hamster conservation

23 09 2004

when i was a child, my family had many hamsters.  that looks wrong.  we never actually had more than two at a time, one in my brother’s room and one in mine, but over the course of an entire childhood a family can go through a great many hamsters.  (is it necessary here to mention that none of them met ends any more inglorious than dying in their rodenty sleep at the Very Old Hamster Age of about 2 1/2?  are you all sick freaks?  i suspected as much.  just, please, if you can stand to, leave all commentary about college hamster-owning and/or gerbils in any form out of any commentary you may desire to interject?)

hamsters like shredding cardboard and paper.  this serves three purposes: it creates more nesting fluff, the most wonderful stuff in hamsterland; it gives the poor creatures something to do with their time in that boring aquarium; it allows them to dull down their long front teeth so that these teeth don’t loop around and find horrifying ways to grow right through their little skulls!  (look, the stuff of childhood nightmares brought back to life!)

so, in my childhood home, whenever we reached the end of a roll of toilet paper or paper towels, we would give the nice, chewable cardboard tube to the hamster.  and the hamster would be happy, or at least that’s what we assumed the steady clicking noises of it chewing cardboard all night long when we were trying to sleep implied.

why am i telling this story?  because now, as an adult, in a home that does not have and has never had hamsters, i find myself feeling guilty whenever i throw away the tube from inside the toilet paper roll.  it’s slightly better to put it in the compost heap–at least i’m spared landfill guilt.  but i’m always trying to find ways to interest the cats in it instead.  “here.  play with this!  it rolls!  it’s paper!  you love paper!”  the cats are unimpressed.  i think they sense the displacement going on.  i think they know the truth: i’m distressed because i can’t give the roll to a hamster.

i do not miss hamsters.  nor do i want or need something else to clean up after.  and i’m not stupid–i do realize that owning and taking care of a hamster would cost us and the planet a great deal more in resources than simply composting or throwing away cardboard tubes.  but every time i throw away the roll, i feel like i’m failing in my conservation efforts.  cans go in the recycle bin.  newspapers get pulped into new newspapers.  eggshells go back into the soil to provide nutrients to the garden.  cardboard tubes go to hamsters.

it’s like the starving children in ethiopia we wounded when we didn’t finish our school lunches.  somewhere, there is a hamster–they may be many hamsters!–without a cardboard tube to gnaw, and here i am wasting mine, allowing it to be thrown away, whole, unchewed, unsoiled by what hamsters inevidably do to their nesting fluff after fluffing it.  i am depriving this hamster of happiness.  and if its sharp front teeth go unchecked and get unruly and grow right through its fragile little skull, me and my wasteful cardboard tube disposal will be entirely to blame.

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10 responses

23 09 2004
pictsy

My roommates seem to think they are lovely floor decorations, but at my mommy’s house they go in the paperboard recycling.

23 09 2004
missmeridian

bwah! you’re funny.

23 09 2004
tamnonlinear

I’m now picturing unhappy hamsters standing on the corner, wrapped in a raggity old scarf, holding out a little pink hamster paw, and saying “Please, sir, can you spare a roll?”
How sad ;(
But a very cute post.

23 09 2004
susanmarie

1. You clearly had better luck with hamsters than me. I had a teddy bear hamster once; he died of a heart attack attempting to escape from his cage. Or a cerebral hemorrhage. Or perhaps a broken spirit.
2. Our house was filled with many other rodenty like creatures: rats and/or mice (my middle sister’s) and chinchillas (my mom’s)–they actually lived outside in our converted playhouse.
3. Why *won’t* the cats play with the paper tubes??? I toss the tp tube their direction, and they stare at me like I’m deranged. However, Harley, the sassy fat black kitty, *does* like to play with q-tips in the tub–she hops in the tub, waits for us to close the shower curtain, and then for us to drop a q-tip over the top. This is met by the sound of a fat black kitty body being thrown about the tub, then silence, as she waits for us to retrieve said q-tip and toss it again. How is such a chubby girl so agile? Hmmmm….

23 09 2004
message_2love

Your emotions are all over the place lately – are you preggers? 😉 lol! I understand your toilet paper roll dilemma. I sometimes experience the same flashbacks and feel like toilet paper rolls just do not belong in the trashcan. I have no outlet for the feeling, and I think I have a stockpile of toilet paper rolls in my subconscious.

24 09 2004
vraptorz

Wow, you’ve really mastered this whole guilt thing, haven’t you?? I bow to your inevitable superiority.
Perhaps you can find some local hamsters to which you can donate your tubes? At the school perhaps?? 😉

24 09 2004
aaric

presents!
You could always do what my family did with empty toilet paper rolls… make them into Christmas presents! See, one year my grandmother complained that we went through something like 20 rolls of toilet paper over Christmas weekend (that’s what comes from having 6 children who each have a couple children…)
Anyway, her daughters (and later her sons) decided to accumulate empty toilet paper rolls & make crafty wreaths/ornaments/etc. out of them. That way Grandma never forgets what upset her… and the toilet paper rolls go to a higher purpose – irritating one’s mother. 🙂

24 09 2004
bluemeg

i’ve never tried toilet paper rolls with the cats, but ‘Vem likes wrapping paper rolls. he lies on the ground on his side and grabs them, tries to gut them with his back feet and bites the top as he whacks him self in the head with the motion from his furious kicking feet.

25 09 2004
lavender_liz

hee hee hee sounds funny! i can almost picture vem doing that!

26 09 2004
donnickcottage

When I was a kid I marveled at both my father’s and grandfather’s fastener collections. It seemed like an entire life history could be found in the glass jars and little tin boxes full of nails and screws, hooks and tacks hidden away in the corners of their workbenches. A few times, when I was bored beyond words, (not like I have a sharp metal fob fetish) I’d empty out a jar and see what was inside, and try to remember or if not, imagine, what project each was tied to, what purpose each might have had. I’d find old carburator springs and bit’s of air compressor hose, maybe a matchbook cover with dimensions written in pencil or a short piece of sash cord, as if three inches of cotton rope would come in handy one day.
Now I have a grand collection, including the assembled baby food jars and christmas candy tin boxes of two generations before me. And every time I need a particular nail, I can’t for the life of me find what I want in the shelves and shelves of containers and bags. So I go to the hardware store as did my anscestors, in search of collection additions; for surely, if I need only ten of anything, I will be subconsciously tricked into buying 30 by the ghosts of my forefathers…so as to have baby food jar spares.
It was a lovely story lass. It made me laugh and that’s always a good thing. Tissue paper tubes turn to dust within a few weeks at a landfill love, the planet’s safe:)

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