Diary of a Circus Cat
Meet Titan. A 10 year old, 700 pound, male, white Bengal Tiger. Titan came here, to IEAS, in 2011 after we received a phone call from the USDA in need of a home for him and we went to pick him up that very same day. Titan was part of a traveling circus that was set-up just 15 miles from the Sanctuary, leaving town that evening, he was being held in a 6’6” x 7’3” cage, an area large enough for him to stand up and turn around, but not much else.
For as long as circuses have been in business (since the early 1700’s) they have used live animals in their acts to shock and amaze interested crowds. Elephants doing handstands, tigers jumping through loops of fire, lions leaping off of and balancing on balls, and dancing bears, just to name a few.
When they’re not performing, the animals rarely leave their cages- eating, sleeping, urinating, and defecating all in the same place. As a result of these stressful conditions, many big cats are overweight and under-stimulated. In 2008, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality of the Netherlands, Wageningen University conducted an investigation into “the welfare of circus animals” the following are just some of the issues they found:
- 71% of the animals observed had medical issues, not currently under treatment
- 33% of lions and tigers had no access to outdoor enclosures
- Lions spend (on average) 98% of their time indoors
- Elephants are shackled in chains for an average of 17 hours per day
- There have been over 123 cases of lion attacks at circuses since 1990
- Animals are trained through discipline, not rewards
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was reported to be ending all elephant acts by 2018, after 145 years of use; but instead have decided they can move-up that date to May of this year (2016). However, Ringling Bros. have also said that they will continue the use of lions and tigers in their other animal acts, along with horses, dogs, camels, and even kangaroos in one unit. The Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Florida was founded in 1995 and has since been the retirement location of 40 circus elephants, soon to be joined by the remaining performing elephants this year. While these are surely steps in the right direction of animal rights; sadly, they occurred only after Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey paid a $275,000.00 settlement for violations of the Animal Welfare Act in 2011.
Titan was happy and ready to leave the conditions of his small, cramped cage- a luxury which should and can be afforded to all other performing circus cats. He now happily lounges in his large, naturalistic habitat, equipped with a pool, perches, trees, and behavioral enrichment toys. Enjoying plenty of room to roam and play! Titan loves to pounce on his giant blue boomer ball, roll it up his hill, and let it roll all the way down over and over again!
Titan also has a funny little quirk where he doesn't like his chicken to touch the ground, so he very politely uses his paw as a plate and holds it on there to eat! Titan is now one of the happiest, most relaxed cats at IEAS. Every animal deserves a second chance, and that’s exactly what Titan got here at IEAS!