I’ve taken a lot of crap from my friends through the years for being a huge cat lover. No matter where I go, the cats find me and I find them. Personally, I think cats are the best. Although I love dogs, I like that you have to have some basic instincts for dealing with cats. For people who have the gentle nature and understanding of how to deal with other beings (be they feline or human), cats are hugely rewarding. This viewpoint has not been shared by most of my friends though, stating the traditional complaints about cats being snobby, annoying, and boring. With that in mind, it was with great joy that I set out to meet with the amazing Tigers at Tiger Kingdom outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The structure at Tiger Kingdom has five cages with each cage having various ages. You can pay for whatever cages you want to and not worry about the rest. As for me, I wanted all of them. Because this was such an important day for me, I hired a photographer through Tiger Kingdom to stay with me so I could maximize tiger cuddling and still have everything well documented. In addition, I hired a tuk tuk driver who brought me half an hour each way and stayed at Tiger Kingdom for 2-3 hours. His cost was a mere 300 baht ($10 US). The total for tuk tuk, photographer and what amounted to about one hour and fifteen minutes of tiger cuddling time was a shade under $100 US. Unreal. So, here’s a trip through each of the cages from smallest to biggest.
Hanging out with these guys felt like hanging out with cats. They are about the size of a big cat and have similar personalities. Sometimes they’re very curious. Sometimes they’re just lazy and sleep a lot. These tigers were 2-3 months old. Here’s a couple more pictures of the cute little guys.
These guys were actually the first ones I visited. Since they are a bit in between, they weren’t as popular, but I still thought they were very cute. They were a good place to start. By the time I made it to the big cats, I wasn’t as intimidated and had become comfortable. Here’s one more from the adolescent cage.
The medium tigers were actually separated into two different cages. One cage was similar to the others with basically lots of room for the tigers to run around. The second cage (pictured above) had more for the tigers to do and was the one cage where it seemed built for them to play. I thought this cage made for some great pictures. Here’s a bunch more from the medium tigers.
And here’s the big ones. I was hoping I could just come up with one amazing picture with the big guys and the pic above qualifies as far as I’m concerned. They were some huge beasts. I wish my photographer had captured this, but the trainers would get these guys jumping around playing with toys. The first thing I thought of was how much they remind me of my cat even though these tigers are a hundred times bigger. The second thing I thought of is how weird it is that I had cats three times my size jumping around chasing toys. It was a surreal wonderful experience. Here’s some more pictures of the big cats.
In conclusion, this was one of the best experiences of my life. Seeing these humungous cats act like a normal domestic cat was pretty amazing. They cuddle and like to have their belly rubbed just like my cat. I feel I should at least mention briefly that there are many operations out there suspected of drugging the tigers so tourists can hang out. I never got that impression here and it’s part of why I was willing to pay a bit more than some of the other options out there. I wish my photographer had captured this more, but almost all of the tigers that I cuddled with (19 total) were playful at some time I was in the cage and showed zero signs of being drugged. If you see a fair amount of sleeping, my contention is that it’s just a cat being a cat.