Hamster Tales

Part 8: In which I try to sex a hamster

There were signs that the hamsters were weaned. Mama scurried from hiding place to hiding place, with a couple of little ones running after her. We translated her occasional squeaks as, "Get your own breakfast."

I was not doing well with the idea that I had to sell part of the family down the river. For several weeks Ted persistently reminded me of the 18-day gestation period until I gave in and agreed to take the females back to the pet shop. I decided to keep only the males, whichever those were, since they were said to have better tempers -- and Mama had failed to ingratiate herself when she had the chance. I went back to the hamster web site and discovered that it is no easy thing to determine the sex of a hamsters since the males seemed to have retractable genitals, like airplane wheels. If you look very closely (that is, of course, supposing the hamster cooperates), you can see two small slots in its underbelly. In the females, the slots are a hair or two closer together.

Sexing a hamster is no piece of cake, apart from the similarity of their equipment (or visible lack of it.). Hamsters like being turned on their backs about as much as I like hiking in some filthy forest. And their bones are very loose inside their skins, so that a hamster can twist its lower body around about 90 degrees while you are holding it firmly behind its neck and imagining that the rest is going to be a snap. It took both of us to hold a three-inch cross, squirming hamster on its back. And we had five hamsters to do. (Mama was larger, so we knew her sex but we were trying to use her as a standard.) Flash I had already decided was a female. Baby and one of the others seemed almost certainly males. I was undecided about the fourth baby until it squirmed around and bit me, and I put it into the female bin.

I had made up my mind to slap a paternity suit on the pet shop if they objected to taking back the three hamsters, but the clerk's attitude suggested that this happened all the time. (A bad sign. I was later told that you should never buy hamster at a shop that doesn't segregate the males from the females. Guess why.) Before I turned the hamsters over, I had to make sure any unsold ones didn't end up as snake snacks. The clerk assured me that all the hamsters eventually sold and that hamsters were too expensive to serve to snakes. "One a snake tastes hamster, it won't eat anything else," I was told. I thought it more likely that after one experience coughing up a hamster hairball, the snake might become paranoid about eating anything at all.

It was difficult to tell whether the two brothers, Baby and Billy, were affected by the loss of the rest of their family. Hamsters have only two expressions, one of which is "Huh?" and the other "Can't it wait until I've had my coffee?"

Go back to Part 7
which explains what
hamsters are made of
Go forward to Part 9
which describes life
among the frat rats