by Sam Mazzotta
DEAR PAW’S CORNER: One of my pet hamsters died just a week after I got it at the pet store. I would really like to know why it died, because the pet store would not tell me. The only clue I have is that it had a wet tail before it died. I’d like to get another hamster, but how do I know if I’m getting a healthy pet from the store? - Hamster Lover
DEAR HAMSTER LOVER: That’s an important question, and one all potential hamster owners should pay attention to. Many, if not all, pet stores have “as is” policies regarding hamsters and other very small pets like goldfish, because so many of them fall ill or die soon after being purchased. But you certainly don’t want to bring home a hamster that’s already sick — not only are you stuck with trying to make it well, but the illness can quickly spread among your other hamsters.
- Wet tail (indicates diarrhea, a clear symptom of illness or worms)
- Lethargic, with dull eyes
- Huddles in one corner for a long time, doesn’t respond quickly to being picked up or petted
- Runny nose and watery eyes
- Rough, matted or patchy fur
- Bites or scratches from other hamsters.
If you notice any of these signs, don’t buy that hamster, and notify store management so that it can isolate the sick hamsters from the healthy ones.
I also recommend that anyone wanting to keep a hamster collect as much information on caring for these small pets as possible. A smaller pet is not necessarily an easier pet to keep — it depends entirely upon you for its health and welfare.
Send your tips, questions and comments to Paws Corner, c/o King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.