Big Cats Facts and Gifts
Kings of Nature
Big cats are fascinating creatures. They are some of the most powerful and majestic animals on Earth, yet they have the ability to be as adorable as a house cat. I have to admit, every time I see a picture of a lion or tiger stretching or playing I want to take one home with me. But of course, big cats can be incredibly dangerous. Even though some have become used to humans, big cats are wild animals and should be treated as such.
The most well known big cats are the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, cheetah and cougar. There are various ways to classify big cats. Some definitions include all types of larger felines while others limit it to lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards since these are the only four that can roar. Read on to learn more about big cats and find some wonderful and unique big cat gifts.
Tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards are the only big cats who can ROAR.
Tigers are incredibly gorgeous animals. Their striped fur is so sleek it looks almost like silk. Personally, I would love to have the opportunity to pet one of these fantastic beasts. Though tigers generally hunt alone, they are social with each other and will often sleep or nest in groups. Tigers are one of the only species of cat that has stripes, despite the fact that its stripes are an ideal camouflage. Every tiger's stripes are unique to the individual. The stripes run right down to the skin and so can be seen on the tiger's body even when the fur is shaved off.
Orange fur with black stripes is the most common and well known color pattern of tigers, however other variations do exist. Occasionally tigers can be born with white fur and black stripes, however this is usually only found in captivity. It does exist in the wild, but is usually seen in tigers bred for the gene. Unfortunately, these tigers are often inbred and therefore develop some abnormalities and even when they are healthy, they do not have as long of a lifespan as orange tigers. White tigers are not actually albinos like you might expect, but simply have white fur. White tigers are only born in the wild 1 in 10,000 cubs.
Tigers used to be found all across Asia, but now only 7% of their range is left. They are now found only from India to China to Siberia. The wild population of tigers used to number around 100,000 but is now less than 4,000. They are considered an endangered species and need our help to survive. Habitat destruction and poaching are two of the biggest problems threatening tigers. However, habitat fragmentation is also a significant issue. This means that groups of tigers are isolated from each other and are not able to mate outside of their own small population.
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Tigers as Pets
While it's not necessarily a good idea, there are people who have tigers as pets. Safey issues aside, it would be a remarkable experience. Watch this clip of a man who rescued two tigers from a circus and now keeps them and their offspring as pets. The big cats certainly seem happy and content in their new home.
Lions are the second largest of the big cats but are still considered the king of the jungle. They are the most sociable of the big cats with prides having a few males and a number of related females. The lionesses are the hunters and usually hunt in groups.
Like house cats, lions are primarily nocturnal. Female and male lions look very different from each other, with males being significantly larger and sporting their famous manes. They are the only big cat species to have such distinct differences. Darker and thicker manes seems to be correlated with healthier and more desirable males, though it's not a guarantee.
Like tigers, lions can have a gene that gives them white fur. They have normal pigmentation so they are not considered albinos, but simply have paler coloring. They are found in the wild, but usually are only seen in captivity.
Lions used to be found across the world, including in the Americas. However, their populations began to decline around 10,000 years ago and are now found mainly in Africa. There is a small protected population in India but it is considered endangered. The rest of the lion population is listed as vulnerable with habitat destruction and humans being their biggest threat.
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Leopards are well known for their spots. They are the smallest of the roaring big cats, though certainly do not lack power because of that. They can reach speeds of 58 km/hour, allowing them to be excellent hunters despite their smaller size. They are also skilled at stalking prey, usually taking them unaware.
They have the largest range of all big cats. They are found throughout Africa and much of Asia and are even surviving in areas where other big cats have disappeared. They live in a wide range of habitats and are able to adapt well to their environments. Their color coat varies depending on their environment, but ranges from pale yellow to a deep gold. Their size also depends on where they live. The more food available to the leopard, the bigger it gets. When they do not have to compete with lions or tigers, males can reach over 200 pounds.
Leopards are generally safe and protected enough that they do not currently face threats of extinction. However, populations in some parts of Asia are extremely limited and are classified as endangered. Like other big cats, leopards populations are fragmented, so they are not able to mix with other groups of leopards.
They will sometimes live on the outskirts of human populations, but we usually don't know they are there. This is because the leopard is so skilled at stealth, they remain hidden. They are also not interested in being near humans unless they need to be.
These remarkable cats are excellent climbers and enjoy resting on large tree branches. They will also drag their kills up trees in order to eat in relative safety.
The cheetah is the fastest animal on land. At 68-75 miles per hour, it can easily outrun both prey and predator. This gives them a distinct advantage in the animal world. However, their sleek body means they weigh a great deal less than other big cats and they therefore have a disadvantage when it comes to direct conflict with predators. Fortunately for them, since they reach a speed of 100k/hour in a matter of seconds, they are usually fairly safe.
The cheetah's small size means they will easily surrender kills to other predators, since they do not want to risk a conflict that could injure them. This means that very few cheetahs live on African reserves, as the large population of competing predators will often take their kills. In the wild, about 10-15% of their kills are surrendered to larger predators. This forces most cheetahs to live on farmland, which unfortunately puts them into significant conflict with humans.
Despite not being able to roar, cheetahs are still very vocal animals. They make a wide variety of noises ranging from growling to chirping to purring. Chirping usually happens when one cheetah is looking for another. Purring most often occurs between a mother and her cubs.
Females generally live alone and have a "range" of land they hunt in. These ranges can overlap with another female's range, but it is usually a related female. The majority of males live in small groups. These usually consist of brothers from the same litter, or of several lone males joining together. A group will sometimes accept a lone male who wishes to join them. Males will find a territory that covers the intersection of several females' ranges. This makes it a smaller area that is easier to defend and increases their chances of mating.