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Animal trainers

United States Pckts Online
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( This post was last modified: 12-21-2018, 08:57 PM by Pckts )

Great post, I look forward to hearing more about your debt to the "exceptionally smart Tigers" and your opinions on the cats themselves. Hopefully you can get some free time soon.
"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
-Oscar Wilde
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Finland Shadow Online
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( This post was last modified: 12-23-2018, 01:41 AM by Shadow )

(12-21-2018, 07:49 AM)Kathlee111 Wrote: I will try to answer all your questions the best I can, it may take me awhile as I have limited time online right now. I will start with my background and then talk about the individual cats. This is my standard background info that I copy/ pasted here,  but I will go into a little more detail and say my mentors were Ron Whitfield and Wayne Ragen..Wayne Ragen, who both had alot of experience in mixed acts. Whitfield trained all kinds of animals but Wayne was my primary teacher/ mentor. 

I worked in a traveling educational lion/tiger program and  I also lived with my cats on a ranch in the off season. We were a very small outfit with five tigers and seven lions. Working with Big Cats was the fufillment of my childhood dream, and I was very lucky to have great mentors; without their tutelage, I'm sure I wouldn't have survived. It took serious work and focused study to get next to these animals. I was a volunteer, then an apprentice, for many years. I had seen a lion / tiger show as a kid and knew I would have to work with these animals or die trying.  It was years before I got a break, but I was ready. 

As wonderful as every day was, it was terrifying at times. It was also hard work , around the clock. You have no personal life!
 Wild animals cannot be tamed. They can be trained, through positive reinforcement and over time, to do simple behaviors on cue. We mainly worked behaviors the cats would do naturally- sit, stay,  lie down. It helped when doing health checks, and for our own interaction with the cats. They liked the attention and the stimulation was good for them. But, big cats are unpredictable, and at any time can go off script.  Attacks can be life threatening, and injuries were common. I never trusted them, even though I raised them from tiny cubs. They tolerated me , bonded with me, and expected me to stay out of their space when they tired of me. They could go from affection to aggression in an instant.

I loved and treasured our cats, and we treated them like royalty. Our lives revolved around their needs. The ranch had an enormous lake for the tigers to swim and a grassy island in the center for them to play. All the tigers had their own separate pools in their enclosures as well. We walked the cats regularly in the desert, and we interacted with them daily in their very large enclosures. They were fed the very best diet and supplements, plus an abundance of treats. They had a great vet, who made regular check -up visits,  but we never medicated them or surgically altered them. (One of our female tigers was an exception; she had an oviohysterectomy at UCDavis to relieve her from bad heat cycles.) They were healthy and happy. Ultimately, our lions and tigers were respected for the wild animals that they were. We expected them to act like lions and tigers. We kept them safe from outside disturbances.  We did not allow anyone who was not an invited guest or friend to the ranch to see them, either. It was not a public attraction.

We knew the risks,  and we knew the kind of injuries the cats were capable of inflicting. I'd be lying if I said there were not moments when I was scared shitless, wondering why I didn't just get a normal life. But I loved every minute with my animals, and never had a serious injury. I had some scary encounters, but I knew when to get away and sometimes, I just got lucky.
I owe my life to my mentors, our exceptionally smart tigers, and a lot of good luck. I can take credit for not showing how scared I was sometimes,  and for not doing anything totally stupid. There were times I did screw up,  and I always paid the price. My tigers mainly and my lion were not forgiving of my mistakes. Their lessons were painful. Chaos will happen,  despite my being well- prepared and well- informed. I had studied behavior for years before actually working hands -on with live cats, yet I knew-  you have to be ready for anything.

My experience with the cats was what I had always wanted in my life.  It was an inflexible goal, and I am incredibly lucky and proud I got to achieve it. I miss my cats every day,  and I see them frequently in my dreams at night. They were beautiful. Life with them was everything I had hoped it would be.and more, and for that I will always be grateful.
Heh, just to have some humor here too, I have to ask, that did you sometimes learned new skills while being there with animals? Like you can see this one trainer on this video at 0:33. I bet, that he didn´t know earlier how good climber he is Wink It´s all about motivating, also people can be trained to new skills in world record times, when trainers are convincing enough..... :) 





For sure not a funny moment at the time it happened, but maybe today this guy already can smile too at least a little bit.... But as you said, everything can change in a moment to total chaos.

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United States Kathlee111 Offline
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I definately learned the most about myself and also discovered new skills when I was put to the test.Te video you shared is a great example of how this can happen. Good point!  I can go more into detail later, and give some examples.  I wanted to start answering the questions I was asked,  to give a bit more of my  background  and describe my cats first, I did have lions and tigers both. 
When I started my work with Wayne he had 6 lionesses and 3 tigers ( bengal, all female) I added 2 Siberians ( male Saigon and female Leia) and later, Tsavo, male lion.  I was hands on with all of the cats I added as cubs as well as with Bombay, one of the bengal tigers who was 4 when i began going into her enclosure with her . I could go in with all the cats ( except one lioness) but Wayne had to be with me, and i only trained the cats i was hands on with. I fed/ cleaned and cared for all of them,  and did narration for Wayne for his show when I wasnt working my own cats. Wayne had a traveling act, mostly educational, and he had been in Circus Vargas for over 15 years before that. I also spent time learning from Ron Whitfield, both at Six Flags in Vallejo and at his ranch where he housed his lions and tigers. (He is  absolutely one of the best animal trainers in the world, in my opinion. He is incredible)Wayne was equally remarkable and I was very lucky to learn from them. I dont like to answer questions about them to respect their privacy, but I can certainly talk about what they taught me, which was a lot! And there was always something to learn every day when you work with big cats. They are full of surprises. More later, to be continued, I know I have many of the above questions still to answer
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Finland Shadow Online
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( This post was last modified: 12-23-2018, 04:51 PM by Shadow )

(12-23-2018, 03:02 PM)Kathlee111 Wrote: I definately learned the most about myself and also discovered new skills when I was put to the test.Te video you shared is a great example of how this can happen. Good point!  I can go more into detail later, and give some examples.  I wanted to start answering the questions I was asked,  to give a bit more of my  background  and describe my cats first, I did have lions and tigers both. 
When I started my work with Wayne he had 6 lionesses and 3 tigers ( bengal, all female) I added 2 Siberians ( male Saigon and female Leia) and later, Tsavo, male lion.  I was hands on with all of the cats I added as cubs as well as with Bombay, one of the bengal tigers who was 4 when i began going into her enclosure with her . I could go in with all the cats ( except one lioness) but Wayne had to be with me, and i only trained the cats i was hands on with. I fed/ cleaned and cared for all of them,  and did narration for Wayne for his show when I wasnt working my own cats. Wayne had a traveling act, mostly educational, and he had been in Circus Vargas for over 15 years before that. I also spent time learning from Ron Whitfield, both at Six Flags in Vallejo and at his ranch where he housed his lions and tigers. (He is  absolutely one of the best animal trainers in the world, in my opinion. He is incredible)Wayne was equally remarkable and I was very lucky to learn from them. I dont like to answer questions about them to respect their privacy, but I can certainly talk about what they taught me, which was a lot! And there was always something to learn every day when you work with big cats. They are full of surprises. More later, to be continued, I know I have many of the above questions still to answer

Yes, just write in your own pace, I just have sometimes seen this video and I simply can´t help grinning every time when I see that trainer up there while knowing, that he survived and unharmed after all :) To be honest, maybe sometimes more than just grinning Wink But I have to give some credit for this climber. They have white pants there and as far as I can say, he leaves that cage with clean pants! :) That was after all situation where no-one would like to be. Staying calm helps you only to certain point, there are too many variables and big part is pure luck, that do someone get out of that kind of situation unharmed or not. So it is about minimizing risks, impossible to have none.
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United States Kathlee111 Offline
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I think I answered question #1 about working a mixed act ( yes) so I will start with #2 , the question about which cat I found to be "most dangerous. " Not to sidestep, but I found them both to be equally dangerous once they were triggered or in a bad mood. They can kill a human with such ease that there is always danger, and one was not less dangerous than the other. Having said that, there were some general traits specific to each species which could be considered important,  and individual character differences that varied from cat to cat. Their personalities played a role in whether I felt more or less comfortable around them. 
Lions seemed to me to be lazier and more indifferent to outside stimulus than tigers, so as long as you stay out of their way, they wont notice you. ( this is only for people  they know well) but once you pique their interest or wrath,  they are relentless. Tigers are more aware of their surroundings and more responsive to outside influences , they are more on the alert than lions. They are watchful and wary and very selective. They pick their battles carefully but once in, they are a fury. Lots of energy, high tension with tigers , they like to be comfortable and sometimes that means solitude.  They dont like being stared at by certain people, and will take pains to show it. They can hate certain individuals on sight and it is unchangeable.  Lions don't care enough to bother unless you piss them off. Then they are mad and at their most dangerous. My cats all differed. Bombay was always calm with me, never annoyed with me and she tolerated alot before getting mad at others.  Saigon mellowed as he aged but was a bit of a curious spaz thru his first 6 years or so. So was his smarter sister, Malia. Tsavo,  my male lion , was pretty smart ( not as smart as Bombay) but a bit of a bully and a showhorse, he liked showing off his roar and mane and general good looks, very proud of himself. He had some sulky teen angst around 3 or 4 when he was moodiest. It was tiresome and intimidating for me at same time.
Intelligence depended on individual cat, not species, in my opinion.  ( question #3)
We determined subspecies by breeder , we trusted them and didnt breed our own cats, Wayne and I. It wasn't a concern to know percentages. We went on breeders word. ( question # 4) ..
more later....
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China Smilodon-Rex Offline
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(12-23-2018, 03:02 PM)Kathlee111 Wrote: I definately learned the most about myself and also discovered new skills when I was put to the test.Te video you shared is a great example of how this can happen. Good point!  I can go more into detail later, and give some examples.  I wanted to start answering the questions I was asked,  to give a bit more of my  background  and describe my cats first, I did have lions and tigers both. 
When I started my work with Wayne he had 6 lionesses and 3 tigers ( bengal, all female) I added 2 Siberians ( male Saigon and female Leia) and later, Tsavo, male lion.  I was hands on with all of the cats I added as cubs as well as with Bombay, one of the bengal tigers who was 4 when i began going into her enclosure with her . I could go in with all the cats ( except one lioness) but Wayne had to be with me, and i only trained the cats i was hands on with. I fed/ cleaned and cared for all of them,  and did narration for Wayne for his show when I wasnt working my own cats. Wayne had a traveling act, mostly educational, and he had been in Circus Vargas for over 15 years before that. I also spent time learning from Ron Whitfield, both at Six Flags in Vallejo and at his ranch where he housed his lions and tigers. (He is  absolutely one of the best animal trainers in the world, in my opinion. He is incredible)Wayne was equally remarkable and I was very lucky to learn from them. I dont like to answer questions about them to respect their privacy, but I can certainly talk about what they taught me, which was a lot! And there was always something to learn every day when you work with big cats. They are full of surprises. More later, to be continued, I know I have many of the above questions still to answer
  Did you trained other animals such as elephants and bears or not ? I'm interested
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United States Kathlee111 Offline
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Hi I did not have any experiences training other animals , just lions and tigers. Would have loved to work with elephants but gotta admit they are pretty intimidating.  I hear they are so smart. My mentor worked elephants.
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United States Kathlee111 Offline
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And I know I have not answered all Peters questions yet, perhaps he or someone else could ask me  the remaining questions they may have? Or I could pick up where I left off,  not sure where that was, but will check. ..
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United States paul cooper Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-07-2019, 12:46 PM by paul cooper )

Katherine, it looks like you were answering Pckt's questions:

1. Did you ever work a mixed cat act and if so, what were your most notable experiences with it?
2.Which cat did you find the most dangerous to work with and for what reasons?
3.Do you notice intelligence differences between the species?
4.How would you determine which sub species of cat you have? I.E. Did you have stud books available, breeder backstories or other means?
5.Which cat do you consider the largest and who was the largest cat you had period and what was his weight?
6.How many big cats have you worked with and which species?
Show your worth by what you seek!
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Finland Shadow Online
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( This post was last modified: 01-07-2019, 01:05 PM by Shadow )

(01-07-2019, 12:40 PM)Kathlee111 Wrote: And I know I have not answered all Peters questions yet, perhaps he or someone else could ask me  the remaining questions they may have? Or I could pick up where I left off,  not sure where that was, but will check. ..

I am curious about it, that what experiences were maybe most memorable for you from that time, when you were interacting with these animals on daily bases, something most surprising maybe.... you know, there for sure are some situations, which come back to your thoughts more often than others. Maybe something, which also made you learn something unpredictable about these animals.
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