Meet Frank, the Zero-Waste Hamster

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My youngest daughter, who asked I use a fake name for her in this post—let’s call her C—repeatedly asked me for a hamster this summer.

C: Can we get a hamster?

Me: Bootsy will eat it.

C: I’ll keep it in my room with the door shut.

Me: Meh.

C: All of a mother’s problems disappear when she gives her child a hamster.

Me:

C: Did you look at the brochure I made about why you should get me a hamster?

Me: No. I mean yes I did but no hamster.

C: Can we get a hamster?

Me: I don’t like having hamsters as pets. They don’t live long. They can’t let you know when they’re hungry or thirsty, like a cat or dog can. Pets are a big responsibility. We have to find a cat sitter for Bootsy every time we go away. We don’t have any of the hamster stuff. Hamsters cost money. They poop constantly. They smell.

C: He can be a zero-waste hamster.

We found Frank on craigslist. C changed his original name—Elon Mouse, which I adored—to Frank. He came with a free cage, water bottle and some cage accoutrements, like a hollow tree stump he likes to curl up under. But his cage offered little room for him to run around.

Every time we entered C’s room—and he was awake—Frank would climb up the (short) wall of the cage and look up at us, as if pleading to be let out. We would open the cage door he’d run around a bit on the carpet but I felt bad putting him back in. So I started looking on craigslist for a bigger cage. I hadn’t been having much luck and last week wondered if I should just cave in and pay a pile of money for a new cage at the pet store. But then the perfect new home appeared…

Chez Frank

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The hamster mansion

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The wooden staircase
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The floor plan

The woman who sold me this handmade cage donated the asking price—$40—to Rattie Ratz, a not-for-profit rat rescue here in the Bay Area. So not only did I avoid buying a new junky piece of landfill in transition that would have cost much more, my money also went to a good cause. I can’t believe my luck!

When we moved Frank to his cage Sunday night, he ran all around and checked things out. He seemed very excited. He gets more exercise now—his wheel fits in the cage and he likes to run up and down the staircase. And he loves to sleep under the wooden shelf below the stairs.

For bedding we have been using shredded paper, which I compost in my yard after I change the cage. Mr. Sierra Club says you can safely compost shredded paper. You may hear conflicting reports of what can and can’t go in a compost heap. I throw all sorts of stuff on mine. (Here’s a post about how I compost.)

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My compost, literally a heap on the ground

I have started collecting brown paper bags (we have lots in our recycling bins) and want to try those next. Paper without ink is probably better for Frank. And the thicker brown paper might be more absorbent.

The zero-waste menu

When I said yes to the hamster, C and her sister MK immediately researched hamster food online. Hamsters eat small bits of vegetables or fruit a few times a week. I can easily find unpackaged produce, so I checked that zero-waste box on the priorities list.

When I chop vegetables, I now reserve a few bits for Frank. He ate some of the scraps you see in the little pile at the bottom of the pic below. He gobbled up the zucchini.

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Stir fry ingredients and a few scraps (bottom) for Frank

I can buy dry food—what hamsters mostly eat—in bulk where I live. One recipe I found called for equal parts popcorn kernels, lentils, split green peas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seed and millet. So I decided to make that. I had also read that hamsters like sesame seeds and because we have a lifetime supply of them (MK went crazy one day and bought tons for fermented porridge), I added those to the mix too.

ingredientsI had originally planned to include 1 cup of each ingredient but I worried Frank might not like his food and it would go to waste (or I would spend hours picking out every last flax seed and millet grain). So I made a small batch, with 1/4 cup of each ingredient. seed-mix

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Dinner time

But will he eat it?

Frank is camera-shy. And he can’t sit still. I had SO MUCH trouble getting a decent shot of him. I have no idea how the creators of Hammy Hamster pulled off filming rodents.

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Shy Frank
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Did someone say dinner?
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Mmmm sunflower seeds…
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I need every sunflower seed in my cheeks now

When I set out his dinner, Frank crawled out of his nest under the stairs and chowed down for a while. He liked the sunflower seeds best and quickly stuffed all of them into his cheeks. After eating, he retired to his little wooden house to digest his meal.

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The lentils weren’t a big hit. I saw him spit one out across his plate. I wish I had caught a shot of that. So let’s see what he left behind…

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The lentils, yellow split peas and popcorn weren’t his favorites. He ate lots of pumpkin seeds. He missed just one sunflower seed. I’ll check again in the morning.

So, C certainly knows how to win me over—just dangle the zero-waste carrot.

And keep the little thug below away from Frank.

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Bootsy curled up on a second-hand chair

12 Comment

  1. Such an entertaining (and informative!) read, especially as I’m an animal-lover myself. I’ve always had cats (apart from my student days but then one of my flatmates had a gorgeous tabby) but hamsters and other “small furries” are a bit of a mystery to me.

    1. Thank you Minna. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m more of a crazy cat lady myself but I do love little Frank too 🙂

  2. youmeanme says:

    I love this! Frank is adorable and I love his new home.
    We have a Bunny who takes care of all our vegetable scraps and helps us not waste produce.

    1. Thank you! Rabbits, rodents, small furry animals–they’re great for gobbling up scraps. When my older daughter worked at a goat dairy, she said the goats went wild for kitchen scraps 🙂

  3. Michelle Snarr says:

    Love it! Love Frank/Elon M., the story, the pics – made me smile!

    1. Thanks Michelle 🙂

  4. sammmmba says:

    So fun! Brightened my day! By the way, I was reading this while I waited for my ginger-water to cool… I just bottled my first-ever ginger beer! I’m so excited! Your blog is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your awesomeness.

    1. Thank you for the nice comment. I’m glad you liked the post. Enjoy your ginger beer. It’s SO good!

  5. Christine says:

    I would love to make my daughter’s hamster zero waste. How often do you feed him? She has a dwarf hamster and she has to watch quantities because he will eat/store and is prone to being overweight!

    1. Hi Christine, it was pretty easy to make Frank zero-waste. I feed him about a tablespoon of hamster mix every day and give him a bit of fruit or vegetable every other day or so. I had been giving him chunks of fresh produce every day but then read that they can get diarrhea if they eat it daily, so I cut back. I think he hoards food his nest–he’s pretty chunky and could stand to lose a few grams. ~ Anne Marie

  6. Karen says:

    Anne Marie-
    This post was fantastic! I love reading these every Monday morning and this one didn’t disappoint. Frank is adorable and I LOVE how you take Zero Waste matters into your own hands with everything you do. That is one lucky hamster!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Karen

    1. Thanks so much Karen 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post about Frank. I agree, he’s adorable. Thanks also for reading my posts. I really appreciate it! ~ Anne Marie

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