Male Siberian/Bengal Tiger Hybrid
1999 - 6/20/17
TJ was the youngest of four tigers who were rescued in 2007 from a breeding facility in Center Hill Florida called Savage Kingdom. He is quite playful and loves to crash through all of the high grasses in his enclosure. TJ has a particular fascination with water and will splash in and out of his pools or the pond, when he is on vacation in the Vacation Rotation enclosure. He seems to delight in the way the light moves on the surface of splashing water.
Savage Kingdom was run by an ex circus performer named Robert Baudy who had been famous for his big cat act in the 1950's. He boasted that the way you trained a big cat was to chain them to the wall and beat them without mercy until they learned that no matter how much they tried to retaliate, they could never succeed. Once they were broken they were safe to use in performances.
Times have changed, and so has public opinion about how to treat animals, but tiger taming hasn't changed. Cats are routinely beaten, deprived of food and deprived of space in order to make them perform on cue. Tiger trainers have figured out that no one will pay to see an abused animal, so they make a big show of giving the cats kisses, pats on the head and treats, and tell the public that they only train using love, respect and positive reinforcement. It is a lie.
We do positive reinforcement and clicker training to get our cats to do things like lay down, show us their paws, etc. to make it easier for us to deal with their medical needs. At Big Cat Rescue the cats have the choice of doing the interaction with us and our vets, and if they don't want to do it, they can walk away.
If the "show must go on" then you can bet the cats were abused behind the scenes to make them reliable performers on stage. Please never pay to see big cats perform. I'm so glad that TJ lived long enough to see Ringling Brothers Circus go out of business.
Savage Kingdom Rescue: TJ, Bella, Modnic and Trucha
A hundred times or more a year Big Cat Rescue is contacted by someone trying to unload a tiger, lion, bobcat, serval or some other exotic cat who has outlived his usefulness. In most cases the people calling are those who have used the animals to support themselves, or to make themselves more popular, and now the cat no longer serves their needs. Then the cat has to go.
Big Cat Rescue can only take in a limited number of big cats each year because each cat is a 10-20 year commitment. Most of the cases do not meet Big Cat Rescue’s criteria for accepting a cat as they will not assist these irresponsible owners in continuing to breed and use animals by being a dumping ground for last year’s babies.
This case at Savage Kingdom was different. Robert Baudy was world renown for producing what are commonly referred to as "throw away tigers" because they are so often lame and cross eyed from the inbreeding that goes into producing the white tigers that will fetch a big price.
When USDA finally shut down the 84 year olds’ breeding activities in August of 2006 an era of abuse came much closer to an end. A friend of Baudy’s had managed to place all but four tigers by May 14, 2007. If she could not find a home for these last four tigers she was going to have them euthanized on May 18th because she could no longer afford the time and resources needed to care for the cats.
TJ, Bella, Modnic, and Trucha were the last four cats that needed a home and Big Cat Rescue stepped in to provide one. On May 18th, 2007, Rescuers transported the four to their new home at BCR. They now have spacious grassy enclosures with shrubs and trees, large mountain dens, and pools to cool off in.
Fatal Attractions - Tigers Unleashed, about TJ and Bella tigers: http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/fatal-attractions/videos/tigers-rescued-deleted-scene.htm
See More About TJ, the Tiger:
Enjoy TJ tiger getting a Piñata in this Wildcat Walkabout Video on April 25, 2014 - http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-april-25-2014/
TJ Gets Nails Done, Bloodwork and Xrays June 19, 2017
TJ Tiger had an ingrown claw that had to be trimmed. Despite having trees and plenty of things to shred his claws on, TJ's advanced arthritis made it too difficult for him to manage his own claws. He had been sedated almost a year ago, and has been a picky eater for a very long time. Keepers would go out to him several times a day offering different choices to try and get him to take his meds and eat. He had become so resistant to their efforts that he was moved to a smaller cage, where they could reach him with a long stick, to put the food right in his mouth. When he lived on Tiger Lake the cages were too large to be able to entice him that way.
The vets, Dr. Liz Wynn and Dr. Justin Boorstein figured they would use this quick nail procedure to draw some blood and get some X-rays to see if there was anything more they could determine about why he was so fussy about eating. The blood work wasn't remarkable. He's 18 and his kidneys are only designed to last about 12 years, so the values were bad, but not terrible.
The X-rays showed horrible spondylosis and arthritis, so the vets decided that maybe, given his lack of mobility, he was eating enough. He was in good flesh, and had gained weight since last August. He just had that muscle loss that is typical in geriatric cats. His appearance was exacerbated by the fact that he was a "Baudy tiger" which is a common descriptor in the industry for tigers that were so severely inbred that they suffered hip dysplasia and extremely narrow hips. From the chest up, TJ looked great, but from the waist down, he looked to be 100 years old. The vets considered doing more extensive X-rays, but decided that TJ was going to be uncomfortable enough after being sedated that they didn't want to put him through more, when there probably wouldn't be anything they could do for an 18 year old tiger anyway.
They checked his teeth, which looked fine, and woke him up. TJ was waking up in the transport wagon while they spayed Chaos Caracal. By the time she was done, TJ was awake and we hooked the transport up to the concrete floored cage next to the hospital. While trimming back his claws the vet had nicked the quick and didn't want it to get infected by TJ walking in the dirt. They decided to keep him in the hospital recovery cage a couple days to let it heal. TJ was woozy, but awake enough to step down out of the transport wagon into the cage, where he walked around a while before going back to sleep.
Jamie came to check on him later that evening, and was concerned that he was sleeping so soundly, so she woke him up. It appeared that he had just worn himself out, wandering around after waking up, so he was tucked in for the night.
TJ Tiger has died June 20, 2017
Gale texts the vet group at 7:18 am and tells us that TJ has just had a seizure. She said it was minor looking, but that he was breathing through his mouth and lethargic. Despite heroic efforts by the vet team, and especially Jamie and Gale, TJ Tiger died shortly thereafter.
A necropsy will be performed today, but if it was from throwing a blood clot (common in elderly cats after anesthesia), or a brain issue, or from the seizure, we may not be able to determine the cause of death. We are all just stunned. We have come to expect all of our cats to live into their twenties, even though that is twice as long as they live in the wild or in most other places.
We know that TJ was greatly loved and will be missed terribly. I put together a DropBox folder of some of TJ's recent photos and the imprint of his paw that was taken while they were doing the bloodwork yesterday. You can post your tributes to TJ in the comments below.