March 9, 2007 — -- Its hypnotic eyes and threatening stalk make the tiger one of the most captivating animals on the planet.
It used to be that people could only catch a glimpse of the creature in the wilds of the jungle or behind bars at the zoo.
Not anymore. Thanks to animal enthusiast and breeder Judy Sugden, fans of the feline can now take home a miniature version of a tiger.
She's created a batch of domestic cats that look like tigers. They're called "toygers" -- short for "toy tigers."
There are 350 registered toygers and 25 toyger breeders worldwide. Sugden has been breeding toygers for 15 years in Southern California.
With circular markings, white fur around its eyes and striping down its side, the cats look like tiny versions of their ferocious kin. But toygers are only bred to look like tigers -- they don't share the same genetic makeup.
"It has no tiger blood in it whatsoever," Sugden said.
Though toygers don't come from tigers, they possess the same genes as another wild animal: the Asian leopard cat.
Sugden said that might explain why toygers were good hunters and moved like predators.
"Like a big cat, we want it to do that prowling look," she said. "We want you to have something in your house that reminds you of the wild."
Toygers aren't cheap. The designer cat can cost between $800 and $4,000. Tiger enthusiasts may want to start saving up -- Sugden said that with a few more years of breeding, her toygers will look even more like the real deal, with shorter ears, smaller eyes, a bigger chin and a wider nose tip.