Tigers are fearsome jungle cats that are near-universal symbols of ferocity, strength, and courage, but 57-year-old Janice Haley of Orlando, Florida has a different perspective on the matter. To her, these dangerous animals are also cuddly kitties. When you see her play with her two exotic pets, 400-pound Bengal tiger Janda and 600-pound white Bengal tiger Saber, you’ll understand why – they’re about as loving and playful as their tiny domesticated cousins.
“As far as they’re concerned, I am mommy,” explains Haley. “These adorable cats rub me in the face, they’ll let me kiss them on the nose.” The two pet tigers live in an enclosure in her backyard and are fed by hand 3 times a day.
It all began in 1995 when Haley decided to quit her boring desk job and, at her husband’s advice, begin working with exotic cats. She has had quite a few different big cats since then, and plenty of volunteers to help take care of them and play with them as well.
“People who consider it cruel to keep them in captivity have a point, to a point,” conceded Haley. “It is not the ideal place for a wild animal to be, in a cage. But at this point, in the wild, there isn’t a lot hope out there for them anymore, and if there aren’t some of them left in cages there aren’t going to be any left at all in a couple of years from now… They are provided for and loved here. In my opinion, I wouldn’t mind being a tiger in my backyard.”