When I was younger, I always thought that tigers were ferocious and mean. I never imagined that they could be loving and affectionate creatures. But as it turns out, tigers are actually quite affectionate when they want to be.
Tigers show their affection in a few different ways. They can’t purr, but they do chuff which is a snorting noise. Tigers will rub their faces against each other to show their love. Lastly, they squint to show they’re comfortable and safe.
How do tigers show affection?
Tigers can’t purr
Tigers are unable to purr because they have a length of cartilage that runs up the hyoid bone above the larynx and towards the skull. In tigers and other big cats these bones and cartilage are flexible enough to allow these wild animals to create the distinctive roaring noise we associate with them. However, this flexibility also means that tigers cannot purr.
Tigers ‘chuff’ when they are happy
Despite tigers not being able to purr, they do have a particular sound that they make when they are happy.
This sound is known as ‘chuffing’ and involves closing the mouth and blowing through the nostrils. The result is a snorting sound. You can see it in the video below:
Tigers lick and chuff to show affection
Tigers will show affection by chuffing and licking. When a tiger is happy, it will rub its face against another tiger or person’s face. This sends a clear message that the tiger wants to be close to the other animal or human being.
Tigers rub against others to show affection
In the wild, tigers are genearlly solitary creatures with the exception of mothers and their cubs. Most tigers do not need to show affection to others. However, baby tigers will rub against their mothers to demonstrate affection. Where tigers are brought up in captivity they will also rub against each other and their keepers as a sign of affection.
Overall, tigers are actually quite affectionate when they feel like showing their love for someone. While they may be ferocious and powerful in the wild, they also have a softer, more loving side.
Tigers squint to show affection
Tigers may also squint to show affection. Because tigers rely so heavily on their eyesight, losing vision lowers defense, and squinting is a means of doing this. Squinting suggests that the tiger feels comfortable and safe. This means that a tiger squinting can actually be a sign of affection.
Do tigers like to be petted?
While tigers in the wild would never allow humans to pet them, tigers in captivity may enjoy being petted by their handlers.
Tigers in zoos and sanctuaries have often been raised around humans and are used to being touched and petted. As a result, they may actually enjoy being petted by their favorite people.
Of course, petting a tiger should always be done under the supervision of trained professionals who understand the animal’s behavior and body language. If a tiger is not comfortable being petted or handled, it will let its handler know by growling or snapping at them.
Overall, tigers can be loving and affectionate creatures as long as they are treated with respect and care.
Read also: why do tigers pace?
Do tigers show affection to humans?
Amazingly, tigers can develop very strong bonds with humans and can actually demonstrate love and affection towards humans. See the below video for an incredible insight into the relationship between a group of tigers and a human family.
However, tigers will only form these strong bonds with humans if they are raised by humans from cubs. If a tiger has not been raised by humans, they will generally see humans as a threat and will not show any affection.
Also, tiger-human interaction can be dangerous even where the tiger is being friendly. This is because a tiger may play fight and accidentally hurt or even kill the human without meaning to. Even their play bites can be extremely dangerous to humans.
For this reason, you should never attempt to approach a tiger even if you believe it is being friendly.
Read also: what do tigers eat?
Conclusion: How do tigers show affection?
Tigers can show affection in a number of ways, including rubbing, licking, chuffing, squinting. However, tigers generally only form strong bonds with humans if they are raised by humans from cubs. Even then, tiger-human interaction can be dangerous and should always be supervised by trained professionals.