Don’t Send Your Hamster to Heaven Too Soon!

Originally published 2/21/2011

WARNING . . . WARNING . . . If you are about to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you may wish to forego this post! Also, if you aren’t particularly fond of little furry creatures (essentially, mice with fuzzy hairdo’s) you may not feel much empathy concerning the information I am about to convey. Nonetheless, should you choose to continue reading, I double-bet that you will not only learn something new but you might just develop an inkling of compassion for our furry little friends!

Personally, I can say I pretty much love ALL furry creatures, hamsters included. I’ve had a few hamsters in my lifetime although I have none now. Currently, I have a dog, two cats and three tropical fish. As you know from this blog, I also feed the wild birds around my house, so I consider them as pets too. I guess I draw the line at bugs, snakes and reptiles (although they do interest me). I did own a mini-turtle once (who had living quarters complete with an island and tiny fake palm tree). I also owned a chameleon as a very small child, but it didn’t last very long unfortunately. The chameleon story will be for another time – if I garner up the courage to tell it!

Back to hamsters . . . Yesterday, I was drinking ice tea at my house with a good friend when my youngest sister frantically called on my cell. As I answered the phone, she shouted, “The hamster you bought for Kristin last year has thrown up its guts! Its stomach is hanging out of his mouth! I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do! He looks like he is in pain and I think he should be put out of his misery – NOW!”   Please note . . . she didn’t call the hamster by its given name, Emmitt. At this crisis point, is it is known as “the hamster I bought for Kristin.”  Sortof alludes that the sick critter is at least partly my doing, huh?

Not quite able to fathom the image my sister was painting in my mind, I asked her to call an emergency animal clinic and get some expert advice. Of course, she had already done this and had been told there is no diagnosing over the phone, a Sunday afternoon initial office visit is $120, plus, if the little guy has to be put down, she could count on at least an additional $108. Considering Emmitt only cost $19.99, I think you know why my sister hung up on the vet and immediately called me!

I reminded her I had company over at the house and promised to do a little research and get back to her very soon. I asked her not to do anything drastic in the meantime.

Shortly after, she snapped a photo of Emmitt and sent it to me on my cell phone so I could “see” the problem. (Don’t our camera phones come in handy these days?!!)  Well, the pic looked pretty darn bad I admit. I decided, after my friend left, that I would scoot over to my sister’s house and pay Emmitt a visit.

When I arrived, I learned my niece had placed a towel over Emmitt’s cage. I don’t know if it was to calm him down, but I suspect it was meant to shield her from witnessing his awful dilemma instead. I looked under the towel and although Emmitt looked disgusting, he didn’t appear to be in any pain. He actually was drinking water. He just seemed extremely agitated that this hunk of pink flesh half the size of his body was hanging out of the side of his mouth. I looked a little closer at him and, out of curiosity, asked my niece, Kristin, to Google hamster cheeks. I had a gut feeling . . . . (no pun intended!)

Yes, indeed. Emmitt is plagued with an uncommon condition in hamsters – an “everted cheek pouch.” Basically, one of his cheek pouches got caught up with an oversized nut or it simply broke loose from its place, turned inside out, and then unraveled out of his mouth. The incredible thing about this is this – his cheek pouch is humongous!

Reading about the condition online, I discovered that hamster pouches in fact extend way past their shoulder blades and into their upper backs. No wonder hamsters look like they are about to burst open when they are hoarding their food.  No wonder they can stuff a whole baby carrot in their mouth.  Believe me, there is plenty of room!

While it is great news to know that Emmitt is probably not in much pain, the bad news is his dilemma has to be fixed by a professional. No stuffing the cheek pouch back into his mouth with a Q-tip as I was considering!  You see, the pouch must be turned back outside in and stitched into its proper place, otherwise it may fall out again.  So . . . my sister is taking Emmitt to the vet this afternoon for a little procedure. Yes, it is going to cost her some big bucks and quite frankly, he may have a really rough time with it, but gee whiz . . . it is the right thing to do by Emmitt. I hope he comes through OK.

By the way, you will be happy to know I gladly contributed to the Emmitt Everted Cheek Repair Fund – after all, he is also known as “the hamster I bought for Kristin.”

Emmitt and Snowbell2 Emmitt and Snowbell

Emmitt and Snowbell, my Niece’s Unusually Hamster-Friendly Cat!

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