For as long as I can remember, I've always been absolutely bonkers about animals and have only had a couple of very short periods of time where I've not had any pets at all. We've had many family pets including Cats, Dogs, Rat's and Rabbits but my main love has always been small rodents and I've spent a good chunk of my life owning mice so, why Hamsters now? And, more importantly, why Chinese Hamsters?
To be honest, I'd never really considered Chinese Hamsters as pets and, before I really looked into hamsters in general, I always thought Chinese hamsters were the same sort of big furry blobs that the Russian hamsters were. I fell for Syrians and then Roborovski's and it was actually my original intention to breed roborovski's but a very special little hamster came along and changed all of that.
I'd met a few friends hamsters and become more familiar with Chinese hamsters and I decided that maybe, in the future I'd have one. When my beloved girl, Fudge, passed away, I couldn't bring myself to get another Syrian at the time. I had a roborovski and another Syrian and I hadn't really thought about getting a "Russian" so, naturally, I started looking at Chinese Hamsters. I went into Pets At Home after having no luck elsewhere (I hadn't even thought of buying from a breeder!) and, to my delight, there were 2 female Chinese hamsters available. I enquired about buying one and before I knew it, a member of staff was grabbing one out of the tank and giving it a health check. I hadn't even chosen the one I wanted but they were both Normal/Agouti so I didn't say anything and I'm so glad I didn't! I brought her home, got her out to show my sister and she curled up in my hand and fell asleep straight away, needless to say I was smitten from that moment. That little hamster was Willow and she became one of the most special little creatures I've ever had the pleasure of having in my life. I suffer with anxiety and depression and Willow seemed to pick up on my lows, frantically running back and forth in the cage, wanting to come out and sitting, snuggled on me until I felt better. She was an amazing little girl and came to every single hamster show with me during her lifetime, winning most of the pet classes she attended and winning everyone over with her little face, her "chinesey cling" and her little tail.
When Willow passed away, to say I was heartbroken would be an understatement. She was a tiny tiny creature but she left such an immensely big hole in my life and I knew that, although I could never replace her, I couldn't not have a Chinese hamster in my life. It was around this time that Pets at Home had stopped stocking them in their stores, so getting hold of them was proving more and more tricky. I had been attending more and more shows and had started to get to know breeders and decided I would try and get a pedigree Chinese hamster with the plans to think about breeding them myself.
In December 2015, I was planning to attend the MHC's Christmas Hamster show, my first show since losing Willow, and decided that if there were Chinese hamsters available, I'd get one. A friend from another hamstery was there before me and noticed there were 2 females available so, knowing I was considering getting one, she reserved both so I could pick one. It turned out Acacia picked me by deciding to pee all over me when I picked her up! I'd already thought about a prefix to breed and show under and this was originally going to be "Flufflehams" but this was now out of the question. After the impact Willow had on me, and the route I decided I wanted to take with breeding, it seemed only fitting and fair that her name be in there somewhere and so "Willow Tree Hamstery" became a registered prefix with the National Hamster Council on 10th December 2015. Willow had been such an amazing hamster, loving, friendly, tame and never had a health problem until the last few days of her life and I wanted to be able to give people that same experience whilst improving the temperament and health of the species as a whole. I continued to do a lot of research, and was mentored a lot by both Doric and Vectis Hamsteries, and I finally took the plunge by borrowing the gorgeous Bardane, a lovely Chunky Dom Spot boy from Doric, to pair with Acacia for my first litter, which were born 13th March 2016, and haven't looked back since.
I've been attending shows for several years but am now in my second year of exhibiting in main class and have done both pen and book stewarding at various shows, and under various different judges, to broaden my knowledge. It's good to know the written show standard but it's also invaluable to know what to look for "in the fur". At the Midland Hamster Club's AGM in October 2016, I was officially put forward to start the process of training to be a Dwarf Hamster judge and have been working towards this since the start of the year. I am a member of the Midland Hamster Club and will be gaining associate membership with the Northern and Southern Hamster clubs upon my membership renewal in August.
All pictures used on the website, unless otherwise stated, were taken, and are owned, by Willow Tree Hamstery and should not be used or distributed without my express consent.