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A day in the life of a hamster athlete

Published on Jun 23, 2014 8:11 PM
The Straits Times' hamsters Tiki (right) and Taka take a break after their second Hamster Cup match last Friday. -- ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

Spain and their tiki taka might be out of the World Cup, but The Straits Times' Tiki and Taka are still going strong in the Straits Times Hamster Cup.

The two hamsters have so far gone head-to-head to predict two fixtures, and even more incredibly, got both results right. They first played out a Uruguayan victory over England, and then a draw for the fixture between Portugal and USA.

Sure, they might not have got the scores spot on, but cut them some slack. They are hamsters after all. They are supposed to just eat their seeds and nuts, go for a run on their wheels and sleep whenever they feel like.

Instead, here they are rolling around in plastic balls predicting the outcome of matches in the biggest sporting event on the planet, all under the watchful gaze of the Internet.

Talk about pressure.

Living conditions

Our star athletes Tiki and Taka live under superb conditions in the comfort of our newsroom.

They have individual private "suites", with Tiki living in a white cage filled with cotton and tissue, and Taka in a red cage. Both living areas have excellent amenities including water bottles, food bowls, powder baths, huts for shelter and running wheels.

These "five-star double-storey suites" also have ropes and slides for the rodent residents to play with.

They are fed a highly nutritious diet of dried food such as diced apples, pumpkin seeds and mixed vegetables.

However none of them really like the vegetables.

(Ed's note: Kids reading this, you are not hamsters - eat your vegetables.)

Every match day, the hamsters are transported from their living quarters in the newsroom to Stadio Straits Times, where they undergo security checks for any weapons or dangerous objects in their cheek pouches.

Tiki and Taka are exempt from Fifa-level drug tests, since they are hamsters and are extremely cute, and hence definitely honest beings.

Tiki the media darling


As a self-professed Tiki and Taka fanboy, the first thing I do upon entering the office every morning is to say hi to our little stars.

Tiki, the three-month-old winter-white pearl-coloured female, absolutely adores her fans, and never fails to go to the side of her cage to greet visitors. She is extremely friendly, and will stick her paws out through the fence and even have a sniff of your hand.

I got to shake hands with her on numerous occasions, and every single time was equally memorable. She stares at you with such sincere eyes, and you can tell she really appreciates the support from her fans.

The cutie also really loves fan mail, or in her case, fan meal - hold out a piece of dried apple, her favourite snack, and she will gently take it from you.

Little Miss Tiki's gotta watch her diet though. If you remember, she fell asleep halfway through the Portugal-USA showdown, something that could be due to a bad case of food coma.

This is not at all surprising as Tiki would rather work on her nest of cotton and tissue paper than get on the wheel for some exercise.

Once I looked into her cage, and there was no sign of Tiki at all. My initial thought was; "Oh no, has Tiki been kidnapped!?" But then, a pile of cotton in the corner started moving, and tiny Tiki emerged sleepily.

Typical lazy Tiki. Loves her fans, hates exercise.

Taka the focused competitor

Tiki's adversary, brown-backed white-faced male Taka, is the more serious athlete of the two.

The four-month-old spends most of his time on his wheel, hopefully with the idea of keeping in shape for the next match.

He even grooms himself on the wheel when not running. Kinda like the uber metrosexual Cristiano Ronaldo - he plays hard, but he also works hard to look good too.

There have been occasions when he is so tired out from all the running and the grooming, that he falls asleep at the wheel, and wakes up suddenly when he tumbles off the wheel while deep in slumber.

Despite behaving like the Portuguese peacock, Taka's finishing is more like the Spanish team. Going by the last two matches, Taka tends to run all the way to the goal-line, only to stop and then U-turn, as if to test out the newly introduced goal-line technology.

Taka is also the more timid and reserved of the two, and does not like to interact when people come visiting his cage. Obviously more comfortable letting his skills do the talking on the pitch, he will shy away when you try to pet him.

Match day

On match days, both hamsters are usually raring to go, with Tiki  being more alert than usual. The matches take place once every week, so as to give our star athletes sufficient rest and preparation time.

Upon arrival at the Stadio Straits Times, both competitors go about their pre-match rituals - of running around excitedly.

Taka is a picture of focus, having his eyes on the goal as he goes about with his warm up routine of stretching those tiny muscles. Tiki does the same, seemingly unfazed that she is nowhere near her beloved cotton nest.

When the matches end, there is none of the usual shows of sportsmanship or exchange of  jerseys  for Tiki and Taka. It's back to the cages for the hamster stars - Tiki to her cotton-filled haven and Taka running happily on his hamster wheel. No matter who the victor, they are both rewarded with dried snacks.

Bring on the next match - and see if they can get it right again.