Pet Therapy.

A teddy bear holding a tissue and thermometer sitting by a medicine bottle.

In the middle of September, shortly before Jarred was due to return for his final year of university, we decided to adopt a hamster. Having had one as a teenager I already knew what resources we would need and how to provide the best care for it, and so a couple of days later we had purchased and built a cage. Once it was kitted out with food, water, bedding, and chew toys, we were ready to adopt a furry companion.

Being unsure whether the nearby pet shop was accessible or not, Jarred went to purchase the hamster himself. He selected a 6 week old female Syrian hamster with short black and white fur, and round, pronounced ears. Apparently she had been in an enclosure with several others like her, but while she was running around the cage like a caffeinated Crash Bandicoot, the others were all huddled together in a ball in the back corner. He simply couldn’t ignore such an inquisitive and spirited little creature.

I was waiting at home when he returned with our new pet, who was in a little plastic carry-case with transparent sides. She was sniffing and running round, trying to take in all the new sounds and smells, one of which was me. She stopped in front of me and put her paws against the plastic, sniffing the air vents expectantly.

We lowered her gently into her new cage and almost immediately she began to explore. She was so small that she couldn’t turn her wheel without a little help to start it moving first and climbing up the vertical tubes into each compartment proved to be a challenge. She was not phased, even when on multiple occasions as she neared the top, she lost her footing and slid all the way down to the bottom. Once she had visited every corner of her cage she packed as much food as she could into her cheeks, grabbed some bedding, and began to make a nest for herself in one corner.

It didn’t take us too long to assign our little friend a name. She was christened “Tribble”, after the small, furry creatures that feature in an old episode of Star Trek.

Tribble is a great companion. Despite being nocturnal she is relatively active during the day, often popping out of her nest for some food and water, or to rearrange her nest. The highlight of the day comes in the evening as she wakes up properly; she absolutely adores running around the flat in her hamster ball and as soon as we show it to her, she’s out of the cage and into the ball faster than Usain Bolt. Then it’s a case of changing her food and water and perhaps adding a little bedding, or a treat to nibble on like a grape or slice of carrot.

Image description: Tribble, a black and white short-haired Syrian hamster, eating some carrot.

Once a week her cage gets a full clean, receiving fresh bedding as well as food and water. While Jarred disassembles the cage to clean it, I occupy Tribble in her little plastic case to prevent mischief, giving her a paper towel and a treat. She is now so comfortable with me that quite often she will make a little bed out of her paper towel, and will curl up into a Tribble-like ball, falling asleep against the warmth of my lap.

It doesn’t matter how rubbish I feel or how bad a day it has been, Tribble brightens every single day simply by existing.

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