It is said that the temperament of pets is in part determined by the way they are treated by their owners. This can be turned around on its head so that we can conclude that the kind of animal kept by a person as a pet can be a commentary on the person’s character. In fact, the most common application of this hypothesis is found when pet lovers form new relationships, and one of the fundamental questions asked on first dates is, “Are you a cat-person or a dog-person?” The more common characteristics of affection, loyalty and sincerity associated with owning dogs and cats have been discussed several times. However, human attraction towards power and magnificence also manifest themselves in their choice of a pet.
We choose to keep pets from a fundamental need to connect, to love and be loved in turn; to have someone to care for and hence feel needed in the older years of our life. Just like we are offered a number of choices in forming relationships outside our family, we are not denied choices in choosing our right kind of pet. It’s a two-way process between humans and animals, whom to love and whom to love more, to finally determine the kind of pet that would meet one’s needs emotionally and spiritually. While most of us are happy to have dogs, cats, rabbits or guinea pigs as pets, there are some who walk the extra mile and get themselves pets that are, to the common mass, dangerous animals who are best viewed when they are behind the bars.
Big cats like tigers, lions, lynxes, bobcats, etc. exude a general sense of power, royalty and extreme beauty. As cubs, they are just as adorable as puppies or kittens. But unlike them, tigers and lions grow up to be more than 230 kg in weight requiring 7.5 kg of raw meat every day. In most parts of the world, the trading of these animals as pets is an offence punishable by law. Even so, around 12,000 tigers are kept as private pets in the US alone.
Now, keeping exotic pets does seem very flashy when viewed from a distance but the real deal is much more difficult than one can possibly imagine. Exotic animals are habituated to live in the wild, which means they require a large amount of free space to move about. Their natural instincts prompt them to mark their territory by spraying urine and displays of aggression at being mishandled are much more dangerous than those shown by smaller domestic animals. They have a musky smell which is more pronounced when they spray urine to mark their territory. They are predators with sharp claws and teeth, and strength that can easily overpower a human being. Finding a vet to care for these animals is also difficult. Caring for such animals is hard and expensive, and more often than not frustrated owners are found to give them up to zoos and national parks, thereby creating a sense of mistrust in the animals regarding human beings and doing more harm than good.
If treated and cared for properly, on the other hand, these animals grow up to be just as affectionate and loving as domestic trainable pets. Contrary to popular belief, studies have come up with statistics proving that the danger of injuries from domesticated exotic animals is just as much, if not less than, injury from bites or scratches from dogs and cats. A Brazilian family has a video on YouTube showing off the seven magnificent tigers they keep as pets and making it look like a piece of cake. To them, it is but natural to have a large predator prowling their bedrooms and going swimming with them. They even leave it to the tigers to give their kids piggy-back rides. There are even instances where tigers and lions have gone to extraordinary lengths to care for and rescue their owners from danger.
The fundamental thing is, therefore, striking the chord of mutual love and trust between the owner and the pet. Size doesn’t matter if the considerations of spirituality and emotions are taken care of. Understanding your pet, whether it is a cute poodle or a majestic Bengal Tiger is the first step in forming healthy relationships between yourself and the animal. Although large predators can kill easily when provoked, if a deep bonding exists between the animal and its owner, the owner rarely gets hurt. Needless to say, it is mostly the responsibility of the owner to form a bond as deep as this with the pet.
As I mentioned earlier, a number of laws exist for preventing illegal trade in such big animals, especially the ones that are endangered. Keeping exotic pets is as conspicuous an activity as any, so interested people will do well to run by these regulations before deciding to keep them as pets. Although the internet has many sites boasting of having the license to trade in these animals, getting your hand on one of these animals is much more than a click away and it is advisable that you contact the local zoo or national park instead. In India, it is illegal to own or keep tigers or lions as pets when they grow up but one can keep cubs as long as they remain harmless and don’t pose a fatal threat to human life.