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Maya is a male Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica).  At the time these photographs were taken he was about two and a half months old.  He's getting bored with being in my lap because I'm posing him for the camera instead of scritching his ears.

I really like this picture because you can get an idea how large his front paws are.  I have large hands and even at this young age, his paws were nearly as broad as my hands.  I have a feeling that he is going to grow up into a HUGE tiger.

He's extremely sweet natured and loved to have contact with his handlers.  His favorite pastime is finding a cozy lap to curl up in and take a nap.  Here, he's just waking up after a 90 minute lap-nap, and so were my legs!

"Ahh!  Breakfast is served!"   


Tiger cubs of this age need to be fed, around the clock every 3 to 4 hours.  They are growing very quickly, so their metabolisms are in high gear and they burn through food energy very quickly.

Tigers usually do sleep after eating, but cubs really haven't learned that rule yet.  Occasionally he'd actually fall asleep during feeding, still holding onto the nipple.

Also at this stage, fresh meat was gradually being introduced into his diet.  Maya didn't like the taste of the meat at first, so it was dipped in formula then offered to him by hand, this seemed to do the trick.

During the first few weeks, a tiger will need to eat every 3 to 4 hours, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - THIS IS A MUST.  After the first few weeks the feeding schedule goes to every 4 hours.  A tiger cub may well put on weight at the rate of 1 or 2 pounds per day!  Close monitoring of the health of the cub is vital during this time. At about 10 weeks meat is added to their diet for the start of the weaning process.

During the first few weeks, approximately a half hour to 45 minutes after being fed (giving their system time to process the formula), their bowels must be stimulated.  With Mom raised cubs either in captivity or in their natural habitat, the mother takes care of this by licking the cub under the base of the tail.  When humans raise a cub, cotton balls dampened with warm water dabbed on the cubs' anus take the place of the mother.  As nasty as this may sound, it's vital this is done.  If this is not done, it could be fatal for the cub.

There are different formulations of formula depending on the nutritional requirement of a particular species.  There are also several brands of formula - One of the most commonly used brands is Zoologic Milk Matrix - see Petag Exotic Animal supplies  for more information.

Another producer of milk replacers and exotic/wild animal supplements is Apperon, Inc.  Please click here and visit their informative site to learn more about their products.

Cubs are often raised by humans so that humans may interact with the animals more safely and the animal forms a close bond with his or her handler, who in turn forms a close bond with the animal.

This helps to ensure a greater level of safety for the handler when the animal grows to be an adult. 

It takes lots and lots of hard and consistent work to keep the bonds between handler and animal, work which must extend from cubhood all the way throughout the animals life.  Anyone considering working with an exotic animal such as a tiger must have 100% focus at all times while doing any activity with the tiger.  All it takes is one mistake, and the tiger may wind up paying with his or her life.

"Bottle is almost finished ... all this heavy formula is making me sleepy ....."

Cubs being hand raised are usually separated from their mother after the first 7 to 14 days.  This initial time with their Mom insures they get all the antibodies the mothers'  milk contains.  This assures that the cubs' disease resistance is up where it should be.  Even still, they must be vaccinated against diseases when they are old enough to withstand the vaccinations. 

Go to my Suggested Reading List for books with more specific information.

He's got a good appetite, and always finished every last drop of his formula, which is a special formula made expressly for tigers.  Cubs of varying species all have their own specific dietary requirements. 

It can cost between $200 and $300 dollarsper month to feed 1 adult tiger, depending on market price for meat,  supplements and commercially available carnivore diets i.e. Nebraska feline diet (which are really really expensive and from what I have seen are used only to either supplement or as training rewards due to the high cost of this type of food per lb. - $1.25/LB x 600lbs = $750/mo. for meat alone)  Horsemeat, which can also be fed to tigers, costs approx .45 cents / lb.

I should say that there are different methods employed to calculate the amount of food needed - below listed are two of the methods used.  The bottom line being keeping the animal fit and healthy.

25LB/day x 6 days (1 fasting day per week) = 150LB/wk  150LBs x 4 weeks = 600LBs of meat each month!     600LBs x .35c per LB (approx. cost - this will vary depending upon supplier) = $210.00/month.  When supplement costs are added in - 5LB bucket powered supplement = $100.00, this could push the price for a month up over $300.00

Another way to more accurately calculate the amount of food needed per cat is feed them an amount of food that equals 5% of their total body weight, and feed this amount between 4 and 6 days a week.  Having at least one fasting day is a must.

Caring for a tiger is a lifelong commitment you make to that animal.  It's up to you to make sure the animal is happy, healthy both physically and emotionally and well cared for.  You should also research information on environmental enrichment - "nourishment" for the animals mind.

All animals are individuals and therefore different tigers will eat different amounts of food per day.  Weather also has an affect on this.

Tigers may eat more in the winter and less in the summer.  I could go further into detail, but for sake of brevity will leave it at that.

"No wait ... I'm not done yet!"

These are all approximates based on the information I have picked up from various sources and IN NO WAY should you use these as your cats dietary guidelines!  I only put these here to give you a sense of even the most basic cost of caring for 1 big cat.  I'm not even going into vet bills, routine vaccinations etc.  There are plenty of books on those subjects, books that also cover proper nutritional requirements too -- so read my statement below:  

I'm no expert and do not claim to be so please consult your own veterinarian or feline nutritionist.  I can't stress this enough.

Now after eating, he's decided to return back to his favorite spot ... my lap ... for a quick licklick bath and then another .... yawn .... tiger nap.

Again here, notice the size of his front paw.  The speed at which they grow is truly amazing, almost visibly noticable on a daily basis.  If a few days go by between visits it's almost like fwump!  they're BIGGER when you see them the next time.  Growth rate does change depending on age until adulthood.


Tigers do all of the growing in the span of 2 to 2.5 years at the most where they reach adulthood.  Siberian tigers, the largest of the 5 remaining subspecies, grow from tiny little cubs to HUGE adults weighing up to 850LB ( I believe that's the highest recorded weight for this subspecies ) and 11 feet or more in length from nose to tip of the tail.  Most of their growing is in the first 18 months where growth is rapid. 

A tigers normal lifespan in the wild can be anything from 10 to 15 years in most cases barring incident, however in captivity can be up to 25 years or a little more.

Tiger Handling - A Reality Check

 Tigers, no matter how cute and cuddly they look, can kill you very easily.  Make no mistake that you are dealing with an incredibly strong unpredictable predator who can kill you even when they are playing.  Working with a big cat of any species is always a calculated risk and is not for the casual animal owner or the inexperienced.

Here's what you are potentially dealing with when you handle a tiger.  Imagine for a moment an animal that weighs on average 650lbs (depending on sub-species), possesses phenomimal strength, can leap forward 14 feet or so, is on average 10 feet or more nose to tip of tail,  has 2"+ canines and enough bite force to easily crush your femur, and 1.5"+ claws jumping on your back and biting you in the neck (it could even be a play bite), severing your vertebrae in the blink of an eye, killing you instantly.

These two heavy guage stainless steel bowls were mangled by an adult African lion - this happened in about 30 seconds (per bowl) - these bowls were used to provide food and water to the lion.  He got the idea that they were toys at one point, and the above is the result.  I should note the lion did not injure himself.

Imagine for a moment if that were you instead of the bowls - kinda sobering, isn't it ....

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