Thursday, 11 December 2008


"Men love women; women love children; children love hamsters; and hamsters don't love anybody."
Alice Thomas Ellis

How true that is. I'm not totally sold on the men, women, and children bit, but she really does understand hamsters, doesn't she? When researching the psychopathology of our own dear ex-hamster, Cookie, I kept reading bright-eyed raves about hamsters called Mr. Fluffy-Wuffy who apparently had endearing little personalities, and practically begged to be stroked and played with. I now know these to be the delusional fantasies of truly odd people who really do need to get a life.

Why these critters are thought to make good pets is quite strange. They might as well have "Just leave me alone" written across their backs. The first thing our Cookie did was bite my hand. And, yes, I was about to feed her; hamsters have no sense of irony. They even fight with each other. At first you think it's some rather rough sex going down in the petshop sawdust but, no, they really are trying to kill each other.

My kids were dedicated watchers of the inspirational cartoon series Recess (way better than the overrated Simpsons, if you ask me). The episode centering on the eternal classroom hamster Speedy, secretly and serially replaced since the 1950s, was one of my favourites -- a true insight into the morose interchangeability of the species, but even more so into the odd propensity of our own species to love that which has no interest in being loved.

Apparently hamsters died out in the wild ages ago, and I'm not surprised. Any creature as grumpily, short-sightedly self-centred as a hamster, willing to attack its own brethren on sight, and yet too dim to flee from a lazy household cat, is never going to be worth much of a bet in the Darwinian stakes. We keep them going on the planet for the meagre entertainment value they provide our children; but are they grateful?

Cookie, we hardly knew ye

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