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You know, I sometimes wonder where people find my LJ from, but I can't check or anything, and it still makes me wonder. I also find it rather amusing. This, I suppose, has been a hamster-infused day. Granted, I go well out of my way to keep my days hamster-infused, but then there are days I can't avoid hamster-infusions altogether. Mum decided to infect a houseguest with our rabid shoppingness today, so we went to Midvalley, where words like sale and MegaMall actually make a good pair. Whenever we go to the MegaMall, I make it a point to visit Pets Wonderland, because it carries a lot of hamsters, and I like to see if they upkeep the quality of their hamster hutches.

No, their quality now is deplorable, unacceptable, even hazardous to their pets. In this particular case, their hamsters. Pets Wonderland carries two kinds of hamsters: Syrians and Roborovskis (Russian Dwarfs). They house these hamsters in three large glass aquariums side by side, near the front entrance, where they get maximum exposure to the screaming children and the usual admiring mob (mob). The aquariums are wider than average, and taller than they are wide. I'd say they're about 3x4 feet? This size will matter, I'm getting to it. There are three aquariums. Two hold dwarf hamsters, the last holds the Syrians. There are actually not that many dwarf hamsters; about 5-10 per aquarium. However, the Syrian aquarium has approximately 43 hamsters in that one little case. They share a single wheel, a plastic tube, two small wood huts and a large wood lodge. And they are all squished and piled in corners. None of the hamsters seem to be lacking either food or water, but space is a major concern. I saw no hamsters with bite marks, but I wasn't sure, as I could only see the ones that moved around enough for me to take proper looks. Okay, this is still all the good news.

The bad news. 43 hamsters and one wheel. During the day, the majority of these hamsters are asleep. But it is not hard to surmise the hamsters probably aren't getting enough exercise, and hamsters require something like 2km of exercise a night. The space constraints are worrying, since hamsters are territorial to a point. They are capable of killing other hamsters. They are capable of seriously wounding other hamsters. Then, this conversation with a petshop worker:

Me: Are the hamsters all male? (initially thought they were because most of the hamsters I could see were male)
Staff: No, they're mixed. (truth, I saw a few females after that)
Me: How old are they?
Staff: Three months to four months. (untruth, they are the size of three to four week olds, typical weaning/separation age for hamsters)
Me: That seems quite old. Isn't there a risk they might mate?
Staff: There is. But these hamsters get sold very fast, so it doesn't matter. (WhAT? -H.)

Alright. So I might've gotten myself an inept staff person. Happens. But, about ten minutes later, another salesperson opens the dwarf hamster aquarium to let a couple of kids pick out hamsters. Now, the first thing the fellow does is pick up the wheel (with hamsters running inside), the wood huts (with hamsters sleeping inside) and every other accessory with hamsters on them, and shakes the hamsters out. To his credit, he did these things gently, but the chances of hurting a moving or sleeping hamster this way still cannot be ignored. The panic this threw the shocked hamsters in after that was bad enough, but he was showing hamsters to two young children to pick their pets from, and there is a handling example the petshop worker provides for the customers that I believe is in the subtext but nonetheless cannot be ignored. Many first-time pet owners do depend on some care information from the petshop staff, and if the petshop staff cannot even adequately handle the pets, how can they transmit information regarding their proper care fo their customers?

Back to this situation, the same salesperson momentarily turned his back (for about a couple of minutes) to fetch something, leaving the aquarium door open (the doors are like cabinet doors, so the hamsters can simply run out if they so choose) with the two children standing there. Inevitably, a hamster does make a run for it, and the younger of these two children (about five or six years old, I figure; the older one was maybe about 9-12?) picks the critter up and throws it into the water bowl. Remember, the hamsters in this aquarium were dwarf hamsters, small enough to fit in a child's palm. The water bowl was a shallow, dog's water bowl type bowl. The poor hamster was terrified out of his mind. Convention tells us that pets who've been traumatized by humans generally make poor pets because they develop a fear of humans. Hamsters are no different, and they are very easily stressed. Experience tells me the very young hamsters petstores usually get supplied with die easily from stress-induced diseases, a combination of their age and outright fear. It was horrible to watch this hamster, and it was much more horrible to watch this hamster suffer and have the mob around the aquariums laugh.

I was angry. Horribly angry. I wanted to shake that small boy till his neck broke. I wanted to scream. I didn't. I regret that. I regret having to let more small hamsters suffer because I was quiet. I regret it because of my apathy, because of my belief that telling the petshop staff would not have helped anything. And I regret the inescapable sadness of watching petshop hamsters, the sort of sadness I tend to feel for most petshop animals, but most of all for hamsters. It is like grieving. They are like my children, and it is a bitter struggle not being able to do anything but knowing not doing anything helps nothing. If I could, I would take all these hamsters home, and love them and cherish them as they should be loved and cherished.

You've heard me say this before. I guess, it is one of my cardinal traits. They are my totems, my family, my guardians, my friends and children. It is not right. It is just not right.