Sensory enrichment - tactile
In order to create a tactile environment, there are a number of other enrichment devices (on top of those perfect for keeping tiger claws in good condition) that can be used to stimulate interaction and touch. These should be made up of materials that are not harmful to the tiger. The object also needs to perform a function of some kind enabling the tiger to manipulate it.
Bags, burlap, boxes and brushes
Similar to house cats, big cats like tigers love boxes. Cardboard boxes are safe to give tigers provided there are no staples or tape left on the box. These boxes allow the tiger to climb inside (size permitting!) or to shred it up as they choose. Boxes can also be used to hide food inside or hay with different prey scents on inside. The way that the boxes are given to the tigers depends on how creative the facility is. Some facilities go so far as to use boxes and cardboard tubes to create an object that looks like a prey animal, or will create items that resemble a holiday item such as a Christmas tree or snowman.
Similar to this, pinatas, or a form of pinata can be created using paper and cardboard. These can be hung up and filled with scent or food of some kind to encourage the tiger to jump and grab onto these items. Similarly, papier-mâché items can be made, as long as the glue used is non-toxic. Papier-mâché and pinatas can be used to be even more creative in their shapes. Mobiles can also be created with parts hanging down to encourage play .
Another set of tactile items include brushes and Christmas trees. Tigers, like house cats, enjoy rubbing up against things as they scent mark, transferring their scent. Tigers also seem to enjoy the roughness of the texture of these objects, and may use them as additional scratching posts. Attaching bristly brooms to the sides of platforms gives the tiger the opportunity for a good rub, and Christmas trees double up as a rubbing post (it’s also why there should be a range of different trees within the space), but also provide scent enrichment.
Barrels, balls and tyres
Other suitable items that can be used include balls, barrels and tyres. Again, these can be used in various ways such as left loose for the tigers to interact with as they see fit. Tyres left around the enclosure are often picked up and carried about, much in the same way a tiger would carry prey. The bigger and heavier the tyre is, the harder it is for the tiger to move it and the more exercise they get especially in the chest and neck area as they emulate dragging prey around.
Tyres can also be hung up creating a different interactive experience. The use of small tyres such as those from motorbikes, can be used to create an array of options. These can be hung in fun ways from trees encouraging the tiger to jump, pounce and play. It can even encourage tug-of-war, pulling behaviours.
These smaller tyres can also be looped together, creating a ball. These can be thrown to the tiger and will bounce and roll around by themselves or when the tiger interacts. These have proven quite popular with tigers as they love to play with it and pull it apart. Similar to other tactile enrichment devices, these can also be sprayed with scent, adding another element to the fun.
Large balls such as boomer balls are great items as they can roll around or float in water. These large balls also encourage the tiger to leap onto them, with tigers often seen wrapping themselves around the ball to bite in the same way they would a large prey animal. Small balls are also fun as they can be rolled around. Buoys for example, also provide good enrichment as they’re smaller but have holes in which can be used for hiding food - encouraging the tiger to forage more . However, the ball size should be dependent on the size of the tiger – a too small ball can become a choking hazard. It’s also possible to create various sizes of ball cubes created using firehose, which provide something for the tiger to chase and roll, but also chew.
Finally, barrels provide a lot of fun. Again, these can be filled with additional enrichment – often scent enrichment and can contain straw/hay for other tactile options as well as be sprayed with a range of different scents depending on the desired behaviour. Barrels can be left loose to roll and be climbed on, they can be left to float, or they can be hung up in various different ways providing the tiger with a number of options in trying to pull it down or retrieve it.
For any of these, if the tiger starts trying to ingest the toy, or there become sharp edges due to chewing, the toy should be removed and replaced.
1. Wild Enrichment (2021). Enrichment mobile. Online at : https://wildenrichment.com/cats/enrichment-mobile/
2. Jenny, S. and Schmid, H. (2002). Effect of feeding boxes on the behaviour of stereotyping Amur Tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) in the Zurich Zoo, Zurich, Switzerland. Zoo Biology 21: pp. 573-584