USA: Captive Wild Cat Crisis

Captive wild cat crisis USA - tiger is not a pet
Captive wild cat crisis USA – the tiger is not a pet
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There is the bizarre phenomenon of an excess of captive wild cats in the USA and a decreasing number of wild cat species in the wild in Asia and other parts of the world. Perhaps it is not bizarre but simply a symptom of human meddling.

We know that there are too many domestic and feral cats in the US because millions are killed as unwanted pets every year. What is less obvious is that, although the numbers are much lower, there are also many unwanted wild cats in the USA and many of them are the large wild cat species such as tiger and lion. These are kept as pets in backyards.

While wild cat rescue centers rescue unwanted wild cats in a similar way to shelters rescuing domestic cats, there are breeders of wild cats churning out more and more and the supply of unwanted wild cats outstrips the number of places available at rescue centers for when they are dumped. The ugliness of breeding wild cat species for the exotic pet market is compounded by the inbreeding that goes on, creating unhealthy animals. The exotic animal trade is worth billions annually.

It seems that the reason is a fascination by a segment of US society with the “exotic pet” and this includes tigers and lions adopted as cubs. Lion and tiger cubs are extremely cute and desirable but to adopt one is the height of irresponsibility because you don’t have to be a fortune teller or brain surgeon to realize that a cute cub grows to be a totally unmanageable top predator weighing hundreds of pounds with the power to kill you quickly and easily.

It is believed (but no one is counting) there are 10,000 wild cat pets in the USA. There are 400 lions and about 1,500 tigers in India. The lion and tiger is not native to the USA but it is native to India. It is an upside down world.

There have been a number of disasters in the USA in relation to captive large wild cats. A number of deaths of boys for example and there are also many deaths of the wild cats, some when they escape and are shot. It is a failed arrangement. I have to presume that many large wild cats are euthanized due to a lack of rescue spaces and ill heath because of poor care.

A lot of large exotic cats live in very poor conditions, are poorly fed and don’t receive proper veterinary care. Even when wild cats are in proper zoos they become unhealthy. It is very careless to buy a tiger cub online. It is compulsive purchasing, a desire to own “something” special and as the big cats are becoming more scarce in the wild so they become more special because they become more rare which accelerates the crazy buying and dying of these vulnerable cats.

People who have an urge to possess a large wild cat should wait for a month before purchasing and in the meantime do a ton of research and then reconsider and realize that is is utterly foolhardy to do it.

Either people must stop pandering to their hedonistic instincts which feeds the tiger breeding business or someone in authority should introduce some radical new legislation to ban it. I know there is a gradual change afoot with some states introducing legislation on exotic pet ownership but more needs to be done, more quickly.

  1. Source:, myself and my thanks to Marc for finding the source.
  2. Map of all the zoos of America listing the wild cat species. A unique map.
  3. Original photo by cuatrok77

17 thoughts on “USA: Captive Wild Cat Crisis”

  1. This is very sad and worrying. As for that private zoo owner saying tigers being in cages wouldn’t bother them if they’d known nothing else, what a load of rubbish!
    Big cats are wild at heart and shouldn’t be in captivity, ever!
    It’s like saying kittens declawed young don’t miss their claws. What is wrong with some people that they are so ignorant and cruel enough to think that any cat living unnaturally is acceptable!

  2. Supply and demand. Wherever there is some greedy, selfish person with ready money there is some equally selfish, greedy person ready to come up with the goods.

    I feel that the American Government who are ignoring a huge problem are to blame and I feel desperately sorry for the forgotten cats that are born into captivity to quench the thirst of human curiosity until they become tired of their latest toy.

    Quite frankly I find it utterly sickening and wrong.

    • Agreed. The government should focus on this more. The wild cat pets of America are damaging to wild cat species generally because their treatment (as “pets”) debases these cats. They should never be “pets”. They are magnificent wild creatures.

  3. As Dee pointed out, it’s “a lose-lose all around.” I don’t even want to begin thinking about the effects psychologically and physically on the captive big cat’s well-being, especially the privately-owned, exotic big cat. Each and every one of them should be subjected to rigorous psychological evaluation, and as Michael said, we need radical new legislation to ban this ego-driven, grandiose-thought-driven activity of purchasing and possessing exotic species by private owners. Again, I believe that those individuals should be legally subjected to rigorous evaluation psychologically, at the very least.

    • One of these private zoo owners said that if a tiger never knew anything other than a cage, then being in cage would not bother him. I totally disagree with that ignorant comment. It is in their DNA, it is genetically inherited: the need to roam over hundreds of square miles. It must be permanent agony to be caged and their failure to breed indicates stress. To be honest I don’t know how people can put these cats in cages. It is anathema to me.

  4. I think this is a mental health issue.
    To me, only a child or a disturbed person would think it is feasible to keep this sort of cat.
    I don’t see how the cat could thrive being captive, and I don’t see how a person could adequately meet the cat’s needs.
    It’s grandiose thinking for a person to believe that they can come close to “taking care of” a cat like this or, worse yet, to make a pet of it.
    It’s a lose-lose all around.


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