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Calling All Hamsters: It's Derby Time!


Calling All Hamsters: It's Derby Time!

A hamster competitor in San Diego takes to the track at Petco's annual Hamster Ball Derby last year. This Saturday more than 10,000 hamsters are expected to race nationwide. (Photo courtesy of Petco)

By Robin Wallace
It's time to let the good times roll -- hamster style that is! On Saturday, more than 10,000 hamsters are expected to roll into 1,000 different nationwide locations for the annual Hamster Ball Derby hosted by Petco.

Racing in run-about balls, hamsters and other small pets will speed down tracks in heats of four toward the finish line for a chance at the winners circle. The event is designed as a family event to reinforce proper pet care principles with children.

"Hamsters and other small animals are ideal first pets for young kids," said Elisabeth Charles, Petco's Chief Marketing Officer. "This event brings kids and their animals together for fun, exercise, and education on how to properly and responsibly care for pets at home."

Each race will be kicked off with a brief education session from a Petco small animal expert on how to keep a hamster or small animal healthy and happy. Topics include feeding the right food in the optimum amounts, the necessity of fresh water, the importance of exercise, chew toys and understanding a hamster's nocturnal nature.

But before Saturday's festivities begin, Petco is already working on educating youngsters about animals with the help of Field Trip Factory, a provider of hands-on, immersion learning experiences. Together, the companies are providing pet care materials to teachers and their students, encouraging participation in the Derby by classroom pets.

In addition, through an ongoing Fur, Feathers and Fins program, kindergarten through eighth grade students learn about basic animal care skills, animal habitat and characteristics, environmental issues and animal survival and respect for animals.

As for the derby, pet parents are encouraged to train their pets to be ready for the stiff competition. Run-about balls provide a safe form of exercise and racers can purchase a Hamtrac like the one used for the race for up to three 15-minute "workouts" per week with rest days in between. The training offers a great way for kids to spend time interacting with their hamster as they prepare together for the big race.

In addition to bragging rights, the three fastest hamsters at each store will win prizes including a Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro Health Small Animal Starter Kit, a Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro Health Healthy Bits Treats or a Super Pet Combo Chew.

Registration for the race is free; sign-ups and practice sessions begin at 1:30 p.m. on Derby Day. Participants just need to bring a size-appropriate hamster ball and their pet on race day. Spectators are encouraged to join in and cheer on their favorite little competitors.

For more information about the Derby, training tips and videos and a 20-percent-off coupon valid on Derby Day only, or to find a participating location, visit www.petco.com/hamster. Classrooms can also sign up at www.fieldtripfactory.com.

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