M. Giant's
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Sunday, February 27, 2011  

Hamstumor

Bucky's been with us since the beginning of July, but it's not clear how much longer he'll be with us. A dwarf hamster's life expectancy is only a year or two to begin with, but his might be shorter.

Last week, he was climbing the bars of his cage like he usually does when Trash noticed a bald, pink lump on his tummy. It was smaller than her fingertip, but on a dwarf hamster, that's the equivalent of a human walking around with a Butterball turkey sticking out of his solar plexus.

This was last Friday night, and I was able to make an appointment at the vet the next morning. I wasn't even sure they see hamsters. Especially a hamster the size of Bucky, who you can't see from more than a few yards away.

Anyway, I brought Bucky in that morning while Trash brought M. Edium to his karate class. One of the two vets who takes care of hamsters was the same one who took care of Turtle during her long illness a few years ago. He used to begin his examinations of her by saying, "Hey, squirt." He said the same thing to Bucky. "Squirt" seems like a more fitting nickname for him than a full-grown cat, but I could have done without the association.

Anyway, it turns out that dwarf hamsters tend to be prone to mammary tumors, which are often malignant. we have a couple of options: do nothing, get him a fine-needle biopsy, or just have it removed. All of which could add literally weeks to his life.

Now, nobody can accuse us of being callous toward our four-footed family members when it comes to vet bills, given how much we've invested in the past on trying to save our cats' lives. But is it cold-blooded not to want to drop four hundred bucks on a lumpectomy, especially when Dr. P. says that he often ends up just chasing them all over the hamster anyway?

Yes, he's cute, and yes, we all love him, but let's face it: he weighs about an ounce. His heart beats a hundred times a minute. The only noises he makes come from his wheel or whatever he's digging around in at any given moment. He has two moods, sedentary and active. Basically he's a cute, fat, furry bug.

And yet…

The other day, when I was cleaning his cage, I decided to take a look at his tummy to see if the lump had grown (after all, it had appeared almost over night), and figured I'd try holding him by the scruff of the neck like the vet had. The funny thing about hamsters is that their cheek pouches reach all the way back to their shoulders, to allow them to store food (like all the food he stashes in his bedding isn't enough to feed an entire family of…well, dwarf hamsters). With all that loose skin, the "scruff" can effectively be the entire front half of his body. Also, a hamster's brain doesn't shut off like a cat's does when you scruff him. A cat's scruff is like a pause button, but it turns out a hamster's is more like a fast forward. While I examined his belly, all four of his feet flailed madly at high speed. After a few seconds, I released him back into my palm, where he immediately gave me a punitive little nip on the finger and then went right to grooming himself as though the incident had already been forgotten.

That's the most personality I've seen him display. Here I thought his only emotions were fear, curiosity, hunger, and sleep, but it was almost like I offended his honor, whereupon he took satisfaction by means of a proportional response, and then moved on all, "Okay, we're square now. I know this won't affect our relationship our my supply of sunflower seeds."

Still, that episode gave me a lot more respect for the little critter. I think there's only one option open to us for the future: there's going to have to be a Bucky II.

posted by M. Giant 9:56 PM 3 comments

3 Comments:

This is so sad! I know he's just a tiny little critter, but he's a pet just the same. My sympathies.

By Anonymous Sara, at February 28, 2011 at 4:59 AM  

We had a guinea pig when I was a kid who developed a small tumor and we decided to just ride it out. A year later the tumor was as big as he was and still he kept going. We finally had him euthanized when the skin couldn't grow fast enough to keep the tumor covered.

Never underestimate the ability of small rodents to thrive despite odd growths.

By Blogger Bunny, at February 28, 2011 at 6:06 PM  

I had a rat when I was younger that I loved, loved, loved. He was extremely well behaved and affectionate (especially for a rat), and his favorite place in the world to be was the front pocket of my hoodie. He loved it enough that he never pooped in it. I ended up having to put him down because of a brain tumor that made him extremely agressive. I cried for days, even though he bit the crap out of me near the end.

-T.Rhodes

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 2, 2011 at 3:25 PM  

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