Assuming you're an animal-loving family, how would you respond if you heard your child cry "Mu-um, the hamster has escaped from his cage!"?
Let's just say that I didn't exactly respond calmly when it happened in my house. In fact this literally only just happened yesterday and I still don't think I've quite recovered.
One moment my son was cleaning out his Russian Dwarf hamster's cage - the next, the little guy's exercise ball thing was lying open and Gimli (it's a Lord of the Rings / dwarf warrior thing…) was nowhere to be seen.
On the upside, I am now an authority on what to do if your pet hamster escapes from his cage. My personal advice is as follows:
1. Do not Google 'what to do if your hamster escapes from his cage' because you'll find reams of articles about missing hamsters who leapt off curtain poles (yes, apparently they can climb, got electrocuted after chewing through the fridge wiring (that one sent my son to his bedroom wailing) or were found to have met a watery grave after someone left the loo seat up while the hamster was AWOL. Like I said, Google is not your friend if you're looking for uplifting advice about what to do about an escaped hamster.
2. Do try the peanut butter in the bottom of a bucket thing. I've no idea whether it works but it certainly keeps the kids distracted from fretting about the whereabouts of the missing rodent.
3. Do place your hamster's cage on the floor and leave a trail of chocolate to entice him back home. We went with the expensive Hotel Chocolat stuff leftover from Christmas. I regret this bitterly today but at the time it seemed that desperate times called for desperate measures.
4. Don't issue the promise of a large monetary reward for whoever recaptures the hamster. I did this rashly when I was starting to panic about the prospect of going to bed that night with a hamster on the loose, such was my fear of waking up to find him crawling across my face. Suffice it to say that I am now considerably lighter of pocket.
In the end, our dear Gimli made a spectacular return about two hours after we lost him. I heard a weird scurrying noise in the kitchen and may have shrieked to such an extent that all three kids came running, whereupon the two-year-old cried 'THERE'S GIMLI' and pointed to a corner of the kitchen floor. My eldest son immediately leapt into action and deposited the little critter back to his rightful home. He was so delighted that he almost cried.
As for me, I might have sobbed a tiny little tear of sheer relief, too.
So come on, let's hear your best / worst / funniest escaped hamster or general pet calamity stories. You can share them over on our Facebook page.