Right now I am thanking my lucky stars that I am not a parent of a 6 year old child. Not simply because of what that implies about my life at age 15, but because it would mean I would have to walk into Wal-Mart and ask the underpaid man in the blue apron where I could find an electronic hamster named ‘Chunk’. The Christmas season is here and the hottest new toy is a life-like rodent called a Zhu Zhu. From my brief yet vomit-inducing research I can best summarize this toy as the bastard-step-cousin of Tickle-Me-Elmo, Furbys, and Giga Pets. The Zhu Zhu hamsters come in five different characters; Patches, Mr. Squiggles, PipSqueak, Chunk, and Num Nums.
As a former owner of two hamsters (Fuzzy and Scratchy) and a female (making me innately drawn to anything cute and furry) I am very intrigued and deeply horrified by the idea of these faux-pets. The description on the Zhu Zhu website is particularly problematic.
“ The best alternatives to real live hamsters, Zhu Zhu Pets™ hamsters don’t poop, die, or stink, but they are still a riot of motion and sound. Darting around in their hamster tubes, busily scurrying from room to room, you never know where they’ll go next! Simply pet the hamster’s back, set him down, and watch him Zhu Zhu Zhu-oom! Zhu Zhu Pets™ like to be picked up and snuggled too! Pet them gently on the nose, and they’ll squeak with contentment."
My first question is, if they don't poop, die, or stink, what similarity do they have to real hamsters? I'm pretty sure that took up most of Fuzzy and Scratchy's time. And "a riot of motion and sound"?! Sure. Fuz and Scratch were mos def a riot when they were slowly killing each other in gladiator-style cage fights. Thankfully I mistook this carnage for playing and saved my innocent mind from the brutal realities of the animal world.
Fallacy number three: assuming hamsters will "dart around" and "busily scurry" from room to room. As the saying goes, you can build a big-ass hamster palace, but you can't make him run around in it and entertain you. When I wasn't watching them "play" with each other, I was trying to coax Fuzzy and Scratchy onto their ladders, to play with their toys, and to climb through tunnels. I'm not sure what the natural habitat of a hamster is, but it sure isn't a plastic monstrosity of colored tubes. Maybe if we let the little guys drop some acid they would be more inclined to do some "Zhu Zhu Zhu-oom"ing.
The Zhu Zhus have different modes for different times of day. There's "nurturing mode" for when you want to cuddle with Patches, and "adventure mode" where they go roaming around. The only mode I've ever seen is "Imma-burrow-into-these-wood-chips-and-take-a-shit" mode. This really just fills me with regret and feelings of inferiority. Were other girls' hamsters nuzzling and acting like Magellen while mine were semi-comatose? Were my months (premature death was inevitable under my care) with Fuzzy and Scratchy meaningless? I'm starting to feel empty inside...
The most astonishing feature of the Zhu Zhu is its verbal abilities. The thing can make more than 40 different sounds. While incredible, this is terrible unrealistic. In all my conversations with Fuzzy (Scratchy was shy) he never let out anything other than a squeak or a sneeze. With 40 sounds at their disposal these hamsters straight shoot. the. shit. with one another. Either that or they can speak English.
Now I'm not trying to deter anyone from buying one of these little guys. If you've always dreamed of owning a hamster but aren't really down for the poop, death, and that fact that they can't ride a Zhu Zhu skateboard, then Num Nums could be the answer to your prayers.