On the bright side, he is now generally happy just to sit and watch things, where before he would have been running around like crazy. Often he'll sit in my lap for several minutes -- at which point he is usually asleep.

He also seems to enjoy walks just about as much as ever, although now he is more interested in being carried than in walking himself. When we put him down he stays on the sidewalk, since he no longer has the coordination to navigate successfully in tall grass. After a couple of minutes of clumsy waddling, he either hangs around our feet waiting to be picked up or finds a nice secluded spot next to a clump of grass and goes to sleep.

Copyright 1995, 1997 Glenn G. Chappell. "The Hamster Chronicles, Part 5" may be freely copied and distributed provided that the text is unchanged, this notice is retained, and no fee is charged for said distribution. Distribution for a fee may only be done with express written permission of the author. While it is not strictly required, the author would also appreciate being notified if The Hamster Chronicles are made available to the public free of charge. E-mail:

Next comes Part 6. Or go back to the Table of Contents.

The Hamster Chronicles, Part 5 / Last update: 25 Jan 2001 / Glenn G. Chappell /