A close friend of mine, a grade school teacher, called me from the car on her way home from the last day of school before summer break. She sounds upset as she says, “You’re not going to believe what I just did! We had a class pet hamster which no one could take home for the summer, so I put it in a baggie and held it closed until it died!” This is a 44 year old mother of two children. It happened a while ago, but it continues to upset me tremendously whenever I think of her holding the bag closed until the helpless little animal suffocates. Am I overreacting? I don’t know how to come to terms with this.
A. Perhaps what is bothering you most is that you have learned something new about your friend. You saw her one way before she killed the hamster and another way after. The fact that you are so upset says that you and her are quite different people. Killing the hamster through suffocation was certainly not a quick process. The animal could have been euthanized by a veterinarian in a much more humane fashion. Of course taking the hamster to a veterinarian would have involved time and money on the part of your friend. She apparently felt it more beneficial to her to kill the hamster the way she did. Millions of people on this planet would have inconvenienced themselves to have saved the suffering of that small creature. Your friend did not.
Just as there are millions of people who would’ve gone to great lengths to save the hamster or at least euthanized it in a quick and painless way there are millions who would have done exactly that of your friend.
In a fundamental way you have learned that she is different from you. We form relationships with people because we have things in common with them and because we find them likable. Over time we find our initial perceptions to be accurate or inaccurate. If we find that we are not compatible in a relationship, we oftentimes end it, marriages included.
Perhaps you will end your relationship or severely limit it with your friend. There are some who would say, “Why be concerned in the least because it was just a hamster?” It was just the inhumane killing of only a hamster. Others would say that you should be concerned because your friend’s actions give greater insight into the totality of her psychological makeup. They are more concerned with the implications of her action than by the action itself.
You are forced to integrate this knowledge, of her killing the hamster, into the knowledge base that is the foundation of your relationship. Perhaps it will have small detrimental effect upon the relationship or a very large one. It will have an effect and you are experiencing that effect right now.
Any new knowledge about a person that you are having a relationship with, will cause you to reevaluate that relationship. This is normal and necessary. Your reaction may be to overlook it, minimize it, or sever all ties with your friend. The choice is yours. Good luck.
Dr. Kristina Randle
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Aug 2014
Randle, K. (2014). Bothered By an Incident of My Friend Deliberately Killing a Hamster. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/08/23/bothered-by-an-incident-of-my-friend-deliberately-killing-a-hamster/