Tiger Mom? Teen Girl Sleeps With Pet Tiger

PHOTO: Felicia Fresco, 17, and pet tiger are seen here in Tampa, Fl. in this file photo. Fresco is know to sleep with her tiger. Her family runs an organization called Tiger Encounter.
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Teen Felicia Frisco's pet cat, Will, is cute, fuzzy and bigger than a Rottweiler. He's a Bengal Tiger.

The Tampa, Fla., teen has had the tiger since the day he was born.

"My friends think it's really cool that I have a pet tiger because most of them only have a cat or dog," Felicia said.

Each night the playful tiger crawls into bed with Felicia, sleeping on her pink, black and leopard print sheets with her.

The 17-year-old girl comes from a family of animal handlers. Her parents run a program called Tiger Encounter.

"He'll be with me until he's a year old and we'll use him to educate others," Felicia said.

For now, she's still feeding the six-month-old tiger milk; but in just a few more weeks, he'll eat only meat.

Doctor Bhagavan Antle runs The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species. He's known Felicia's family for years and said that the family is well-trained to take care of the tiger.

"I know that they're ninth-generation circus performers that have raised and worked with animals," Antle said. "They are professional trainers that live their whole life with these animals and that gives them the opportunity to have an understanding of the psyche of these animals and how to care for them."

Antle said that Felicia isn't so much keeping the tiger as a pet, but training the tiger to be a trained animal.

"She may have that young cub in her room and be taking care of him and raising him, but her mother and father who are full time professional animal trainers also live there with her and have many other tigers right outside the door that are part of their living," Antle said. "It's something that they do 24/7 which is entirely different than saying that you have a tiger for a pet."

Antle, who runs a wildlife preserve in South Carolina, acknowledged that training exotic animals is dangerous.

"That Felicia is risk-free is by no means true but neither are most 17-year-olds behind the wheel of a car...they die like flies across the country. It's like having an extreme sport in your life. The potential for accident and injury is certainly there," he said.

Trained Animals Attack

Still, famed zookeeper Jack Hanna disagreed with Antle, saying that that sleeping with a tiger is like sleeping with a live grenade.

"Every cat has a different killing ability, the tiger it makes no difference, it's like they can go and it's a bomb going off wherever it hits," Hanna said.

Even the most expert animal handlers have met disaster.

Roy Horn of the Las Vegas duo Siegfried and Roy, was nearly killed when the Tiger he raised from a cub mauled him in 2003.

In November of 2009, Sandra Herold's pet chimp, Travis, viciously attacked her friend. Herold's friend, Charla Nash, needed a face transplant after the mauling.

In January, wildlife sanctuary owner Jim Jablon spent a month in a lion's cage living with the wild animals to prove that they don't make good pets.

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