Hamster Family Values

Meet the future first family of the USA:

Presidential candidate Diddley Squat and his wife Lolly became parents for the first time - and the second time and the third time and the fourth and the fifth - late on the night of the 9th of March, 2006, when Lolly gave birth to a litter of three sons and two daughters.

The three boys - Casey Dingo-Squat, Rufus Macduff, and Yarash - reside with their parents in Maryland, while both daughters, Hemiette and Rum, have gone to live and work with the Hamster For President Virginia Headquarters in Reston.

The youngsters are shown at the age of one month in photo column at left.

Top picture: Daughter Rum, who looks like her father, takes a drink of water from the water bottle shared by the two sisters shortly after they left their mother's cage.

Second photo: Yarash (left, with mother's white-and-gray coloring) wrestles with brother Casey (beige and white, on the right side). This is natural and fun for young siblings, but as they grow older, their play gets rougher and soon they have to live in separate cages.

Third: Son Rufus Macduff, another Daddy lookalike, snacks on seeds.

Fourth: Hemiette, the smaller of the two girls, stands on a postage scale to be weighed. Hemiette gets her cream coloring from her paternal grandfather, the late, great Cecil.

Bottom: A proud father Diddley smiles as he watches his children grow.

And in the large photo above headline: Mother Lolly shares a meal of goat milk mixed with baby cereal with Rufus MacDuff, Casey, and Hemiette, while Rum and Yarash nap. The babies are two weeks old in this picture, and already have become strong enough to aggressively push their way to the food dish. Young Rufus has managed to climb onto the face of his gentle, ever-patient mother.

Family Values

Because a litter of five is considered a small one by hamster standards, this brood grew faster than the average set of babies. Mama Lolly was well-nourished starting a couple of days before delivery with warm goat's milk which she took from a syringe. The rich milk gives her extra calories so she doesn't lose weight during the 18-21 days that she nurses the infants.

The development of hamster babies is fast. And in a small litter - fewer than eight - they often mature earlier. The babies begin life as tiny, wiggly red creatures, about a half-inch long, and weighing, for all practical purposes, nothing. Even then, they have tiny teeth in their mouths. At the end of the first 24 hours, their skin has gotten thicker so they look pink rather than red, and they are noticeably larger. Coloring begins to show at three or four days, as their fur starts to grow. By the time they are a week old, they measure more than an inch head to tail, and have full little bodies. They also have glossy, wet-looking fur. Some call this the "slug stage."

The infants usually start stumbling awkwardly out of the nest when they are between eight and ten days old, even though their eyes will still be closed for several more days. Already they can nibble on seeds to supplement mother's milk. Both mother and children especially enjoy getting a baby cereal mush made with goat milk. By the time they are two weeks old, their eyes will be open and they are walking around easily on legs that look far too long for their bodies. They still weigh less than an ounce, but their fur is fluffy and thick. At three weeks old, they almost magically turn into miniature hamsters. A three-week-old weighs about an ounce.

By the end of the fourth week of life, the young males will start to grow up, and they need to live in a cage separate from the mother and sisters. With the young Squats, the litter was more grown-up than most, so the boys got their own cage a few days before their four-weeks birthday. And even though they no longer need the company of their mother, they can spend another week or two living with their siblings, playing like Casey and Yarash and the photo.

Soon after the three boys left their birthplace cage, the girls also got a cage of their own, and Lolly finally had a chance to catch up on some lost sleep. The children stayed in girls' and boys' cages for another week or week and a half. At five weeks of age, though, young hamsters truly are small adults and they absolutely have to live alone.

Now that the children are fully grown, they are in training for new positions in the Hamster Election Committee, and they look forward to accompanying their parents or descendants to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when the first President Hamster is inaugurated.

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