Rodent Rage

I always hear the wild rumpus before I determine its curious source—a raging battle within the confines of a two-story, purplish hamster cage with an electric green spiral slide and a profusion of tunnels that twist and turn at precarious angles. A sudden and intense eruption of sound, to include screeching, scratching and scurrying about, arises from what was once dead silence. As if something in the Land of Peaceful Accord tragically shifts, causing the whiskered beasts in question to become hostile combatants—their tiny voices piercing the still of my home. Lord knows why they engage in such vicious behavior. Never mind why they choose to poo where they dwell or why I ever thought my brood would need five of the stupid things to somehow make their lives complete.

Needless to say, much of our robo hamsters’ day-to-day conduct baffles me and I often struggle to find the mere suggestion of logic and meaning in their actions. Like the manic pace at which they circle the cage, the reckless manner in which they fling themselves (and each other) off their miniature wheels and into oblivion, the obsessive nature of their grooming and gnawing habits, the adorable way they hold behemoth-sized wedges of fruit in their little paws and bring it to their mouths to nibble ever so slightly and, of course, the huddled mass of fur they form while they sleep, commune-style, wedged impossibly inside a plastic hovel or in an obscure corner of the trendy enclosure we felt compelled to purchase—the one that apparently requires a master’s degree to assemble.

Nevertheless, the bursts of aggression perplex me and I watch in amazement as they stand on their haunches and brawl like savages—although it’s slightly comical, given their diminutive stature. Try as I might, I can’t seem to wrap my mind around what drives this asinine show of bravado. There are no potential mates to impress as they’re all females. There is no shortage of food since we lavish them with all their little hearts could desire. Nor is territory an issue in my categorically unprofessional opinion. Perhaps a simple and overwhelming desire for the heady rush of world domination is largely to blame—or at least dominion over a 1,080 cubic inch corner of the rodent world.

That said, I don’t pretend to know what makes hamsters tick and/or hurl their smallish bodies at one another, thrashing about the place on the fringe of complete and utter derangement with every intent to maim those on the receiving end of their wrath. However, I find it fairly disturbing that, of late, the aforementioned hostility smacks of bullying in the truest sense of the word. More specifically, all of the big and burly hamsters join forces to torment the remaining (and pitifully defenseless) creature—chasing it without end, wrestling it into submission and causing it to cower in lieu of feeding or resting comfortably. No wonder it has failed to strengthen and grow on pace with the others. It is the Fregley (of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame) of the hamster world, while the others, collectively, are Scut Farkus (the infinitely repulsive, skank-mouthed beast-of-a-thing that played in A Christmas Story).

Oddly enough, I find myself wanting to intercede beyond the obvious solution of segregating them—to play the role of mediator, to dole out therapeutic blurbages in Hamster-ese and to assign the warring factions exercises to promote cooperation and civility. I feel like demanding there be some sort of formal agreement, too. And in a perfect world, they would each sign something to that effect. A binding contract, suitable for framing, that I could display in full view of their purplish cage—a constant reminder of the joint investment made. Additionally, I feel as if the victim deserves special treatment for combat fatigue, because, clearly, that is what plagues the poor soul now. I’d also like to enroll the belligerent beasts in an anger management program—refusing to buy them any more strawberries or (gasp!) bananas unless and until they willingly participate and fully comply with its tenets.

In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for the segregation strategy, methinks, ever grateful to our kind and generous friends who GAVE us another hamster cage—an interconnected wonder of plastic feeding bubbles and cozy tunnels, gigantic domes and a wheel made for three or more of the smelly rodents we love so dearly.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (dealing with rodent rage).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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