Escape attempt

I awoke one night to a sound that had never before reached my ears.  Turning to confirm that the noise was in fact coming from Kevin’s cage, I reached behind me to switch on the light.  As soon as my eyes adjusted, my eyes beheld a stretched out hamster atop his little house, reaching with all his might for the mesh top of his converted aquarium home.

Kevin was attempting to escape.  The sound I heard was twofold: the sound of his teeth and claws scratching against the wire in the lid of the cage, and his feet scratching against the wood of his house.

I had seen similar behavior in hamsters before, particularly with one Mr. Nibbles, the very first hamster I owned.  Mr. Nibbles was aptly named, as he was prone to chew through anything standing in his way, be it wood, food, plastic or thin, poorly-designed metal for ventilation.  He had escaped on a number of occasions, frightening the dickens out of my parents, to whom Mr. Nibbles seemed to be drawn.  My father once awoke at 3:00 am to a strange sound outside his door, and, thinking it might have been a burglar, grabbed the baseball bat underneath his bed.  Standing ready, he flung open the door, expecting to beat the living daylights out of a crook.  To his surprise, there was nobody in the hall.  Hearing the noise again, he looked down, seeing Mr. Nibbles at his feet, who looked up at him with an expression on his face that could have easily have said in a defiant tone, “What?”

The strangest thing about that escape was the lack of evidence.  Once my father, obviously very irritated, returned Mr. Nibbles to me, I carefully inspected his plastic cage, looking for any evidence of his exit.  But there was none!  There were no holes, no ajar doors, nothing.  I knew that every night he chewed like a maniac to escape his horribly comfortable home, but I could never see any evidence of it. One fateful night, I finally realized how Mr. Nibbles had done it.  It was an acrobatic stunt on his part, but he managed to do it in a way that left no trace, so as to befuddle his humans.

I have searched high and low for an image of Mr. Nibbles’ running wheel and home, but have failed miserably.  It was one of the old Habitrail homes for hamsters, the clear plastic homes with thin metal doors, and yellow tubes that curved and connected to little hideaways.  The wheel itself was yellow, and inside of it was a red half-circle, which attached to the top of the cage.  On top of the wheel was a terribly thin and light metal door, which was only clasped by a pathetic piece of plastic. Imagine that this half-circle had two holes, on on the bottom and one on the side.  This gave the hamster a new place to crawl and hide. If the hamster was standing in the wheel, he could easily climb up into the red half-circle through the bottom, walk a few inches and poke his head out of the hole towards the front.

Mr. Nibbles would crawl up into this half circle and, positioning himself as close to the edge of the front hole as possible, he would suddenly lean out like a jumper from a tall building.  Fortunately, he was long enough that his hands would reach the front of the cage.  He would then walk his hands up to the top, where the flimsy door rested, and grab hold.  His back legs, which were still standing on the front of the hole in the wheel, would let go, causing him to do an upright belly-flop against the side of the cage.  Hanging from the top of the cage, the rest of the room was allowed a very full-frontal view of Mr. Nibbles.  When I first witnessed this bizarre behavior, my sides literally hurt from laughing so hard.

However, the laughter stopped when I saw that Mr. Nibbles had some serious upper-body strength.  He was actually able to lift himself up, and push and chew hard enough to lift the meal door on the top of the cage!  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Two thoughts ran through my mind: “What shoddy craftsmanship!” and “This hamster must have been doing push-ups while my back was turned.”  When I realized that he was about to make a break for it, I quickly replaced him to the floor of the cage, and placed a heavy book on top of the cage.  After scolding him, he gave me the same snotty look that he had given my father the previous week: “What?”

I have taken several precautions to make sure that Kevin does not escape from his home.  The wire in the cage lid is very strong, and is constantly monitored, and two of the heaviest Harry Potter books sit on either side of the cage, ensuring that he cannot simply lift off the lid.  I did, however, scold him slightly when I saw what he was up to.  He quickly lowered himself to a sitting position, looking at me as if to say, “You must have been thinking of some other hamster; it certainly wasn’t me who was trying to escape.”  But behind those black, beady eyes, I saw another layer of emotion: a slightly perturbed look that said, “What?”


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