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Pets of Oxford: Hugh the hamster

Blake Schubert met his roommate last March at a Petsmart in Cincinnati. Schubert, a sophomore IMS major, decided to purchase an emotional support animal for his migraines. He asked his parents about buying a flying squirrel, a cat and a bunny. But, each time, the answer was no -- it was a hamster or nothing.

After this decree, Blake took to the pet store and chose the cutest, chubbiest hamster he could find and decided to call him Hugh. And after a 45-minute trip to an exotic pet veterinarian to ensure Hugh was healthy, Blake got to take his new furry friend home.

Now, Hugh resides in Hillcrest Hall on the bottom shelf of a wooden pop-up closet, comfortably nestled in a colorful cage. His favorite snacks are tropical-flavored drops that come in a brightly decorated bag bearing a yellow pineapple graphic. Schubert says Hugh loves to run around, but eating a treat keeps him in one spot, at least for a minute or two.

One time, Blake gave Hugh six treats in a single day, which didn't bother him in the slightest -- Hugh just stored them in his cheeks to save for later.

Hugh loves visitors because they typically mean attention and perhaps an extra treat or two. Visitors love Hugh because he's adorable, full of energy and a novelty.

After all, Oxford has plenty of dogs walking through campus, but the hamster population is fairly low.

When people come to visit, Hugh is an avid explorer, scampering up the arms of his visitors, nestling into the corners or attempting to squeeze under the couch.

He's a bit of a thrill seeker, which worries Blake sometimes because he's afraid of Hugh escaping. So, when Hugh takes a leisurely vacation from his cage, he usually resides in the comfort and convenience of a plastic ball.

Though Blake doesn't have a human roommate, he and Hugh have a fair roommate agreement and live together peacefully. Blake agrees to change Hugh's food every two to three days and replace his bedding and clean his wheel on a weekly basis. Hugh, in turn, agrees to be well-mannered and welcoming to any visitors and tries his best to keep his nocturnal wheel-running as quiet as possible.

Hugh breaks the roommate agreement fairly often, waking Blake up at least once a night, which Blake has learned to live with. Despite this, Blake has decided to buy Hugh a new cage, preferably one in the shape of a castle, a rocket ship or a car. He's leaning toward the car cage because it lights up.

Recently, Blake has seen pictures online of hamsters doing tricks like standing on their back legs, and he's hoping to teach Hugh to do the same. Learning that skill is probably worth two treats; showing it off to visitors is probably worth at least five.

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