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Do Tigers Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know!

Oliver Jones

Disclaimer: Pet Keen does not endorse the practice of keeping wild cats as pets. This article is for informative purposes only.

Some people believe tigers make good pets, while others dismiss the notion. What’s your take?

Four states have no regulations about keeping dangerous big cats. They include Alabama, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

But it turns out, 21 states have banned owning all big cats as pets. Fourteen more states have also banned the keeping of tigers, but there are varying requirements and exemptions in place.

Why do you think a majority of states would ban keeping tigers as pets? Because they do not fit the domesticated cat’s profile.

These strong and fanged predators are wild at heart. They also demand several pounds of meat daily and expensive high security. Besides, they are unpredictable, with the risk of attacking their owner is pretty high.

Having cleared that, tigers do not make great pets. However, if you are curious to learn how life could be if you had a tiger for a pet, read on.

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An Overview of the Tiger

Tiger on a stone path
Image Credit: Alexas Fotos, Pixabay
Scientific Name: Panthera tigris
Adult Size: 11 feet long and more than 600 pounds
Average Life Span: Up to 20 years
Diet: Carnivore

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Requirements to Fulfil Before Owning a Pet Tiger

Not everyone is cut out to keep a pet tiger. But, if you meet the following requirements, you stand a chance.

  • You must be financially secure.
  • You should be experienced with handling and maintaining exotic pets.
  • Your travels should be limited.
  • You should have qualified caretakers looking after the tiger.
  • Your home should be in a secluded area.
  • You must live in a state where rearing pet tigers is legal and can obtain the necessary permits.

Is Owning a Tiger Right for You?

Tiger and woman sitting on a rock
Image Credit: SarahRichterArt, Pixabay

Assuming you have met all the above criteria, is owning a tiger the best choice for you? Here are a few things you need to know about keeping one.

Handling & Interaction

It would be best if you avoided all physical contact with a tiger. This includes touching, cuddling, or hugging even the well-trained tigers. Why?  Because there is always a tiny possibility that something could go wrong. Tigers are wild at heart, and they can maul or kill you.

How about the cubs? Are they harmless? No.

Tiger cubs appear small and cute to cuddle as pets. But, even a 1-year-old cub can push down a human. They can weigh over 150-200 pounds in less than 12 months! That’s more than the average weight of an adult.

Besides, the cubs develop canine teeth and long claws that are dangerous, too. Playing or wrestling with them can prove dangerous and fatal.

What if, God forbid, the pet tiger acts out, escapes, or mauls a human? What is the best handling technique?

It is advisable to have pepper spray, an air horn, a fire extinguisher, or a hose at hand as a precaution. The pepper spray and fire extinguisher should irritate the cat’s eyes and skin, thus slowing its movement. On the other hand, the air horn will startle them and prevent them from advancing towards you.

But if it is a life and death situation, you may need to euthanize the pet. And in extreme cases, a firearm, though dangerous, can come in handy as a last resort.

Behavior & Temperament

Tigers are large, dangerous, and territorial cats. Male tigers can cover a 40-mile territory in the wild, while females cover a 7-mile radius. Tigers are also solitary. They only interact during mating or when a mother is taking care of her cubs.

Housing the Tiger

This big cat is a high-maintenance animal. It needs many acres of tiger-proof enclosure since it can climb, jump, and swim away. Should captive tigers escape, they are dangerous to humans because they associate them with delivering their meals.

So, which is the best way to house a tiger?

First, secure a large, fenced-in plot. It should retain the tiger’s freedom of running inside the enclosure for a few seconds without hindrance. The housing should also facilitate other basic behavioral movements like jumping, climbing, and playing.

The plot should also include trees, shelter, barriers, and different levels of elevation. In other words, it ought to recreate a similar experience of the wild to stimulate the tiger’s foraging behavior.

There should be a water source, too. Cubs love playing in the water while adults lounge in pools to stay cool.

Provide Enrichment

When keeping a pet tiger, you should provide successful enrichment by breaking the routine. Apart from eating, the cat should look forward to discovering new things.

For example, you can introduce manipulative and indestructible toys in the housing, then rotate them frequently. Also, include edible foods such as watermelons and pumpkins to promote the play. In addition, place its meat at awkward locations to simulate discovery.

Having these mentally stimulating routines will improve the mental state of the animal. Failure to do so may result in the tiger developing medical depression.

Nutrition and Feeding

In the wild, an adult tiger can consume up to 80 pounds of prey at a go. But the rule of thumb during captivity is to feed the tiger between 4-7% of their body weight. This equates to 15 to 25 pounds of the flesh a day, with a one- or two-days fasting period.

The diet should include whole prey so the big cat can consume bone, tissues, and organs. Muscle meat is essential in completing the animal’s diet, but it is low in Vitamin A, calcium, manganese, and fat-soluble vitamins.

Therefore, if the tiger’s diet is mainly muscle meat, you risk vitamin A deficiency and bone disease. For this reason, include supplemental vitamins and minerals to meet nutritional requirements.

Common Health Problems

Captive tigers are susceptible to house cat illnesses such as rabies and feline distemper. Rabies is a virus transmitted from the bite of another infected animal.

It travels through the blood to the spinal cord. Here, the virus causes neurological damage, which results in a tiger’s abnormal behavior.

Feline distemper, too, is caused by a virus. It is spread when the tiger gets into contact with an infected cat’s fluids like saliva, blood, urine, or nasal discharge. Signs of feline distemper include anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, and depression.

Rabies and feline distemper can be fatal. However, prior vaccination can save your pet.

Tigers are also at risk of contracting the Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). It is the human version of HIV, but with the proper treatment, FIV is curable.

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is another serious illness that the cat faces. It is also treatable if discovered early. However, it is fatal once it develops into full-blown cancer.

Minor Conditions
  • Rabies
  • Feline Distemper
Serious Conditions

Disclaimer:

We do not recommend/endorse keeping a pet tiger. These are wild animals, and it is practically impossible to foretell their actions. The risks of owning one outweigh any possible benefits.

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Other Alternatives to Keeping a Pet Tiger

bobcat by the water in the wild
Image Credit: Marg Strickland, Pixabay

If you’ve discovered that keeping a tiger as a pet is not for you, there are other feline cats you can own. In fact, they are more manageable to care for.

Here is a list of cats to choose from.

  • Servals – Confused for a cheetah and its diet mainly consists of rodents.
  • Bobcats – They develop a strong bond with their owners.
  • Caracal Cats – Are native to Africa, and they eat small mammals, rodents, birds, and communicate by hissing.
  • Canadian Lynx – Have less severe temperamental.
  • Siberian Lynx – They are playful, energetic, and have a dog-like character.

Ocelots, jungle cats, Geoffroy’s cats, and Asian leopard cats are more suitable options. But first, check whether it is legal to own one in your state.

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Related Questions

tiger with mouth wide open
Image Credit: Gerhard G., Pixabay
  • Can I Declaw or Remove the Tiger’s Teeth to Tame It? No. Tigers need their claws for walking. In addition, their teeth help them eat and digest prey. So, removing their large teeth and declawing is not an option.
  • How Much Does a Tiger Cost? The average price of an exotic tiger cub is $7,500. And apart from this buying price, you need at least $20,000 to build a secure cage. This proves that it is a high-maintenance animal.

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Summary

Do tigers make good pets? No, they don’t. For starters, tiger cubs look adorable and harmless. But these little felines are dangerous and powerful even at six months. In addition, even the well-trained tigers have turned on their handlers in the past.

Therefore, it is best to look for other safer felines to keep as pets.


Featured Image Credit: Pixel-mixer, Pixabay

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.