Certain types of animals such as large cats can be troublesome when kept in close contact with humans. Additionally, breeding such animals for private keeping comes with its own challenges. The best way to avoid those issues is to work with a species that comes with a low risk of causing serious problems. Fortunately, snow leopards happen to be exactly such a species.
The greatest challenge when having contact with large cats is the risk of an attack or accidental injury. There are many causes that may prompt a cat to attack, ranging from fear to redirected aggression or “bad mood”. Also, cats often play rough. In the case of very large and strong animals, such as lions and tigers, this rough play alone can easily injure a human. This hazard makes lions and tigers rather unsuitable animals for human contact. Unfortunately, this does not deter many people from keeping them as “pets”, which sometimes lead to fatal accidents.
Snow leopards, on the other hand, are known to be the least dangerous of all large carnivores. There is no confirmed incident of a snow leopard ever killing a human. At the same time, there are many documented cases where snow leopards did not even defend themselves when attacked by humans. Additionally, snow leopards are much smaller than a lion or a tiger, hence making them far less dangerous during play or in the (extremely unlikely) case of an attack. These factors ensure that snow leopards can have direct contact with humans at a far lower risk of accidents than with other big cats.
Learn more about incidents showing the snow leopards’ peaceful attitude on our “Facts & Evidence” page
Affection and bonding
Many people who dream of keeping a large cat want to keep it as a “pet”, i. e. have direct contact with it. Obviously, this is only possible if the cat enjoys this contact and proximity as well. Most big cats are problematic in this regard. While they are amiable and enjoy affection as cubs, they often become aloof and territorial once they reach sexual maturity.
Additionally, most large cats have to be raised or even hand-reared by their future owners in order to establish a bond. This is very problematic for our safety concept, as it would require us to give away the cubs at a very young age. This would not allow us to properly raise, train and socialize the cubs and place the entire burden of proper upbringing on the future owner. Also, any incident of a cat becoming unmanageable as it grows up would happen at the future owner’s place, which would put customers at a substantial risk.
Fortunately, snow leopards display neither of these traits. They are known to enjoy and even seek affection from humans even when they are mature, and often form close bonds with their handlers. Also, they rarely have issues accepting new handlers regardless of age. This will make it possible for us to keep them at our center until they reach sexual maturity, which will allow us to properly raise them and hold back any snow leopard that becomes unmanageable.
Addditional information about our training and character testing concept can be found on our “Safety concept” page.
Ease of keeping and breeding
Besides the snow leopard, there is one more large cat species which is similarly suitable as a companion animal: the cheetah. Cheetahs have been kept in large numbers as hunting helpers and even as pets for centuries, but until quite recently, almost nobody managed to breed them in captivity. This is due to the fact that they require extremely large enclosures and males must be completely separated from females, along with other special accomodations.
While some private owners might own enough land and even be able to make the other necessary provisions, a breeding center has to place multiple enclosures on a limited area. This would make building a large-scale cheetah breeding center extremely expensive, especially in densely populated Europe.
Snow leopards, on the other hand, not only require far less land than cheetahs – they also have a unique trait: monogamy. While not all snow leopards are “faithful spouses”, an established breeding pair can always be kept together, even when the female has cubs (the male snow leopard will even take care of them together with the female). This allows 2 snow leopards to be kept in 1 enclosure, further reducing the required area per animal. Also, this means that 1 staff member can handle and train 2 animals simultaneously (even more when the breeding pair has cubs), reducing the required number of personnel.
Due to these factors, snow leopards are more economical to keep not only than cheetahs, but also than any other large cat.
Exclusivity, rarity and beauty
Besides the snow leopard and the cheetah, there are several other species of non-domestic cats that make quite safe and suitable animals for private ownership. The best-known species are the lynx, the bobcat and the serval. Some people also keep cougars as “pets”. All these species are far more suitable for human contact than lions, tigers, leopards or jaguars.
Unfortunately, the abundance of those animals in private hands would make it difficult for our project to work with them. Since our concept is based on careful and time-consuming animal training, we simply wouldn’t be able to compete with breeders who sell their animals at a young age.
Additionally, we would have difficulties finding a place for animals that turn out to be unsuitable for direct contact even after the best possible training. This problem would be especially severe with cougars, due to the relatively high percentage of dangerous animals and the requirement for an especially high standard (servals or lynxes are much smaller and thus far less dangerous in the event of an attack). Almost no zoo or other facility would be ready to take them due to their abundance, and we would have to provide housing and care for them for an average of 15-20 years.
Contrary to all those species, snow leopards are rare in captivity outside of programs such as SSP and EEP, and virtually unavailable to private owners. This means that our breeding project will have a monopoly for the private sector, which will allow us to charge sufficient prices to cover the labor and money invested into each animal. Also, their general scarcity in captivity will allow us to find a place for every animal, regardless of character and aggressivity. Animals that turn out to be bad companions can still be placed in (private) zoos, and we might even be able to negotiate an animal exchange with some facilities to broaden the genetic base of our population.
Besides being scarce and hard to acquire, snow leopards are also one of the most beautiful cats. Their long and dense fur makes them look “cuddly” to many people, especially to those who dream of having physical contact with a large cat. This factor will help to attract visitors to our animal ambassador program and to shift public opinion in our favor, as well as provide an additional “selling point” for people wo consider to acquire a snow leopard from us for keeping it privately. It will also help to tip the scales for people who decide between buying a kitten of a medium-sized cat or cougar from a private breeder or acquiring a far more expensive snow leopard from us.
Learn more about how we plan to operate and earn revenue on our “Corporate strategy” page