Tigers in captivity may need to be restrained for many reasons, including routine health checks, to administer medication or being transported to another zoo as part of a breeding programme. Although Tigers are active during the day, the majority of their habits tend to be crepuscular or nocturnal, therefore the best time to handle them is in the early morning. By utilising their daily routine, it helps to minimise any unnecessary stress to the animal and makes the handling easier.
It is possible to handle tiger cubs using manual methods not too dissimilar to those used when handling domestic cats, however these should never be used in an adult tiger and no manual handling or restrain techniques should be used after around 16 weeks. Tigers at around this age become too large and boisterous, which could lead to the keeper getting injured.
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The main form of restraint for tigers is to use a ‘crush' cage. Crush cages offer a simple way of health checking and administering medication to the tiger whilst ensuring the safety of the keeper. They can be portable or built into the enclosure, usually in an area frequently used by the animal, such as a chute of passageway. This method has many advantages as it is something that the tiger can be conditioned to and it's also a much safer and stress free method than being fully anesthetized. They work by having openings in both sides of the cage, and tigers can be conditioned to enter these, they are then shut in and as they are specially sized so that the tiger doesn't have any room to move about this allows keepers to be able to get close to the cats without putting them in any danger, the mesh allows for keepers to be able to inject the cats or take blood without risking injury and then the cats can be quickly released through the door on the other side. They are best for restraining tigers for short periods of time. Conditioning the tigers to the cage is of foremost importance in planning a successful restraining procedure. Individual tigers will react differently to the stress of being confined, so careful monitoring of their behavior throughout is imperative to anticipate and prevent potential problems. Staff should also be fully trained in the use of the equipment and familiar with the temperament of the tiger.