There are, by some estimates, 20,000 tigers in the US, compared to only 3,000 tigers in the wild (Big Cat Rescue/BCR). Since the general public finds tigers and other exotic cats fascinating, many zoo owners and private big cat owners take advantage of their cats and breed them for money.
Some owners are not careful about breeding and end up breeding their cats almost to death, causing stress for the parents and poor health for the cubs. One tiger breeder had thirty-six of the cubs at his rescue die in one year (911animalabuse.com). Once baby cubs leave their parents and homes, they are sold into the cub petting trade, where they spend most of their days being petted when they should be sleeping. After they grow too old for being petted at about eighteen weeks, exotic cats are often sent to abusive zoos or the canned hunting trade, where they can die before living a year.
A small amount of big cat owners are kindhearted and really want what is best for their cats, but owning a cat and treating it well is just too expensive for a poor or middle class owner. Other owners are not so kind. About 60% of owners don't feed their cats enough for a large animal (PETA study, 2013). In any case, a large percentage of owners don't do well caring for a big cat, and humane societies, sheriff departments, and sanctuaries have to give most of the animal care when private owners (or private zoos) give up. In other words, the main problem with big cat ownership is the potential for abuse. Whatever the reason, some cats end up malnourished and abused.
At the moment, breeding more big cats just adds to the number of them that end up living in filthy cages or dead and supplying the illegal trade in cat parts. Exotic cats who are bred in the US aren't released to the wild, instead they spend entire lives in cages.
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