T.I.G.E.R.S. – Big Cat Training Part 2

Good day from T.I.G.E.R.S. in Myrtle Beach!  The 2014 season opens March 15 and I hope you're planning to make a reservation soon.  

Last week, I posted the first part of an article by By Dr. Bhagavan Antle, Director at T.I.G.E.R.S.  As promised, here is part 2:  

Big Cat Safety, Handling and Training

By Dr. Bhagavan Antle, Director at T.I.G.E.R.S.

Will I be able to train my own big cat?

Real animal trainers who work big cats (the couple dozen + or – that exist), very rarely if ever have accidents with members of the public. Trainers are bitten and even sometimes killed, while working and always by making stupid mistakes. Trained big cats are rare; 99.9% of all big cats are not trained.

In my experience, only 1 in 8 cats will ever be trained enough to have a contact relationship with you, when it's an adult of 7 years or more. Most stop being interested in the first 3 years and become aggressive when asked to work, many within a year. It takes a lot of time, many many hours a week to start training that will usually end in disappointment after a few years and a few thousand hours but to have real trained cats that is the only way: try and try again.

The time it takes and commitment to train a big cat is huge and goes on for years. I have meet no one who understands and practices it who is not doing it professionally i.e. being paid on a regular basis to have cats out of cage and who has no other job and does only animal training full time. Everyone else is generally fooling around and is a hazard to them self and any who come in contact with their cats.

Do not expect to understand Tigerese half as fast as you would Chinese. It takes ten years + of full time big cat experienced with many different animals under the guidance of a trainer to begin to understand big cat training. Animal training is a set of experiences that must be had in order to understand it.

A single person or a pair of people cannot work a big cat outside of a cage (no perimeter fence). It takes a team of highly trained people to walk and work with a big cat. 3 to 4 or more people with years of experience are needed to make it happen safely.

Will my big cat be safe to handle if I raise it properly?

So many people are caught up in what I call the" Born Free Myth" thinking that if they care for an infant cat it will bond to them and have a less dangerous relationship with them. Raising a cat from birth or from young has very little to do if anything with it growing up and having a relationship of trust and contact with it throughout its life. Most pro trainers prefer to start cats training at 1 year old this prevents many of the juvenile behaviors of testing and aggressive play from being a part of the traine's relationship. Many cats are very nice when they are young, but may become killers as they mature, no matter how you treat them.

Of course their are exceptions to every rule and many a cub, the keeper/handler/pet owner thinks they have the perfect one, but they are 1 in a thousand and you cannot tell you have one until it is seven to ten years old and by that time it's usually too late and someone has paid the price.

As I hear over and %^*#@ OVER Roy's tiger attacked him! As one news article says, "Roy, who has taken medication for high blood pressure for years, says he had recently begun to suffer dizzy spells." This one spell, unfortunately, occurred in the presence of a very large tiger. "I started feeling kind of weak," says Roy, who still speaks slowly but has recovered most of his German-accented speech. "I fell over."

If you fall over even the best of cats will give you a bite. Trainers need to stay on their feet and be in top physical shape. Roy was not in top shape; he had heart trouble. However, just add a sense of perspective, if he was driving on the highway it could have been much worse.

In conclusion

I still think this is your right to have your own tiger and to be killed by your own tiger; just keep it in a cage forever and don't let anyone else near you or watch you have it happen.  I often say that as a MD, I can talk you trough taking out someone's kidney but I cannot talk you through tiger training. You have to live it to understand it.

Wild Encounters Tour is a guided walk through a fifty acre preserve in Myrtle Beach, just 17 miles South of Barefoot Landing, where you'll meet tigers, wolves, leopards, chimpanzees, orangutans, and other endangered species, many of them up-close and un-caged!


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