Sleepy Santosha Yoga For Long Covid

Following from my last blog, just FYI it looks like my white baby is MALE which make it hard to breed back to dad. Typical! But expected around here lol. Doric = ironic hamsters, I told you.

I’ve been quite down recently but finally followed some advice from a fellow long covid sufferer and looked at yoga for chronic fatigue. I found Sleepy Santosha’s channel and..wow!

To begin with I could only do about 2 mins haha but I’m actually starting to think maybe I’ll get to do more in time. It’s worth a try. My body is so tightly wound that I can’t raise my arms above my head. Perhaps this will make it easier for me to care for myself. My back pain has recently come back so part of this is also re-engaging my core.

The thing I liked about her channel best is that she is also ill. So many videos say they are for disabled people and then start doing things I can only dream about. This time, every stretch was accompanied by advice on alternatives and encouragement that if you can’t do it yet, that’s ok. She is uniquely qualified to understand what her viewers are feeling. That’s not to say people who are not chronically ill can’t understand but there is a deeper feeling there that you only ‘get’ if you’ve lived it.

She recently did a vlog whilst staying up late with painsomnia (a useful term I learned today that describes my experiences very well) and it really resonated with me. The video acknowledges that chronic illness sucks (it does) but she goes on to say that she needs to actively remind herself that it’s not her fault and this is something that certainly seems to be normal for those I’ve spoken to, or heard from, who are also chronically ill. It’s not like we are just not trying hard enough to be well. Those were her words and she finishes by saying that, actually, chronically ill people are the most resilient people you will meet. To be struggling with the basic functions of life and yet still accomplishing things is, in her words, ‘badass’.

I’m a badass! Yes! I’ve never thought of it like that before. Every time I blog despite having been on painkillers today, sleeping for 13 hours and dragging myself to the yoga mat, I’m a badass.

My biggest enemy is the sarcastic voice in my head that reminds me that brushing my teeth is not a goal. “Oh wow, so you got dressed today, woohoo” it says. How amazing is it that the very thing I’ve been struggling with the most is solved in a YouTube video that I found by accident. Getting dressed might not be trophy worthy exactly but everytime I do it, I won that fight. I was victorious. My buddhist practice is all about victory and now this makes so much more sense to me.

Tomorrow I will feed the hamsters and have my second covid jab (which also means getting dressed etc) and I’ll have won tomorrow too.

Is There Such A Thing As Ethical Breeding?

I much prefer the term ‘responsible breeding’ because ethical is actually a bit vague and some might argue that if you are truly ethical you wouldn’t breed at all.

The short answer is yes. The longer winded answer is below!

So what is responsible breeding? This question was emailed to me by a prospective owner last week. It’s a very good question that is best answered in my blog because, as you’ll see, it needs quite a long answer!

A responsible breeder, in my opinion, is someone who breeds for a different reason than just producing pets to sell. I breed to continue my show lines or to investigate new colour mutations, or to try to standardise existing colours that haven’t been yet. Additionally, my breeding makes certain varieties available in the UK that otherwise would not be.

This key point is what separates many small animal hobby breeders from those who breed cats and dogs.

Next key point is that a responsible breeder breeds with the care of the animal as first and foremost in their minds. My cages are all set up to current welfare standards such as the Five Freedoms, and my hamsters are fed the best diets for their needs and are given the best bedding for their needs too. They don’t live in cramped or overcrowded cages and if I don’t have space to breed, I don’t breed.

Moreover, health amongst litters is tracked where owners give me details so that any worrying trends can be spotted and the line stopped. An unhealthy hamster doesn’t win shows, and isn’t a good foundation for the continuation of a line so it’s in my best interest to keep their long term health a priority.

One common misconception is that breeders contribute to the rescue population. Small animal hobby breeders don’t, with the odd exception. I know this first hand from my years running my own rescue that it is pet shops or those breeding rodents as reptile food that account for 99% of all small animals in rescue. Suffice to say I offer lifetime back up for everything I breed so that none of my hamsters have any need to go into the rescue system.

As a responsible breeder I also educate new owners on the care, bonding, feeding and health of their pets.

I don’t rehome to people who I don’t think will care for my hamsters properly. To help me achieve this aim I have a form to initially screen new enquiries and I ask a lot of questions if I spot any red flags. I have only had a problem with a hamster rehoming once, thanks to this system of checks.

I don’t breed for profit. So my hamsters have two litters in their whole lives (rarely three) and then they are free to live out their lives in retirement. If a hamster chooses not to breed (yes they can choose), then they just retire early. Sometimes, if they are young enough, I’ll rehome a retired hamster to be properly spoiled in a pet home.

By far the biggest plus point to any responsible breeding is that there is no culling. I didn’t cull when I bred mice and I don’t cull now. Instead, I sell any extra pups I get in order to fund their care and help with future plans.

So……

What’s the difference between me and a commercial scale outfit? That’s like asking what the difference is between a family with a chicken coop and a battery hen farm.

The people who supply large chain pet shops breed in huge proportions. To put some perspective on things, I had 100 pups (ish) in 2020. A commercial facility produces 1000 roborovski hamsters a week. A WEEK. If you google some of these breeders you can see the stats. This report here from 2014 gives the annual number of animals bred by a southern breeding facility at 160,000.

2000 syrian hamsters a week. The following picture is over a generic breeding cage racking system. That’s a mouse for size comparison. It’s easy to see why it’s important for commercial breeders to keep their animal’s small. There are no photos of the actual cages by the facility I mention, you can probably see why.

Laboratory Animal Equipment - Tecniplast UK

Thinking logically then we can assume that, while they may cull any unhealthy animals, the trait they are selectively breeding for is fertility. Fertility is governed by hormones and so commercially produced animals will have higher levels of testosterone and oestrogen than smaller breeder produced animals, who are not specifically selected for fertility. These higher hormone levels are thought to be responsible for the higher energy levels (near ADHD levels), and various behavioural issues found in pet shop versions of nearly all small animal species.

Additionally, to breed 2000 syrians a week means you have to have an extremely large population of hamsters or that you are breeding the same individuals constantly. A syrian’s gestation is the shortest of all hamsters at 16 days (on average). Unlike other species they cannot live together but mums are fertile again the same day they give birth. Syrians often cull a litter if you disturb them before the pups are at least a week old, ideally two weeks. Lets assume then that one mum can have one litter every four weeks.

Syrian litters are anywhere from 1 to 20 pups, but if you are breeding for optimum yield (keeping mums who give the biggest litters) then you could have an average of 15 each time. That’s 133 litters in the first week. From 133 mums. The second week you have to have another 133 mums giving you litters, and so on until you start again after week four. So that’s a potential minimum of 532 syrian mums to give you 2000 pups a week. Conservatively you’ll need, say 100 males to sire all those pups, so 632 total syrian hamsters.

Let’s digest that. 632 syrian hamsters, breeding pretty much back to back to produce 2000 pups a week. If they don’t breed them back to back then that number is even higher. So these hamsters have to be kept in racking. Racking lab cages are a minimum size of 1800 square cm by law. For a large hamster having pups all the time that’s not enough space at all. You can imagine they don’t keep older females who can’t breed anymore. There’d be no room and a business is there to make money. You therefore wouldn’t know if there are older age health conditions occurring as well as the limited feedback you’d get from sold hamsters.

We’ll stop there lest my rant continues on into a dissertation! But I hope you can already see the clear differences and clear benefits to purchasing your pet from a small hobby breeder!

Obviously, of course, adopt don’t shop where you can but there aren’t normally a lot of hamsters in rescue so if you can’t find a rescue hamster then people like me are a best alternative.

Points to look out for in a genuine hobby breeder – You’ll get knowledgeable care information and a family tree, ideally your breeder will have a prefix with the National Hamster Council, they will know what colour and species they are giving you, your animal will be sexed correctly and you’ll be able to see them before you buy (by video during covid). Good breeders won’t overcharge you or charge more for ‘rare’ colours or coat types and will ask you lots of questions about your set up and how you plan to care for your pet.

Watch out for backyard breeders who just purchased two pet shop hamsters and then try to sell the pups for upwards of £20 each. Not to say we don’t sometimes need to use animals from a smaller chain pet store that sources from a smaller breeder but the origins of your hamster should be clearly stated to you

Not all breeders will be a part of the NHC but if they are they have to follow a code of conduct which is available on the National Hamster Council’s website

If you have further questions for me please email me and I’ll do my best to answer you.

Happy New Year!

Here’s hoping 2021 is brighter for everyone!

A few changes are coming to the breeding line up including new lines in red eye blue and husky blue, both of which are currently being bred for in The Netherlands but not in the UK. Hopefully by branching out into these two lines I have doubled my chances of getting both non patterned blue, agouti blue and black.

Syrian hamster Olly (short of Olympus) arrived on the 17th December after collecting him from Tristar. He’s a long haired sable banded and I’m hoping to feel well enough to restart my syrian hamster breeding. It really does hinge on my feeling better though as my syrians will be in Ferprlast Mary cages which are heavier to move around and clean out than the robo’s underbed boxes.

I’ve very much missed having syrians around! Bear in mind it’s unlikely that I’ll have more than one or two litters a year as my focus will remain on the roborovski

In other news, I’ve had confirmation that I have no lasting pulmonary hypertension and that the Hammersmith hospital will continue to investigate my long covid and lasting blood clots.

This is very good news but as I approach month 10 post covid I do wonder if I’ll ever recover. I read that someone did recover recently but there again a six year old and a couple of marathon runners still have theirs at month 10 and 12 respectively so I’m cautious of being too optimistic

I think I may have found a way to make the garden more accessible which will allow me to grow my own fruit and veg, something I was looking to do this year before everything went a bit pear shaped. I’m really looking forward to finding a way to be able to enjoy being outside again and the hamsters will really benefit from fresh organically homegrown treats!

Lastly, I’ll not be returning to showing until at least July when the summer show in Bath is on. Whether I go there will again completely depend on my health and the health of my show buddy Vectis Hamstery who usually does the driving.

I’ve got my fingers crossed and the plans all drawn up, 2021 can’t be worse than 2020 can it?…..

Long Covid – Month 8

So far, the hamstery is running on the pure good will of my family. Particularly my husband.

I see more and more news on long covid which is great as it means that things might get done. To date I’ve seen no one specifically for my long covid other than my GP who, try and she might, cannot find a place for me to go. Support groups such as the one in the image are invaluable. If you suffer from long covid please follow them for news and google your local support group.

Complicating matters is my recent diagnosis of chronic thromboembolic disease. This relatively rare disease occurs when the body does not aborb blood clots, usually in the pulmonary blood vessels. My two large friends, nicknames Bill and Ben, are still with me and apparently here for good. I may have medication options but have no idea if Long Covid makes me a good candidate for surgery.

I’m waiting on the specialist Pulmonary Hypertension Service to get back to me with, hopefully, some more info. My respiratory consultant was, as usual, a bit too brief and I’ve had to do my own research (as usual) as to what this actually means for me. I had hoped the cardiologist might be more illuminating but instead she too ignored my long covid and suggested graded exercise might be a way forward.! When I reminded her of , ya know, crippling fatigue she almost…..almost….. shrugged. And visibly seemed to either a) be confused or b) not care. It was hard to tell which to be honest.

I feel very sorry for all you M.E/CFS and fibromyalgia peeps who’ve had to put up with this sort of thing for decades.

So, the consultants think my long covid isn’t a thing worth discussing, my GP is trapped between me and them, and I’m transformed. From a bright and lively 40 year old juggling two jobs (one full time), the hamstery, voluntary work, walking three dogs and hiking in my spare time to …. this.

The official reply seems to be ‘well just go exercise then’. Laughably and woefully inadequate. This month NICE changed it’s guidelines on graded exercise as it has been proven to do more harm that good, promoting ‘crash and burn’.

So far my list of changes are:-
Now moderately bad asthma instead of really mid
Super allergic to everything
Exhausted by both physical and mental exertion
Cognitive dysfunction – I feel stupid and like I’ve got early dementia
Clotting – As above
IBS – used to be unidentified dyspepsia that varied in intensity
Acid reflux – now really quite bad
Vision – Blurry half the day, as if I’m not wearing my glasses at all
Light sensitivity
New type of migraine – Used to only have optical migraine with aura. Now have this weird beast of a migraine that sneaks up unannounced and takes out my whole skull, neck and shoulders

What I am not – Deconditioned, weak, frail or elderly. I’m still doing physical activity because otherwise the hamstery would have to shut. but I’m pacing this around other strenuous tasks like getting dressed. I just can’t walk far from the house and not far enough to commute to a job, and I can’t do more than 20 minutes of exertion at once. I doubt an employer will let me work from home for 20 mins a day…….

I have taken up yoga and meditation. Kinda. I need to grow more patience with myself and start to accept that getting back to work is just not going to happen for a while. I’ve now got a wheelchair so at least I can go see places further away that the end of my road (assuming someone pushes me). Luckily my husband is a competent wheelchair pusher lol

It is my hope that the hamstery will live long and prosper into 2021 and that I’ll recover from the long covid symptoms at least. Crossing all my fingers!

Roborovski Update- Looking into 2021

This year has certainly been challenging! I’ve had covid, got long covid and now a condition where my pulmonary blood vessels are diseased (complication of covid clots). The hamstery has been keeping my morale afloat and I’ve had some excellent successes including breeding my first BEW boy, finding possible dominant husky, breeding a beautiful typey cinnamon (pictured) and a litter of gorgeous agouti.

Of course I’ve also suffered from husky-itis. That is, managing to get a husky out of half of all my litters this year haha!

It’s about now that I look ahead to spring pairs. I’ve still got active pairs together and a lot of next year’s plans will hinge on what they do or don’t give me. Here’s a breakdown of what I’m breeding for right now:-

Blizzard x Cairness – If I get white I can then say the gene involved is dominant. Cairness is nothing to do with BEW lines so shouldn’t be able to make one at the first mating. This result will also confirm that BEW is not a double dominant phenomenon i.e. not homozygous dominant pied. If I just get a litter of all pied (as one continental breeder suggested) it will tell me that the white is related to double dominant (homozygous) pied (daddy can only give pied genes to the litter). If I get just all agouti it could suggest, but not prove, that BEW needs a recessive gene.

Elijah x Raey – Solidifying my agouti show lines with these two very high quality hamsters. Both bred here. I’m so proud!

Moss x Trigger – Reinforcing my agouti pied line with an excellent class winning agouti. Hopefully he’s not too old!

Irvine x Marmalade – Test breeding to see if I’m playing with dominant husky. If all the huskies born are the same apricot colour as their mum was from just a week old then I’ll know I’ve got something. Recessive husky is usually pale, like cream syrians, and matures as the pups reach 2 months old.

Rueben x Sabine and Lucien x Julienne will/have been both working towards the goal of proving or disproving the phenotype of self blue and agouti blue.

So what’s on the cards for 20201??

Agouti – I’d like to get a nice boy out of this pair and grow him on til summer when shows start again and I can get in some agouti from elsewhere.

Agouti Pied – I’ll be picking the nicest carrier from my out cross and breeding back to a lovely looking uncle to keep all those nice traits in my line. If Moss doesn’t produce then I’ll be pairing Trigger again and this next step will delay until Autumn 2021. I’m hoping for a nice large litter of pied when I do this.

Husky – I’ll be pairing up my very nice girl this year with my gorgeous agouti boy for some more carriers. I’ll pick the nicest of these to breed to the wonderful, smooshy, Colorado.

Cinnamon – I’ve got plans to breed out to my agouti line as there’s been a fair bit of inbreeding to get the cinnamons without the pied. This will also improve size with any luck. Love the temperaments on my red eyes.

Cinnamon Pied – Crossing out to agouti pied (Trigger’s sister) to get some variety in the gene pool. Both lines are gorgeous right now so I’m not too worried about needing to breed back to daddy Papaya later

Blue – Several goals here. I’ll be breeding my nice blue boy Azzan to keep the blue going. I’m hoping for agouti out of Rueben this year so I can put another pair of agouti carriers together to try to lose the pied on the blues themselves. At the moment I either get agouti or blue with too much white on. In time that in itself might prove that blues will be white under, but as this doesn’t happen in other mammals unless you have the ‘fox’ gene then we need to still chase the more ordinary theory first.

Blue varieties – I’m hoping to pair up for cinnamon blue and husky blue next year. It may go some may to further illuminating what the blue gene is and how it works. Continental breeders are already working on these so I’m not the first but no doubt the more people who breed this, the wider the variety of results. Or, if there is no variety, the quicker the consensus!

Black eyed white – I’ll continue to breed Blizzard. I’ve got another breeder in the fancy interested in dabbling in BEW that will prove useful. It all hinges on this current pairing

Lastly, Dom husky? Well I’ll have to see if it is a thing first. It may just be that Marmalade was really well coloured. You’ve got to do the breeding before you start assuming.

All in all, I’m hoping for less litters next year as a lot of these pairs are simply to keep lines moving. As ever, it will be the blues that give me the most pups as I’ve got to keep pairing if I don’t see the colours we need to get this recognised in the UK. But this means you lovely people have more chances to nab one as a pet so it’s not all bad.

My last word is that, plans are great but it all depends on the following:
1) What I get from these pairings
2) What my health is like going forwards. I may not be able to breed all these lines and may have to cut back.
3) Space. My biggest constraint. Remember I do this from home as a hobby and there’s only so many hamsters you can comfortably look after. I don’t cull so some of these plans may need to wait until older hamsters naturally pass away. But that’s ok, I love all my robos as pets too and I do breed for health and lifespan also. I don’t want them departing too soon. If I don’t have space I just keep boys and grow them on a bit longer.

Here’s hoping, with the vaccine as well, that 2021 is more positive!

Long Covid – 6 Months Later

One day in March 2020 I got on a bus to go to work and although I was aware that a pandemic was looming, my government assured me that we were still safe in the community unless we had travelled. This turned out to not only be false, but this bus journey was to be the last I would make this year.

I’ve already written a post on my journey through covid but I never expected to still be on the sofa in September.

I have my post embolism recovery (those clots are still there), and my post covid recovery and between the two I feel pretty well battered. Writing on the website takes longer, and more brain power than it did before. Organising tasks ahead of time is nigh on impossible and absolutely everything has to be written down or it’s simply forgotten. I feel angry, sad, lost and isolated at times but also still have moments of happiness and that happiness is in my family, hamsters and dogs.

Breeding wise, the hamstery faces an uncertain future. Whilst I’m hoping to still be able to help out my club and the National Hamster Council in my role as treasurer, my breeding is a different issue. The exertion involved means my husband is already shouldering most of the work for me when it comes to feeding and cleaning. Should my condition become more permanent, I will review burdening him with my hobby when he has his own work to do.

I’m told there are naysayers on social media who claim covid simply does not exist. Perhaps instead of spreading falsehoods online they should count themselves lucky. Lucky that they themselves, their family or friends have not been touched by this illness. Perhaps it’s too much to hope for but I assure the country that I do exist!

Pacing is my friend. If you are in the same position as me, pacing is honestly the way forward for the physical exertion. Mentally it’s more difficult. It’s hard to pace this when, like me, you are used to multitasking three or four jobs at once while on the phone and answering emails. This has, hands down, been the most difficult part of this debilitating condition. Losing my mind, quite literally. I have to remember that even ‘just’ writing this blog will mean I need to rest my brain. It’s not just about pacing what you perceive as a job like building a shopping list or answering emails etc. It’s the fun stuff that you like to do too. If it’s brain heavy then pace it. Rest, nap, be present in the moment, do something that you can switch off to like listening to music.

What happens next is uncertain. Investigations are still ongoing and results are still pending. I’m in limbo for now but there’s hope that full recovery is still attainable, it just feels very far away! In the meantime the hamsters will carry on breeding so I can keep my lines running and have something positive to focus on.


If you’ve been touched by any of the issues in this blog and feel like you need to reach out, there should be support groups in your local area. If you are a member of the hamster fancy consider reaching out to your club. Write your experiences into the journal to help other members.

My Journey Through Corona Virus – A Breeder’s Story

It was January 2020 and the best time for planning the first season’s litters. I had a couple of pairs I needed to put together straight away as my girls are getting closer to a year old. There’s never a guarantee they’ll have a litter straight away and it’s not a good idea to breed them over a year old for the first time so if they are 9 months old then you’d better get a move on! Later in January I got some amazing and important hamsters from Bradford Champs and some of those needed breeding in short order. It was exciting! 2018 was a very dry year for litters, 2019 saw me desperately trying to salvage lines and losing some despite my efforts. I had to keep everything I bred until the end of 2019 so I had recouped hardly any of my costs at all. 2020 was going to be my year!

February 2020 saw 9 pairs in total introduced to each other. I had at least two months to make the boxes I needed for these litters, assuming they were all successful. Despite some problems with my asthma, due to my pet rats, the hamsters were cheering me up.

Towards the end of February a few of the January pairs had their first litters, bang on time and were even giving what I’d hoped for! Astounding. And, to be honest, a sense of foreboding should have occurred, I never usually get what I’m after on the first try.

March saw me starting to prep for splitting up a couple of pairs although with a couple I did want a second litter if possible. I do this in a very controlled way normally and certainly don’t go for repeated back to back litters as this takes it out of mum too much and pups get too small for me to keep and breed on. By now, every pair but two had their litters.

Lockdown kicked in the middle of March. Yes they had talked about corona virus but there was allegedly no community transmission in the UK. I hadn’t travelled and knew no one who had. I decided to split everyone would be a good idea because rehoming would be difficult under lockdown conditions.

Then I got ill.

I thought it was bad hayfever, then I thought it was an asthma flare up as I’d been having issues with the rats. As the week progressed to the end of March I got a high temperature, a cough and thought I had a cold. It wasn’t a continuous cough afterall…and I hadn’t travelled anywhere. There was still no community transmission in my area apparently, although my friend had been ill with corona virus, we hadn’t seen each other in weeks. We were looking after her dog for her while she was ill, he came over in the week I was already feeling a bit off.

The first week of April saw me confined to bed with pneumonia. I was lucky in a way, I didn’t need hospital, but I was in a big grey area. Clinically my GP thought I had corona, which does lead to pneumonia, but I couldn’t get tested unless I went to hospital. If they sent me to hospital and I didn’t have it, I would certainly pick it up and was in no state to fight it off. So I received a special brand of home care that involved taking lots of steroids and antibiotics (as I was at huge risk of a chest infection on top) and daily phone call check ups from the GP. I don’t remember that Monday at all, I had a very low temperature and couldn’t get warm, I couldn’t breathe properly and getting out of bed caused my heart rate to rocket up and my oxygen sats to drop all the way to 89-90%.

This carried on all week. I ate just soup. We had beautiful volunteers from a local facebook group deliver more soup as we couldn’t get any food shopping at all. I vaguely remember a discussion about running out of toilet roll and how it was all gone in the shops. I still have no idea why people went panic buying for loo roll…..

On the Wednesday my husband called the paramedics. Again they said they were wary of taking me in. It felt surreal to be asked repeatedly if I wanted to go to hospital? I wasn’t well enough to make that decision. After nearly an hour of keeping me sat on the stairs all I wanted to do was sleep. I knew I needed help but help was not forthcoming. The paramedic told us it was so risky taking me in that unless I needed intensive care I should stay at home.

By the end of the week I started to feel better. I didn’t need supervision to go to the toilet and started eating solid food. I felt lucky. The relief from my GP was palpable.

I didn’t know that I was busy brewing the third stage of corona virus. Blood clots.

On the next Monday morning I had spoken the GP about my daughter’s ear infection. They were glad I sounded so good. I was still ill but miles better than the week before.

I started to think about the hamsters, I remember not really being able to grasp the enormity of my situation.

After lunch I got up to the bathroom, and when I got back to bed I felt….weird. I called my son in and found I couldn’t breathe properly. My heart rate went up really fast. I’d had this briefly the night before but it went after 10 minutes. This time it didn’t go away. I couldn’t expand my lungs without pain in my chest.

My husband called the GP and after he listened to me for just 10 seconds, he advised to call the ambulance and insist on hospital. This time the paramedic was lovely, he was a first responder so had to call in an actual ambulance and he stayed with me all the way to hospital. The only thing I remember is the pain and him holding my hand. I wish I could remember his name.

I went straight to resus and stayed there for what must have been at least a couple of hours. They were lovely, I was swabbed, poked, nebulised, injected and monitored to try to stabilise my heart and breathing. I remember only one doctor suggesting a possible blood clot and it is purely thanks to her (I firmly believe) that I didn’t die that night or the following night. Because of her I got my blood thinning injections started that night.

The following day I got my CT scan which showed two large clots in the arteries around my lungs. I had an echo which showed my heart was under strain.

Throughout my week in hospital I saw different wards and different doctors. I was told I should be in respiratory high care but that it was now intensive care for people needing ventilators. Over and over I was told I was lucky.

During a particularly bad night I messaged my close friend and my husband about the hamsters. I didn’t think about the breeding, I was thinking about not coming home. I didn’t want my husband having to deal with them.

The following day, things were starting to get better and I managed to organise the breeding pairs going to my friend. She also breeds and I knew that she could split them all up properly.

It wasn’t until I got home I realised my predicament in it’s glory. A total of 9 breeding pairs had produced nearly 50 hamster pups across two litters and a couple who had three. I mean, it could have been worse if they’d all had six pups each. It took the whole month of May to sort them all out with them coming back to me in two batches, girls and then boys.

Both my friend and I were, and are still, recovering and are both on the clinically vulnerable list now. We both experience severe fatigue so while I wanted to lower her workload, I had to be able to deal with them here too. My thoughts turned to rehoming. I had a total of 109 roborovski in my house, double my normal numbers. Most of these were in same sex groups of siblings but it doesn’t take long for them to start needing to live by themselves.

Every roborovski needed to be coded (I give four letter, the year and a number for a unique identifier on all of my hamster pups), logged into my breeding record, given a pedigree, fed, cleaned out and my keepers chosen. The prospect of photographing each one for sale was so daunting I opted for videos on request. Rehoming could be done socially distanced with a little thought. Videos replaced choosing in person. Photos of whole litters for the website instead of each hamster all helped. Each hamster who leaves goes in their own box and payment is electronic so I don’t have to touch anything belonging to someone else.

Skip to today and I have managed to rehome a lot of the older pups born in February and March. The April and early May litters are ready to go and are up on the website. The upshot is that I still have to breed or I lose the lines I spent the whole of 2019 struggling to keep going. I risk 2021 being a year of keeping everything again and I cannot do that. So I breed or I close. I keep males where I can so I don’t have to breed those until next year.

Private rehoming is more stressful than homing via shows where you can talk to people face to face. A lot of enquiries don’t go anywhere but need to be replied to. A lot of people assume that as I’m shielding I have nothing to do all day so why can’t I provide a hamster by tomorrow? I’m not a back yard breeder or a pet shop so I need to know where the hamsters are going and if homes are suitable or not. I spend 1-2 hours a day just answering emails.

Apologies for the super long blog post!

My experience has brought it home to me that I’m not invulnerable. I never considered myself ‘weak’ before and this is a term the media uses to describe people like me. I’m definitely weak now I guess. What would happen to the hamstery if I did die? I’m only 40 so didn’t think I needed to answer that in terms of an out of the blue illness like this was. I know who all my hamsters are, I know their breeding history like the back of my hand. I know all their names and who many pups they’ve had or why I wouldn’t breed them.

Somebody coming in to take them en mass won’t know these things. This was proven by a member of the hamster fancy who sadly passed away. There were many problems arising from taking her hamsters. Her husband, like mine, helped with the hamsters but didn’t ‘do’ hamsters. So there was a big information gap.

From May onwards I have been improving my existing paper records, my existing spreadsheets and now moving towards improving my labelling.

Having corona virus and surviving is one thing. Doing it while being responsible for a large amount of animals is entirely a different issue. No one can come in to help you do it, especially if you live alone. Responsible rehoming absolutely has to happen for both your own and the animal’s welfare.

I’m still undergoing testing and monitoring to see why my lungs and heart are still not 100%. I hope to achieve some sense of normality soon. I also hope that other survivors reading this know that they are not alone. If you are in the hamster fancy particularly, reach out to your local club for support. If you aren’t a member already, do join up. You’ll get a monthly journal that you can write in to if you would like.

Club information as follows:-

Southern Hamster Club
Midland Hamster Club
Northern Hamster Club
National Hamster Council

Extras – A Hamster’s Balanced Diet

It’s important for any hamster to eat outside of it’s basic packet muesli. Muesli (or pellets) is not complete although it does come close and many hamsters do well being given nothing else. Imagine if you had to eat the same breakfast muesli everyday, or worse…a monotonous diet of shreddies. Yes, I have strong opinions about a pelleted diet, hamsters are not rabbits.

An easy way to provide variety, and therefore balance, is to mix more into your dry food. Mixed wild bird seed is an easy one. Your vet may tell you to be careful of whole oats, due to pouch perforation. Well. I’m sceptical that this is as common an issue as the distributors of science selective pellets may lead you to believe. Some hamster do well on this type of food, more do not. Think of the breakfast analogy above and think about which you’d rather feed.

It’s nice to provide something extra on top of their dry diet. It’s vital to remember that every mouthful of a treat or an extra means one less mouthful of their (mostly complete) dry diet. Extras should not be overfed. An easy rule of thumb is to dry feed a small bowl full every 2-3 days and on the day you put the new food in, add in something fresh or wet. Keep it separate from your dry, there’s nothing worse than soggy muesli. Your hamster will prefer the fresh on the day and store the dry for eating on days 2 and 3. This is the best way, in my opinion, of stopping selective eating. Hamsters naturally horde their food so take advantage of this to make sure they can still have a varied and balanced diet.

Your choices are fresh veg, fresh fruit, protein like wet dog or cat food, leftover human food and other food items such as porridge. The foods to avoid are citrus fruits, human chocolate, onions, garlic in some hamsters, spicy food, salty food and very sticky food that might get stuck in a pouch. A little bit of sugar and fat is fine unless your hamster can’t tolerate it or is diabetic (remember that sugar does not make a hamster diabetic).

I recently asked fans of the Facebook page what they like to feed. Broccoli, kale and carrots were top of the list. Bell peppers, cauliflower, sweetcorn, corn on the cob, green beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, watercress, rocket, peas, spinach, sugar snap peas, fennel and parsnip were all suggested. Apple, courgette and cucumber too.  It’s lovely to hear so many owners feed such a wide range. I’ve been a bit stuck on feeding kale recently, and kalettes are a cute veg to feed (look like tiny kale).

Broccoli.jpg

Wet food wise I have fed a lot of different brands of dog and cat food. I find that although Applaws is taken readily because of the texture, I prefer food that is fortified wherever possible. My guys have a preference for pate as well as flaked meat and I use puppy mousse, kitten pate or similar. I tend to mix this with Ready Brek made up using water (not the sachets, too much sugar), as disgusting as it sounds it makes it go further and the hams love it. To this I might add EMP, a supplement often used for birds. If I’m giving extras to a new mum though, I tend to feed meat and porridge separately. This may be a better option for those of you with only one hamster. Just bear in mind that you will want to ease off extra protein when your hamster is older as it can stress the kidneys.

Other extras include dried mealworms, dried crickets, dried sprats, pumpkin seeds, dog biscuits and dried fish skins. Ancol hedgehogs and dried pigs ears can be fed but I’d take these out periodically as otherwise the hamster will eat only these (they are quite big).

A good regime might be:-

Monday – Dry food plus a spoon of fresh veg. Less for a dwarf.

Tuesday – No food today

Wednesday – Cup cake case with a small spoon of wet dog food. Less for a dwarf.

Thursday – Dry food.

Friday – Treat with human leftovers or a shop bought treat of an appropriate size. Or fresh veg/fruit again if you’d prefer. If you have a young hamster, this could be a day for mealworms or similar.

Saturday – Half portion of dry food and a small dog biscuit. Puppy bones are ideal for dwarfs.

Sunday – No food today.

If your hamster has lots of left over food in the cage, just decrease the portions. Keep decreasing portion sizes until your hamster is eating everything. Keep an eye on your hamster’s waste and waist! Runny poo means stop everything except the dry food, see your vet and add in extras slowly once they have recovered. If your hamster feels too chubby, cut back. If you can feel your hamster is boney or skinny, add more assuming they are finishing it. If there is a lot of food left and your hamster is still skinny then chat with your vet.

As an aside – if your hamster is diabetic, it’s very difficult to control this with diet. In humans, carbs and fat all contribute to glucose levels too. Keep the sugar low by all means, your hamster still needs a balanced diet and medication if appropriate. Information on medication can be found on Vectis Hamstery’s website vectishams.webs.com

Despite the best variety, you still need to make sure they have plenty of vitamins and minerals. Particularly D3. Use a vitamin paste in wet food or a powder supplement. You can also use a supplement in the water.

Variety. Your hamster will thank you for it 🙂

Zhou Liang Mar 2017 a

Show Pen Maintenance: A Necessary Evil?

It’s time! I think I lost out on a first place in Roborovski class at a recent show because of a neglected show pen. Any points removed were well deserved I have to say. I’ve not repainted my pens since I started showing Syrians in 2013 *shame*

Syrian Pen 1

So I’ve finally gone out, bought the paint, set up the work table and found all my pens. For good measure I’ll also do my pen carriers. It’s worth pointing out that for new members who hire pens, your pens don’t get penalised for condition as it’s accepted that it’s the club’s issue/owner of the pen to look after hire pens rather than the member who hired it.

Before I went to B and Q there was a scrabble to find the various bits of info provided by show pen guru, Mark, on what paint to use. Black gloss and white gloss for the Syrian pens (Dulux is favoured) and Ronseal Deep Mahogany for the dwarf pens. It’s worth noting that members have previously mistakenly used something like ‘cotton white’ rather than ‘pure white’ gloss and have also mistakenly varnished dwarf pens. It’s just woodstain for those and you can tell the difference between the shades of white on the show bench so be careful.

First job is cleaning. All my pens are getting a full clean rather than their usual quick wipe. I’m hoping not to have to paint all of them if they are just a little stained.

Syrian Pen 2

Then sanding any chew marks out. Sanding also provides a better surface to paint the new gloss onto I’m told. After sanding, I managed to remember to wipe the pen out again. Look at this black paint dust.

Syrian Pen 3

Due to the application of masking tape, I preferred to paint the inside first and freehand the black. I’m quite good at my edges, you might like to mask both. I’m more likely to need to re do the interiors of all the pens whereas I reckon only two of mine need the black redone. We’ll see!

Syrian Pen 4

Looks like more than one coat will be needed. On my second one I realised that you need to paint the inside front lip first and the top outward facing edge last. I got a bit covered in paint this go haha
Syrian Pen 5

Look at the difference!

Syrian Pen 6.jpg

This is the paint I used for the black on the other show pen. The white dried in a couple of hours, the black needs to be left overnight between coats and a good day/night to completely lose the tackiness I’m told.

Syrian Pen 7.jpg

The pen I’m painting was chewed by a naughty boy on the way home from a show because I forgot my divider (see further down) meaning the pens didn’t sit right in the top of the carrier.

Syrian Pen 8

I’ve sanded the chew marks down as much as I can. and then painted.

Syrian Pen 9

Looking good!!  After it’s second coat I’ll redo the mark on the bottom (for identification you mark the bottom of your pens so the judge can’t see). For the pen carriers I bought a Valspar satin paint called ‘wine cask’. I’m really hoping it dries more red than that! I had to get the chap to mix it up for me. The divider is place on top of the bottom row of pens in the carrier to give a space between rows. This gives extra ventilation, makes the top row more secure and stable as well as helping to stop the hamsters underneath being able to chew the pen above!

That’s my progress so far. Hopefully I’ll have some more photos later this week. It’s definitely worth the work to avoid losing marks in the future 🙂