Emotional and behavioural problems in hybrid big cats

The strange and exotic big cat hybrids such as the tigon and liger, which fascinate many people, may be creating unforeseen emotional issues in their female parent.

Tigon. Photo: BASHIR_ZADJALI on Flickr. “One of Australia’s only two “tigons,” a man-made hybrid created by crossing a male tiger with a lioness, prowls at the National Zoo in Canberra, 04 July 2004″.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Until this article I have only discussed the appearance of hybrid big cats such as the tigon (male tiger x female lion) and liger (male lion x female tiger). Sarah Hartwell wisely also briefly discusses the potential emotional and behavioural problems that these rare big cat hybrids can encounter. They are completely artificial – manmade – mating between tigers and lions don’t happen in the wild because they don’t live in the same place.

The problems arise because of the cats’ mixed ancestry. The captive breeders of tigons and ligers are merging the vocalisations, general behaviour (such as their ability to swim and enjoy water), the ability to climb of two very different cats.

Liger cubs
Liger cubs. Photo credit: as per the text on the photo.

The lion lives in prides and is inherently social in that context while the tiger is solitary. The tiger loves water and is a strong swimmer. They often stay in water all day. The lion is a capable swimmer and will cross rivers but is less interested in water. The tiger is an very good climber when required whereas young lions are “quite good climbers”. The lion lives in desert and semi-desert habitats and does not lie in water throughout the day to cool off. They make different sounds as mentioned. These are quite strong differences.

Sarah suggests that the female parent of a big cat hybrid such as a leopon (leopard x lioness) became emotionally distressed by her offsprings desire to climb trees and play in water; characteristics inherited from the father. Tigons like water as does their tiger father which might distress the lion mother.

The problem is that the hybrid cat may have a fundamentally different personality to their parent in various ways and in terms of being solitary or social. This may be disturbing and/or confusing to the parent. It may cause depression, opponents of these big cat hybrids argue. This is a point rarely made which is why I have addressed it here.

Some more on wild cat hybrids

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