A Cause I Care About

Last night was one of those nights. I just could NOT get into my run at all.

My stomach didn’t feel right, my calves were ridiculously tight and the wind felt like it was pushing me backwards. We NEVER have wind like that in Fort Lauderdale. It is very much unwelcome!

Oh well, for every bad run there are 100 good runs so I just need to wipe that one from my memory. Since I don’t have much to report on from my run, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about a cause I really care about.

As some of you know I am a donor of Big Cat Rescue (BCR), a sanctuary in Tampa, FL for lions, tigers, bobcats, jaguars and other large cats.


Today I want to just talk briefly about something that many of you might not know is really bad  – cub petting.

There are many companies out there that will allow the public to pet, pose for pictures with and even swim with lion and tiger cubs.

Some of these companies pretend that the revenue made from these activities goes towards animal conversation, while others just pitch it as a fun activity.

But this petting process is not fun for the poor cubs involved, and what’s really not fun is what happens to these cubs after they become too large to participate in petting activities.

A loophole in US law allows for cubs between the ages of 8 weeks and 12 weeks to be exploited for money. Under the age of 8 weeks the immune system of the cubs is too wear to be handled by the public, and after 12 weeks of age the cubs are deemed to be too dangerous for public handling.

To keep profits up and work around this loophole companies overbreed their big cats to ensure they always have an ample supply of 8-12 week old cubs available for petting. Sometimes the handlers don’t even wait until the cubs are 8 weeks old. Age violations are very common between the Department of Agriculture only has around 100 inspectors who must perform around 4500 inspections on an array of facilities including breeders, safaris, zoos, dealers, auction houses, circuses, etc.

In short, handlers know they can get away with putting younger cubs up for petting.

Here are a few important things to know if you’ve ever considered cub petting:

  • Cubs are torn from their mothers prematurely
  • Cubs are sleep deprived so they can ‘work’ which causes stress on cubs that require long hours of sleep
  • Cubs are often handled at an age where their immune systems are not developed resulting in sickness
  • Females are overbred so that an ample supply of 8-12 week old cubs are always available
  • Inbreeding is common resulting in serious health issues
  • When not in the public eye, cubs are confined in small cages, transported to unfamiliar settings and handled for long periods of time by scores of people to make the most profit – there are no regulations for the size of cages for cubs or adult big cats
  • Cubs are often disciplined with stun guns, drugs or worse
  • Cubs and mothers are often deprived of veterinary care, food, water and clean housing

For example, on www.TigerCubAbuse.com (graphic) you can see some cubs that have gotten sick from mistreatment. “The keepers follow the cubs around wiping diarrhea off the floor and then use the same towel to wipe the cubs’ irritated rear ends and the poor cubs scream in pain.”

Handlers who offer cub petting services are NEVER working with or affiliated with nonprofits or conservation efforts. Ever. Period. However, they do often lie about being affiliated to earn your trust and your money. 

So, what happens to the cute little cubs after they are 12 weeks old? 

Because the cubs have been handled by humans their whole lives they are not suitable for wildlife preserves as they haven’t been taught to hunt or interact with other animals. Because of this the cubs are usually destined for very dim futures.

  • Cubs are sold into the black trade market where they are killed and sold for their parts
  • Cubs are sold to game reserves where they have no method for escape and are hunted daily until they are finally killed
  • Cubs are left behind to starve and die in empty warehouses and other similar places
  • Some cubs are rescued by sanctuaries like Big Cat Rescue, but these organizations receive more requests than they can respond to

The idea for playing with cubs is very enticing for any animal lover, especially one like myself who has a house cat.

However, it’s important to remember that lions, tigers and other big cats are meant to be wild animals. They should have as little human interaction as possible.

For more information about the dangers of cub petting please see these resources:

The Big Cat Handling Crisis Fact Sheet

Why Petting Cubs Leads to Abuse

Stop Cub Petting

What You Need to Know About Playing With Lion Cubs

I hope this post didn’t come off as too preachy. I probably do dozens of things per day that are unintentionally hurting animals or our environment in some way, and I hope if you see me doing something wrong you’ll let me know.

However, here in South Florida we have several handlers who offer such cub petting services and I thought it was important to bring it to your attention in case you see something like this going on in your area.

If you do, you can contact Big Cat Rescue and they can put you in touch with an appropriate contact in your area who may be able to help.

If you made it to the end of this post, Cecil and I thank you for listening!

Have a great weekend! 



  1. November 21, 2014 / 8:36 am

    Wow I had no idea stuff like this was going on, even as a cub I would think they are to dangerous for average people to be handling the cubs.

    Very interesting read, did not come off as preachy, I can see your very passionate about this issue.

    • November 23, 2014 / 7:52 pm

      I agree, and I think that is part of the reason why drugs, stun guns, etc. are necessary for making sure the cubs are “well behaved” during the encounters. So sad!

  2. November 21, 2014 / 8:59 am

    Oh my gosh – that is horrible!!! I can’t even imagine why people would be so cruel (well, I know it’s because of money but still!). Thanks for sharing – I doubt if very many of us were aware of all of that.

  3. November 21, 2014 / 9:19 am

    Wow, thanks for sharing! I didn’t know about any of that.

  4. November 21, 2014 / 9:30 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Kristina. I had no idea! I actually have a very hard time going to the zoo. Though Columbus has a great zoo (thanks to its association with Jack Hanna), it makes me feel very sad. I know that many species are endangered and that zoos are talked about as ways to rehabilitate endangered species, but it doesn’t seem likely and I feel bad for seeing animals trapped in unnatural environments.

    • November 23, 2014 / 7:54 pm

      I agree with you Jess. I think there are some zoos that do really good work, but others that are extremely shady. It’s so hard to tell which ones are the good ones.

  5. November 21, 2014 / 10:16 am

    Wow! I didn’t know about this issue AT ALL. Great information.
    I can tell Cecil is smiling about this post…

  6. November 21, 2014 / 10:57 am

    I’m a strong lover of Nala and Simba, thank you for this info! I had no idea!

  7. November 21, 2014 / 11:03 am

    I’ve never heard of cub petting. It’s awful what people will get away with and how humans abuse. In general I hate to see animals confined and the abuse is awful. I like animals enough that I can’t eat them and one of most dreaded sights around here on the roads are the Tyson chicken trucks taking the chickens to the slaughter plant. I hate to see those poor chickens all hunched in cages together.

    • November 23, 2014 / 7:56 pm

      That sounds horrifying and definitely makes me feel badly about eating meat. Adam and I were vegetarian for a year… now we try to eat free range.

  8. November 21, 2014 / 1:26 pm

    I didn’t make it to the end because I can’t read sad things like this. 🙁 When we were deciding where to stay on our Hawaii trip, everyone said to stay at this certain hotel because they had a “swim with the dolphins” program. It’s actually REALLY bad for the dolphins, which a lot of people know, but a lot of people don’t and they go do it. We were NOT going to swim with the dolphins.

    • November 23, 2014 / 7:57 pm

      Exactly, all of these animal encounters are presented so pleasantly. Adam and I participated in a stingray experience when we were in Cozumel a couple of years ago. At the time I didn’t know anything about the cruel side of these “experiences” but now that I know I definitely won’t participate in anything like it again!

  9. November 21, 2014 / 4:12 pm

    How terrible. 🙁 I’ve never heard of this particular thing, but makes sense consider how else we often treat animals in our society.

  10. November 22, 2014 / 4:09 am

    Sorry you had a less than perfect run – the next one will be loads better and will make up for it, I’m sure!!
    Thanks for this post. I had no idea about this either. Very sad…

  11. November 22, 2014 / 4:14 pm

    I had no idea. Thank you for the education on this issue. We will never pet a wild cat!

  12. Juhee
    November 23, 2014 / 12:55 pm

    Oh my god – I had no idea this problem even existed!! I am so glad you wrote about it.

    There was such a contrast with the bright and cheerful “Have a great weekend!” at the end of your post, and my horrified-to-the-depths-of-my-soul feeling when I read it, that I laughed a bit. But now I’m on my quest to learn more and donate to this cause…

    • November 23, 2014 / 7:58 pm

      When I wrote the “have a nice weekend” bit I thought it came off as a bit odd, but I was hoping to bring the tone of the post up a little bit towards the end. I know when I read upsetting posts like this they can really throw my whole day off, and that definitely wasn’t my intention!

  13. November 23, 2014 / 9:25 pm

    Wow I had no idea this happened. While I am not the biggest animal lover (I know I know.. my parents wouldn’t let us have pets while growing up) – I feel so bad for the cubs!

    • November 24, 2014 / 4:10 pm

      My parents were the same way. I begged and prayed for a dog for YEARS. Finally they broke down and let me get a cat when I was 12. Best day of my life! haha

  14. November 24, 2014 / 9:05 pm

    I have never heard of cub petting, but in general any activity that exploits animals like that is really bad for the animals. I’m actually surprised that practices like this are legal. Aren’t many big cats endangered? Thanks for posting this and bringing attention to this issue. I think most people would choose not to engage in things that bring harm to animals and simply don’t know that animals are harmed in the way they are. But I’m also wary of being preachy. I know when I was vegetarian I was really turned off by people being preachy about veganism. It was only when I researched it on my own that I learned what I did that made me go vegan. I think for cub petting, though, it’s purely “for fun” and I’d hope that people wouldn’t support it if they knew the sad ending the cubs meet. 🙁

  15. juhee
    November 30, 2014 / 8:24 pm

    Theyre doing a 60 minutes segment on this big cats topic right now!! Immediately thought of you