The tiger's gestation period is about three and half months.
It is difficult to identify a pregnant tigress because they do not begin to show a bulge until the last 10 to 12 days of pregnancy.
The tigress spends the last few days of her pregnancy searching for a safe birthing place that provides enough cover to conceal the newborn cubs and has adequate prey.
Frequency of Births
Each litter may have up to seven cubs, but the average is three.
Tigresses usually wait between 18 to 24 months between births.
Cubs at Birth
Tiger cubs are born blind and are completely dependent on their mother.
Newborn tiger cubs weigh between 785 and 1,610 grams (1.75 to 3.5 lb).
The tiger cubs' eyes will open sometime between six to twelve days. However, they do not have their full vision for a couple of weeks.
Care and Development of Young
Tigresses are overly cautious and secretive when caring for young cubs. She will immediately move them if the area becomes disturbed or threatened.
The tigress is solely responsible for the protection and care of her young for the first few months of the cubs' lives. She leaves her young for only short periods of time to drink and hunt.
Tigresses will spend nearly 70% of their time nursing their cubs for the first few days following birth. The amount of time spent nursing reduces to about 30% of their day by the time the cubs are a month old.
Nursing tigresses must increase their nutritional intake by an estimated 50% to keep up their milk supply. For example a nursing female in Chitwan consumed a large prey item every five to six days as opposed to eating one large prey item every eight days when she was on her own.
The tigress stimulates the cub's circulation and bowel movements by spending large periods of time licking them.
The tigress may also eat the cubs' feces in order to protect them from potential predators detecting their scents.
Tiger cubs begin consuming solid food when they are six to eight weeks old.
At four months of age tiger cubs are about the size of a medium-sized dog and spend their day playing, pouncing and wrestling with siblings.
Tiger cubs are weaned from their mothers by six months of age. However, they are still dependent on the prey their mothers procure for them. Although they are hunting on their own yet, cubs begin to explore and roam their surroundings more freely.
Male tiger cubs weigh about 90 to 105 pounds by six months of age and females are about 30 pounds lighter.
Cubs will begin to follow their mothers out of the den around two months of age. However, they do not participate in the hunt at this point. They wait in a safe place for their mother to bring the food back to them.
Tiger cubs begin to hunt with their mother and siblings between eight and ten months of age. The tigress is primarily concerned with teaching her young how to hunt and protect themselves.
Tiger cubs spend the majority of their time playing with their siblings and their mother around fifteen months of age. Playing helps the growing tiger cubs develop useful life skills such as stalking, pouncing, swatting and climbing.
A hierarchical order is established among tiger cubs by sixteen months of age with the most dominant sibling eating and consuming most resources first. The dominant cub is most often a male and will leave the family unit within a few months.
Young tigers become independent from their mothers around seventeen to twenty-four months of age. Males travel further from their mother's home range than females. Young male tigers will continue to grow and develop muscle until they are about five years old but settle only temporarily in marginal habitats until they are strong enough to take a permanent territory of their own.