For one of the most symbolic apex predators around today, you wouldn’t think, looking at a baby tiger, that this vulnerable little creature, so dependant on their mother was the same animal. As baby tigers grow, they are very playful, family orientated and curious little felines. They are full of mischief, fun and wonder.
There is still so much for us to learn about this keystone species, but we do already know can be utterly fascinating.
Here are some awesome baby tiger facts, as well as some pictures of baby tigers and answers to some common frequently asked questions.
10 Cool Baby Tiger Facts
Baby Tigers Are Called Cubs
Baby tigers are sometimes known as a ‘whelp‘ from the old and middle English, meaning ‘the young offspring of a canid, or bear or similar mammal.
Most commonly though, this is used to describe young canids such as foxes or dogs. Baby tigers are usually called ‘cubs‘. As they grow up, males are known simply as ‘tiger‘ and females as ‘tigress‘.
There is no collective noun specifically for a group of young tigers, other than a birthing group which is a ‘litter‘ of tigers.
There are some terms used to describe groups of tigers of any age. A group of tigers can go by more than one collective noun. They have their own collective nouns, separate from other groups of cats. They can be known as an ‘ambush‘ or a ‘streak‘. A streak of tigers typically consists of 3-4 members, but can have up to 10 individuals. The streak is a family unit that includes the mother and her cubs. The father is usually not a part of the streak, as he will only mate with the females and then move on.
An ambush of tigers on the other hand, is a group of adults that do not live together, but have come together to hunt.
Baby Tigers Are Born Blind And Dependent On Their Mother
Baby tigers are born blind. They have a membrane that covers their eyes for the first few days after birth. Their eyes usually open around two weeks after birth, but vision will still be poor for a few weeks. During their first few weeks, they are largely helpless and rely on their mothers for everything.
During the first few days, the mother tiger will spend up to 70% of her time nursing her cubs. Over the course of a month this reduces to about 30% of the time, but all that feeding means that the mother tiger needs to up her energy intake dramatically.
Somehow, the mother needs to find more time to hunt, as well as feed and protect her young. They are known to eat their cubs pooh to prevent predators getting a whiff while they are on the hunt, to clean them and give them warmth.
Cubs Can’t Hunt On Their Own Until They Are Around 18 Months Old
Although they can start to contribute to the hunt from around 8-10 months, tiger cubs are not big and strong enough to complete a hunt on their own until they reach around 14-18 months of age. They rely on their mothers to do the majority of the work during this time.
Once they are big and strong enough to hunt on their own, they are often ‘encouraged’ to leave the pack. But alongside food scarcity, hunting casualties are the biggest killer for male tigers on the edge of adulthood. Tigers that try to take down large prey, but with novice skills, not quite honed yet, often end up on the receiving end of some brutal defences that can prove terminal.
Tigers Have Lived In The White House, Almost!
Not one, but two presidents have owned, or been in receipt of big cats in the past. Both lions and tigers have been offered as gifts to sitting presidents.
Martin Van Buren – The 8th President of the United States, took office in 1837 and early in the job, received two tiger babies as a gift from Kabul al Said, the Sultan of Oman. While he wanted to keep them in the White House and had started making preparations to properly house them, Congress ruled against this. They were confiscated as ‘property of the United States’, not the president and they were housed in a Zoo.
Theodore Roosevelt – Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United states in a similar tale, was presented by Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II, two elephant tusks and a lion as thanks and an effort to maintain strong relations. When the lion arrived in March 1904, it was handed over to the National Zoological Park in rather poor condition following its crossing.
Some Celebrities Have Owned Tigers
You might think that it was strange for Audrey Hepburn to live with a deer called pippin, but there are some celebrities that have opened their homes to these far more dangerous companions.
One prominent example is former boxing world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. who has previously owned three tigers in total. The most widely known, was the White Bengal Tiger he purchased as a cub, called Kenya. He owned this tiger for 16 years, it was known to live in his house and allegedly, even sleep on his bed. He had to give the tiger up after it tore off a neighbor’s arm that had entered the property unannounced.
Tyson had to pay hefty compensation and gave up the tiger.
There Is An Alpha In Every Litter
Every litter of tigers has one dominant cub. It’s not always the largest cub in the pack, and it’s not always male either!
The dominant cub is favored by the parent, it is more active and will lead play with the other cubs in the pack. They tend to get more food than the other cubs, and to eat first. They are also usually the first to leave the pack. While most tigers stay with the family until between 2 – 3 years old, the alpha cub may leave shortly after they have started hunting on their own, around 18 months.
Half Of All Wild Tigers Won’t Make It Past 2 Years Old
One of the biggest threats to tiger populations is their mortality rate. It’s estimated that around half of wild tiger cubs won’t make it to their second birthday. One major cause for this is food scarcity. In a litter of 5 or 6 cubs, there is often not enough food to go around. Where food is scarce, the weakest or smallest of the pack will either become neglected, outcast or simply die of starvation.
For tiger families that are lucky enough not to have to worry about the availability of prey, the hunt comes with its own risks. Many adolescent males succumb to injuries taken in trying to take down their prey. Experience, or lack of, can come at a heavy price.
Cubs also have to worry about predators in their early months, and then there are also diseases that can claim the lives of the weak too.
More Females Than Males Reach Adulthood
Females have a higher chance of reaching the age of two, and into adulthood. While they may be less adventurous than their male siblings, they are less of a risk when it comes to venturing out too far on their own, or taking on prey above their capability.
All Baby Tigers Are Born With Blue Eyes
All species of tiger are born with charming blue eyes. Once the membranes peel back on their new born eyes, these bright blue wonders are revealed. They change color to the amber that we are more familiar with as the tiger matures.
Rare white tigers however, keep their blue eyes into adulthood.
There Are More Tigers In Captivity Than In The Wild
It is a sad fact that there are many more tigers now living in captivity than there are free in the wild. It is estimated that there are around 6,000 of various species living in captivity in the USA, and around 2,000 living in Europe.
Most of these are privately owned, and many are cross bred or bred from poor gene selection. This reduces the quality of many, as breeding stock to secure the populations of different species.
In the wild, estimates of wild tiger populations were at around 3,200 individuals in 2015. One slight bit of hope, is that these populations seemed to have increased in some places, with numbers climbing to 4,500 in 2022.
Baby Tiger FAQs
Baby Tiger Lifecycle
A baby tiger is born after only 3 1/2 months. The tiger cubs nurse their mother until they are about 24 weeks old, but start subsidising their diet with meat from around six weeks. Then they start eating the animal meat that their mother brings them! They grow quickly and play actively which helps them get ready for participating in the hunt. By four months they will be about the size of a medium sized dog.
From about 8 to ten months of age, they are big and strong enough to help stalk and hunt prey. They leave home at about 3 years old, but females never move too far away from their mothers. Males move further afield to start their own pack.
Tigers can live for up to 15 years for some species, lower for others. The Bengal tiger for example, will average around 8 years in the wild for those that are lucky enough to reach adulthood.
How Many Tigers Are Born In A Litter?
Tigers have litters of two to seven cubs, with three or four cubs being the most common litter size. Only half of them will make it to adulthood, if they are lucky.
What Do Babys Tiger Look Like?
Baby tigers are cute little felines, that look just like miniature versions of their older brothers and sisters. Their paws can look a bit too big for their bodies, just as you see with some puppy dogs. As cubs, they have all their stripes already. They grow and lengthen just as the tiger cubs do, but they are all there.
Do Baby Tigers Have Teeth?
Tiger cubs are born without teeth. They get a set of milk teeth that erupts through a few weeks after birth. These are replaced by a full set of 30 permanent teeth as they grow.
What Do Baby Tigers Eat?
For the first six weeks of their lives, tiger cubs drink their mother’s milk. After that, they start to eat meat, but they continue to drink milk until they are about six months old. Even when fully weaned, they are dependant on food that their mother finds for them at this time. They don’t start to actively take part in a hunt until they reach 8 to 10 months old. They learn to hunt through imitation, and that watch their mothers very carefully.
When they play, they often act out some of the hunting tactics they are observing, and play helps them to develop these skills. When they are close to an age that they can join the hunt, the tigress mother will often pin the prey and let the cubs finish the kill. Kind of like a dress rehearsal for the full show.
How Much Do Baby Tigers Weigh?
New born baby tigers weigh between 1.5 and 3.5 pounds (0.68 to 1.58 kg). They can gain over a pound per week depending on the availability of food. A tigers weight will depend on the breed too, with some bigger than others.
How Quick Do Baby Tigers Grow?
Bengals and Siberian tigers tend to be a little bigger, and Sumatran tigers to the smaller end. They grow a massive amount in their first 60 days, and can reach up to just short of 10 pounds in that short time.
They are fully grown by the time they are two to three years old.
What Sounds Do Tigers Make?
Tigers make a variety of sounds, including roars, grunts, moans, hisses, and mews. One noise they do make that Lions don’t is a ‘chuffing’ sound. It is a low-intensity sound that a tiger will emit in short, loud bursts when they are happy or greeting. It is the equivalent of the purring noise a domestic cat makes.
Where Do Baby Tigers Live?
Tiger cubs are born in dens, which are usually located in areas of cover, such as dense forests, hollows or tall grasslands. The mother may move her cubs to a new den every few weeks.
When they are about eight to ten months old, tiger cubs start to accompany their mother on hunting trips.
Natural Predators Of Baby Tigers
Baby tigers have many more predators than adult tigers. In adulthood the tiger is an apex predator, but in youth, the small cubs can be vulnerable, especially when the mother is out hunting. Some of the natural predators of baby tigers include hyenas, leopards, crocodiles and pythons. Other large herbivores such as elephants and buffalo can also be a threat if over enthusiastic and courageous cubs get too close when they are still small.