Owning a Big Cat as a House Pet Could Become Illegal in the U.S.

Recently, there was a bit of kerfuffle because of a Bengal tiger that was spotted wandering about a Houston neighborhood. As a result, there is now a bipartisan bill called the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which contains a number of proposals of interest. For starters, it proposes to make it illegal for people in the United States to own big cats as house pets, meaning that zoos, sanctuaries, and universities would be exempt for obvious reasons. Furthermore, the Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban photo ops, public pettings, and other problematic activities. It remains unclear whether this bill will pass or not, but even if that happens, current owners of big cats will be permitted to keep them so long as they are registered.

Why Is This Receiving Support?

The bill seems to be receiving a fair amount of support. This is perhaps unsurprising, seeing as how it contains some very common-sensical proposals. Yes, it can be considered cool to own a big cat as a house pet. However, it is a bad idea for both big cats and the owners of the big cats, meaning that one can make a good argument that further restrictions are much-needed.

For those who are curious, being a house pet isn’t a positive experience for a big cat. Generally speaking, the breeders separate the cubs from their mothers as soon as they are born. There are plenty of species that are expected to survive on their own under such circumstances. However, big cats aren’t counted among them. As a result, separating the cubs from their mothers is extremely detrimental for them in both a physical sense and a psychological sense. For example, they tend to have underdeveloped immune systems, thus making them more susceptible to diseases as well as other serious medical problems. Similarly, the bonding process between mothers and cubs are disrupted by this, which is the kind of thing that can have lifelong consequences.

In any case, matters tend not to improve much for big cats following the initial separation. Often-times, they wind up being exposed to a wide range of strangers because of photo ops as well as similar activities. Something that is extremely stressful, particularly since cubs are less capable of handling such stresses when compared with their mature counterparts. Moreover, even once the cubs have matured, it is important to note that big cats are supposed to roam over huge stretches of territory rather than be confined to limited spaces. Certainly, there are plenty of owners of big cats who love their pets. However, there are very few who can afford to provide their pets with the conditions needed to match their natural habitats. As such, a lot of big cats wind up taking unnecessary hits even when their owners are well-intentioned.

Meanwhile, the owners of big cats are always at some degree of risk from their pets. After all, while they can be tamed, they haven’t been domesticated. For those who are unfamiliar with the line of separation between those two categories, a tame animal is an animal that has a higher-than-normal degree of tolerance for human presence. Sometimes, this has happened through natural means. One excellent example would be species that have developed in relative isolation on islands, which have lost their wariness of large animals as well as other potential predators. Other times, this has happened because a human has made it happen, as shown by examples of tame bears, tame lions, and tame elephants.

In contrast, a domesticated animal is an animal that has undergone enormous change when compared with its wild ancestor because of generation after generation of breeding towards a human-desired end. Theoretically, just about everything can be domesticated so long as people are willing to put enough resources into such projects. In practice, well, there is a reason that most domesticated animals belong to species that have been domesticated for either hundreds of years or thousands of years. Simply put, there are a number of factors that make certain species more suitable for domestication than others. When one of these factors are missing, these projects become very impractical very fast. For example, elephants are extremely useful, which is why people have been taming them for centuries and centuries.

However, elephants continue to straddle the line between having been tamed and having been domesticated because a single elephant generation is about a couple of decades, meaning that the kind of breeding project needed for true domestication would take much longer than the length of a single human lifetime. Similarly, people have been taming cheetahs since the days of ancient Egypt because they are surprisingly amicable by the standards of big cats. Unfortunately, while a number of powerful rulers put serious resources into breeding them, said issue wasn’t solved until very recent times, meaning that pre-modern projects to domesticate cheetahs failed at the very first hurdle.

Regardless, the important point is that big cats are tame animals rather than domesticated animals. This means that they retain the same instincts as their wild counterparts, meaning that it is very much possible for them to wind up hurting either their owners or other humans when something triggers those instincts. For that matter, big cats don’t necessarily have a good grasp of how their innate capabilities can affect humans, which is a serious issue when they are famous for being powerful predators.

How Are People Supposed to Survive Big Cat Attacks?

Different big cats have different instincts. As a result, it might be a good idea for interested individuals to read up on the different species that can be found out there. However, when it comes to lions, the recommended course of action seems to be looking tough without triggering the animal’s hunting instincts. Essentially, interested individuals should neither run nor turn their backs on the lion because either one of those things will set the lion off. Instead, they should make noise and make themselves look bigger while walking backwards, which are supposed to make the lion see them as too much of a hassle to be worthwhile. Of course, the best scenario would be avoiding such encounters altogether, which is why the Big Cat Public Safety Act is seeking to patch up existing laws on the matter.

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