April 05, 2009

gotta keep 'em separated

So, you may remember last October, when I got G a pair of Robo Dwarf hamsters for an anniversary gift. They are wee and tiny and adorable. Having coveted them for some time, G had done lots of research into them, as far as their behaviors and needs. From what he gathered, if one wanted two or more hamsters, they had to be chosen at the same time and know each other, lest they fight to the death. Hard to believe something so wee and adorable could be deadly! Since he wanted a pair, we were sure to get them at the same time. There were only three to choose from, so we picked the fat one and the tiny one, as the seemed the cutest and funniest of the three. We felt bad leaving one behind, but not everyone gets them in even numbers, so there was hope for the little lady.

We got all the accoutrements needed for the wee ladies, named them (Rhyminocerous and Hiphoppopotamus, or Rhymin' and Hip-hop for short) and they seemed to be fine. One day, we were cleaning their habitrail, and noticed that Rhymin' (the weeer of the two) had sores near her tail. G assumed that we weren't cleaning them often enough, and was determined to keep an eye on her. However, the sores got worse instead of better. The last time I went to clean them, I noticed the sore area was alarmingly large. So, I went to the internets for help. After reading pages and pages on dwarf hamster sores, the conclusion was very clear. Even getting the hamsters together as babies is no guarantee that they won't fight. In case after case, owners would find one hamster to pick on the other. Usually the one doing the bullying was less friendly to being picked up and such by the owner. Several cases warned that if they weren't separated, the hamster getting picked on wouldn't make it. Some of the tales were horrific, to say the least.

So, I sadly broke the news to G. From all accounts, the sores on Rhymin' had nothing to do with the cleanliness of her cage, and more to do with Hip-hop being a bully. I suggested we separate them, but as they are his, left the decision ultimately up to him. In the meantime, I worried around the clock about our wee Rhyminocerous. I was terrified we would come home one day to a hamster without a face. Then, one day, G came home from work with a second habitrail. I confirmed that he decided to separate them. He noted that he had looked in on them because they were making a racket, and sure enough Hip-hop was picking on Rhymin'. He was very sad to separate them, and felt like it was his fault for not socializing Hip-hop better. I assured him this was not his fault! All the things I read said that the owners tried to socialize the bully, but he or she would bite or fight it. So, he prepared the habitrail, and we played with Rhymin' a bit before the transfer.

It's been over a week now, and the separation appears to be successful. Rhymin' is much more active, and much more calm when handled. Both are using their wheel more, which is good, because they need to run for miles and miles every day (up to 20 miles, in fact). I took Rhymin' out today to play a bit, and her rump appears to have healed. It is still bald, but the scabs and bloody bits are gone. They are both quieter, apparently because they aren't scrapping all the time.

In some respects, it is kind of a drag. It was so cute to see them sleeping together curled up into tiny balls of fluff. We enjoyed watching them interact, though we now know that some of their antics weren't innocent. However, it is much better than finding a mauled critter. So, lesson learned. Not only do we have to keep them away from the cats, we must keep them away from each other.

Posted by raven at April 5, 2009 07:03 PM
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