Fostering Cubs

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Fostering Cubs

Fiona Fearon and Rob Zammit are hand-rearing two tiger cubs. When only a few days old, the tiny Bengal tiger cubs were rejected by their mother. It is thought that a period of very heavy rain caused the mother to abandon her cubs to concentrate on her own survival.

Care and feeding

Caring for young tiger cubs is like hand-rearing an orphaned kitten but on a much larger scale. The cubs need warmth and good nutrition and care 24 hours a day. Like kittens, baby tigers are born with their eyes closed and unable to walk properly. They are sensitive to cold in their first few weeks of life when they cannot control their body temperature. They also require a high protein, high fat, low lactose diet. To provide this they are bottle fed on a low lactose infant formula every two to four hours. To keep them warm and fed throughout the night the cubs were kept in a box next to the bed.

As an added complication, they can’t wee or poo without stimulation of their genitals. In a normal situation the mother would have licked and groomed the cubs but without her this stimulation had to be provided by gentle rubbing with cottonwool soaked in warm water.

They have also been immunised against feline enteritis and cat flu and have been wormed. Their droppings are checked regularly for signs of parasites.

Two months old

Now two months old, they are kept in the house in general but can go out during the day under supervision. They are being introduced to solid foods with a kitten kibble and are having four bottles and three solid meals a day. The next milestone will be achieved when they are off the bottle and eating for themselves when we’ll catch up with the cubs again to see how they’ve grown and developed.

Life with cubs

Rob, Fiona and their daughters have thoroughly enjoyed these special additions to their household, but there is one member of the family who has really taken to the cubs. Pepper, the German Shepherd, is taking a great interest in them and making sure they are kept clean and are toilet trained properly.

It will be a very sad household when in another month they go back to the private zoo where they were born. There they will be part of an ongoing breeding program to ensure the continuing survival of tigers. They may also star in a movie, so we may all see more of them in the future.