Xavier's hamster, otherwise known as Magical Trevor, won the Hamster Ball Derby at our local Petco yesterday. We were very excited because at the time of the last derby, held last March, Trevor wouldn't go anywhere near humans. Everytime we tried to pick him up or move him to clean his cage, he'd dive down a tube and stay there until we left. And he didn't get any exercise either, because he kept nesting in his wheel.
Then Dad got the brilliant idea to move him into a smaller cage with no access to the "Petting Zone" up top or tubes to hide in. Quickly he got bored of 1.5 sq. ft of living space and we introduced him to the hamster ball concept. Now he runs for 2-3 hours a night, goes down stairs on purpose, including all the way down to the basement if someone leaves the door open. (Don't worry, people. He's heavy and skilled enough that it's a controlled one-stair-at-a-time descent. We've watched him.) If you try to take him out of the ball before he's tired, he refuses to leave. And he loves to chase the dog.
Given that he's more of a marathoner (the Derby training info said to get him to practice every other day for fifteen whole minutes), we weren't sure how he'd do at the Derby, which is more of a sprint. We practiced a little bit in the aquarium aisle to get him used to running away from Sam and toward me. I think he was the only hamster in a field of 14 who consistently ran in the right direction. (So heartbreaking when they'd get halfway down the track, stop and turn back!)
So he won an oval-shaped HamTrac, a blue ribbon, some coupons and bragging rights as the fastest hamster in town, at least for another six months. Xavier is going to enter him in the county fair through 4H next year, so I think this project is off to a good start.