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The Pet Project – Part 8

It’s been over a week since our two cavies joined our home, and it’s been quite a fun experience learning about their habits, nuances and also how different they are from Syrian hamsters. Ling chose the names for our two cavy boars. Rudolf – the chocolate-coat Sheltie has brown eyes with a tinge of evil red – is the braver of the two, and Danny – the black Vienna Chestnut coat – seems to follow his brother’s lead, but is, at the moment, also shy.

Granted that 9 days is still a very short span, our observations:

I reckon that as both cavies were from the same litter – born 24 Jun this year – the two get along great, and took just 8 hrs after bringing them home to finally venture out of their house to explore and dine.

Danny is a lot more timid, and it shows in many ways. He’s skittish, and whenever possible, would nervously approach food in my hand, pick them qickly then retreat back to his hiding home to eat in privacy. Movement or even a shift of body weight from one of us in the room is typically sufficient to send him scurrying! Rudolf is, relatively, adjusting quicker to their new home and his human owners though he too will scurry away occasionally.

Neither cavies are yet comfortable enough to be touched, and will instinctively start to back away when we approach them in their enclosures. One trick however is to try – as much as possible – not to put our hand into the cage from the top, but to slide our hand and arms and keep a low profile as far as possible. In comparison, Stacy – our Syrian – took just days before she adjusted to us and was willing to run to our hands if there was food to be had.

The cavies are also learning to recognize the rustling of hay when we top up their hay feeder twice a day. Depending on their mood, they just might ‘popcorn’ – where the cavies will leap into the air – and squeal in excitement.

Several enthusiasts note that the heart to cavies is through their stomachs, and that’s definitely true for these two! Of the fruits and veggies we’ve tried feeding them, the two especially love wheat grass, corn and Japanese cucumber, and to lesser degrees: lettuce and papaya.

Cavies poop – a lot! We bought a corner litter pad for their enclosure, and while they do a good amount of their ‘business’ there, a lot of their excrement is still outside that. Like hamsters, cavy droppings are solid and odorless, but their urine does stench quite a bit.

Hamsters need exercise wheels to burn excess energy. Cavies do run laps too – just not on wheels, but round and round their enclosures! They make quite a din when doing so, but it’s crazy fun to watch to two scoot after each other and trample on the 3M antislip mat furiously.

Danny (left) and Rudolf tearing through wheat grass.

While the cavies are starting to settle in, we’re starting to think also of how to improve their abodes. Short of changing their current enclosure altogether, top on my list is how to fabricate a enclosure door and still maintain cage structural integrity at the same time. It’s to help our cavies develop confidence to step out of their cage easily when we get to floor time, hopefully soon!

 

The Pet Project – Part 7

There are several key differences between domestic guinea pigs and hamsters as pets: one is their obvious difference in sizes – both of our two cavies are just two months old and already several times larger and heavier than Stacy, who is herself an adult hamster. Another is their social behavior: Syrian hamsters are solitary by nature, and do not need or desire enclosure partners. Thirdly: hamsters are escape artists, while cavies are not. This latter behavioral difference was instrumental in my deciding whether to build my own enclosure or buy a large one off the shelf. And I decided for the former since I didn’t have to worry about the critters gnawing, jumping, squeezing through or climbing their way to freedoms in a custom-built enclosure!

There is quite a bit of information on custom built enclosures for cavies, and one popular design type is known as C&C, which stands for Cubes & Coroplast. The basic idea is to get prefabricated wire meshes to form the basic cage frame, and coroplast boards for surfaces. The coroplast boards are easily available at stationery shops like Popular Bookstore. As for wire meshes, quite a few cavy owners have gone with professional metal workers – like this company for instance – who custom make metal shelving, and also animal cages. The other and very popular option is to get them from Daiso.

The Daiso wire meshes come in varying sizes – which is very helpful for me to not just implement the design but also expand the enclosure later. Not all Daiso stores carry the meshes though, and it took four trips to different Daiso stores before I acquired enough meshes to not only build a first cage, but also a larger playpen area that I’ll bring over to our parents’ place on weekends for the cavies to roam about in the garden.

Coroplast sheets: the dark brown for the loft wall, privacy screen, and stairs. The translucent one for enclosure walls at both levels. The white one for the pull-out tray.

Making measurements and doing precision cuts on the coroplast boards.

Little helping hands!

Materials and tools for our 1.5 level 2×3 feet enclosure

10 wire meshes (of 30x60cm size) @ Daiso ($20)

Animal pee pads (two 60x90cm for the base level, and four 30x45cm for the loft level) @ Daiso ($12)

A pack of cable ties @ Daiso ($2)

A pack of velcro strips @ Daiso ($2)

3 Coroplast boards @ Art Friend/Plaza Singapura ($5.90 each)

2 3M Anti-Slip mats @ Self-Fix Store (45x60cm and 60x90cm of about $35 and $78)

Glue, tape, sharp pen knife, cutting board, etc.

And about 5 hours of labor spread across two days later: here’s the finished product.

A 1.5 level enclosure, with the loft level featuring their sleeping area and also a privacy screen which I can purpose for different occasions. The floor surface is the 3M anti-slip mat that’s comfortable for the cavies to run around on and easy for me to wash too.

I went with the slightly more complex pull-out tray design. Basically, the base just needs to be elevated. I used about 6cm elevation. If you can find different wire mesh heights, then the height around the enclosure’s circumference could be uniform. I didn’t find such matching pieces @ Daiso though, and I didn’t want to dig out my saw to cut through the higher mesh pieces, so made do.

Here’s what the pullout tray looks like. Depending on how large the enclosure is, the weight of the base might really stress the meshes, so I did a simple support structure underneath the mesh layer so that it doesn’t sag too much over time.

Close-up of the 3M anti-slip mat. The holes are a lot smaller than they look on the photo; perhaps 2mm each across? The material is fairly soft, rubbery – and comfortable for the cavies. The liquid waste easily seeps through to the pull-out tray too.

Pet Lovers Centre @ Suntec City sells a pre-made wooden bridge specifically for enclosures, but the weight of it would had put too much stress on the loft’s wire mesh. So I made my own. Constructing this set of stairs connecting the first and loft level by far was more challenging, relatively that is since the entire enclosure really wasn’t that tough to build from scratch to begin with!

The step staircase garnered I built garnered a lot of interest in the local cavy owners FB site. It took the most time as it had to be sturdy enough for the cavies to run up and down, safety side walls so that they don’t fall off when they sprint from one end to the next, and individual steps had to be cut and glued.

The coroplast sheets were too bendable. I’d just assembled for Ling in the early afternoon a set of Ikea drawers for Hannah, so I cut a strip off that used Ikea furniture box for underlining support. This cardboard support is what makes the staircase strong. I reckon it can easily bear 3 kg weight – three times the weight of an adult cavy.

To secure the stairs to the loft, I cut out an excess piece of coroplast, secured it with tape – and this piece is then used as a landing attachment to the loft. It’s probably easier to just cut a longer strip for the top layer of the stairs then bend it as necessary – but it was well-past midnight and I was dead tired already haha. The picture here is an early prototype. The actual one in the enclosure is much wider, alongside the additional guard rails.

Another picture, and of the final stairs version. I used the fairly wide velco strip from Daiso to secure this flap to the loft level. Easy to dismantle later to clean too.

The total damage involved in building this enclosure was about $167. About what I’d paid if I’d bought a pre-made cage from the store, but my custom-made one is expandable, materials can be recycled, and way more fun to build them yourself! :)

The Pet Project – Part 6

My parents decades ago forbade the three of us at home to have our own pets. My mom would quip that there were already three monkeys at home, and she didn’t have the energy to take care of any more haha! I reckon that, in a sense, I felt that I missed a part of my childhood when growing up, that I’ve gone full-on with having different pets as our family friends now that we’re our own family unit.

The childhood reliving started off with aquariums, then Stacy our Syrian Hamster a year ago. Our care for Stacy has settled into a pretty organized routine, since she’s such an easy animal to care for – whether is it her dietary preferences, cleaning her enclosure, or playing with her. So much so that I reckoned it was time for me to add new persons to our family. And this time, it was guinea pigs, known also as cavies, next!

To be absolutely clear though, neither of our kids asked to keep guinea pigs (though now that we have them, they’re thrilled). It was all Daddy LOL who’d prepare, construct, decide and subsequently care for them. After a fortnight  of reading up on the environments that would be required, and long-term challenges and care for them – one of the most useful resources I’ve found on YouTube is a wonderful channel of a lass based in Europe who video blogs of her five Cavies – I was good to go.

Of comments:

We’d get two cavies. Unlike hamsters, cavies are very social – and unless you’re able to spend all your breathing time with them, they need another member of their own species to play and interact with when you’re not at home.

Some cavies have beautiful long-hair coats, but I concluded that helping them keep their coats luxurious was going to be too challenging. So, I looked out specifically for short-coat cavies.

Most of the pet store cage enclosures would be too small, and the ones that are big enough – at least 2 by 3 feet – are routinely very expensive for what they offer, and also have design quirks that I hoped to avoid – e.g. bases that were far too deep.  So, I’d build my own enclosure, and make sure that it’s not only easy to clean, but also easily expandable.  More on that in the next post!

I was mindful of whether the two cavies would get along, so I had a strong preference for acquiring them as a pair who were already introduced and oriented to each other. SPCA had none available for adoption. I checked out also personal ads for adopters, but the owners putting up their cavies for adoption – routinely, interestingly, also asked for adoption ‘fees’ to make sure that their pets would not be re-sold again. Odd sort of practice, with some owners even asking for fees that were as much as what one would pay for in stores. As I had only a window of five days off work to build their enclosure and acquire cavies, I waited for as long as I could to adopt, before turning to pet shops for them.

Say what you will about some of the irresponsible pet breeders out there, but the Nex outlet of Pet Lovers Centre – where we also bought Stacy – seems to be a responsible establishment with an eye to really care for the pets they sell. We’ve been to numerous outlets of the store, and very often will observe their staff diligently clean and scrub down every enclosure, and replenish supplies. Contrast that to some of the pet stores we’ve seen elsewhere who cramp half a dozen cavies into a smaller enclosure than what Pet Lovers Centre would normally set aside for a single pet.

We don’t see them sell pairs of cavies at the same time normally there too, but – by sheer luck perhaps – stumbled on exactly two boars for sale three days ago. They were from the same litter, so were already introduced. Both were a little pricey though – $180 compared to the usual $125 as they were the premium breeds. We made sure that every one of us four were in favor of it, since while Daddy will be able to do all the menial cleaning and feeding work, it was going to be a total family effort to socialize with our two new members.

The purchasing process was a little, well, involved! The store staff practically interrogated me to ensure that I knew what I was getting into, that I was already familiar with their broad social habits, and had their feeds and enclosures ready. Thereafter, it was a ten minute introduction where Hannah was shown how to pick-up, carry and stroke them – under the careful supervision of the staff. We took the opportunity to personally carefully inspect both cavies a second time to ensure they were of the same gender, then bought both home.

Our two guinea pigs being put aside in a temporary holding area while we settled the paperwork.

More in the next post!

The Pet Project – Part 5

It’s been quite a while since we did an update post on Stacy – our pet Syrian hamster. Well, briefly put – she’s just over a year old old, which in Syrian Hamster years means that she’s middle-age now. Looking at how she was a year ago when we first ‘adopted’ her as the fifth member of our family:

After we couldn’t discourage her from gnawing the paint off her cage bars, we switched to an aquarium-styled tank instead, and moved her cage to the coolest part of the house – our Master bedroom LOL. We have to dress the accessories and toys in her cage with quite a bit of thought though, as every thing – even the water bottle – is a gadget for her to use and escape the enclosure!

She’s still exploring her current enclosure everyday – even 8 months since moving into it! In fact, our two kids’ love observing her try to reach for the tank’s wire-mesh cover but climbing up on everything she can get her paws on. Stacy is absolutely fearless! On several mornings now, we’ve woken up to see her water bottle on the ground as she was – somehow – able to climb on top of the water bottle and chew through the string that secures it to the lid.

With the exception of Peter whom we think is still too young to handle her, Stacy seems comfortable being carried by Ling and Hannah, though being hamsters, Syrians aren’t particularly affectionate to humans to begin with.

She’s still very much a night creature. She’ll sleep soundly through the day, and be up to play usually from around 8:30PM onwards or later.

She can be a bit of a picky eater too, including rejecting specific food pellet types. But once she likes a particular brand of trail mix, she’ll pretty much happily eat it all the time.

She can nip – and it’s quite painful if she sinks her teeth into your finger – though not because she’s scared. Most of the time, it’s because she thinks my finger is food.:)

Stacy with Ling.

She loves corn on the cob!

Escape antics!

More Escape Antics! She was easily able to climb to the top of this water bottle even when we’d moved away all toys surrounding it. Reckon her front paws are strong enough to foist herself up past the nozzle. We’ve since changed her water bottle to one that is secured by string directly on the lid, but she’s still – occasionally – able to climb right up.

She’ll tear through a toilet roll in a single night.

All things considered though, Stacy has been extremely easy to care for. We’re mindful though of the fairly short lifespans of hamsters in general, so when the time comes, we’d need to work with our kids to deal with her passing.

Year in Review – 2016

Doing an update to this ongoing series of year-end review posts can be really distressing on account of how the year again just went past and that we’re all a year older again.

Playstation PS4 – Mixed: our first toy-technological purchase of the year, and the number of PS4 games I’ve played on it is still.. one. The device works great as a Netflix, YouTube, media and Blu-Ray player – but is criminally underused as a gaming rig.

Aftershock S17 – Win: the largest notebook I’ve owned with its 17.3″ screen. The S17 is now a permanent fixture in our bedroom, sitting on top a portable laptop desk on the bed. The machine is brisk, the keyboard offers great depth and tactile feel, and I’ve gotten use to the relatively less bright matte screen. Not so good for watching video material, but great for productivity!

Melbourne – Win: our longest family vacation to this point, and one in which nearly everything went along swimmingly: the accommodation we selected, the itinerary, the three day-tours, and the flights both ways. The only mishaps: weather was gloomy for the second half of the stay, and the newly purchased Xiaomi Mi Note 3 kissed concrete.

Fujifilm X70 – Mixed: lovely form factor and takes stunningly beautiful pictures when used outdoors. But indoors focusing is a real hit and miss when your subjects – i.e. our kids – are constantly moving. The 3 year old E-PL6 just got fixed too – and and there’s even less reason now not to sell away the X70 soon.

The X70 vs the E-PL6 – and I’m likely only gonna keep one in 2017. Which one?!

Thule Enroute 2 Blur Backpack – Win: capacity-wise, it’s very slightly larger than the older Enroute it replaced though I still prefer the notebook compartment design of the older backpack.

Huawei Smart Watch – Win: seven months into the watch, and it still looks as pristine and new as it was. The manufacturer provided watch charger dock remains finicky, but cheap third party replacements can be had off eBay that – ironically – secure the watch far easier than the original manufacturer equipment.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 – Win: decently spec-ed phone that was picked up for cheap. This phone was purchased specifically for the Melbourne trip and sadly was the only outing it’d ever have. The phone still works, barring the cracked display screen which looks like it can completely shatter anytime and thus dangerous to use. Sigh.

Xiaomi Mi Max – Win: the largest smartphone in my inventory, nicely contrasting display though maximum brightness is a little low, and funnily, as a grey import purchased at an even lower price than the Note 3 above. And the Energizer Bunny battery that runs forever!

Stacy the Syrian – Win: I wonder how many fathers in their mid-40s purchase a Syrian hamster not for their kids LOL. But our Syrian has provided our kids with learning opportunities, though we don’t feel they are yet old enough to provide responsible care and maintenance of the hamster. The only down side? That we’re reminded that Syrians have short lifespans of 2-3 years.

Yamaha U30BL – Win: apart from the Melbourne vacation, our most costly purchase in 2016. I haven’t used the Silent Piano module very much yet, on account that my piano technical skills have, surprisingly, not degraded by that much for me to feel embarrassed of having to practice on the piano. Both Hannah and myself now spend an hour each every night making music. It’s a nosier household sure but also a lot livelier!

Wangz Staycation – Win: small boutique hotel in Outram we stayed at for our 10th Wedding Anniversary. A little light on property amenities, the room was lovingly appointed, clean and modern. Recommended for couples on short vacation stays if you like the off-city location too.

D’Resort @ Downtown East – Mixed: were it not for the bundled admission to Wild Wild Wet – a significant bonus – and that this resort was about the only property to stay in in the immediate vicinity, the resort just wasn’t as cracked up as what we’ve read from social media.

All in, this was a mostly good year for us. We can only hope that 2017 will be just as good!

Staycation Activities @ Downtown East

We’ve got a rule of thumb, and it is to avoid 3D2N holidays as much as possible, even if it means forking extra to stay for a longer period and having to wreck our brains thinking of how to fill up the itinerary! The only 3D2N stay we’ve ever had at this point was at Capella Sentosa 5 years ago. The short duration was largely on account of cost, but that property still remains by far the best we’ve ever stayed at.

While we received admission tickets to Wild Wild Wet for all four days of our stay at D’Resort, we ended up just using passes for one day – as we accidentally dropped our entire ticket stack somewhere in the water park. We did put in a Lost and Found report at the Information Office and the park crew were nice to follow through it, but finally had no such luck finding them back.

I reckon it was just as well, as it forced us to think harder of what to fill up the rest of the days with. And of that:

Disney’s Moana @ Downtown East Cathay: Peter’s first late night cinema experience for a cartoon that hearkens back to the Disney themes from its films starting 25 years ago. This one was a gamble as we wondered how Peter would handle an 8:50PM screening – and we lucked out. It didn’t take beyond the film’s midpoint before he got grouchy (probably from just being tired) and generally annoying the heck out of Ling.

Didn’t take long before he wriggled out of his Eskimo outfit.

Orchid Bowl @ Downtown East E!Hub: you know you suck at something when your 7 year old daughter hands you your butt:

You know you suck at it when even your 7 year old daughter is handing you your butt.

Then again, this is how she got there:

Ball, meet foot.

Longkang Fishing @ Mainland Tropical Fish Farm: with ‘longkang’ literally meaning ‘drain’ for our Ang Mo bud.:) Our parents’ generation will quip that this was one of their leisure past times before Gen Y and Z’s iPads, video games and smartphones. But Ling and I just a few years ago climbed down into a large drain opposite Hougang Mall to catch fishes to supplement our freshwater aquarium – and we caught several Corydoras even!

The Farm was just a few minutes drive from Downtown East, and we spent an hour there in a small tidily landscaped and man-made drain of about 18 meters long catching critters. There’s a token fee of $4 per child for every 30 minutes, but the very nice and super laid-back auntie there gave our two kids 45 minutes of catching time.

Some bloggers have remarked how difficult it was for kids to catch these critters given how fast they swim. Funnily, we had no such difficulties. We caught 15 with most going between Hannah and Ling. I was taking pictures, but in the space of a minute also caught three too. The fishes do detect movement – I assume from the mid-morning shadows we cast onto the water – and typically scatter free quickly. So, the trick is simply to use the tiny nets provided in the opposing direction and where clusters of fishes are. We were able to scoop 1-2 critters this way a time.

Safe for kids, though Peter didn’t catch anything!

Hannah camping where the drain outlets were, since large groups of fishes were gathering there.

Our catch for the morning.

Peter looking as though he’s prepared to eat the fish – raw.

We returned all we caught back to the farm though, since our home aquarium is already densely populated with tetras and snails. But the kids enjoyed this one – and the activity gets a solid recommendation from us.

Pasir Ris Public Library @ White Sands Shopping Centre: the E!Hub @ Downtown East is a little rundown, while White Sands has just recently undergone refurbishment. Its offering of stores and restaurants remain pretty much standard fare for Singapore shopping malls, but the also recently renovated public library is very nicely done-up. We stayed and left with about a dozen loaned books.

We again feel terrifically fortunate that Hannah prefers reading instead of electronic gadgets.

And Peter just treats every thing as toys to smother his body parts with.

eXplorer Kids @ Downtown East E!Hub: we’d gone by this indoor playground earlier this year. The area was also just recently refurbished, and it looks slightly brighter now, with a few new play areas that we didn’t previously see in our last visit. More importantly is that there’s a current promotion for NTUC Members: each card holder can get free membership for up to two kids. More details here. The offer was good enough for us to drive back home to pick up our kids’ birth certificates for registration.

This was about as high as he could manage, even with assists from Mommy.

Starbucks @ Downtown East: half of the indoor seating in the store were squatted by young adults pretending to study, but we managed to put together two separate tables to chill over brewed coffee, Hazel Nut Lattes, and Signature Hot Chocolate for the kids.

Listening to pieces from the accompanying CD in the Suzuki Method book.

Signature Hot Chocolate – yummy.

His latest thing: stick his tongue out whenever a picture is taken.

After all the trauma you routinely cause mommy, you better invent some world changing technology to benefit all mankind, bud!

There was also a small Tayo & Friends demonstration area beside Starbucks. One of Ling’s ex-students was temping in the area, and he kept our two kids jolly entertained around this children road circuit.

Hannah quips that this was our best vacation ever. Putting aside the bleh stay at D’Resort, it was certainly enjoyable also for us parents. We’re start planning for our mid-year vacation spot for June 2017, so more to come on that soon enough!

The Pet Project – Part 4

Stacy – our family Syrian hamster – is now four months old. She’s also grown noticeably larger from about 8cm when we first got her, to 13cm long from snout to her stump tail. From what we’ve read, this is supposed to be nearly about her maximum size already, but I reckon we didn’t expect her to grow up quite so fast!

Though she’s comfortable with either Ling or myself holding her, she’s still quite shy socially and can be easily startled by movements around the house. She’s otherwise pretty fearless, and spends a good amount of time every night climbing the bars of the cage. On several occasions, we’ve seen her hanging precariously at the top of her cage with just one paw. Occasionally, she’ll be able to swing herself up so that her feet can grip the cage bars. More often than not though, she’ll fall right down, dust herself off, and try again LOL.

One habit we’re trying to break of her though is her chewing of cage bars. And that’s despite her cage having about six different types of materials she can chew – apple sticks, mineral chews, ropes, wood blocks, dog biscuits, and even toilet rolls. It got so bad that she chewed through the coating of the cage bars, and we had to physically fastened chew sticks there to block her from getting near the cage bars.

Left to it, she’d probably gnawing through the bars and onto freedom!

She lets us carry her now, though she won’t remain still even then.

Hamster with spider genes!

The two feet cage has plenty of toys for her to interact.

The Pet Project – Part 3

Apart from the new Savic Bristol cage, we’ve been on small shopping sprees over the nearly 10 days we’ve had Stacy the Syrian, accumulating a small stockpile of food items, treats and toys for her. Here’s our rundown of things that worked and those that haven’t so far.

Sand bath and house: as a start, we went with Trustie’s Small Animal Bath Sand and Lavender flavored. I wonder if there are unscented sand about since I’m uncertain if scented sand will affect the hamster’s sense of smell over time. With VIP discount, each 1kg bag costs about $5.50, with the accompanying dome-styled bath house just a couple of dollars. Each 1kg bag of sand can last likely last for about 10 sand changes, or about 2 months. Now, hamsters are supposed to roll around in the bath house, as the sand helps with their cleanliness. Problem is that ours does everything except roll around in it. She’ll rather poop in it, and just yesterday after pooping, napped in the house too LOL.

I love rolling around in my poop.

I love rolling around in my poop.

Hamster wheel. The wheel that came with the Habitrail Cristal cage was a relatively large 7.5 inch wheel. Many cages – and even the larger ones – routinely include much smaller wheels. That said, after we upgraded her cage to a Bristol, we had more space to mount a larger wheel, so went with a 8.4 inch wheel that we picked up for cheap at Petmart @ Serangoon North Avenue 2. Funnily, the store assistant there thought I was buying the wheel for a Chinchilla. The Bristol cage can hold up to an even larger wheel of likely 11 inches, but that’d likely mean some major furniture rearrangement then. And oh yes – the Cristal wheel while reportedly of the ‘silent type’, was loud enough to wake Ling up when Stacy started speed running on it dead of the night. Hopefully this one’s sturdier to hold up the hamster’s weight!

Feeding bottle. Feeding bottles are typically bundled together with cages. The hamster at this young age takes perhaps just 15-20ml of water everyday, so we didn’t see a reason to use the 150ml capacity bottle that came with the Bristol.

Bedding material. This one was a tough decision, given the number of options available for it, and as a starter, went with Pet’s Dream: Paper Pure. The pellets are made of recycled natural products, is 100% biodegradable and of reasonable pricing. The material is pellet-like, which makes them easier to handle, and dust-free for the most part. They are also odorless and seem to mask Stacy’s excrement smell well enough, though she’s not pooping that much to begin with. The tricky thing about this product though is that the pellets are also dark-colored, which can make spot-cleaning (i.e. finding and picking her poop then tossing them) a little hard.

Trail mix and treats. Many enthusiasts suggest that the trail mixes that are sold in stores typically offer a well-balanced diet, and hamsters are perfectly fine eating these exclusively. Just for fun though we’ve been trying to spread her diet a little: and she’s taken after Sunseed Grainola Treat bars quite well – though they are typically far too large, and could take weeks for her to finish a single bar – and also Odour care treats from Mark + Chappell, and small thinly-sliced pieces of raw carrot. The challenge with fresh food is of course cleaning it up as they can go bad real quickly in Singaporean humidity – which can be tricky as hamsters like to hide food LOL.

Sunseed Granola with oatmeal and raisin treat, and loving it!

Sunseed Grainola with oatmeal and raisin treat, and loving it!

Chew materials. These are necessary as hamsters need to constantly gnaw their teeth down. Funnily, Stacy didn’t take after the mineral chews sold in-house by Pet Lovers Centre, and ended up chewing on the bars of her new cage instead. That is, until we bought her neatly cut apple branches for a couple of dollars – which she took after immediately.

Toys. Aside from hamster balls, the in-cage toys seem to come in broadly two types: wooden-made ones and extension modules that can connect to modular cage systems. Since we’d moved off the Habitrail cage, the latter extension modules didn’t make any sense for us. So we picked up a variety of wooden toys that ranged between a couple of dollars, to a one square feed large small animal maze. We’ve not really seen a persistent pattern of use from Stacy for these yet – or maybe she just enjoys them in the dark when we’re sleeping. Who knows LOL.

Pets these days have everything. With the exception of the maze, most were priced at about $10 apiece.

Pets these days have everything. With the exception of the maze, most were priced at about $10 apiece.

Care and concern: from left to right, chew sticks, bath sand, odour care treats, and roast mealworm treats!

Care and concern: from left to right, chew sticks, bath sand, odour care treats, and roast mealworm treats!

So all in, Stacy the Syrian has given the kids lots of interest and things to talk about though she’s also still shy and too jittery to let any of us hold her. Small steps, and more to report I reckon when she finally comes round to it.

 

The Pet Project – Part 2

It took us just a day to conclude that the cage we bought Stacy the Syrian was going to be a little too small once our baby hamster gets past a few months old, more so that Syrians are larger than their dwarf cousins. She seems fine in it now, but we figured we’d better just get a larger one now so she wouldn’t have to readjust again to a new habitat soon.

Still, our comments about her first cage – a Habitrail Cristal Hamster Cage.

Fairly small area of 166 square inches

Feels sturdy and well-assembled.

Affordably priced at $50 with the loyalty card, premium-looking, compact and pleasing aesthetically for her human owners. If nothing else the cage looks pretty. Good mix of clear plastic and wire cage to permit ventilation.

The cage door though is a little fiddly, and requiring a bit of skill to shut it without jolting the cage and possibly waking the hamster up.

Well-designed bundled accessories. Comes with a roughly 7.5 inch large wheel that runs silently (which we will transplant over to the new cage), a plastic ramp with ridges, and a small feeding water bottle (not too large or bulky).

Most importantly, as far as we could tell, our baby hamster looked happy enough in it!

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As for the larger cage, some enthusiasts recommend a cage of 2 feet by 1 feet at least for Syrians, others go with the often-cited figure of 360 square inches. There aren’t nearly as many large cages specifically designed for hamsters sold in local pet stores, and we also had to be mindful that we would also need the cage to be reasonably mobile (i.e light) as different parts of the house can be quite warm in the first half of a year. There are some pretty nicely designed cages sold through Amazon UK, but are also pretty large.

We decided to go with the Savic Bristol, which has a floor area of about 348 square inches, and after hunting around for availability, picked it up from The Pet Safari @ Eastpoint Mall.

Nearly the recommended size at 348 square inches.

At S$75, affordably priced locally if you have Pet Lovers Centre’s VIP/Loyalty card. It lists for USD140 and £52 on Amazon and Amazon UK respectively.

Feels less premium than the Cristal.

Of sufficient height to allow both a basement (where we have her bedding, a cooling mat and a sand bath), a level for her to run around, and overhanging toys to be mounted at the top too.

Very large cage door that opens from the front. Some owners commented that the cage door swivels loosely and might crash on your end (or critter). Our unit seemed reasonably stiffed though so we don’t foresee this problem occurring for us.

The bundled feeding water bottle is IMO too large for hamsters, so we swapped it with the one from the Cristal cage.

The bundled overhanging cage which would let Stacy have a birdseye view is a little hard for her to get to. I might swap it with a hammock that’s closer to her level so that she can easily climb onto it. The bundled wheel is also too smaller for a Syrian.

Just two clippers that secure the wire cage to the plastic base. You’d need to find alternative ways of securing the cage if either of them break.

Our hamster seemed pretty happy with her upgraded apartment. Just after an hour after introduction to her cage where she burrowed at the basement level and slept for a bit, she was up and about exploring the cage – including, incredibly, hanging precariously on the top grill with just one paw before dropping to the bedding below.

Exploring all nooks and crannies.

Exploring all nooks and crannies.

Stacy seeking a second career as a spider-hamster.

Stacy seeking a second career as a spider-hamster.

Next post soon when accessories and the like!

The Pet Project – Part 1

Pets. As parents of young kids, we’ve heard a lot in media about not letting kids pressure us as parents into buying pets, and the dangers of impulse buying. As cute as some the furry little critters like hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits might be, the novelty cute pets bring to kids might die off quickly enough – and when that happens, it’s routinely parents who end up having to be the pets’ caregivers.

So, it’s a strange turn of events when it’s the adult – me in this case – who bought a cute furry pet for himself and not on the kids request, and certainly not on impulse. I approached this project in exactly the same way as I would buy a new tablet or mobile phone: a month or two of research, thinking of the various options, planning for its home at our home, and what we would do to engage any such pet. Hannah though suspected that something was afoot when she saw me especially starting to frequent pet stores in various malls and taking a visible interest in browsing wares and the like.

My summary notes of what was going through my head:

Went with a Syrian hamster. Why not rabbits? Well – we couldn’t quite afford the space at home to give a rabbit the necessary room to run around, and we’re staying in an apartment block with a large balcony and plenty of places for rabbits loose in the house to fall off the balconies and to their demise. Guinea pigs were a real possibility and perhaps at some point in the future, but we figured we should start small first.

Of the hamster breeds, Syrians are generally considered quite easy to care for, and also of the right size and temperament for kids to handle once both parties are ready for it.

We didn’t thoroughly explore buying from pet farms, nor adoption from Hamster enthusiast groups or SPCA (or rather, none were available for adoption when I checked). We checked out pet stores @ shopping malls primarily out of convenience, but took our time to select the most appropriate critter of the species.

We picked up a rectangular-ish cage that was a compromise between wire fencing and also transparent plastic. Some enthusiasts recommend going with aquarium-styled acrylic tanks, but I was worried that there would be insufficient ventilation for the fellow – more so if we have to mount a small fan somewhere during the hot/humid parts of the year. We did avoid cages with built-in plastic tunnels though, reckoning that they can be difficult to clean well.

There were a few options for bedding material, and we went with a large 20 liter bag of recycled paper pellets. They were quite attractively priced and fairly large pellets. But on the other hand, they’re also rather dark colored, which could make identifying areas to find spot-clean areas, and the hamster’s droppings are also harder to spot.

All in, the initial expenditure was a shade under $200. $32 for the critter, $50 for her cage, $3 for a chew toy, $10 for a large bag of store feed, $12 for a bag of sandbath and a hamster bath tub, $23 for bedding material, $40 of toys, and $8 for a sizable hamster ball.

Assembling the cage @ Pet Lovers Centre.

Assembling the cage @ Pet Lovers Centre.

Introducing Stacy the Syrian hamster!

Introducing Stacy the Syrian hamster!

More in the next post!