Reaching the ripe old age of 61, being a bit of a hermit and having semi retired, I decided to act upon my love of small animals and adopt a hamster.
Having looked after hamsters in my ‘youth’, my research made me realise how much has changed in small animal care over the years.
I won’t bore you with all the details, just mention the switch to aspen shavings from pine/cedar (toxic fumes) and the vast increase in recommended cage sizes, with over 1,000sq inches of floor space being preferable.
It was during this research that I came across a little creature called a Duprasi (Pachyuromis duprasi), or fat tailed gerbil. Only available in the UK since about 2003 they are still quite rare, with only a handful of ethical breeders and often a waiting list for pups.
Duprasi are native to the Sahara deserts mainly in Algeria and also found in north west Egypt. The Egyptian duprasi are slightly larger and have less ‘pointy’ faces than their Algerian cousins. Duprasi live a bit of a transient life in the wild, mainly nocturnal and often occupying the deserted burrows of other animals, although they are capable of creating burrows up to about 3 feet long. They are mainly insectivores but have been seen in the wild, eating plants and seeds. They consume very little water, getting most of their moisture from their food, and store excess water and fat in their tails; hence ‘fat tailed gerbils’!
I found the website ‘RodentZone’ which put me in touch with my nearest breeder in Lincolnshire. She had one remaining shy female from her last litter that no-one wanted because she was terrified of humans and would hide away until the coast was clear. Once I saw her photo that was it – I decided to give her a home and call her Phoenix.
After discussions with the breeder, we decided on a strategy to help her get more confident and rather than change her into a huge cage in one step, to increase her cage size gradually.
First step – the bin cage – 460sq inches.
Plus hours of just sitting quietly reading in front of her cage, finally seeing a little nose poking out and disappearing just as quickly when she saw me. But slowly, slowly, her whole head appeared, eventually taking tiny snacks from my fingers – the time had come for…
Second step – Ikea BESTA hack cage – 700sq inches.
This is when Phoenix found her confidence and was no longer hiding away. I was delighted. She will never be a ‘pick up and cuddle’ creature, but will happily take treats from me and let me gently stroke her while she eats them and that’s good enough for me. Otherwise, as long as I talk before I appear, to give her warning of my approach, she will continue about her business without fear, which for me, is the most important thing. She is a fascinating little creature and seeing her have a sand bath, wriggling with all four feet in the air, is a joy to watch and funny as hell.
Third step – bespoke cage – 1,200sq inches.
With thanks once again to Ikea – 3 glass windows/shelves for £35 and the free B&Q cutting service, followed by much swearing and cursing by me trying to manhandle this massive ‘lump’ to put it all together with just about adequate DIY skills or lack thereof…
Phoenix now has her final home and she loves the extra space. I put the smaller front window on hinges to create a ramp down to an additional run which she gets to explore most evenings too.
Hopefully Phoenix has a happy home and I have hours of enjoyment just watching her.
© Nelliescroggit 2020
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