Mike the Tiger, aka Mike VI, aka Roscoe, is in hospice care. He has cancer, and has for a while, and will be kept comfortable until he is euthanized by the people who’ve taken care of him for most of his life as a large cat living in captivity.
Mike was a good cat. Seriously, there have been grumpy Mikes, and Mikes clearly not happy about being a large cat living in captivity. There have been Mikes who, for lack of a better word, have been described as “dicks”. Anyone who has ever lived with a cat is nodding in recognition of this possibility.
But Mike VI liked people. He was born in captivity in Indiana. He was raised by humans, and slept in a house with humans until he was three or four months old, and became too large to be trusted around humans. (Because we’re prey—prey Mike might have loved and adored, but would also eat, because: Tiger.)
But he was as pleasant as a tiger can be expected to be, and playful, and had people he liked. People he may have also wanted to eat, sure, but people who sort of qualified as friends nonetheless.
He grew up watching Orange County Choppers and snuggling with his adoptive family before LSU housed him in a habitat that, we’ve said many times, is probably larger than yours, and definitely more customized. He got his toys moved around so he wouldn’t get bored, played with those regulars who came by, and ate meat laid out in patterns of LSU rivals.
Through no effort at all, Mike lucked into a pretty great situation and owned it. If you ever went by the habitat at LSU, Mike was doing exactly what you’d be doing if you could, all the time: napping, taking the occasional swim, and playing with things. In between those appointments, he received nothing but adoration, mostly one-sided attempts at conversation, and high grade medical care.
Not many people get that, though whether a tiger cared about any of that is debatable. He gets hospice care. (There’s tiger hospice care, something we didn’t even know existed.) He’ll eat well if he wants to—it should be pointed out that in Louisiana, even your live mascots are under the constant threat of obesity from irresistible and delicious lifestyle choice.
And he’ll be taken care of until the end, which for a tiger raised in captivity is the best possible result if we’re talking about one with terminal cancer. Mike ran this pretty well: his own place, food on tap, some toys, and as many friends as a tiger needs. He was taken care of, despite being a 400 pound apex predator brought here through no choice of his own.
And no, Mike probably wasn’t even a good idea in the first place, if we’re being honest—keeping a tiger on campus outside of a zoo situation is deeply unusual, by any and all standards, and they might not even replace Mike after Mike VI goes.
But that’s not Mike’s fault, or your fault for marveling that anyone would feel more affection for an adorable killing machine than they do for a lot of people. To wit: The one promise his keeper in Indiana wanted before handing him over to LSU was that Mike would not be forced into the cage to be driven around Tiger Stadium. LSU agreed. The rule was: if Mike didn’t want to go into the cage, then he didn’t go into the cage. Note that wording there, and ponder the mystery of human affection at its strangest: Not it, but him.