Sting in tale as Diva the hamster cheats death three times
THEY say cats have nine lives, but the Hulin family from Downend can only hope the same can be said of hamsters.
Their adventurous hamster Diva has already escaped death not once but three times.
The first brush with his maker came when the family - mum April, dad Ian and 14-year-old Jack - went to visit a friend one evening. When they got back around midnight, Jack, a student at Downend School, went to check on Diva and was beside himself when he discovered she was missing from her cage.
The cheeky pet, who is a year old, had chewed her way through one of the tubes which acts as a tunnel to lead her from one level of her cage to another.
April, who works as a gardener, said: "Jack was really upset as Diva belongs to him really. We hunted high and low throughout the house trying to find her."
They started in Jack's bedroom where Diva lives and then checked the rest of the upper floor, not believing she would have ventured downstairs.
When this proved to be fruitless they took their detective skills to the ground floor but after several hours they were still at a loss.
It was only when they checked the garage they realised what had happened.
April said: "She must have somehow got under the floor in the hall or kitchen because we found her trapped inside a bucket in the garage. Jack was elated because we were really worried she might have got out of the house and died."
But the family's joy was short-lived.
"I looked at the bottom of the bucket and found rat poison. We'd had a problem with mice in the kitchen about six months before so we put the poison down under the floorboards.
"Diva had obviously chewed the rat poison into a pulp and then stuffed it into her pouches while she was under the floor. She must have fallen into the bucket and then took it out of her pouches."
The family, who also have two rabbits called Henry and Pom-Pom, feared the worst.
"We just thought she was going to die because she'd eaten all this rat poison. I couldn't just sit there and watch her suffer and die so I told Jack I'd have to take her to the vet and have her put down. He was devastated."
April took Diva to a 24-hour animal hospital in Bradley Stoke where vets kept the hamster in overnight.
"Although Diva was terrified, they told me she seemed well but that she would at this stage anyway because symptoms can take a while to show up. They were hopeful, saying that I didn't see her eat the poison; I'd just assumed she had."
Diva was given some vitamin K, a treatment usually used on ,cats and dogs when they have been poisoned.
The pet was then carefully monitored overnight while the family waited on tenterhooks.
Much to their jubilation, Diva was allowed to go home the next day but, not being sure if she had digested the poison or not, the family were told the next few days would be crucial.
"It was terrible thinking we could go in and see her at any moment and she could have died," April said.
"It would be a horrendous death as rat poison makes animals bleed out from the inside. We were preparing for the worst but Jack kept checking on her and telling us she still looked really healthy."
But, just as the family realised their hamster was going to survive, Diva experienced her third brush with death.
"Even though we mended her cage and put lots of tape around the broken tube, she got out again. We thought 'Oh, no, not again'."
This time April headed straight for the garage and managed to spot Diva. But she was unable to reach her.
"I couldn't get to her because there's so much stuff in our garage. I ended up staying up all night trying to coax her out with treats.
"I didn't want to lose sight of her but I eventually fell asleep on the floor, half in the garage and half in the room.
"The next day my husband found her - she'd fallen into a bag of barbecue briquettes and couldn't get out. She was covered in charcoal dust from head to foot. She was black but thankfully she was OK."
The Hulins were taking no chances and went straight out to buy a new cage, which they hope will prove Diva-proof.
April said: "Diva has been absolutely fine since and Jack's over the moon as he has such a special bond with her."
The Hulin's story doesn't have an entirely happy ending: "It's cost us a fortune!" April said.
"The hospital bill was about £100 and we had to pay for a new cage, but there's no way she can get out of it. When she escaped she also managed to chew the carpet in the living room but that was behind the television so we got away with that. She's quite naughty really but we love her so all the cost was worth it.
"She's the most amazing hamster because she's survived against all odds."