Where Can You Find a Hamster?

You’ve made a space, got a cage, gone on all the forums and waded through fifty opinions on corn and pea flakes and you feel ready. All you need now is a hamster. You decided you didn’t want to pay a large chain pet store for a new pet (and that includes any in store adoption centres folks, it all goes to the same place) but now what? A brief search on Google proves frustrating….where are all the hamster breeders anyway?

Adopting a new pet isn’t meant to be easy. Animals represent long term commitment. Anyone can buy a new cage and even have it delivered the next day. A quick shop online gets you all you need with little thought or effort. The actual animal itself is supposed to take longer to get to you. In the current age of instant gratification we all need to remember that not everything comes with next day delivery!

You have two options now you have the set up ready. Personally I prefer people who haven’t bought everything in advance. Forum members aren’t all breeders or rescues and you need the best advice on what to buy from the place you intend to get your pet from really. There’s nothing worse than having to tell someone they have the wrong things for the individual they like or the species they want.

But yes, first big question:- Breeder or Rescue?

I would say, if you feel like you want to adopt then do that. There are many needy pets in rescue. However….not all pets in rescue are needy and not all rescues are above board. To find a rescue, google is usually handy but I’d go to a larger rescue centre nearby and ask. So locally here for example is St Francis Animal Welfare. A fantastic rescue dealing with many different species. Perhaps they have a hamster in, or they may know a small specialist rescue nearby that has some.

You’ve found a hamster in a rescue therefore you are being all ethical and you want to do some good. Wait! Stop for a minute and think. You didn’t want to buy from a pet shop because? Think on your reasons and then look at the rescue. Did you find it via Gumtree, or perhaps a search on Facebook? Look past the cute photos of hamsters available ‘right now!’. Look at the adoption fee and then see if you can find evidence of what the rescue has actually spent on you chosen animal. Do they have a lot of baby animals? It’s very hard (from my own rescue experience) to intercept a hamster that’s already pregnant. With the exception of dwarf hamsters that are often purchased mis sexed and come in large groups of various ages. Perhaps the rescue is breeding to supplement their income. Is that really what a rescue should be doing? There are more ethical ways to raise funds than intentionally breeding animals with unknown backgrounds and any kind of health issues.

Do they say they test for health problems? This is a common claim. The only health issue in a small animal that you can test for ahead of time is diabetes at the cost of a few pence per urine strip. Ultrasounds, x rays etc are all only done if an animal is ill already and are notoriously unreliable in small creatures.

What are the rehoming criteria, do you get lifetime back up, are they involved in education? All these things give you a picture of whether your chosen rescue is a good one. If it isn’t, and you still adopt then you may be perpetuating their continued existence and, in some circumstances, the suffering of animals in their care.

Adopt, but adopt with your eyes open.

Angus

What about if you choose to shop? You want to find a good breeder and get an animal with a pedigree, known temperament and health etc. Where are all these breeders anyway? You looked on Gumtree, you looked on Preloved, and you searched on Facebook.

I can tell you that very few of us are on Gumtree for a good reason. We all have full or part time jobs and the amount of enquiries you get has to be manageable. Although Gumtree says it doesn’t support breeders there are a lot of rather dodgy looking adverts on there along the lines of ‘rare coloured hampster’ when it’s actually just a sable and costs the earth.

On Preloved you’ll find a few of us. Quite a lot of us are on Facebook now too but your best port of call is your regional club. Either on the website, or via the club secretary you need to approach the Southern, Midland or Northern hamster clubs. This is where you will find genuine, registered prefixed breeders in or near your area. This is an important aspect to your search. Remember the rescue advice above? For everyone one good, responsible breeder there are ten other ‘back yard’ breeders who are interested in churning out pets only.

Unlike some issues you can find with pedigree breeders of other species, hamsters have to be healthy and tame to go to a show. I’ve talked about this before, and it’s a big reason why I do what I do. You are automatically buying a hamster that hasn’t been bred just because it’s cute, but because it’s parents, grandparents etc were healthy and tame. Maybe you’ll get a nice coloured animal because there were a lot in the litter but that’s not really a concern for a pet. You don’t have this with a breeder who doesn’t breed for show or to show standards (standards on body shape are written with health in mind). Your breeder may not show a lot but still try to conform to standards. We don’t give health guarantees because, with any baby, you can’t predict how they will grow. all we can do is select the best parents we can.

Look at your chosen breeder carefully. Do they offer lifetime back up? All the breeders I’ve encountered take back animals they’ve bred so as not to overwhelm rescues and because…it’s just the right thing to do. I get overly attached to my hamster pups and although I’ve only needed to take back one, I’d happily have them all back home again haha!

Don’t be dismayed if they don’t have a pup ready straight away. It’s normal to wait a few months unless you are lucky.

Your breeder or rescue should be able to advise you on what to buy, give you care information and be happy to hear about how your pet grows through it’s life.

To recap:-

  1. Choose whether to shop or adopt.
  2. Go to the club, or a local shelter if possible to find a source near you. If using Google, be critical about your search and careful.
  3. Look at the chosen sources website, or other info and ask questions if you aren’t sure. Are they doing what you expected they should be? If not, why not? Do you still wish to adopt or shop from there? Talk to them if you have concerns
  4. After this, THEN look at the available hamsters. Doing this the wrong way round almost always results in a disappointing experience.
  5. Be prepared to answer questions and to wait if need be.
  6. Don’t be disheartened if your chosen source says no, there can be many factors to a refusal so you can always try another place.

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Houten Terraria 2017

I had the most amazing opportunity to visit The Netherlands over the weekend and their massive rodent and reptile exo-naag (expo or show) on Easter Sunday. I was equal parts very anxious about it and very excited. I hope to share some of that glorious weekend with you.

To give you an idea of the undertaking, this was my second time abroad and I’m nearly 40 so a new passport was needed as well as navigating currency exchange and all that. On top of that the show requires health statements for the animals you bring, plus making sure I had all the necessary pedigrees going. I had my list of animals travelling back and most of these were pre-booked. Although this is difficult sometimes, I highly recommend booking in advance as it gives you a sense of who you are dealing with before you arrive.

dav
4 litre ice cream tubs with holes on the top and sides. Already filled with bedding and food and labelled.
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1 litre ‘Whitefurze’ storage boxes with holes drilled on the top and sides. Already filled with bedding and food and labelled.

Boxes had been dremeled, lunches prepared, overnight bag packed, euros in purse, folder of information in hand….I was ready to go.

I travelled with Vectis Hamstery and we set off from Harwich on the overnight ferry. My word, I never knew I could feel so sea-sick. The tablets I’d taken just in case really didn’t cut the mustard. On the way back I used Sturgeon 15 which you can buy over the counter and I highly recommend those compared to my prescription ones!

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The cabin was nicer than I’d thought it would be.
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The Hook of Holland, a photograph taken whilst not looking!

We pulled up and parked the ferry at the Hook of Holland. That was bumpy going but I made it in one piece. My travelling companion was the driver and she did a very good job of navigating the wrong side of the road….

sdr
Beautiful scenery out the Vectis Mobile window. Much of the landscape was similar to this.

I have to say, I don’t know how much the government spends on roads over there but ours could surely use some tips! A very smooth ride and not a pothole in sight.

We arrived in a wee bit too late for the exhibitors entrance and as we didn’t bring any animals to show (can you imagine the organisation skills required for that), we opted for the visitors entrance. It meant queueing up, and we got a little rained on, but it was less stressful.

sdr
The Expo Center in Houten

I was in awe at how many people were already waiting to go in, armed with carriers. And the sheer volume of animals, toys and food for sale. I must admit, photographs weren’t that easy to take so I only took a select few:-

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The rodent hall was a lot less busy later in the day.
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I was surprised to see the owl display in the rodent hall but at least it was quite far away. The owls didn’t seem too fussed.
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Madagascan Day Gecko. One day I’ll have one of these…. They are displayed in these boxes for their safety and warmth. The reptile hall is heated and these boxes offer good insulation.
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I was amazed at the selection of small frogs, spiders, tortoises as well as snakes and lizards.

I wandered around the reptile hall in awe. It was hard not to walk with my mouth open. I have mixed emotions about what I saw. The reptiles were very well looked after. I don’t doubt that a lot of effort goes in to keeping any reptile, insect, arachnid or amphibian alive and they all looked bright and healthy.

There were rodents in there though, and those I didn’t take photographs of as they were not destined to become pets. I will say they had bedding, food and water but I’ll never be ok with the idea of snake food. That’s just my opinion.

The rodent hall was an overwhelming treat for the eyes and the urge to buy everything I could lay my hands on was strong! Like a fox in a hen house….or a small child in a sweet shop. I did buy some extras but overall I was fairly restrained. I’ve added a selection of photos for you. Its important not buy on impulse and make sure you’ve run your own eye over the animals you buy. Of course, you may be taken in my an animal that’s a little small etc but that’s different. However, none of the hamster breeders I’d dealt with gave me anything other than an accurate description of their animals. I’m very pleased with what I brought back.

New projects in cinnamon and headspot robos on the way…..

Needless to say the car was packed on the way home. There was an awkward moment when we were asked if we had any animals in the car. Luckily there aren’t any restrictions on bringing back the regular species of pet that we had on board. Always check any CITES info you need before you buy anything. We also were able to prove we were not commercial importers as those need an import/export licence. The lady at border control seemed genuinely fascinated and delighted at the idea of a hamster show!

It was definitely a very long day, stressful in places making sure everyone on the list had been spoken to etc. We’d packed the car through the day as it was nice and cool outside which made it easier. Five cucumbers later…..

We’d met with two lovely people whom I’d been organising a lot of the hamster ‘trade’ with prior to the visit who were both welcoming and very helpful. Wellington Hams and Lilliput Hams had also gone the same way as us and we spent the day around their table. North Star hams and Brambleberries Hamstery were also there as familiar UK faces.

Whether we can go again remains to be seen as I’m not sure what Brexit will mean in terms of UK customs laws. Nevertheless I’m glad I went, I’ve made a lot of new contacts and I had an amazing and wonderful experience.

The breeders I met and their animals who came home with me can all be seen on the Facebook page. Eventually I will have updated the website too.

For anyone thinking of going, here is my list of things to take:-

1. Roll of labels. I found this invaluable for re-labelling boxes, especially those that had gotten wet on the way in. You never know when you need a new label and you can’t afford not to mark each box with what’s in there and where it’s from. As I found out with a pair of gerbils!

2. There’s no such thing as too much cucumber. If it’s a hot day those boxes may get cucumber more than once in a day and overnight so pack a lot. We took five and had two left in the end but better too many than not enough.

3. Pre-pack boxes with dry food and bedding. Less to pack in the car and each box is ready to go.

4. Take extra toilet rolls. A few of these don’t take up too much space and one roll was enough for 28 boxes. That’s cheap toilet roll as I find the expensive stuff is a little dusty.

5. Make your own lunch. Take a cool bag. It’s cheaper and you have the food you want rather than what’s on offer at the time of day you eventually manage to sit down!

6. Put your European headlight stickers on before boarding the ferry. That’s a tip stolen from Vectis as I don’t have a car but trust me, it will save you a lot of effort. They are quite fiddly to fix on I’m told.

7. Take small boxes in crates. Plenty of ventilation and the animals are safe and warm. They want to be snug, not in a lot of space. Some of the animals we collected had already travelled from France, or Finland for example. Crates stack securely in the car and can be seatbelted in. We left the seats up to make the stacks more secure.

8. Take larger containers for Syrians, gerbils, mice but transfer them in the car. Don’t lug your big boxes around the show. A 4 litre is plenty big enough for a couple of hours. But not for overnight.

9. Pack the car with all tanks and tubs set up. Don’t flat pack on the way there, you need to know if it will all fit before you leave.

10. Take plenty of ‘walking around money’. No matter how much you pre reserve, you’ll see plenty of animals you want while you are there. Don’t miss out, but be sensible about it too.

I hope that’s been informative! If you try this trip I hope you have as much fun as I did.

Extras – A Hamster’s Balanced Diet

It’s important for any hamster to eat outside of it’s basic packet muesli. Muesli (or pellets) is not complete although it does come close and many hamsters do well being given nothing else. Imagine if you had to eat the same breakfast muesli everyday, or worse…a monotonous diet of shreddies. Yes, I have strong opinions about a pelleted diet, hamsters are not rabbits.

An easy way to provide variety, and therefore balance, is to mix more into your dry food. Mixed wild bird seed is an easy one. Your vet may tell you to be careful of whole oats, due to pouch perforation. Well. I’m sceptical that this is as common an issue as the distributors of science selective pellets may lead you to believe. Some hamster do well on this type of food, more do not. Think of the breakfast analogy above and think about which you’d rather feed.

It’s nice to provide something extra on top of their dry diet. It’s vital to remember that every mouthful of a treat or an extra means one less mouthful of their (mostly complete) dry diet. Extras should not be overfed. An easy rule of thumb is to dry feed a small bowl full every 2-3 days and on the day you put the new food in, add in something fresh or wet. Keep it separate from your dry, there’s nothing worse than soggy muesli. Your hamster will prefer the fresh on the day and store the dry for eating on days 2 and 3. This is the best way, in my opinion, of stopping selective eating. Hamsters naturally horde their food so take advantage of this to make sure they can still have a varied and balanced diet.

Your choices are fresh veg, fresh fruit, protein like wet dog or cat food, leftover human food and other food items such as porridge. The foods to avoid are citrus fruits, human chocolate, onions, garlic in some hamsters, spicy food, salty food and very sticky food that might get stuck in a pouch. A little bit of sugar and fat is fine unless your hamster can’t tolerate it or is diabetic (remember that sugar does not make a hamster diabetic).

I recently asked fans of the Facebook page what they like to feed. Broccoli, kale and carrots were top of the list. Bell peppers, cauliflower, sweetcorn, corn on the cob, green beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, watercress, rocket, peas, spinach, sugar snap peas, fennel and parsnip were all suggested. Apple, courgette and cucumber too.  It’s lovely to hear so many owners feed such a wide range. I’ve been a bit stuck on feeding kale recently, and kalettes are a cute veg to feed (look like tiny kale).

Broccoli.jpg

Wet food wise I have fed a lot of different brands of dog and cat food. I find that although Applaws is taken readily because of the texture, I prefer food that is fortified wherever possible. My guys have a preference for pate as well as flaked meat and I use puppy mousse, kitten pate or similar. I tend to mix this with Ready Brek made up using water (not the sachets, too much sugar), as disgusting as it sounds it makes it go further and the hams love it. To this I might add EMP, a supplement often used for birds. If I’m giving extras to a new mum though, I tend to feed meat and porridge separately. This may be a better option for those of you with only one hamster. Just bear in mind that you will want to ease off extra protein when your hamster is older as it can stress the kidneys.

Other extras include dried mealworms, dried crickets, dried sprats, pumpkin seeds, dog biscuits and dried fish skins. Ancol hedgehogs and dried pigs ears can be fed but I’d take these out periodically as otherwise the hamster will eat only these (they are quite big).

A good regime might be:-

Monday – Dry food plus a spoon of fresh veg. Less for a dwarf.

Tuesday – No food today

Wednesday – Cup cake case with a small spoon of wet dog food. Less for a dwarf.

Thursday – Dry food.

Friday – Treat with human leftovers or a shop bought treat of an appropriate size. Or fresh veg/fruit again if you’d prefer. If you have a young hamster, this could be a day for mealworms or similar.

Saturday – Half portion of dry food and a small dog biscuit. Puppy bones are ideal for dwarfs.

Sunday – No food today.

If your hamster has lots of left over food in the cage, just decrease the portions. Keep decreasing portion sizes until your hamster is eating everything. Keep an eye on your hamster’s waste and waist! Runny poo means stop everything except the dry food, see your vet and add in extras slowly once they have recovered. If your hamster feels too chubby, cut back. If you can feel your hamster is boney or skinny, add more assuming they are finishing it. If there is a lot of food left and your hamster is still skinny then chat with your vet.

As an aside – if your hamster is diabetic, it’s very difficult to control this with diet. In humans, carbs and fat all contribute to glucose levels too. Keep the sugar low by all means, your hamster still needs a balanced diet and medication if appropriate. Information on medication can be found on Vectis Hamstery’s website vectishams.webs.com

Despite the best variety, you still need to make sure they have plenty of vitamins and minerals. Particularly D3. Use a vitamin paste in wet food or a powder supplement. You can also use a supplement in the water.

Variety. Your hamster will thank you for it 🙂

Zhou Liang Mar 2017 a

Waiting For Spring – Planning The Spring Clean

The blog has been quiet recently as I’m spending much of my time pairing up hamsters!

I’m still suffering the fallout from cutting back in 2015 and then being elsewhere in 2016. I’m largely trying to breed older animals to limited effect. Despite having had three litters in September, none of those were for my black Syrian lines, my last litter for them being April 2016. Luckily I kept a male!
My line still run back to Dougal, my first black, luckily. I do also still have a boy whose father was another hamster I’d bred, Lorne. Thanks to another breeder, Roma Hamstery, I have a black boy here who came from my Engineers litter. So all is not lost! However, when faced with an in season female, none of these boys were interested. Perhaps she wasn’t really in season…they would know haha.

Despite some action a couple of weeks ago, no Syrians have produced pups yet although, annoyingly, spring has sprung in other hamsteries! I’m sure it won’t be long for us. I’ve been off my game for a while and it’s going to take a while to get things back on track.

One thing on my list is a full Spring Clean. It’s not something any hamster owner looks forward to but it’s time. It involves pulling out cages and cleaning in the crannies. Getting rid of any cobwebs and dust in the corners. There is a surprising build up of dust over time from skin, bedding and food. Even dust extracted  bedding leaves a layer behind once it’s been chewed and sat on.

ML6WAb

I normally  do partial cleans. It’s impossible to do the whole room at once anymore, not without help. So a section of cages get done at each feed so that all the cages are fully cleaned each month with part cleans done through the week to keep everything fresh. This time I will be moving each section to one side of the room, hovering behind and underneath and washing the wall. Yup, hamsters pee on the walls from time to time! I also get Indian Moths sleeping up where the wall meets the ceiling and this silk nests need removing to avoid a build up. Indian Meal Moths like hamster food, a lot. Then each cage in the section gets fully cleaned, both inside and out, before being put back. This is sort of a deep clean. As I have a lot of hamsters I don’t get a chance to fuss over cleaning the cages on an every week basis like I used to. So I revel in the opportunity to clear space in my schedule for this purpose.

With my back the way it is, I can’t get this done in a weekend like I used to, even with hubby’s help but we’ll make good progress. It’s a great feeling 🙂

I also take this opportunity to photograph hamsters as I put them back. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth the effort. There’s nothing worse than a smelly hamster room. Last year, with going back and forth the hospital to visit Mum and various appointments with my own doctors, that hamster room got the basic treatment and it showed. I’m looking forward to sprucing the place up a bit.

What I am also hoping to achieve is redoing my rosette holders and I’ll definitely be posting photos of these.

I have to also remember I have other rooms in my house that need a spring clean too…..

 

*featured image courtesy of Pinterest.

**embedded picture courtesy of wallpaper safari (click pic for link)

 

Niacin and European Hamsters

The European hamster is much larger than it’s Syrian cousins. Cricetus cricetus has made it’s way to the UK as part of the exotic pet trade but is still very much a specialist animal to keep. Growing to over 20cm long, reportedly, it’s certainly not an animal for the regular pet owner!

An interesting study is circulating the internet. The effect of a diet of corn on the European Hamster. Whilst it is an intriguing look at the wider issues of vitamin deficiency, I do take umbrage when I read some what sensationalist headlines. Take the following as an example:-

Phys.org/news

You’d think a website that looks into scientific topics would be somewhat restrained. The heading reads:

Corn Turning French Hamsters into Deranged Cannibals: Research

And goes on to make several spurious comments. I’ll go through those below and then move onto the actual research.

Firstly, the article points out that the hamsters are wild specimens. I’d dispute this as, further down, the article tells me that the ‘usually cute and cuddly’ hamsters turn savage without niacin. Now you can have tame European hamsters or wild ones, but not both. Given what I’ve heard of those brought into the UK I’d suggest that there are no such things as ‘cute and cuddly’ European hamsters yet. This is important as my feeling is the results of the research have been somewhat beefed up. We shall see.

Of course, one glaring issue is that hamsters in general need no excuse to cannibalise their young. It’s something they will do in a variety of situations. Although the study seems to have robustly controlled for these other factors it does not take into account whether the same hamster, once deprived of niacin, then goes on to cannibalise when it previously did not. Or vice versa. Is it purely the issue of niacin or could it be that other dietary factors are at play here. Certainly a diet consisting of purely corn is deficient in many aspects. The article claims that merely the introduction of one vitamin was enough for these hamsters to reproduce successfully. Well, the control group was fed a very different diet that was varied while this one was fed corn enriched with niacin….I find it hard to understand how pups were raised successfully in the absence of protein. I’d like to read the original research to find out exactly what the researchers did feed.

The elephant in the room is the headline. I can see pet forums erupting into a sea of ‘I told you so, corn is evil’ type posts. Just when we’ve managed to reassure the pet owning public that picking out corn from their pet’s food isn’t necessary we see headlines like this. So it’s important to think critically and see past this to the wider view. It’s is the fact that they solely eat corn that is the issue. It isn’t varied. A better headline may have been ‘unbalanced diet leads to….’?

There is also a leap to take the wide ranging symptoms of niacin deficiency in people and apply them all to hamsters. Dementia, for example, is displayed very differently in dogs and cats so it stands to reason that we’ve no idea how it manifests in rodents for certain. Dementia itself can vary wildly from person to person, so even the idea that all the hamsters acted the same is suspicious.

The link to the actual study can be found here:-

The Royal Society Publishing

If anyone has online access to this I’d certainly be interested in reading it. The issue of the effect of agriculture on native species is an important subject to highlight and the effects of vitamin defiency in hamsters is also of wider interest to us as keepers. The species is endangered so it is vital that this sort of work goes on to aid in securing a better habitat for these hamsters, not just in terms of monoculture vs biodiversity but also human encroachment, use of pesticides etc.

Don’t destroy the credibility of this sort of research by sensationalising it. It very much distracts from the scientific work.

I guess that’s my rant of the week! Seriously though, someone get me a copy of this research. Send it to my email address at Doric Hamsters and let’s have a look.

**featured photo is courtesy of Kimballstock

Famous Pedigrees

I recently asked fans of my page…what do you want to see me blog about? One of the answers was ‘famous lines’. Here’s my take on this, not so simple, topic.

Many of us don’t ‘line breed’, in the strictest sense of the word, anymore. With hamster breeding there is a lot of line mixing, for want of a better phrase. Depending the species of course. So to pinpoint a famous ‘line’ is quite tricky. Line breeding refers, in its simplest terms, a degree of inbreeding involving parents or grandparents down the generations of bloodline. Said to cement certain features into the line, it’s losing it’s popularity among some fancies. Many newer breeders prefer to outcross (breed to something unrelated) and then incross (breed back to a relative), or keep outcrossing each generation. So you can’t really pinpoint a line that is famous as hamsters from either method might win a certificate of merit or a show.

The easier thing to do would be to name a famous hamster perhaps? Well I’d rather use the term ‘well known’ as we aren’t talking about celebrities 😉

In any species of hamster, a well known animal would be a champion or grand champion. With six certificates of merit, that can’t be awarded by the same judge, a grand champion really is a worthy representative of his species and variety.

Some of the nicest things about the hamster club are the following:-

1. A lot of breeders have a champion or grand champion.

2. Because nice hamsters and their offspring are readily shared, a lot more breeders have champions and grand champions in their lines.

3. Because we have pedigrees that we regularly give out to people, you’ll see the names of champions or grand champions on there. Sometimes marked with a *** for a champion or perhaps ‘GC’ etc. A breeder is also more than likely to point it out to you as a matter of pride.

These things mean that, instead of one famous hamstery or a few famous lines, there are many more opportunities for newcomers to the fancy to obtain nice animals with good pedigrees behind them.

Unfortunately, in addition to these champions and grand champions being rather too numerous to list, unscrupulus breeders or back yard breeders might use such a list to fabricate a pedigree. So it’s not something I could, or would want to, publish.

Lastly, there are no shortcuts to coming to a show, speaking to people and learning from experience. There really isn’t. Information is readily available for those serious about showing and breeding.

Alas, whilst I’ve had a few ‘nearly champions’ and a lot of other peoples champions in my own pedigrees, I’ve yet to get there with one of my own. A champion black would be the best achievement for me. One day!

If there is something you’d like to read about specifically, comment below and I’ll see what I can do!

2017 – Looking Forward

Wow 2016 sucked! I have to say that’s the nicest phrase I feel is appropriate for here. Two family bereavements last year along with a few other life stresses means that I’m in danger of losing even more bloodlines as hamsters seem ‘suddenly’ too old. I’m facing somewhat of a crisis. I start January with an urgent need to review all my breeding.

The trouble is I have back surgery looming and although I still don’t have a date yet, it’s looking to be for Feb/Mar or possibly April. With Houten coming around in April I’d better be back on my feet by then!

In the meantime, I’m grounded from almost all shows as I’m struggling to even sit in a car for the journey, not being able to lie down all day. Without going into too much personal detail about my particular condition, suffice to say that I need to be able to stand, sit or lie down as I need to through the day with most day ending with the use of hefty painkillers that really put a dampener on social conversation!

I’ve stepped away from my role as Sales Manager, despite being nominated for both clubs, to minimise stress. I’ve stepped away from the committees for now for the same reason. I’m still enjoying my time as PRO for the council.

So, what to do? I’ve temporarily shut my waiting lists for dwarfs. I have maybe half as many dwarf pups in any year compared to Syrians and I’m now down to only a handful of breakable adults. Most of those are Roborovski. I have lost nearly all of my Chinese lines to old age or diabetes. My Winter Whites haven’t bred and my Robos have been largely unreliable, despite being paired for some time. I’m currently looking at reviewing their diet and adding more fresh veg to entice breeding outside of the seasons.

Most recently I lost Fraxinelle, my last black eyed white. Although he hadn’t yet been tested as he was still under a year, he’s been draining his water bottle and I had suspicions. On the day I went to take him out to test him, he’d already gone. I’ve taken the decision to focus on my normal as I have two males and two females of breeding age that I’d like to use. The dominant spots I’ve got will either go into those lines or go out on loan as they are all from black eyed whites.

Robo wise I’ve done a lot of soul searching about whether I’m spreading myself too thin. I think probably yes, to a degree but I’ve had a lot of bad luck in sourcing breeding adults that has set me back quite a bit. What I need is agouti Robos and to get my agouti line back on track. This gives me breeding animals to cross out into pied and husky. I’m planning on quite a few robo litters this year.

The Winter Whites have so far been a bit tricky but I’ve got a pair of normal paired at the moment and a breedable sapphire female to pair up. I’m breeding for just normals, but I may get sapphires out.

Syrians are…..a challenge. I’ve dropped my chocolate plans as I’ve had to review space in the hamster. The Ivories are doing very well, the blues are on track, more or less, but the blacks need work. I only had one litter in 2016 towards my blacks but thankfully I kept a lot of boys from 2015 so I haven’t lost too much. If my blue girl, Brizo doesn’t give me anything this month then all I have left here are blue carriers. Proteus proved that blue carriers are just as handy at giving a whole litter of blues so I’m not too concerned at this stage. It just means that I’m making blues again, then crossing to goldens to eventually produce the elusive ‘dilute golden’. I had to choose a line to stop and I have too much invested in the blues now as well as the blacks so those will stay. The ivories keep me going when I feel like jacking it all in so they stay. The rusts and chocolates were very new and I’d already suffered a lack of successful litters and I have had plenty of those elsewhere!

Mongolian gerbils are here and waiting for suitable girlfriends. I’m unlikely to have more than one or two litters each year so very similar to the mice.

All in all, the knock on effect from last year’s lull is still very much being felt here. The dwarfs of course date back to 2015 when they slowed down. But, and despite the planned hospital visit, these hamster lines will not all be lost.

Breeding can have significant ups and downs at times I’ve found. I’m still determined to win another best/reserve best in show with a black! I’ve been down but I’m not out! The only way is up

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