Friday, 4 November 2016

Bionic dwarf hamster

You may recall Binkie, the cat we rescued from the shelter a little over a year ago. I was convinced Binkie would be with us forever - that is to say, until he would one day return to the Big Cat in the sky - but unfortunately that was not to be.

It all started around March, when Binkie suddenly squirted red fluid all over my bedroom door. I went from cheerily cleaning my windows one minute, to being completely gobsmacked the next. 'What the hell just happened,' I asked him as if he was about to give me an explanation. As soon as the shock had subsided, I got on the phone and called the vet. 'Most likely a bladder infection,' she said. I took him straight over, she examined him, took a urine sample and lo and behold: a urinary tract infection. Not a bacterial one however, so antibiotics wouldn't do him any good. In fact, she thought it wasn't due to any physical illness, but stress. Stress?! Binkie was about the most relaxed cat in town, or so I thought. That is, until a few days later I witnessed him being bullied by a neighbourhood cat. You know the kind: bulky, intimidating, ginger-furred. A real thug. Straight from a gangster movie (he's even missing a leg).

In the following weeks I made a point of observing Binkie's interaction with other neighbourhood cats and in practically all cases, he was - to put it bluntly -  a complete pussy (I hate that word, but somehow it seems appropriate here). Binkie's predicament was heart-breaking. But so was ours, since what I also began noticing was an increasing instance of cat pee/spray in the house. On doors. On walls. On table legs. Even on son S's new skateboard. It became totally frustrating and I again consulted the vet. She admitted him to her clinic for the day, ran all sorts of tests (bladder, kidneys - the works) but to no avail. I seriously hoped she would find something - "Aha - the kidneys are the culprit; give him this pill daily and he'll never pee/spray in the house again. Ever." - but that wasn't going to happen. To cut a long story short: after trying everything, including extremely-expensive-stress-lowering-nibbles, I saw no other option than to return him to the shelter. It was a very, very difficult decision to make.

By now you're probably wondering what the heck this has to do with a dwarf hamster. A bionic one, no less. Please bear with me, I'm getting there.

After some time of grieving over Binkie, the kids were ready for a new pet. Let us choose a small one, I thought. One that won't be too expensive to buy and keep. Binkie had cost a lot in vet bills, plus taking him out of the shelter as well as putting him back in weren't exactly bargains either. Anyway, last Saturday I took the kids to pick up a wee dwarf hamster I had seen in a local pet shop. What a sweetie! Dwarf hamsters are not new to me - years ago I had two of them and they both lived to be three. But let me stick to this little fellow, whom we called 'Spekkie' (loosely translated: Marshmellow). Spekkie took to us pretty quickly, sitting quite happily on one of our hands and scurrying enthusiastically through the Lego maze the kids had made for him.

But then, the day before yesterday - Wednesday to be precise - something happened. As I was depositing cute little heart-shaped-breakfast-thingies into his bowl, he popped his head out of his little dugout, only to reveal a great hump of pink flesh hanging out of his mouth. 'What the hell just happened,' I asked him as if he was about to give me an explanation. And once again, as soon as the shock had subsided, I got on the phone and called the vet. 'Most likely an everted cheek pouch,' she said. 'You should come over right away.' And so I picked the little guy up, put him in his miniature travel basket and off we went. 'That doesn't look good,' the vet said. 'The pouch is infected as well.' No kidding. She suggested Spekkie stay at the clinic, so she could push the pouch back in and observe whether it would stay put. And did the pouch stay put, I hear you wonder. No, of course it didn't! The vet called me around noon to say that one of two things could be done: put Spekkie down, or operate the cheek pouch (not without risk, she added; the anaesthesia could kill him). Well, putting him down was out of the question. And so little Spekkie was wheeled into surgery, where part of his pouch was successfully amputated and the rest reattached to the inside of his mouth.

The irony? We have had little €9 Spekkie for six days and he has cost me €150 in vet bills already. Wow. A little painful, but as Roald Dahl liked to say: 'Always, ALWAYS, be kind to small animals.' 

Warning: the photo below is not for the queasy or faint-hearted; it shows the everted pouch.


  1. Oh poor little thing, I hope he makes a full recovery.
    Great to see you back!

  2. Poor old Spekkie. I hope the wee thing has no recurrence and lives happily ever after. Good to see you! x


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