Late last week when I rolled over in bed, grabbed my phone, and opened the email from my editor, a smile crossed my groggy, dry morning lips. The email suggested I get in touch with Masika Woods and her daughter because news of their photo project with their beloved hamster Nugget has been blowing up.
Woods is a Cowichan-based professional photographer who has unfortunately had a bit of downtime thanks to COVID-19. That’s not to say she hasn’t been keeping busy.
Together with her daughter, they’ve been carefully crafting and staging photographs featuring Nugget on various miniature adventures: cooking, camping, fishing, with more promised.
The photographs were enough to make me grin first thing in the morning but my assignment truly had me wondering if my editor had any idea about what has been going on in my own house.
For weeks now my own four-year-old daughter has been begging for a hamster. It all began when her father and I made the horrible decision to let her watch hamster agility and obstacle courses on YouTube. Don’t go down that wormhole. You may never recover. For as ridiculous as those videos are, it’s really hard to pull your eyes away.
My children are perceptive. They know exactly which parent to go to in order to increase their odds of getting what they want. The kids know mom likes cats and dogs, but dad would be open to more…exotic pets.
So, the other day my daughter said to her dad, “Dad, can we just go to the pet store and look at the hamsters?”
There’s no harm in looking, right?
Actually, I cautioned my husband, that’s how my sister and I tricked my mom into getting a cat when we were kids.
“We just went to look,” I said. “We ended up with a flea-ridden pile of fur that hid under the couch for three days and seemed to take great pleasure in peeing in my mom’s work pumps.”
Nevertheless, he agreed to take her. She replied with “Great! Then I’ll choose one that day and we can go back the next day to pick it up and bring it home!”
Wait, what? No, no. NO!
We explained that she’s not even four-and-a-half, she can’t even take care of herself completely let alone tend to a tiny creature who would be relying on her for its survival.
We talked about cleaning out the cage and she said she’d do it every month. We explained it’d be way more often than that. We talked about how often she uses the bathroom and what a mess that’d be if it wasn’t cleaned up.
“That’s OK,” she said. “I’ll clean up after it. Where do you buy tiny little toilet paper anyway?” she wondered innocently. “Can you get it at the pet store?”
If that didn’t pound the last tiny nail into the tiny hamster coffin, maybe knowing she also spent time dragging a skipping rope around with her shoe tied to the other end “because that’s how I’m going to walk the hamster,” should have.
She’s got a lot to learn.
I reached out to Masika for advice. Clearly, she and her daughter are hamster pros at this point.
What do I do?
Thank goodness she told me what I wanted to hear.
“I’d have to say I wouldn’t recommend a hamster for a four-year old,” she said. “They do require care that a four-year-old cannot do themselves so you’ll have to be prepared to fully clean a stinky cage one to two times a week yourself. It’s not pleasant.”
Masika said her daughter had been asking since she was five but they held off until she was nine and believe it was the right call.
“It’s been great for my daughter as it makes her feel a sense of independence having these little creatures to care for all on her own. All in all it’s been a great experience for us but I’m happy we waited until she was a bit older as I’ve seen so many hamsters and guinea pigs end up having to be re-homed when young children lose interest in them,” she said. “So far I haven’t had to do anything to care for any of the rodents though! So my daughter has definitely kept her end of the bargain.”
Masika’s daughter was also old enough to research the bonding process thoroughly and took the required two-to-three months to get the animal used to living in its new home.
“I’m not sure a four-year-old would have the patience for that and might lose interest,” she admitted. “[My daughter] loves the hamster so much but was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t as cuddly as she was expecting.”
Mine would likely cuddle it to its untimely demise.
All this to say, no, not a good idea. That, coupled with my vision of my child dragging the poor fluff-ball around on the end of a skipping rope has me thinking that yes, we won’t be getting a hamster anytime soon. She can stick to Masika’s photographs and the YouTube videos of agility hamsters.
Don’t tell her that, though. She hasn’t stopped asking. But recently my son has been piping up, too.
“Well if she gets a hamster, I want a lizard!”
And here I thought hamster toilet paper would be hard to find…