Big felines as pets

Lions and tigers are magnificent creatures, truly beautiful animals. They are particularly cute when they are young and playful. So, people sometimes feel tempted to keep big felines as pets. It’s been estimated that between 11000 and 12000 tigers are kept as pets in the USA.

A lot of people keep big cats like bobcats, lions, and tigers as pets. Lions and tigers, shockingly, are easy to buy as pets. Any person can own such animals as pets, even if the person is not properly equipped to take care of those large carnivores.

It’s been recently reported that a family in Maringa, Brazil, happily lives with seven tigers and two lions. Aryas Borges, his three daughters (ages 20, 23 and 24) and his two year old granddaughter are very attached to their wild pets.  Humans and felines hang out in the same house. The toddler can be seen riding on the tigers.

Nayara, 20, regularly swims with Tom the tiger for exercise. She says, “Ever since the tigers were born, we have taken care of them, feeding them, so their instincts became dormant.”, said the youngest daughter, Nayara, who swims with one of the tigers  for exercise.  Her father stated, “You have to show the animals respect and love, that’s how you get it back from them”. He began owning wild felines when he rescued two abused tigers from a circus in 2005.

The family claims that they feel safe with their tigers. And nobody has been injured… yet.


The Borges family doesn’t seem to care about the fact that there has been several cases of trained exotic animals attacking their owners. Even if the animal is not overly aggressive, they have natural tendencies one should take into account. They are, after all, predators. A famous instance of this, performer Roy was mauled by his white tiger in 2003. That same year, a 400 pound tiger was rescued from an apartment in New York after his owner, Antoine Yates, winded up in the hospital after being bit in the arms and legs.

Also, those animals are immense and very strong. Therefore, they can be dangerous even if they are just playing. Besides, they have sharp claws and teeth, and even if they don’t attack the owner, they’ll certainly destroy the house.

Not to mention that it’s a huge commitment to take care of a big feline. They need huge outdoor cages in order to thrive. Besides, the owner will have to give the tiger plenty of chances for intellectual and physical enrichment.

They also urinate a lot, everywhere, to mark their territory. Males and females, whether they are neutered or not, spray a river of urine over everything they want to claim as theirs, and “everything” includes you. That’s the way nature taught them to protect their territory. Experts say that there is absolutely no way to prevent this behavior. And since their urine is very corrosive, so it will destroy their cage walls pretty soon. The owner will be forced to constantly rebuild. Plus, the effects of the urine in a house’s rock walls and wood can be catastrophic.

Those who want a wild cat as pet should really consider the costs as well. They cost from $900 to $ 2.500. And Ocelots cost about $ 15.000. The wild cat will also have to go to the vet regularly for yearly vaccinations and check-ups, plus whenever they get sick. It costs a lot of money. Even if the animal doesn’t need any emergency care and just gets the annual shots it requires, the vet bill will $127 to 250, depending on the size of the feline; preventing flea costs from $120 to $250 per year. Worming the animal, something it hates, will cost $45 to $60, as long as you do it yourself.

To take it to the vet, the owner will need a stainless steel cage that can hold the big cat at its maximum weigh. Such cages cost $250 used and the ones large enough for a lion or a leopard cost about $2000. To transport a tiger, a forklift is necessary. Renting one of those costs $300/day with an operator.

And how can someone take the big feline to the vet? Even if it’s a small animal, its squeeze cage won’t fit in a regular car. The owner will need a van that’s in great shape. The van must be dependable. It would be a disaster of massive proportions to get stranded on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, with a freaked out big cat. Such van costs $28.00. Good luck finding a person willing to lend you a van for a tiger or a lion.  Not to mention that finding a vet on call who is willing to take care of a wild feline is not as easy as it sounds. Few vets have the experience and not many wish to expose themselves, their regular clients and their staff to a big cat.

Feeding them is also expensive. They eat tons of meat. The best food and vitamins for a middle-sized feline costs $730 per year, and is closer to $2000 per year for a big cat. Besides, the owner will need to defrost the food every day for the animals, and defrosting each day fifteen pounds of bleeding meat in the kitchen represents a health hazard.

There are owners of big felines who don’t have difficulties proving everything the animal can possible need. Some people make a big effort to give their pets an appropriate place to live and a proper diet. However, most big cats wind up neglected, given to sanctuaries or abused when the person who got them faces the reality of owning them.

So, what should you do instead of adopting a big cat? A feline-lover called Brittany Eisenhauer has a wonderful idea for those who adore those beautiful felines: “I send money to sponsor a tiger and it is taken care of in a natural habitat. I get cards, pictures and a little stuffed tiger. That is my idea of adopting a tiger”.