Thursday 15 July 2021

Do lions and tigers get along?

The answer as to whether lions and tigers get along can probably be obtained by referring to domestic cats. If a single domestic cat in someone's home sees a strange cat in their backyard, they will normally chase it away. When you introduce a new cat to a resident cat the likelihood is that they will not get along. They might accept each other and they might even make friends but generally speaking, because of their inherently solitary nature, domestic cats don't, in general, get along with other domestic cats.

This even applies to siblings who at one time were great friends until they grew up and became great enemies! This is because when they become independent, they want their own home range and the other encroaches upon it. But this is not a 100% outcome. There is variability due to variations in cat personality and gender. And some grown siblings do get along.

Captive tiger and lion are best friends
Captive tiger and lion are best friends. Screenshot.

I've seen lions and tigers get along in captivity within private zoos. But these lions and tigers are semi-domesticated and pacified by their captivity. Sometimes they may even be drugged. Or they may have been chosen by the zoo owner to get along. There can be a certain amount of chemistry between cats just like people (see video below). There may be harmony. You'll see it in videos by high-profile private zoo owners. They'll have leopards in there as well looking like a big happy family of big cats. So, it does happen.

The caption to the video below states:
A social 6-year-old lion and an old solitary tiger are putting their differences aside to be life-long friends at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Georgia....In nature, what you’re seeing here is as unlikely sight as you’ll ever see. But at this sanctuary in Georgia, it’s an odd pairing that, actually, came naturally.
But in general lions and tigers don't get along. They may fight and one may kill the other. The default position, in short, is that they won't get along. The same, I would argue, could be said about a couple of adult tigers. They won't get along either.

Lions as we know live in groups called prides and you get coalitions of outsider male lions roaming around waiting to take over a pride. These related male lions (brothers and/or cousins) get along because they work in a group but this is highly unusual in the cat world.

The domestic cat is quite sociable after 10,000 years of domestication but still this inherent anti-social behaviour can come to the surface in respect of territorial rights and ownership.


The problem really is that it is difficult to answer the question in a clear manner which is what people want. It depends on various circumstances. An interesting thought, however, is that there is no need for tigers and lions to get along because they never meet in the wild. They live on different continents. It is only in captivity that they meet at which point the question in the title becomes relevant.

But you don't put tigers together in captivity unless they have been 'domesticated' and even then, fights break out. There was a recent story of a male tiger in a private zoo getting into another male tiger's enclosure to kill that tiger with the intention of freeing up access to a female to mate. In other words, the male tiger killed the male partner of a female tiger to have her for himself. That's how friendly the tiger world is.

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