Tiger Characteristics





Social Behavior

Normal Behavior





(For personality information see the personality page.)



Living Alone:
Unlike some big cats like lions, adult tigers like to live alone (except for mother tigers with cubs). This is partly because in the forest, a single tiger can sneak up and surprise its prey better than a group of tigers can
The size of a tiger's territory depends on the amount of food available, and usually ranges from about 10 to 30 square miles (26-78 sq. km). Siberian tigers sometimes have really big territories (as large as 120 square miles). Although tigers usually live alone, tiger territories can overlap. A male tiger's territory usually overlaps those of several female tigers.
Scent Marking:
Tigers mark their territories by spraying bushes and trees with a special mixture of urine and scent gland secretions. They also leave scratch marks on trees.
Wild tigers can eat as much as 40 pounds of meat at one time. After eating a lot, they often do not eat again for several days. Over much of the tiger's broad geographic range, wild pig, wild cattle and several species of deer are its major prey. Unlike wild tigers which kill their prey and then gorge, tigers that live in zoos eat a prepared diet of horse meat and vitamins daily. They may eat as much as 10 pounds of meat per day.
A Streak:
The word for a group of tigers is a STREAK.


Tigers have round pupils and yellow irises (except for the blue eyes of white tigers). Due to a retinal adaptation that reflects light back to the retina, the night vision of tigers is six times better than that of humans.
Like domestic cats, tiger claws are retractable. Tiger scratches on trees serve as territorial markers.
No one knows exactly why tigers are striped, but scientists think that the stripes act as camouflage, and help tigers hide from their prey. The Sumatran tiger has the most stripes of all the tiger subspecies, and the Siberian tiger has the fewest stripes. Tiger stripes are like human fingerprints; no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes.
The tiger's head often carries the Chinese mark of Wang or king on the forehead.
Most tigers have an orange coat with dark brown or black stripes accented with white. Tigers that live in cold climates (Siberian tigers) have thicker fur than tigers that live in warm climates.
A tiger's tail is 3 to 4 feet long, about half as long as its body. Tigers use their tails for balance when they run through fast turns. They also use their tails to communicate with other tigers.

The life span of tigers in the wild is thought to be about 10 to 15 years. Tigers in zoos live to be between 16 and 20 years old.
Tigers can see in the dark six times better than humans can.
Tiger hair length varies geographically. In the southern subspecies the hairs are short (approximately 7 to 20 mm on the back and 15 to 35 mm on the stomach). The Siberian tiger has longer hair especially in the winter (approximately 40 to 60 mm on the back and 70 to 105 mm on the stomach). The density of fur is dependent on seasonal and geographical factors. The Sumatran tiger has approximately 1,700 to 2,000 hairs per square centimeters while the winter coat of the Siberian tiger has as many as 3,000 to 3,300 hairs per square centimeter.
A tiger's forefeet have five toes and the hind feet have four toes. All toes have claws. The claws are 80 to 100 mm in length.
Adult tigers have 30 large teeth! The length of the canine teeth can be between 2.5 to 3 inches (74.5 to 90 mm.).
Chromosomes are arranged in pairs and there are 19 pairs in a tiger, or 38 chromosomes altogether.

The average litter size of tigers is 2 or 3 cubs (the largest is 5). One usually dies at birth. Tiger cubs are born blind and weigh only about 2 to 3 pounds (1 kg), depending on the subspecies. They live on their mother's milk for 6-8 weeks before the female begins taking them to kills to feed. They begin making their own kills at about 18 months of age.
Young tigers leave their mother's range at anywhere from a year and a half to three years of age,
depending on whether the mother has another litter. Females tend to stay closer to the mother's range than males.

All wild tigers live in Asia. Tigers live in thick forests or areas with tall grasses to hide in and plenty of prey to eat. They don't like open grasslands. Most kinds of tigers live where it is warm but Siberian tigers live where it gets very cold.
The size of a tiger's territory depends on how much prey there is to eat. For example, in some parts of India where there is plenty of prey, a male tiger only needs eight to sixty square miles . In Sumatra, where there is less prey, a male tiger may need as much as 150 square miles. And in Siberia, where there is little prey to be found, male tiger territories are as large as 400 square miles.



Siberian tigers are the heaviest subspecies at 500 or more pounds (225 kg), with males heavier than females. The lightest subspecies is the Sumatran; males weigh about 250 pounds (110 kg) and females around 200 pounds (90 kg). Chart of tiger weights and measurements.
Depending on the subspecies, the head-body length of a tiger is about 41/2 to 9 feet (1.4-2.8 m). The length of the tail is 3 to 4 feet (90-120 cm). The foot pads vary in size with age, resulting in inaccurate estimates when used in censuring wild populations.
Record Holder:
The heaviest tiger recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records is a 1,025-pound male Siberian tiger.



 Over much of the tiger's broad geographic range, wild pig, wild cattle and several species of deer are its major prey. All prey are forest or grassland ungulates that range in size from 65 to 2,000 pounds (30-900 kg). Tigers are ambush hunters, stalking their prey, approaching as closely as possible, and then charging the animal from behind. They usually bite the neck or throat of their prey. The neck-bite, which severs the spinal cord, is typically used on small or medium sized prey, while the throat bite, which causes suffocation, is used on larger animals.
After killing their prey, tigers drag the animal to a safe place, consuming it over the course of several days. Typically, wild tigers gorge themselves on fresh kills, and can eat as much as 40 pounds (18 kg) of meat at one time. Several days may pass before they are hungry enough to hunt again.