One of the benefits of having pets, along with adding a cute companion to the family, is that they provide an opportunity for children to learn, first hand, about the cycle of life. Things are born, they live, they die. And in the case of hamsters, it can be a tragically short circle.
Mr Hamster was a present for Flea’s six birthday last autumn, and Flea fell in love at first sight. Now, from a parent's perspective, I'd have to say hamsters aren't great pets. They sleep all day, they don’t like being touched, or held, and they have a remarkably efficient bowel system.
But Flea loved Mr Hamster.
So much so that, on Friday, when her best friend came for a sleepover on Friday, they headed straight fo the utility room to give him some treats. “Mummy, he won’t come out of his cage,” Flea complained.
"I'm sure he's fine. I fed him this morning, he's probably just sleeping," I called from the kitchen.
The girls dropped some chocolate drops into the cage, outside Mr Hamster's bed. Which is where they still were today when I woke up and realised Mr Hamster hadn't been out of his sleeping hole since Friday morning.
I rattled the cage gently. I tipped it up to look inside the bedding area to see if the bedding was moving. Nope. Sometimes he snores, so I put my ear next to the cage. Dead silence.
Bugger. Mr Hamster is dead.
Obviously, I did what all modern, independent women do in such situations. I rang my ex-husband.
“The bloody hamster’s dead.”
A plan was hatched that when my ex brought Flea home this evening, he would go into the kitchen and dispose of the corpse (touching a dead hamster not being on my list of things to do before I die) and I would take Flea upstairs and break the news to her.
Fast forward to 6pm and I sat down on Flea’s bed. “I have some sad news, darling,” I began.
There followed an absolute textbook breaking of the news moment where I reassured Flea that Mr Hamster had a very happy life, and was probably in Hamster Heaven, and yes, we'd buy a new hamster next week, to live at Daddy's house.
"Can we go and see how Mr Hamster is doing?" Flea whispered, tears on her cheeks.
"Well, no, poppet, because he's dead," I replied, thinking: Also, your Dad is probably popping him in the outside bin as we speak.
Flea shed a few tears, we had a lovely cuddle and I congratulated myself on another textbook parenting moment – with the added bonus of transferring future hamster ownership to the ex. Bonus!
We headed downstairs to find my ex standing in the dining room, a look of smug triumph on his face. "Not going to be applying for a job as a CSI any time soon, are you?" he sniggered.
All I can say is someone could have WARNED me that hamsters can sleep for three days at a time. Who knew?