Welfare Issues

Lion in cageMany big cats are purchased as pets when they are cubs and once they get bigger, owners are unable to cope with the high demands of owning a big cat. Many owners lack the financial resources and veterinary knowledge needed. Big cats need a proper diet and they need a lot of space to roam, both of which get expensive for owners to keep up with. Big cats should get a diet that includes whole carcasses and varied meats including bone, but often times they are fed chicken, road kill or rotten meat that may have been
donated. Big cats need ample space to roam, logs to sharpen their claws, and enrichment tools such as toys and perfumes to investigate; instead they find themselves in barren cages on hard, cement floors with no stimulation. Not only uncomfortable, but concrete floors leads to health issues such as foot and joint problems, ulcerated foot pads and overall poor physical health. No stimulation and lack of space to roam can lead to stress. According to research conducted by Oxford University zoologists, “Among the carnivores, naturally wide-ranging species show the most evidence of stress and/or psychological dysfunction in captivity.” Signs of stress include tail-chewing, pacing in the cage or excessive grooming.

Here is an example of how big cats are subjected to inhumane treatment by their owners. According to the Humane Society, “in Kauffman, Texas, three lions were confiscated from an exhibitor who, four months previously, had had a lion and two tigers confiscated. The lions suffered from various levels of ataxia, a condition that causes a loss or impairment of muscular coordination. The female lion had such difficulty holding her head up that a veterinarian warned that she might require euthanasia. The two male lions were also underweight, had multiple open sores, and their coats were dull and dirty. One male had no mane at all and the other’s mane was very thin and badly matted.”