Do tigers climb trees?

It is hard to imagine tigers not being able or not wanting to climb trees. They are a cat, and all cats are great or at least adequate climbers as most enjoy moving vertically and a few species of wild cat are arboreal (live mainly in trees). 

Although, admittedly, the Siberian tiger is a very hefty animal and less agile compared to smaller wild cat species. That said, the picture shows four Siberian (Amur) tigers climbing trees in order to reach a treat put there by Whipsnade Zoo staff to make their lives more interesting. The photograph is by the zoo. The treat was for breakfast, apparently.

Amur tigers climbing trees at Whipsnade Zoo, UK
Amur tigers climbing trees at Whipsnade Zoo, UK. Photo: the zoo.

So, we can tell in specific terms that tigers climb trees and in general terms the picture is slightly different but similar. The experts say that tigers "rarely climb trees, although they can and will, especially if provoked".

In Chitwan National Park, Nep, a tigress was observed with a new-born young, and she was irritated by the presence of a researcher in a small tree near the tiger's den site. No doubt she considered the person to be a threat to her offspring.

She felt provoked to surge up the tree and pull the researcher from their perch which remarkably was 4.6 metres above the ground.

That is pretty conclusive evidence that tigers can climb trees. This was a Bengal tiger which is slightly smaller than the Siberian.

RELATED: Cats That Live in Trees.


In another observation of a tiger climbing a tree, and an adult tiger climbed a smooth-bark tree to a height of 10 metres. In another tree-climbing event in Bangladesh during the 1969 floods, many tigers reportedly escaped the high water by climbing into trees.

Looking at the anatomy of the tiger, with their hind legs longer than their front legs, it suggests that they are designed for jumping and I would argue for climbing. Tigers can jump as long as 8-10 m at somewhere near their maximum.

The difficulty that tigers have with climbing is their size. They are the world's biggest feline. With this kind of bulk, it requires enormous force to move vertically and bulk works against agility. The best tree climbing cats are small like the margay.

RELATED: Margay cats – the lifestyle of a tree-dweller.

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