Tiger cubs, Conception and Birth. Early Days.

Cubs - Page 1:Pregnancy | 2&3: Birth & Newborns | 4: Captive Breeding | 5: Hand Raising

Tigers on candid camera:

In the case of captive cats, zoos must be careful not to unnecessarily disturb a tigress as any disturbance increases the risk she may abandon her cubs. Subtle positioning of a camera inside the den, well before the expected due date, ensures keepers can keep a wary eye on proceedings without upsetting the mother.

Handling newborn tiger cubs:

On the other hand, tigresses that have long term trusting relationships with keepers are known to allow human handling of their cubs, even within a few minutes of birth. For many tigresses this seems to cause no problem and it allows keepers to intervene quickly if a cub is in distress.

Medical assessments, weighing, moving onto a teat if cubs fail to find one for themselves; these are all things which can be carried out. Cubs may also be removed for hand rearing.

If a captive mother becomes anxious she will instinctively start to carry the cubs about in her mouth, searching for a newer and safer den. Wild tigers have the same reaction and they may move their cubs quite often.


Tigers breed readily in captivity, so freely that some are now on hormone-based contraception. Sadly  tigresses have a poor record for raising cubs, often abandoning or eating them.

Litter sizes:

A litter of four cubs would not be uncommon in a zoo, though when averaged out we find captive tigresses produce 2.8 cubs per litter.


Most zoo tigers will reach maturity, but due to the high rejection rate by tigresses, a great many will have been hand reared by keepers.

When you compare the considerable size of an adult tigress to her tiny cubs it is perhaps amazing that more do not become distressed, or killed, by being crushed. In the wild this may happen, though in captivity keepers are in a position to intervene and prevent cub loss in this manner.

Cubs - Page 1:Pregnancy | 2&3: Birth & Newborns | 4: Captive Breeding | 5: Hand Raising

Mating | Early Days | Raising Cubs | Hunting & Captive Feeding | Water Play | Sleeping | Tree Climbing
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Photography With Thanks To Art Slack
All Rights Reserved. Displayed here with permission, for educational, non-profit purposes.