Tigers have a gestation period of around 3 and a half months and every litter consists of around two to four cubs. Pregnant mothers start preparing for the cubs before birth. They look for and prepare a den in a secluded spot to protect the incoming cubs from bad weather and predators. These spaces are usually caves, crevices, hollow trees or dense grassy areas.
Among tigers, the male doesn’t contribute with the rearing of the cubs. The mother takes care of their every need, especially since they don’t open their eyes until they are six to twelve days old. She stays with them every second until the first two months. If she has to move them, she carries them in her mouth very gently by the scruff of their necks. Tigers have very powerful jaws and teeth that can take down large prey, but the same feature is extremely gentle around the cubs.
Tigers have a high juvenile mortality rate, which means only half of the litter actually makes it to two years of age. Even though tigers only give birth once every two years, if all of their litter dies they can give birth again in five months.
Every litter has one dominant cub that is stronger and larger than the rest. This is mostly a male but can sometimes be the female cub as well. This particular cub soon becomes the leader of the pack as they make decisions of when to eat, play, or sleep. These cubs are also favored by the mother and eat more than the rest.
Baby tigers are actually pretty active and playful. They leap through grass and roll around with their siblings. They learn to hunt by pouncing on each other and chasing their mother’s tail or long grass blowing in the wind.
The mother also teaches them to hunt by stalking and killing prey while they watch. They observe her and imitate her in the months and years to come. She may also bring down an animal, but not kill it so that the cubs can finish the kill before eating the animal.