When my brother, Robert, and I were in elementary school, we became parents to a pair of hamsters: he named his Hammy; I named mine Charleston. Hammy and Charleston gave us early lessons in responsibility, compassion and selflessness. We made sure they were well fed, received plenty of playtime and had clean cages to live in (with a big assist from Mom on that last one). Sadly, the two little guys also taught us an early lesson in handling death. Our parents gently explained what had happened and allowed each of us to give our pets proper burials in the backyard. [caption id="attachment_14036" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Photo: Keith Pomakis[/caption] I’m sure a lot of you had a hamster as your first pet, as well. And if you’re anything like me, you just saw them as cute little things to cuddle and observe. Who knew they were such fascinating creatures? Here’s 10 fun things to know about hamsters. 1) The word “hamster” comes from the German word hamstern, meaning “to hoard.” 2) The cheek pouches are a hamster’s favourite hoarding spot. It’s not usually for a hamster to stuff his bedding and food in his mouth and move them to another part of his cage. Mama hamsters have even been know to hide a baby (called a “pup”) in her pouch if she suspects danger. 3) Hamsters have four front toes and five rear toes. [caption id="attachment_14041" align="aligncenter" width="266"] Photo: Dennis Blöte[/caption] 4) The average life span for a hamster is 18 to 24 months, although don’t be surprised if your little guy lives to age 3. 5) Hamsters are short sighted and colour blind. 6) There are Hamster Shows. Maybe they’re not on par size- and notoriety- wise with the Westminster dog show, but judging is just as fierce. Entrants are critiqued on size, colour, type, condition and coat. Check out a behind-the-scenes look at one below. [HTML1] 7) Hamsters love to exercise. OK, the wheel in the cage kind of gives that one away. But, did you know that a pregnant hamster might run up to five miles a day? 8) Grooming himself, yawning or stretching are sure signs that your hamster is feeling content and secure. 9) Be prepared for nightly sounds of digging, scratching and squeaking (wheels) – hamsters are nocturnal creatures. 10) They are good role models for kids. They will happily eat any veggies – spinach, carrots and cauliflower are favourites – you put in front of them. (Note: Because of their tendency to bite, hamsters are usually recommended for kids six and older.) Did you ever have a pet hamster? What was your first pet?