Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lost And Found

You may remember that Big Sister got a hamster for her 9th birthday.

Or maybe I didn't write that post.

Let's back up a bit...  Big Sister turned 9 on the 6th of September.  She had been asking for some time for a pet hamster.  After some thought and prayer, we decided to grant her birthday wish.  I purchased the beast critter and a 'starter kit' - cage, feed, water bottle, etc - while in Town one evening for my regular errands.  A good friend agreed to critter-sit for a few days, and bring the little guy when she came for the party. Big Sister was thrilled, and she kept very good care of him, remembering to say a special 'good night' to him every evening before bed.  She named him Nutmeg.

Nine days later, my mom and her kids came for a visit.  They arrived shortly before bedtime, and the first thing Big Sister did was let the kids hold Nutmeg.  Then it was off to bed.  The 4-year-old boy, who, like Organique, almost never does as he is told, instead re-visited the hamster.  And left the cage open.  My mom saw some of what he did, I guess, but it didn't register, and so it wasn't until the morning, when Nutmeg was sought, that the gaping door of the cage was discovered.  The boy explained that a tiger had captured Nutmeg, and ate him outside.  While I was fairly certain that didn't happen, I was some worried that he'd fed him to the cat.

Many tears and prayers were offered on Nutmeg's behalf.  Before my mom left five days later, he'd been spotted in the kitchen.  She and Hubby tried to capture him, but he resisted strongly and they failed.  I used a canning jar and lid to fashion a trap (use a large knife to cut a * shape in the lid, bending the sharp points inward), but I left him too much room and he absconded with the bait (his feed) leaving little bits of hair on the pointy parts of the lid.

Hubby bought a live mouse trap, and we set that.  We also bought some dead mouse traps, because we were interested in ridding the house of the annual fall invasion.  We did NOT set those out, fearing the worst would happen to Nutmeg if we did.

Weeks passed and I was certain Nutmeg was gone.  We'd had (and lost) many hamsters over the years when I was young, and the longest any had gone missing (and turned up alive) was a week and a half or so.  I was upset that Big Sister had lost him so unjustly, and sad to hear her ask about him daily.

Then one morning Hubby reported seeing him!  He was back where his cage had been (on the pellet stove) and was trying to chew into the bag of feed.  When Hubby tried to catch him, he jumped into the lower shelves of the changing table and was gone.  We moved the traps, but still nothing for days.

Eventually he showed up again in the kitchen.  I began to wonder, should I be encouraged by the fact that Nutmeg had survived so long unattended, or completely depressed that my house has enough crumbs and debris to sustain life for such a creature.  I'm still really not sure...  I decided that our 'traps' weren't enough, and googled hamster-trapping ideas.  I set up some ramps/buckets/bait systems, using a gallon jar, a glass cookie jar, and a rubbermaid tote.  I mixed up peanut butter, oats, and raisins.  For a few days, nothing.  My dad recalled our finding a hamster (dead) inside a quart mason jar below the sink; he had fallen in and couldn't get out, and we didn't find him in time.  I began to think about lining up all my quart mason jars in a group in the kitchen, making several ramps, and putting bait everywhere, hoping he'd fall in among the sea of jars. :)  In the meantime, I knew he (or a mouse) was using the ramps.  I'd put one flake of peanut-buttery oatmeal at the top of each ramp, and each morning that was gone.  Since he was used to the system, I began thinking I needed something better than his inclination to 'jump' into the jar/bucket.  I decided on some thin cardboard (cut from a ziploc box or such), like a diving board or pirate-plank.  I attached a small strip of cardboard to the top few inches of ramp, and bent it slightly so it extended horizontally over the jar (secured VERY lightly with some double-sided tape at the bend of the cardboard).  I put my regular bit of bait on the ramp, and then more (balanced carefully!) on the plank.  The first night one trap was sprung (or it fell in on it's own weight) but there was no hamster.  The second night, he was captured!  And he was NOT pleased (nor was I, to see what he'd done to my cookie/kombucha jar).

That was a week or two ago, and I'm glad to say he has seemed to re-civilize.  He has not escaped (i.e. 'been turned loose') again, and I hope to keep it that way.  Big Sister is delighted, and I'm happy to have caught a few of the uninvited interlopers.  Not with the live trap.  :)


MamaJ said...

Wow, that whole project could count as a college science credit... Glad he's back where he belongs!

EllaJac said...

Ha, MamaJ! In addition to my conflicted emotions regarding the hamster surviving on whatever we leave behind, I certainly felt *way* too proud when we caught him. I shouldn't be THAT impressed to outsmart something with a brain the size of my thumbnail... :]

Monica said...

As a some time owner of a master escape-artist hamster (12 escapes to his credit - and 12 re-captures to ours), I must say well done, indeed. =)

EllaJac said...

Monica, wow!! Good job! But I certainly hope we don't have to do this twelve times!! I think I'd give him up for cat food long before then... :D

Thanks for your comment!