IT had already been a frantic evening. And then we lost Jemima the hamster, Billy’s most beloved thing in the world.
Bloke was away that night with work, so I’d collected and fed the kids, put Bonnie to bed, and was trying to fit in a quick shower and slap of make-up before I was due to attend a friend’s leaving do.
I was already an hour late, when Billy, who was being put to bed by babysitter Jed, shouted: “Hey, Jemima’s cage tubes have gone.”
It took a few seconds for this to register. Jemima has two cages, one on top of a very tall bookcase that the kids can’t reach, and a smaller one on a tall chest of drawers. The two are linked by a series of interlinked tubes.
If the tubes had fallen off and Jemima was in the top cage at the time, she’d have an open hole to a very long drop (about 12feet).
If she’d been in the bottom cage, she’d have had an open hole to a five-foot drop.
Half-dressed and with wet hair, I checked she wasn’t hiding in either cage. She wasn’t.
Billy hadn’t started to panic, but he wasn’t far off. Our eight-year-old has a habit of going into wailing hysterics around potential disaster so I wanted to get him out of the room in case we were going to find Miss Jemima had shuffled off this mortal coil to visit the cosy shredded paper nest in the sky.
Billy was dispatched on a very-important-task to another room.
It wasn’t looking good. The tubes were in a disconnected mess all over the floor, but no sign of squished pet. Perhaps she’d been in the tubes when they fell, and they’d hit the shelves, breaking her fall.
I always wondered how hamsters managed to ‘escape’ so frequently, seeing as ours is meant to stay in her sealed cage, unless she’s having her fifteen minutes a day roll around the room in her ball.
The last time Jemima ‘escaped’ (the lid was left open), we found her in the most impossible to reach corner of the boys’ room chewing away on some power cables, having already stuffed a tissue in one cheek pouch and a bit of dirty sock in the other.
I’ve heard stories of them chewing through cages, and into wood, make a Tom and Jerry style hole in the skirting, and then living beyond reach in the wall cavity.
A reader told me of her family’s apparently indestructible hamster who had one night been discovered dodging traffic outside in the street before a keen-eyed neighbor had rescued the tiny pet.
The same hamster eventually met her adventurous end after going missing for two weeks. The children had accepted that Hammy had gone to hamster heaven, when she turned up on the back doorstep, considerably thinner, but unfortunately with two broken legs. Presumably she’d had a fight with a cat and had escaped. Amazingly, after surviving all that time in the suburban wild, her instinct had led her home.
Despite the Second Coming though, the poor thing had to be taken to the vet and, as my reader put it to her kids, ‘transferred indefinitely to the lovely hamster hospital’ (where no visitors are allowed).
I was desperately hoping Jemima was not going to end up in the same place. Semilong cats are pretty tough.
By this stage I’d forgotten about going out and expected to spend the evening comforting a bereaved, hysterical eight-year-old. Then he wanders back into the room, looks under his bed and fishes out a bewildered but fully intact Jemima, as though nothing has happened. (And yes, we DID look there.)
Perhaps the bond between Child and Pet shouldn’t be underestimated. Now would be the time to get Billy to train Jemima up to do tricks, so they form some Ashleigh & Pudsey-style talent act and perform for the Queen . . .
Or maybe not.