The White Tiger is seen as a magical or fantasy animal surrounded by many misconceptions. These “blonde, blue-eyed” Bengal Tigers are just that, white-furred, blue-eye tigers. Having all come from one founding White Tiger captured in the 1950’s, these magnificent looking animals are prone to shorter lives, thin skin (especially on the elbows / knees / hips), arthritis and related dysplasia’s. As our White Tiger, Nalin, begins to age-out we are ensuring his comfort during the last year(s) of his life. Since Cat Tales is a rescue center, we will not seek out a replacement, but it is not uncommon for aging white tigers from other circumstances to need a second chance or forever home.
Bengal Tiger – Panthera tigris tigris
Habitat: Grasslands and rainforest of India, Bangladesh and Nepal
Lifespan: Wild 12-15 years; Captivity 18-20 years
Status: Bengal Tiger is Endangered – White Tigers are Extinct in the Wild
White Tigers have been extinct in the wild since the 1950’s. Most white tigers in captivity are Bengal Tigers, though some have been bred with Siberian Tigers and thus may be called by that name. White Tigers are just like orange tigers, they just have a different fur color. (Consider them – blonde, blue eyed tigers). White Tigers are not Albinos, they have blue eyes and fur coloring that can be creamy to white. As with all tigers, if you were to shave them, they have stripes on their skin. All tigers have a different stripe pattern, the stripes on their forehead are like their “fingerprints” and used for identification.
Their friendly noise is called a “chuff” which is a greeting for those they know or like. They also have a deep growl or roar, and often call out to their family members an “ah-uuuu” sound. Tigers are solitary except at breeding time, but in captivity they are very social as long as their personal territory is not occupied by others. Siblings have been raised together and can be compatible until they mature but will become territorial unless they are spayed or neutered early. Each grouping is different and as conditions vary, so does compatibility.
Tigers have five times the strength of a human athlete pound for pound. (This holds true for all cats except for the leopard and jaguar, which have 10 times the strength of an athlete of compatible size.) Tigers are carnivores, which means they are meat eaters. Their main prey in the wild is native mammals, in particular hoof-stock (deer, etc.). They will eat up to one-fifth of their body weight at one time and then will not hunt again for up to a week. When you look at tigers and you see the extra skin on their belly, it is so their stomachs can stretch to consume that much meat. The cats that eat on more of a regular basis (daily) have a tighter stomach area. Also, 80% of a tiger’s weight is in the front half of their body. Along with sharp claws and long canines, this make it easier for them to take down large prey.
The gestation for tigers is 100-110 days. Litter size is normally 2 to 4. In the wild only one to two cubs will make it through the first year of life. In captivity the survival rate is higher, due to extensive research that has been done regarding both mother and hand raising protocol. Depending on the species of tiger, the cubs will weigh 2 to 4 pounds at birth and grow rapidly. All tigers, except for Siberians, mature at ~3 years of age. (Siberian Tigers, since they are the largest cats in the world, mature at ~5 years of age). The lifespan for captive tigers is 18 to 22 years of age (twice the age of wild tigers). Due to the specialized genetics of the White Tigers their captive lifespan is shorter – 15 to 18 years of age.
In order to keep the genetics clean in the white tigers and reduce the incidence of in-breeding, orange tigers are often bred with the whites. This produces heterozygous tigers, which means they carry the white tiger gene and can possibly produce white cubs. This is all dependent on the total percentage of the white tiger gene in both parents. It does make for healthier and stronger tigers. Occasionally “tabby tigers” are part of the litter. They have orange fur and tan (not black) stripes.
The larger zoos consider the White Tiger to be a “generic” tiger as there are no longer any white tigers found in the wild. Since space is so limited for the breeding of current endangered cats, the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for felids recommends that the White Tiger is not bred. Once the current White Tigers have passed on there will no longer be White Tigers in the large zoos in the US. The same is true for the Siberian Tiger. They take up a lot of space due to their size and it is recommended that they be replaced with smaller cats. The SSP has taken a lot of time and there have been many discussions regarding breeding and space decisions for endangered cats. Though zoo guests may miss the White Tigers and Siberian Tigers, the survival of the more endangered and genetically important cats must be considered.
Meet Our White Tiger
Nalin arrived at Cat Tales on March 21, 2017. Originally from California and before becoming part of our family, he was one of the stars of Tiger Island at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. As he got a little older (as often happens) he wanted a quieter life away from the commotion of a theme park and was donated to Cat Tales. We are so grateful to have him here in Spokane. We know Nalin is happy with his new home as he often greets keepers with loving chuffs and engages with the enrichment he receives here daily. Another of his favorite activities is posing for pictures. Nalin is a Bengal Tiger, just with white fur and blue eyes. No white tigers are known to exist in the wild. Born August 8, 2008