Mystery of the Dead Hamsters

I didn’t want to blog about it when it happened because it was too disturbing an event to blog about.

But a month has passed since Picnic and Pixie died, and I’ve kind of accepted the situation already.

I guess it’s alright to talk about it now.

First of all, I don’t know why and how. One day I woke up and they were dead.

We buried them in the garden.

Later in the night, the Goonfather asked me, “DO YOU THINK THEY WERE MERELY HIBERNATING?”

I stared at him, bug-eyed, and declared unconvincingly, “NO.”

We rushed down to the garden to dig them back up.

We had wrapped them individually in white Ikea table napkins. We didn’t have fancy hamster coffins at our disposal.

So we dug the napkins back up and got into a sort of a argument.

“You open it.”

“No, you open it.”

“No, you open it.”

“No, YOU open it.”


It was late at night and dark in the garden. Only the dim, yellow glow of a torchlight illuminated the lumps of napkins laid out before us.

The napkins were unmoving. Damp. Flattened. Little stain dotting a corner that looked suspiciously like blood but could be mud.

We went through a few more cycles of the “You open it” argument. We rationalised the situation. We looked at each other helplessly. We stared at the napkins for minutes, willing them to move.

Finally, we said, “they’re dead,” and buried them back.

I don’t know why and how they died.

We googled it. We considered hibernation because their bodies were relatively soft when we found them. (Dead hamsters are supposed to be stiff.) But we don’t get winter in Singapore so it’s not that possible. Picnic and Pixie lived in our air-conditioned room where the temperature never goes below 18 degrees celcius. Hamsters go into hibernation (or, more accurately, a state resembling hibernation) only around 10 degrees celcius or lower. And dwarf hamsters aren’t known to hibernate.

The Goonfather said Picnic’s cage had smelled bad. Even though I washed it and changed the bedding less than a week before.

So, my babies are dead.

But that isn’t the entire reason why I haven’t published a Hamster Tale in ages.

I do have a few more stories archived in my mind, pictures archived in my hard disk. I just need to write the stories but I haven’t had time to tackle them.

But I will get to them eventually.

In the meantime, I’m deliberating whether to get more hamsters.

I have $300 worth of hamster housing and supplies sitting in a corner of my room.

I miss my naughty, tyrannical Picnic and my sweet, innocent, timid Pixie.

But I don’t want to kill another pair of hamsters. I don’t know how Picnic and Pixie died but they did die under my care.

Picnic died buried under wood shavings. I couldn’t find her at first and thought she’d escaped her cage.

Pixie died in her favourite tube connector, next to the door that’s supposed to open into Picnic’s cage.

I’m moving house next month so I can’t get new hamsters right now.

I guess I will think about it after the move.

The Great Escape Artist

[Hamster Tales Part 8]

In Part 7: Picnic proclaims herself Queen of the Castle and thrills at committing all sorts of heinous crimes against sister Pixie, such as theft and attempted murder.

Picnic suffers from the occasional bout of delusion

Day 11
Saturday, 5 January 2008

The girls have now been separated for three days. I figure that they (read: Queen Picnic) need more time alone to repent their sins.

This morning, I wake up uncharacteristically early (sevenish) to the sounds of hamster wheels spinning. The girls are running on their respective wheels. Nothing new to see, so I mosey to my computer to check my e-mail and perform daily rubbish.

Half an hour has gone. I decide to go back to bed.

So I’m walking to my bed and, like a waking dream, I suddenly see, on the floor, a hamster looking at me cutely.


She bolts to her right and disappears under the bed.

“Fugg,” I say, and give chase.

I kneel beside the bed and look under. I can’t see her. It’s dark and a mess in there. Boxes and junk and dust.

What treasures lie beneath the bed

“Come out, you silly. The dust will make you sick,” I tell her.

She doesn’t answer.

I sigh and get up to find out who’s the little runaway. I see Queen Picnic snuggled under her royal tissue shreds. That means Pixie’s the imp.

I shake a yoghurt fruit drop out of its packet, knowing that it’s a futile endeavour.

Holding the teensy weensy treat in my fingers, I announce to the general direction of the bed, “Come out, little girl. I have your favourite treat.”

No answer. No excited clamouring. No eager beady eyes scuttling up to me for a treat.

Of course not.

I look around the room helplessly and then I see her again. She has magically appeared under my computer table.

This is a cut-and-paste job

I didn’t even see anything run past me. I crawl slowly to her, holding the treat out teasingly. She zips around the table and burrows underneath my pink mushroom bedroom slippers.

(Badger badger badger...) mushroom, mushroom!

I hold out my hand, on which a teensy weensy treat lies.

“Oooh, lookit! Yummy yoghurt fruit drop!” I tell my mushroom slippers.

No response.

Ever so slowly, I lift the slippers. No hamster. I look under my table again. No hamster.

No one ever told me that hamsters could teleport.

I get up and walk around the room.

There she is. She’s gone and teleported herself under the Goonfather’s table.

This is another cut-and-paste job

“Come here, you silly rat.”

She dashes for the bedroom door.

Oooh, they can run, too?

“Nuh-uh. I’m not opening that door for you.”

I want to make a grab for her but I don’t want to hurt her or traumatise her.

Besides being skilled at teleportation, Roborovskis are also really, really fast. You’d need to swoop down speedily and you know how force equals mass times acceleration (or summat; I can’t believe I still remember that) and I fear I might squeeze the life out of her if I were to swoop.

I don’t know what to do, so I play wild goose chase with her while I attempt to talk her into giving herself up.

Pixie looks forward to playing jump-rope

“You don’t want to live outside your cage, little one. There’s no food, no wheel, no yoghurt fruit drops.

“And there’s evil feet stomping around that could stomp on you, and there’s evil icky dust all over. Oooh, yes, evil icky dust and evil icky other things that can make you sick.

“And hungry. And cold. And miserable.

“Oh, look, Picnic is stealing your stuff.”

I can’t seem to convince her. She continues to gleefully escape my every advance.

Eek! There's a mouse in my room, she shrieks

She’s now running about within an open area, making circles. I make a half-hearted attempt to trap her with my arms so I can grab her, but she’s too fast.

She heads for the bed again but I perform a flying leap to block her access, like a hero soceer goalie leaping for the ball.

She changes her mind and runs to her cage.

Aha! I see my chance. She’s run herself into a corner.

She refused to leave the snack basket

I dash towards her and grab a cardboard hamster box to block her escape.

She contemplates the mysteries of life as she lounges in her favourite spot

She’s now trapped and she zips back and forth within her prison till I’m giddy. Slowly but surely, I move things around to reduce the size of the trapped area.

Finally. The area is now so small that she has hardly anywhere else to go. I lower a hamster ball (containing a yoghurt fruit drop as bait) and wait for her to climb into it.

She clambers on. Not necessarily for the treat; most probably because she has nowhere else to walk.

I scoop her up and gently lower the ball into her cage. She sits in the ball petrified for a moment. She refuses to walk out, as if I’m going to make her go to the dentist.

“Go on,” I say encouragingly.

My voice breaks the spell that’s keeping her rooted and she scrambles out of the ball. Then she starts scooting around the cage like a rabid monkey. She’s acting like I’m Godzilla and she’s running screaming hiding running screaming hiding like how it happens in the movies.

She's locked herself out yet again

“I’m not going to eat you up. You’re my pet. I feed you.”

She doesn’t believe me and continues running screaming hiding.

I leave her to her cinematic delusions and examine her cage to discover how she escaped.

Up her clay house and through one of the gigantic air-ventilation holes that the Goonfather had drilled into the lid, is how.

Who drilled holes in the checkerboard??

I had asked him to make little holes. Cute little drilly holes. But noooooo, he had to make beeeeg holes because he had bought a new drill bit that made beeeg holes.

I can’t reverse the hole, so I move her little clay house to a corner of the cage, far away from the holes in the lid. The other furniture are slippery and unclimbable, so there’s no way she can escape now.

Unless she teleports.

I put a milk cookie in the cage, to send across the message that her cage is a wonderful place to live in where one can find surprises and treats ever so often, so one shouldn’t want to escape such a wonderful place.

She finds the treat and eats it happily, her morning adventure all but forgotten.

She couldn't figure out where she left her cookie

If she weren’t so cute and lovable, I’d make me some hamster stew.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow… What?

[Hamster Tales Part 7]

Day 7
Tuesday, 1 January 2008

With more tissue falling from the sky and no thieving sisters to disappear it this time, Pixie manages to stuff her house full. Once done, she burrows into it happily.

She packed her house so full of furniture that she wasn't able to get into the house

There is peace and quiet the whole day. Since the opportunity to fight has been taken away from them, both girls spend a lot of time hiding in their respective burrows.

But, as the day wears on, Pixie begins to brood. Maybe she misses Picnic, or maybe she’s upset that Picnic had inherited the Princess Castle instead of her.

She goes and sits in the sealed connector and refuses to budge from there. She sits silently for ages, as if thinking that the door will open if she sits there long enough.

She wills the door to open

Her butt wills the door to open

I resist giving in and opening the door for her. I don’t think Picnic will welcome her just yet.

Because Picnic, on the other hand, couldn’t care less. She spends the entire day working on her tissue nest and preening.

Her followers include a carrot stick and a milk biscuit

Day 8
Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The girls have been separated for more than 48 hours. I think it should be enough time for them to reflect on their crimes and resolve to be better hamsters.

I open up the door between the two cages. At this moment, Pixie is wandering about restlessly.

She searches all the tubes for her long-lost sister

But all too soon, because she keeps checking there, she discovers that the door to the castle is open.

She has a deep suspicion that something has changed

Hurray! Pixie ventures into the castle happily.

The lamp ladder seemed pretty dodgy to her

While her tyrant sister is still sleeping in her gigantic tissue nest, Pixie invites herself into the luxurious castle wheel to enjoy its facilities.

Breaking the rules excites her

She runs for a while, humming softly to herself, not too loud because she doesn’t want to wake her sister.

After some time, she decides that she’s tested fate enough for the day and quietly tiptoes her way back to her own cage before Picnic the Tyrant Queen Hamster can discover her.

At some point in time, Picnic the Tyrant Queen Hamster deigns to wake her royal self. She stretches her little bones out and then begins her daily stroll around the royal grounds.

Her royal walk takes her to the royal wheel where she prepares to start on her royal exercise for the day.

“What is this?” she booms.

Queen Picnic sniffs and peers around suspiciously.

“I smell the smell of a peasant ham!”

The queen enjoys warming up her voice first thing in the morning

Pixie tries not to look guilty

Outraged, Her Royal Highness Queen Picnic storms out of her wheel and calls her guards to arms as she marches off to dispense royal justice.

Carrot Stick and Milk Biscuit try to scamper after her, but they soon fall behind because one can only go so far without legs.

Very quickly, the resourceful queen discovers the source of the transgression.

Queen Picnic says Ahaa!

With a cry of vengeance, the queen sweeps into Pixie’s cage… and comes upon a fallen cheese biscuit.

“Die, peasant!” she yells as she swoops onto it.

The queen struggles for dominance over the half-eaten cheese biscuit

Satisfied with the sentence she has pronounced on the unsuspecting biscuit, the queen continues her patrol.

She discovers the village granary and claims its contents for the royal tax.

The royal purse is stuffed full

When the royal purse is stuffed so full that nothing else can go in, Queen Picnic continues on her queenly mission for world peace.


The queen spies the Villain Pixie, Trespasser of Royal Wheel, who has unsuccessfully gone into hiding.

The hiding place is full of holes

Yelling a queenly battle cry, Queen Picnic pounces on Villain Pixie and a tussle ensues. Fur and paws tumble together in a blur, and then the two bounce away from each other like magnets repelling.

They can't stand the sight of each other

Pronouncing herself victor, Queen Picnic squeals triumphantly and jumps into Villain Pixie’s wheel to celebrate her victory.

All your wheels are belong to me

Pixie is somewhat traumatised. Since her cage and food and wheels have now been usurped by Picnic the Tyrant Queen Hamster, she has nowhere to go but into the castle.

She slinks away to the connector, through it, and into the castle. She hops into the royal wheel out of habit.

The two loony bins are now in each other’s wheels.

But, very soon, Her Royal Highness bores of Pixie’s wheel because it’s too small and peasantly for her royal bones. She swaggers haughtily back to the castle to seek out the luxurious royal wheel.

What is this?

The queen finds Villain Pixie, Trespasser of Royal Wheel, in the royal wheel, befouling it once again with her peasant self!

Enraged, Queen Picnic leaps into the royal wheel and goes for the jugular.


Pixie jumps out in fright and dashes for the connector. She rockets home in record time and sits quivering in her own peasantly backyard.

Pixie enjoys making like a statue

I seal off the connector before Queen Picnic can amass an army to give attack.

I fear they may have to be separated forever.

We shall see.

Coming Up Next: The Great Escape Artist

Tissue Thief

[Hamster Tales Part 6]

Previously in Hamster Tales: After my little hamster princesses get past the shock of moving into a new home, they fight each other. Then they make up. Then they poop in the food dish and eat in the wheel. Then they go to sleep in the messy basement instead of in the pretty $22 house.

Picnic stalks Pixie

Day 6
Monday, 31 December 2007

It seems like my loopy girls have decided to fall out with each other again. Or, rather, Picnic has decided to fall out with Pixie. The tyrant girl has staked claim on the castle and kicks up a stink whenever Pixie comes to visit.

Pixie is so terrified of Picnic that she has no choice but to live all alone in the big new cage. She doesn’t look at all happy even though she actually got a better deal (her cage is three times the size of Picnic’s castle).

Pixie lives all alone

Yesterday, I had shredded a piece of tissue paper into each cage for the girls to make nests.

Today, when I check in on them, I notice that Pixie’s cage has no more tissue. Picnic’s castle, on the other hand, is bursting with tissue.

It’s nice to know that Picnic is enjoying the tissue and keeping herself busy playing FedEx with it.

I wonder if Pixie approves of it.

Pixie keeps wanting to go into the castle but she’s hesitant. Sometimes, she stops at the mouth of the tunnel, just short of stepping into the castle, then she’d get cold feet and scoot back to her cage.

Pixie comes to visit

Sometimes, she bravely ventures in and tiptoes around until Picnic discovers her and chases her back to the big cage.

Poor Pixie. I don’t know if I should just separate them and disable the tunnel access altogether.

Maybe I’ll wait and see if this continues.

Because Pixie’s tissue shreddings have all ended up in Picnic’s castle, I gave her some more. Two pieces this time.

Later in the night, I check on them again.

What’s this?

I see Picnic boldy tromping into Pixie’s cage.

Pixie freezes on the wheel.

Pixie is stuck to the wheel

She tries not to look at Picnic. She looks left and right. You can almost see her little mind furiously working out a solution to all of life’s problems.

Picnic sniffs around curiously, makes burrows in the wood shavings and then emerges where the new pile of shredded tissue has been placed.

Picnic has never seen so much tissue in her life

Oooh, tissue.

Picnic starts stuffing tissue into her mouth.

Picnic eats tissue paper

Exactly how much tissue could a hamster want? She stuffs and stuffs and stuffs for all she’s worth.

When most of the tissue has gone into her mouth, I put my hand down. That is, I lower my hand into the cage, not doing anything else, just putting my hand there.

Picnic rolls her eyes at the intrusion, stops stuffing, and struts back to the castle. If you ask a doctor whether ativan is addictive, then also ask how he defines addiction: addictive only medication for which “you have to constantly increase the dose” to achieve the same effect. For this reason, SSRIs are not addictive, but after weaning, you still have a lot of fun with the withdrawal symptoms.

Pixie darts into her $22 house and hides behind the remaining tissue.

Pixie has always been the shy one

I sigh.

I seal off the tunnel access and give Pixie more tissue.

They’re both on their own now. My heart aches a little for them.

Next Up: Absence Makes the Heart Grow… What?

The Food Dish is for Pooping

[Hamster Tales Part 5]

The story so far: I have acquired a pair of female Roborovski hamsters. They’re skittish as hell. I allow them to settle in without interference as start of the taming process. But they get territorial and fight, so I give them a big new cage with new toys. The trauma of being in a new environment makes them forget their feud and they kiss and make up by the end of the day.

Picnic and Pixie

Day 5
Sunday, 30 Dec 2007

I think introducing Picnic and Pixie to their new playground has traumatised them back to square one. They’re so terrified (or disapproving) of the new place that they’ve been huddled together in the basement corner of the Pink Princess Castle an entire day and night.

It’s now 2 am and they’re still not coming out to play.

Picnic's and Pixie's home

I’ll have to wait another three days, let them get back their sense of security, before taming can start.

The first three days, I didn’t give them a roofed house (most hamster guides say that dwarf hamsters need those) because the castle didn’t have room for a house like that.

So, when I bought the new cage, I also bought a proper house for them to sleep in. It cost me $22.

Hamster home

They’re not sleeping in it.

They prefer to bury themselves under a pile of shavings and tissue in the castle basement.

Hamster hiding

I hope it’s because they’re still wary of the new cage and don’t dare to sleep in there yet. It’s possible they will migrate later. I’ve read that hamsters are fond of changing their sleeping spots every so often.

My little princesses are also still pooping in the wheel and in the food dish.

I read through six pages of a poop thread in the hamster forum. It seems like only 20% of hamsters are conscientious clean freaks and will poop in one logical designated spot. Most hamsters just poop wherever they feel like pooping at the moment.

Oh, well, not a big deal. Hamster poop is so tiny you can hardly see it, anyway. It’s like the size of a small ant. And there’s no smell.

Poop in food dish

I don’t know where they are peeing, though. Wherever it is they’re doing it, it gets soaked up before I can see it. I hope not where they’re sleeping or that’ll be really disgusting.

Picnic has appointed a new dining room in the castle. She has decided that the best place to eat is in the wheel, since she’s already pooping in there.

Yes, it makes perfect sense to eat and poop and play in the same spot. Then you can stay put and don’t have to waste time travelling anywhere else for hours and hours and hours.

So Picnic brings all her food into the wheel.

Food in the wheel

I bet she will drag her water bottle into the wheel, too, if she can figure out how to.

Sometimes she sits there and eats quietly. Sometimes she holds the food in her mouth and runs.

Picnic eats in her new dining room

Sometimes she leaves the food on the floor of the wheel and runs and the food makes an awful rattle as it spins around the wheel.

Sweet little Pixie rolls her eyes and sighs with resignation.

Sweet little Pixie

Next Chapter: Tissue Thief