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Friday, 21 January, 2000, 12:15 GMT
Hamster back from the dead

Tasia welcomes Claudia home (Picture: Daily Mail)


Like thousands of other animal lovers, Tasia Hadfield was determined to give her pet a loving send-off when it passed away.

So when Claudia the hamster was found lying cold and stiff in her cage, Tasia planned a touching funeral.

Placed in a cardboard box with some of her favourite biscuits, a ring and a bracelet, Claudia was buried in Tasia's grandmother's garden, 50 yards from the nine-year-old's own house.

A wooden spoon was placed in the ground as a headstone to the much-loved pet.

Three-year-old Claudia had gone to the great cage in the sky. Or so it seemed.

For despite being buried in her makeshift coffin three feet below the ground, the plucky rodent was determined not to give up on life just yet.

'Squealing with delight'

She gnawed her way out of the box and burrowed up to the surface, before making her way back home.

Tasia's mother Jane told the Daily Mail: "I couldn't believe it. She had come back from the dead and was running around full of life again.

"When I told Tasia she was dancing about and squealing with delight. She was overjoyed that her beloved hamster had come back to her."

Hamster experts say it is quite common for the animals to appear dead if they have had a shock - but are surprised by the way Claudia found her way home.

Adrian Dornford-Smith, secretary of the South of England Hamster Club, told BBC News Online the theory Claudia was in hibernation was wrong, because hamsters do not hibernate.

But he said: "It is quite common for them to appear dead if they have had a shock.

'Body shuts down'

"They go torpid if they get a shock to the system, perhaps if they are dropped or there is a sudden temperature change.

"Sometimes it can happen if they have a toxic shock if they have eaten something strange."

Mr Dornford-Smith said: "Their body shuts down. It is a defence mechanism. Everything not needed just shuts down and they do appear dead.

"It happened to me once when I accidentally dropped a hamster. I was convinced it was dead so I can understand people doing the same. It is reasonably common."

Mr Dornford-Smith, who has 70 hamsters of his own, said hamster-owners should treat their pet normally if it happens to them, either cradling it in warm hands or putting it back in its nest.

Sense of smell

He said: "As far as I know, this is something peculiar to hamsters. They (usually) live in the desert and therefore if they have a shock, there is no better place to recover. They just lie still."

He said they were used to burrowing - hence Claudia's return from her grave - but added: "What is not known is how good they are at homing.

"They are very short-sighted but have a reasonably good sense of smell.

"That this hamster returned home is more amazing than that is got out of the grave."

The South of England Hamster Club has 70 members, and is affiliated to the National Hamster Council, which has 300 members.

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