Wednesday, 30 November 2011

DRIVING MISS LILLY - TRAVELLING WITH A HAMSTER

So! You own a hamster and you love each other. Cool, but it has just turned out that you have to go on a journey. And now what? Who's gonna take care of your little furry friend...? Not always there's some realtive, friend or helpful naighbour to be around your stuff. In one of so called 'wise' books I've read that one can leave a hamster alone in it's cage for up to two weeks (?!). That's rubbish! Despite of lack of water and fresh food every animal would get crazy of loneliness and boredom. On the other hand any travelling barely makes sense with a traveller constantly worring: Won't my hammie miss me, won't it get hurt while I'm away...? Well, there is one solution although it needs some preparation: to take your hammie with you. This simple idea came to me when we (my husband and I) faced one week november vacation. I just couldn't abandon Lilly for over seven days so the decision was made very quickly: she's comming with us. Of course it needed some special actions but we were determined to take them. Below's the complete story including things that need to be taken care of considering travelling by car. I hope you will find it helpful.
LILLY PACKING UP HER THINGS INTO THE TRUNK

First of all we had to make sure that our hamster will be welcomed in the destination.
Not everywhere you can find
some quiet, warm place avalible to put the whole cage in and not everyone would be pleased with such a visitor. Fortunately my parents love animals and have an apartament big enough to consist them, my mom's dog Snoopy, us and Lilly. So we all felt invited. The second issue was buying a proper transporter - not too small, not too big, well ventilated and plastic so that Lilly couldn't chew it up ;-) Some say that keeping a hamster in it's cage while travelling is a good idea but I think this may work only when the cage is tiny. In a huge cage, like Lilly's, a hammie could hurt itself while braking down or turning (not mentioning road accident - God forbid!). The transporter had to be introduced to Lilly. We started few weeks before the journey, giving her time to get used to it so that she wouldn't get scared being closed in it for almost three hours. Travelling itself is new and quite stresfull situation for such a little animal. Next we made sure we're taking all of her favourite stuff including the cage. We understood it's essential for Lil' Lilly to have things she knows well around while staying in a completely strange place, far away from home. When the great day came we were ready and well organized: first we packed up our stuff and than focused on Lilly to make the whole operation as little stressful as possible.
Right before the travel I dismantled the cage preparing it for transport and also put a part of Lilly's bedding cotton and grain from her nest into the transporter so that she had her scent along and felt comfortably while staying inside. What's most important we warmed up the car previously - it's essential when it's cold outside so that a hammie won't get cold. Last thing to do was to put Lilly into the transporter, get into the car and set off. The road was long, about 260 km/3 hours without any stops but Lilly was very good girl. For all the time I was keeping her transporter in my laps. Remember! It's crucial not to take your hammie out of the transporter during the travel as it may flee and scare or/and annoy the driver or/and hurt itself! In our case there was no such need anyway. Lilly stayed calm. Only at the begining she curiously sniffed through the transporter's holes but when she realized I was around she rolled into a furball and slept. So the travel itself turned to not be an issue at all. You can read many articles and book chapters about travelling with hamsters but so far I've found none talking about STAYING with a hamster in a new, strange place. And that's what turned out to be the real problem. Not for us or our family, or even Snoopy The Dog. But for Lilly herself. As long as she remained inside of the transporter everything went peachy but when I opened it at my parents' and Lilly realised it was not her home, despite of all our preparations and trying she became shocked and stayed like this for the rest of the week. It was like someone put bad spell on her. Never before I saw her like this and hope never will again: she was petryfied. Big eyes, ears low, paws stiffed. Barely she moved, even though I quickly put her into her very own cage kept in quiet, cosy place in my old bedroom. Barely she drank, barely she ate. If it wasn't for me she would not go out from her cage tubes at all, sitting in the part she escapes to when she's most scared. It was heartbreaking to watch. I felt like crying. At some point I even wanted to take her to the vet, not having a clue what's happening. But when I dismanteled the tubes and took her out I realised that in my arms she was different: vivid and self confident again, eager to explore, sniffing curiously around like she used to do in our home. So I made sure she wasn't ill. She was just totaly unsure of this new place and with me she felt safe again. My friend who is a psychologist explained that to me: it turns out that all rodents seem to have highly specialized groups of cells in their brains - one group always takes care of one interior only. It's like they created maps of the territory and if a hammie is old or less flexible, may need much more time to create such a new map, or even won't be able to create it at all (!). And that's what happened to Lilly - she was extremaly unhappy, because she luck the map of the new, strange place. She's almost a year old now, poor thing. Maybe her brain cells are not as fast as they were before, when I brought her home... It's possible. The returning was easy. We only had to repeat the whole procedure backwords. No problem with Lilly staying in the transporter at all. As soon as we stepped through the door she knew perfectly well that it was home and she couldn't wait to get out of the transporter. And while I let her go, to run freely in her room and hide inside her favourite wardrobe, suddenly she was herself again, as if my dear little Lilly came back to me at last. Well, that's it. That was our great adventure. And this is something to remember: if your hammie acts strange in a new place, don't panic. Everything's gonna be allright. It may just take some time to create a new map.

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