Empty Nest Syndrome

We have raised the Amur tigers from a few days old to become bustling, and busy adolescents. They have transitioned from the nursery to a full-fledged exhibit, which we have been so lucky to share their experiences with many of you thanks to the Cub Cam. Now that our babies are growing up to become big cats, in all definitions of the term, we have entered their final transition stage.  

In order to manage these cats as they grow to become over 200 pound felines, we are teaching our cubs to behave like their adult counter-parts. Gone are the days that we can safely enter the exhibit with them in order to hand feed. They have transitioned successfully to an all-meat diet, which also means they have grown in all of their baby teeth and know how to use them.  

At this time, the cubs still play quite frequently, but their play is play that is appropriate when you have a thick hair coat and skin of a carnivore, not the skin of a human. They wouldn’t mean to hurt us, but regardless, the damage to boots, pants, shirts, etc. in recent months past clearly illustrates the damage they are capable of inflicting during play. For our safety and the longevity of our work attire, we are no longer entering the enclosure with them. Instead, we need to train them to move from area to area in our feline building on their own. This training goes quickly for some, and not so quickly for others. As part of this process that means we give them the opportunity to explore areas of our feline building that are off exhibit and off camera. This means that the cubs will not be on exhibit all the time while they explore the other areas now accessible to them.  

Another part of this training is to teach them to drink out of our cat water fountains, or lixits as they are called. It is basically easier to teach them this skill in our other holding areas as soon they will become large enough to destroy their water bowls. As soon as the weather becomes nicer here in Michigan, and the cubs are big enough to handle the “big cat” outdoor exhibit, they will be spending time outdoors as well.  

So as sad as it is to let go of our cubs, we have to let them grow up and learn to be the big cats that they are. They will still be viewable on exhibit here at the zoo, but as a part of growing up, they won’t be on webcam all the time from here on out. We are thankful of all of you who have joined us on the journey of their lives so far and we hope you’ll come visit these growing cats as they spend time in the outdoor exhibit this season. The cubs will likely be here for at least 2 years, so you will still have plenty of time to visit them and watch them grow. Even though they have “fledged the nest” of the webcam sites, we still can enjoy them for awhile. See you at the zoo!