After the grand tour of the Rhino and Lion reserve, we paid for a special opportunity: TO PET A BABY TIGER!
Here are Joy and Princess, quietly walking around the kitty. Joy pet first to show it was safe, then Superstar and Princess, then I finally got a turn. JT - perched safely on my shoulders - didn't ever quite trust himself with the critter, but was happy to be as close as that.
I was surprised at first that his fur was not as soft as most of the cats' we've owned. It was coarser ... kinda like Superstar's hair. So if you want to know what a tiger feels like, ask my son if you can brush his hair, I guess.
It makes sense on further reflection. I mean, they weren't exactly being bred for silky smoothness and they don't use conditioner.
The great bit was that at one point the tiger leaned over and took a playful nip at me! He grabbed my pants. I stepped back slowly but firmly and got dislodged. No problem.
Then he tried to play with Princess. That caused a bit more panic. She was NOT happy to have a kitty reaching out to eat her, so she cowered back. The tiger ripped a tiny hole in her dress.
We decided after that we were probably done petting the animals, though they also had a lion, a cheetah, and a leopard that could be pet - some by kids and some only by adults.
Today at Primary, Superstar told everyone that petting the tiger was his favorite thing in South Africa. He says, "He was really soft. And he was washing and I got to feel his wet, soft fur."
Princess has fewer happy memories: "He ruined my dress. But somebody fixed it. I don't know who. That's all."