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Sure, everyone knows just how popular, amusing, and tugging a good cat video is, and in 2008, a YouTube video reunion of two men and their former pet lion, Christian, went viral. Lauded by many as a success story for private ownership of lions, the actual story behind the relationship is more of a cautionary tale about the problems of owning a big cat.

A Lion Called Christian” tells the story of how Anthony Bourke and John Rendall had gotten in over their heads and were able to find a way to reintroduce their pet lion into the wild. It would be great if this is how these things worked out, but in reality, it is usually quite the opposite. More often than not, people who try to keep big cats as pets end up abandoning them, killing them (intentionally or unintentionally), or even being killed by them.

Don’t be deceived by a tiger’s or lion’s good looks. These big cats (and others) may be beautiful and seem cuddly at first but they are NOT pets. Let’s take a look at the five simple reasons below that prove why big cats should never, ever be kept as pets.

1. Big Cats Are Big $$$

I got it

Ok, so you want a big cuddly lion or tiger? I get it, they are beautiful and would really impress your friends and neighbors. And, besides, even Lorde said if you want to be a “royal,” you need to have a tiger on a gold leash. But imagine these big cats as the Mercedes Benz of animals. If you can overcome the sticker price ($900-$25,000), think about the maintenance costs. A lion can eat as much as 10 to 15 pounds of meat a day and so if you only (under) fed the lion 8 pounds of meat a day, it would be nearly $30 a day (at $3.50/lb) or $210 a week to feed that lion at minimum amount. That’s certainly a hefty chunk of your hard-earned money flying out the door just to keep an animal in your home who is not meant to be a pet in the first place. Ouch.

2. The Exotic Pet Trade Breaks Up Big Cat Families

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Since trading exotic pets is regulated and/or illegal in many states and countries, there is a large black market for exotic animals. Right up there with illegal drugs and illegal firearms, the exotic pet black market is a huge industry estimated at as much as $15 billion a year. The animals are hunted, taken away from their families and natural habitats, and then treated as property. It is incredibly inhumane and unfair to animals and dangerous for the people doing it. They are often not transported properly, cared for properly, and sold off to the highest bidder regardless of that person’s ability to properly care for them.

Right now, there are more captive tigers than wild tigers and somehow that just doesn’t seem right. By owning exotic wild animals, you may be helping to destroy the very animal you claim to love. The best way to combat the black market is to not support it. If there is no one buying illegal exotic animals then there would be no one selling them. Don’t be the bad guy — be a hero instead and stand up for real big cat conservation.

3. Big Cats Are Dangerous, Natural-Born Hunters

I got it

Big cats are wild animals at heart. It is in their nature to travel, stalk, and hunt down their prey. Let’s face it, these animals can get downright “hangry.” Lions are the apex predators for a reason — they are skilled, ruthless, and violent hunters. When captivity takes this opportunity away, these cats can get frustrated.

I visited one sanctuary where they did not allow children under six years of age in because the cats would stalk them and get too excited, seeing them as potential prey. Evidently, large predators salivating to eat children is a bad thing — who’d a thought? At another sanctuary, I visited with my young children, the cheetah was pacing back and forth clearly stalking them. The kids thought it was a funny game, but it was clear that the cheetah wanted to eat them. Given the choice, I would rather find a wolf in grandmother’s house than a lion any day, although neither choice is anywhere near ideal.

4. A Cuddly Big Cat Is Just an Illusion

I got it

Big cat cubs are adorable, cute, and cuddly and usually not very dangerous. However, these cats grow up quickly and they grow to be very big. Imagine your cute little kitty cat, add about 500 lbs., and big sharp teeth and claws — THAT’S a big cat. Even big cats that may love their owners play big. There have been numerous accounts of big cat attacks and many of these appear to be “playtime” with an unsuspecting person, even their loving caretakers. Big cats in nature play rough, as this is part of their training for hunting. Also, big cats are just plain big and while they may not intentionally be trying to maul, kill, or hurt anyone, sometimes they just don’t know their own strength and so we shouldn’t take a chance with them in the first place.

5. Captivity Can Drive Big Cats Crazy

I got it

So you’ve heard all the warnings and are still convinced you need a big cat in your house. Maybe your new cub is cute and cuddly and rolls around and plays, and MAYBE that cub will grow into a large predator that might really, really love you. But, most likely, that same cat will slowly go crazy.

Captivity of big cats causes them great stress which can potentially lead to psychosis, also known as zoochosis. Do you really want to share your space with a large, potentially unstable natural born killer? This psychosis (or zoochosis) is often exhibited through pacing and acts of aggression (even on trusted caretakers). Many big cat attacks that occur from aggression are born out of this frustration. Because of their large size, their natural ability to easily overpower a human, and their potential for aggression, big cats are often kept caged at all times, therefore their natural instinct to hunt and move is not allowed. So by having a big cat as a pet, you’re not only living with a very, very large natural-born hunter but also one that may literally go crazy on you. Yeah, that’s a good idea, said no one ever.

Lead image source: Dave Stokes / Flickr

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0 comments on “Big Cats Are Beautiful But This Is Why They Should NEVER Be Pets”

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2 Years Ago

Incredible stupidity, the comments on here are ridiculous. Wild cats belong in the wild not in your back yard!! They deserve the freedom to be wild and use their natural instincts. Domesticated they are not and never will be. A cage is a prison and not many people want to live their so why would a animal who hunts and roams to survive want to be caged?! Its terrible to rob a animal of its freedom for your selfishness. Usually it ends badly with the animal destroyed and someone hurt badly. They are not pets. They are beautiful and majestic but belong in the wild. Its the right thing to do.

Pete Ronson
2 Years Ago

Good article! It makes me so mad to see all the animal sanctuaries filled with big cats that have been purchased as cubs and then neglected when they grow up as people realize what a horrible mistake they\'ve made. There are so many that they have to turn them away sometimes. And then what?

Tim Stoffel
2 Years Ago

The only reason that folks shouldn\'t have big cats is if they haven\'t done their homework to know all that is involved. If they are prepared educationally and financially, there are few finer animals to have as pets. Lets look at these statements: 1. Most big cats don\'t bring that much money as they are relatively easy to breed. Only rare color variations or crosses have any great monetary value. 2. Nearly all captive big cats are many generations captive. No families are being broken up to breed them. And except for lions, cats are solitary animals. 3. Yes, they kill other animals for food. This does not mean they are wired to kill everything around them. Any animal can be dangerous, and animals of all sorts kill many people every year, including housecats. Deaths from big cats in the US are actually pretty rare, and the pet owners actually have the best safety record. 4. They don\'t have to be cuddly to be good companions. They love in a totally different way than a lap cat. You need to experience being around them to really understand what it like. Once you have you will want it for the rest of your life! 5. Big cats adjust well to captivity and thrive if well cared for. Above everything else, they need love and attention from people or other cats. If you meet their emotional needs, and otherwise properly care for them, they will be happy, well adjusted animals. With these species rapidly going extinct in the wild, we need responsible captive big cat owners/breeders of all kinds to ensure their future survival.

Marilyn Byrne Graziano
24 Apr 2014

I agree entirely with tim Stoffel

24 Apr 2014

You talk utter rubbish. Your an arrogant person who should be imprisoned as you have imprisoned these poor WILD creatures. They are born to be free. Excuses can always be found. Is it a pet? do you allow it free rein in your house and garden with your family. OF COURSE NOT therefore its not a pet its a caged animal. I agree utterly with the article which is from EXPERTS on wild animals. You are not an expert, ithink it should be idiot for you. ANYONE treating animals as you do should be served the same fate and be locked up and ordered what to do and what your life should consist of as you do with these beautiful animals who are BORN TO BE FREE. If as you say some are born captive that is because of IDIOTS LIKE YOU. You are a disgrace to mankind.

Charlie Domino
2 Years Ago

This is the most ridiculous, propaganda filled piece of kitty litter I\'ve read in a long time. I guess its and easy sell to people who have zero education in feline behavior and responsible captive husbandry of non domestics. You should be more careful with your reputation as a writer. This article makes you look like an uneducated blithering moron. I would never read anything from you if I were trying to "learn" about something as it is clear you write you opinions, not facts. SMH

Melissa S
23 Apr 2014

You can say that again! Unbelievable that ignorant people will cast of their misunderstandings authoritatively.

24 Apr 2014


Pete Ronson
24 Apr 2014

Charlie, you are obviously a well education person with all the typos in your comment. Keep trolling. "Responsible captive husbandry of non domestics" is an oxymoron. Anyone with "education in feline behavior" would agree that they do not belong in captivity.

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