I knew the minute I hit “submit” on the signup form agreeing to care for the class hamster for a weekend that I was taking a risk. The class knew it too. My son’s teacher shared that a few students expressed concerns about the hamster being at home with “the four kids.” See, my house is a little chaotic, and everyone knows it. With four kids ranging from nine to two, it is simply the nature of the beast. But we can’t let my affinity for procreation get in the way of each kid’s life experiences. So when my nine-year-old son said he wanted to take home the class pet, we signed up.
The hamster — named “TG Bullet” by the fourth grade class — arrived on a Friday afternoon and was immediately whisked away into my son’s room. He was quick to set up the portable playpen, placing the cage inside and allowing the hamster to roam in and out while still being confined. He then called the whole family into his room, proudly introducing us to his weekend companion. My seven and five-year-old fought over who would hold him first as my two year old jumped and squealed with excitement. As I worked to calm the situation, I noticed something important. This was not your average hamster, like the one I had growing up. This was a mini hamster (which I didn’t know existed) and was very, very tiny and fast. No one, including adults, would have any success holding this guy. Catching him would be a feat; keeping him from escaping or being squished — no chance.
So we laid down a few rules. The hamster was to stay in the cage or pen, and no moving him to or from either without the supervision of an adult. The kids fought it and got mad, realizing their dreams of a hamster in their bed were gone. But ultimately, they got over it.
Later that night, we had friends and their kids over, two of whom were friends of my nine-year-old. He was thrilled to show off his temporary roommate, and they immediately wanted to take him out of the cage. I chaperoned as they carefully removed him from the cage and into the pen. For about an hour, they played video games while the hamster enjoyed his spacious vacation space. When it was time for the friends to leave, they took it upon themselves to put him back in the cage without alerting me. So, after reprimanding them, I took a look to make sure he was back in the cage without issue. And there he was, running on his (noisy) wheel, happy and safe. Phew. So far, so good.
After everyone left, we settled the kids down for the night, tucking them all in and transitioning to our nightly routine: a bowl of popcorn and a Netflix show in bed. After about an episode and a half, at 10:45pm my husband needed water and headed downstairs. On his way back up, I noticed he stopped mid-step, and then I heard a scream. “Ahhhh! THE GERBIL!” The what?! First of all pal, it’s a mini hamster, and second of all — what?!
I jumped out of bed, rounded the corner, and peered down the stairs. My husband was about halfway up the stairway, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts. He stood in an athletic position, ready for battle. Confused, I looked down, following the gaze of my husband, until I saw him: TG Bullet, running quickly back and forth on the third step down from the top. HOW THE HELL?!
I quickly ran into my son’s room and emptied his metal tin of Pokemon cards. My shirtless husband and I then worked together in a nervous fury to shimmy the fast, nimble mini hamster gently into the tin and then back into the cage. Holy sh*t, that was close.
Upon examination of the cage it seems a small circle plug (meant to close a hole that would attach tubing the cage if necessary) had come off and was lying on the floor below the cage. This helped me understand how he escaped, but the reality of it was still a little mind-blowing. The cage was on a nightstand next to my son’s bed. So this brave, apparently indestructible miniature rodent got out of the cage, down to the floor, down the hall, and then down three stairs without injury. (And I know he wasn’t injured because upon re-entry into the cage he proceeded to run ferociously on his extra loud wheel for the remainder of the night.)
So thankfully, we all survived. The class pet was returned without injury and I promised my son to never tell his classmates. So, hopefully none of you reading are in Mrs. Kelley’s fourth grade class. And if you are — lock it up. No harm, no foul.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.