Charlie's New Pad

As with Biscuit, Charlie is a prolific cage bar-chewer.

Before I tell you how we're solving this problem, a little information about Hamster Keeping.

There are many varieties of hamster. The main ones are Syrian hamsters, the largest hamster breed, and dwarf hamsters, including Chinese and Russian hamsters, amongst others, which are much smaller. I don't know much about the dwarf hamsters, so this information will mostly be related to Syrians.

A burrowing animal by nature, hamsters like tunnels - however, many of the cages with tunnels on the market are much too narrow for a fully grown Syrian hamster. This is also true for cages - the bigger the better, though many shops with hamster "starter" kits sell a tiny cage, with a tiny wheel, with tiny tunnels, which your Syrian hamster will very quickly grow out of. The cage we bought originally for Biscuit is 16"x14"x12", and came with tunnels that locked into the shelves - Biscuit, roughly a year old when we adopted her, was already too big for these tunnels. Charlie fitted through them fine when we adopted him at 4months old, now, at 5 1/2 months, he really struggles to get through easily. I'll take this opportunity to point out that neither of our hamsters have been overweight, or even close! We've always been on the lookout for a larger cage, but so far haven't found one that's much bigger.

Hamsters are designed for running and foraging. While they may look an ungainly creature (especially after keeping more agile rats as pets) they are very good at running for long periods of time, and in the wild can cover many kilometres in a single night. This is why a wheel in a hamster's cage is so important. Once again, many of the wheels sold in shops are unsuitable for hamsters in that they are much, much too small. A hamster shouldn't have to bend his/her back to get into the wheel - it should be as though they're running normally along the ground. The wheel should also be flat, not with rungs that small feet could get caught in, and semi - contained from one side - again, to prevent limbs getting caught and broken by non-moving parts. Charlie and Biscuit have both so far used a Savic Rolly Large, an 18cm diameter wheel although if Charlie keeps growing much more we'll have to go up to the Jumbo sized one!

Left - a bad example of a hamster wheel. Too many open rungs for limbs to become trapped.
Right - the Savic Rolly Large (18cm). No places for limb-trapping and also very quiet!

Hamsters chew the bars for a number of reasons. The main reason is most likely that they're bored; in a small cage, their wheel isn't big enough or there is nothing for them to chew. This isn't helped by the fact that so many of them are stuck in cages which are not fit for purpose. Extra wooden toys can be put in a cage to provide your hamster with something to do - Charlie likes hazel and eucalyptus, though his present nest is made in an elder-stump. This is also linked to handling time - hamsters handled little tend to be more bored than those who spend a lot of time out of the cage and exploring.

The other reason hamsters chew cage bars is simply because they can. Charlie and Biscuit have both had between 2 and 3 hours handling every night, and when they aren't being handled or running free they are in the ball running around the house (they return to the cage when they want to have a rest, which I think is quite impressive!) but both of them turn to chewing the bars as soon as they're put back in the cage for the night.

So what if they chew the bars? Well the problem is hamsters chew cage bars with their back teeth - so they aren't wearing down their front teeth as they should be. This can cause the front teeth to become misaligned, but can also cause the brain to be misaligned. And nobody wants a crazy hamster.

If you look this up online, you will see that there are a few ways you can try to stop them doing it - as previously mentioned, putting extra toys in the cage, keeping them more occupied etc can help. There are also a few home remedies, where people have put something a hamster doesn't like to taste on the bars where they chew. I have tried a few of these, and nothing has worked with either hamster! Only shortly before Biscuit died did she stop chewing the cage, and Charlie has started early.

The final way to stop a hamster chewing the cage, is to provide them with a chew-proof cage. It is possible to buy cages ready made from glass with shelves for small animals, and there are also plastic hamster cages you can buy from pet shops everywhere.

The final straw for us was last week Charlie broke the end of one of his bottom teeth from chewing on the cage - it's been worn back level with the other one quite quickly, but we wanted to solve the problem as soon as we could when we realised just how much he was chewing the bars over all of the wooden toys we've given him.

However, when we found plastic cages they were usually either the same size or smaller than the one he was in - when ideally, we wanted something a big bigger for the ever growing hamster. They also tended to be a bit flimsy - only very thin, easily chewable plastic! We considered an indoor guinea-pig cage, like the plastic hamster cages but much larger - the the bar spacing at the top was much, much too wide! And Charlie is a bit of an escape artist, so we didn't want to risk it. We also found that the ready made Perfect-O small animal environments are nigh-on impossible to buy at the moment. We used to have a Perfect-O one which was about 3ft long that housed the rats, which would have been brilliant!

Then last week we were in a pet shop and found a glass fish tank, for £25.99 - 24"x14"x12" - this is roughly half the price of one with ready made shelves of a similar size! So we bought it, and have since been filling it with Things.

The tank has a wooden shelf, supported by four wooden legs, and a large hollow elder stump (see the photo). The wheel is fixed to the stump with a bolt through where the original spindle was held, and the water bottle is a SuperPet Flat-Bac bottle, with the nozzle turned the other way and some suckers instead of the Easy-Clamp thing. So far it all works really well!

The lid is constructed from a cage that used to cover an outdoors heating fitting, and yes, sadly he is still chewing it, although not half as much as he was! In the meantime, we're working on making a chew-proof lid, but we're happy with the little progress we've made so far.


Handmade Things

Kev and I have spent a lot of time recently trying to find affordable but bespoke wedding rings, as the Date looms ever nearer.

Recently we stubled across Etsy. Etsy is a website devoted to the selling of handmade or vintage products, and there are some beautiful things available!

Left to right; Harlequin and Gray Titanium Wedding Band Set - Zoe and Doyle, Iridized Titanium Tension Set Ring by robandlean, Copper Waves - Hand Hammered Adjustable Copper Ring by GenuineArticle.

So if you're looking for some inspiration for a sligtly different and almost certainly bespoke ring, look here!

Hamster Diaries - Cage Cleaning

Hello diary,

My name is Charlie. I am a 5 month old Syrian hamster (my unofficial birthday is the 6th of April, 2009), and I have decided to log my adventures here (as it looks like there might be a few!). I'm quite a handsome chap, if I do say so myself, although I am missing my left eye. I remember how I lost it but I can't write it here! It would give any diary finder nightmares.

Anyway, the first story to write in my diary is thus.

I hate Saturdays. They are, officially, the worst days in the history of weekdays. Picture this - you're cosily snuggled up in your warm bed, that has your food in one corner ready for snacking in the day, and all of a sudden there's a noise that shakes the bottom of your cage! Well that's what happens to me every Saturday, well, it's happened every Saturday for a month now, and I should imagine it will continue!

Today I was turfed out of my cosy bed and spoken to by Leah. She then handed me to Kevin - and started putting all of my hard work, stockpiles of food and cosy nests into a plastic bag! What's that all about? Anyhow, Kev held me captive - I kept trying to get back to my house but I watched as it was broken into two and all the bedding pulled out. Have I been bad? Why are you ruining my bed!? I'm so hungry!

Kev puts me in the ball, and it's then I makes my 'scapes - I run as far and as fast as I can out into the hall and down to the kitchen. I'll show them about destroying food-piles!

I ran about for about 20 human minutes (valuable sleep time any other day of the week), all the time there is a strange, sweet-ish but cloying smell in the air - I followed it to it's source and it's the bathroom - Leah is doing something in the bath, and that's where the smell is. There's water too....brr...I hate water! So I turned tail stump and ran as fast as I could - closer to the kitchen.

But I must have taken a wrong turn - there was a lot of light coming from a big wall at the end of this corridor, and it was a bit draughty - then a giant shadow appeared on the other side of the wall! I tried to run but it was too late, the wall opened and trapped my ball between it and the wall and the giant came closer! He had a big booming voice - but then I realised it was only Tom and he wouldn't hurt me. So I just carried on. He hadn't turfed me out of my nest after all, so there was no smiting to be done.

I eventually made it into the kitchen, and found all sorts of tasty crumbs on the floor - only tiny ones though, I wouldn't expect those humans to have seen them from all the way up where their whiskers are. They were a nice snack, but I was still hungry. So I just ran about a bit more!

In the end I found a quiet room with no humans. Thank the Great Ham for that! All this trundling about has made me tired and thirsty, so I found a quiet corner and took a nap.

No sooner was I fast asleep when Leah woke me up. Typical, inconsiderate humans. She took me back - and there was my house! All it's shelves and my Wheel and water bottle all ready for me to move back in. It looks so clean and tidy now - not how I left it at all! But humans have a funny habit of making their houses like this. Most uncivillised. But they can't be blamed too much, they are a very strange and unfortunate creature. And the smell! That horrible cloying smell is all over my house now and it's all I can smell!

I suppose it will take another week for me to make it smell back to my normal handsome hamster smelling self, just in time for them to muck it up again.

Thanks, humans. Maybe one day I'll try to make your house more like mine.


New Speakers

Well, the exciting world of music has now opened up to me, having been tempted by new speakers for ages and never really being able to justify spending however large an amount of money to buy some good high quality but loud speakers, I was browsing the other day and discovered the Logitech X 230 2.1 set, which I have to say, are able to kick out a lot of Bass, a little too much for my liking on anything other than with the Bass turned right down. However the quality and experience they provide is excellent for £25-30 speakers.

Unfortunately now poor Charlie is relegated to the other room whenever I want to play music ;-)

Long live the Prodigy and Pendulum! (and Innerpartysystem too...)

New Phone

After a lot of hassle, I have finally been able to upgrade my phone. Orange have given me a brilliant deal on minutes and messages for the next 18 months - since September 2006 I've been paying £25 a month for 100 minutes and 1000 texts.

Now I am paying a mere £10 a month and getting 400 minutes and unlimited texts ("unlimited" being capped at 3000) so even if I only use the 500 or so texts a month I have been using since moving to Scotland, I'm still better off.

There is a price for this, however. I originally owned the Sony Ericsson K810i, and I have to say I loved it. It's been run over, dropped out of windows, thrown across the room and suffered barely a scratch. After the Samsun E900 I had before, the K810i seemed near indestructable. Therefore I was looking to upgrade to a better Ericsson.

I asked on the phone with Orange which phones I could have, and they said the C510 or the W595. I like both, but was reluctant to go back to sliding phones after all the problems I and others have had with them, so the C510 won out - then Orange told me they could only do it me in Silver.

NOOOOOOO! It just looks so wrong in silver. Please, can I have a black one I asked. No. So I gave it a little while and phoned them back. I'd rather have the W595 in blue and look after it than the C510 in silver. Yes, that'd be fine, they said. But we only have the W595 in Pink, and we have no idea when or if we'll get the blue ones in again.

NOOOOOOO! A silver phone or a pink phone? So I chose the lesser of two evils. I caved and got the C510, purely because the camera is better on it than the W595.

Now I am the proud owner of a phone that looks very much like an out of date Nokia. I am going to buy a cover for it ASAP, and probably won't take it out in public.

Only 18 months until I can upgrade to a new one!


When I adpoted Biscuit it was a chance for me to try and give a better life to something that needed it - Biscuit was an adult hamster who obviously wasn't loved any more, so I wanted to prove to her that she was loved and could have a happy life after all.

So when she died, that purpose of mine was fulfilled - I'd given something a home that genuinely needed it, rather than going out and buying a "mass produced" baby hamster, or some other poor creature Pets at Home decided to sell for a profit with little regard as to where it was going. Understandably the lack of something "needing" me for food and cuddles left a bit of a hole so a hobby formed with Kev and I in going into pet shops (particularly those with adoption centres) and seeing what might need us.

When I went to Tamworth to visit Mum, I mentioned this to her and we ended up going to the Pets at Home there to see who was in.

There, catching 20 winks (instead of the usual 40) in a small cage in the adoption corner, was Charlie.

Charlie is a sort of butterscotch coloured hamster, and at the date of his adoption (Tuesday 8th September) he was four months old. And, in case you hadn't gathered, a boy. He also has only one eye.


Nobody knows how Charlie lost his eye. Some speculate that he lost it fighting a grizzly bear in the Rockies, though the guy at Pets at Home came up with two suggestions;

1:- Charlie caught his eye on something ill-placed in his cage after he was purchased as a baby, on one of his over-energetic climbing sprees.
2:- Charlie hasn't ever left the pet shop, and after getting too old to be kept with other hamsters lost his eye in a fight with a brother.

Either way he thinks he'd been in the vet-section of PaH (yes, they actually have a vets in many stores now) for a while as his eye socket healed over, but since it cleared up he'd been up for adoption and nobody wanted him.

At first I was entirely against the idea. Mum and Kev pestered for about an hour, but I was sad - so soon after saying goodbye to Biscuit felt like I was betraying her. But when I thought about it, I figured that logically looking after another adoption animal would be better than buying one, or spending forever going into pet shops and going "Aww..." and so, Charlie came home with us.

Kev has agreed to take joint responsibility of him and we're all slowly beginning to make friends. Charlie is naturally very jumpy if you catch him on his blind side, so we've been making extra effort to make a noise when we do have to pick him up (when he tries to jump off the bed etc.).

Hopefully in time Charlie will be as good a friend to me and Kev as Biscuit was - although he will never be a replacement, we will love him all the same.

An Ode to Biscuit.

Biscuit, a fully grown female Syrian hamster, was abandoned in Llandudno in January, 2008. Frightened and alone, she was placed in a rehoming centre in Bangor, fed and made to be fat and lazy for almost a week before Kev and I came along.

She was taken to Bryn Teg, and lived a warm and cosy life surrounded by people who loved her very much, even if it took her a little while to love us back. By day, she was a fat, lazy, ginger hamster who spent much of her day asleep. By night, however, she took on her superhero life as a fat, lazy hamster, spending many of her evening hours wide awake on her super-sized wheel, running and running and running and running and running.....

It is also widely believed that Biscuit’s real name was Professor B. Iscuit, a genius creature who arrived on this planet by accident and has spent a great deal of time working on a way to return home. To begin with she was greatly amused by human science – Hamsters have known where to find the Higgs Boson for some time, and it’s not where we’ve been looking. In fact, you’d be surprised at where it really can be found. I was laughing for days when I worked it out. However, after time spent with us travelling the length and breadth of the country and being spoiled rotten with peas and porridge and other tasty snacks, she decided to stay and live out a normal hamster life-span. She even helped me complete my final year dissertation, running about over the keys on my laptop with suggestions.

And so when I moved out of Bryn Teg, Biscuit travelled up to Scotland with me and Kev. This is when things sadly started to change.

Not knowing Biscuit’s real age, we expected the inevitable expiration of the ambitious, adventurous hamster. Some people speculate that Biscuit was recorded in the secret journals of Genghis Khan, “a feared and vicious creature, even I’m scared silly. No creature hath fury like a ginger creature – and no ginger creature hath fury like this hamster,” meaning Biscuit could be thousands of years old. A local vet put her age at what we had surmised – somewhere between 1 and 1.5 years old when we got her.

In Summer 2009 (so when she'd've been 2.5-3-ish) her health began to rapidly degenerate; the vet's assessment was that the two lumps that had slowly grown on her side were either kidney or ovary cancers, and without her access to hamster-science there was nothing to be done. Her time was up. So we said our goodbyes, and she would like you all to know she enjoyed her stay with us.

So now, she has kicked the bucket. She has shuffled off her mortal coil, rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. She is an ex-hamster.

And she will be sorely missed.

Hello! Goodbye Uni, goodbye Biscuit …

Right. Sorry for not updating for a while those of you who do read this - I've been really busy finishing my last year at Uni.

I did my dissertation on changes to sedimentary regimes due to tidal barrage schemes. It doesn't sound very interesting, but I found it fascinating! That scored a first in the end, so I was quite delighted with that score!

I graduated  with a high 2.i (68%. Grr.) so I'm really pleased with that mark- now all I need to do is get a JOB.

Biscuit died last month. I've missed her ever so much - I'll write about it in a separate post. It's amazing how much you can love something so small, and how big a hole they leave when they go. But she helped me through Uni and for that I'm eternally grateful to her!

I have every intention of keeping this better updated from now on. Promise. When I have something exciting to say, I'll say it, instead of thinking "I really have to update the blog at some point...".

It’s that time again…

Spring is here, the weather's picking up, kiting days are becoming more and more often...

 I have a 10 000 word essay worth 40% of a module to do for two weeks time, I've got other courseworks (worth 10, 5 and 2%) due in a week, and exams are only a fortnight away.

Who organises courses so everyone's stuck inside when the weather's so good?!

Never mind. Summer's on it's way!

That dread feeling.

I think one of the worst feelings ever is that sensation of dread you get when you look in where you keep a pet, be a it a fish, a hamster, or a puppy, and you do your usual ritual of waking it up, only to be met with a kind of empty silence.

 Like last year, when Dennis (may he rest in peace) failed to be woken by my feeding or tapping gently on the side of the tank. It's such a horrid "oh no...." feeling.

Today I woke up after a surprisingly quiet night from Biscuit. I didn't think anything of it (I was ridiculously tired yesterday) until I went to get her out and she didn't move. I tried whistling, clicking, tapping the cage, rattling the food bag. Nothing worked.

 In the end I took one last stab at waking her before i opened the cage and opened the lid of her house. I blew a quick puff of air down the chimney.

The house jumped and an indignant nose peeped out.