An Empty Cage

On the 11th January 2011 I welcomed in to my home a lovely little tan-and-white hamster I named Mindy. As in the girl from Kick Ass, not Mork and Mindy! She was this tiny, very very frightened little thing who instantly wiggled her way into my heart.

Mindy when I first got her.

Over the next few weeks I spent time getting her accustomed to humans, taming her and encouraging her to sit in my hand. It wasn’t an easy process. Many hamster chocolate drops were required. She also had to learn my fingers were not food!

But we got there eventually.

Soon we both forgot that she had ever been scared of me. She became a little monster. Running in her wheel late at night, climbing her cage to get treats I’d hide around, running into every bodies feet when in her ball… All normal hamster things but she did them adorably. And she was clever. It didn’t take her long to discover how to get out of her ball and escape. She narrowly avoided death-by-electrocution after one such escape when she climbed up behind the fridge in my parents house (we were home for the summer) and chewed through a wire.

She lived in my room and used to run up and down her cage following my as I worked, desperate to get out and play. She also had a very weird cat-like habit of rubbing against the bars and stretching just like… well… a cat! She loved climbing the stairs (and doors!) of my parents house and was super-quick and very intelligent. Yes, she was a rodent, but she was lovely. I noticed her slowing down as she aged, but she was still bright and curious.

Then two weeks ago I noticed she wasn’t moving as well as she normally did. She didn’t want to come out and play, and she wasn’t that interested in her food. She was sleeping far more than normal and moving very slowly. Over the next couple of days she deteriorated rapidly. Barely moving, barely eating, shaking badly… She was very sick. The vet couldn’t help (we don’t have a great system for small animal care in the UK), all I could do was try to make her as comfortable as I could. She didn’t want to be touched – attacking the spoon I was using to drip feed her water and milk&honey. There was one bad night followed by a bad day. By the evening I knew she wasn’t going to make it. I ended up holding her in a towel trying to keep her warm as she was so cold. It was a horrible sensation of knowing she was in pain but being unable to help.

She died in my arms that night.

Yes, I cried. No, I’m not ashamed of that. Now I’m not religious (strangely it was the death of my first hamster when I was 9 that gave me my first ‘crisis of faith’!), so there was no praying, no pleading, just quietly accepting the fact that she was going. Not to a better place, but at least she was free from the pain. I took comfort in that. We buried her in my friend’s garden (as I’m in a rented house down at uni).

It may be sad, but I do miss her. I walk in to my room, especially in the evenings, and a part of me is expecting to see her running to greet me at her cage bars. It’s a disconcerting experience, expecting to see something that is no longer there. But I’ve cried (only a little), mourned her, and moved on. I’m not getting another hamster yet. Truth be told, in the coming few months I’m going to be away/insanely busy so it just wouldn’t be fair.

So this is just a post to the memory of little Mindy.

Mindy Hamster 11/01/11 - 29/02/12.

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