The circus has come to town! And boy was it amazing. I hadn't gone to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® circus since I was a kid and I had fond memories of cotton candy, spinning light toys, and entertainment. Not much has changed although seeing it all through my children's eyes was amazing.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® is all about the family experience. Not only do they have an amazing show geared towards all ages, they also have a pre-show where you can come with your family to get an up close look at the animals. You can see the elephants, tigers, lions, goats, horses, llamas, and ponies right in front of you before they get in the center ring to perform.
Ringling Bros Big Cat Trainer, Alexander Lacey, took a few moments along with his daughter, Katrina, to talk about the cats in the show and how they work with these amazing animals. We were lucky enough to get an up close and personal glance at exactly how amazing these trained cats are.
Lacey showed us his fine tuned skills working with the cats by heading into the tiger cage with a 5 gallon bucket of human-grade steak and two sticks. What he was able to make miss Bella (tiger in the photos below) do with just those three items was rather amazing!
Before heading into the cage, Lacey asked his daughter to help him. She had the big task of bringing him the large tub of meat once he was situated in the tigers' cage. Since he, of course, didn't want to turn his back on these big cats for one moment, she was able to help hand over the meat once he was safely inside.
The cats were very aware of the meat and what the sticks meant. We learned that through training the tigers with the sticks, a form of sign language is used. Each stick in each hand means something different whether it be to go up or down, left or right, etc. Just as I've taught my kids sign language, the cats are taught at a young age, around 4 months old.
Once Lacey was in the cage he moved rather swiftly to place each of the cats he was not going to work with in a separate caged area so that only one cat was in the cage he was in. Once Bella was the only tiger left he got to work quickly showing how he used the sticks, treated her with the steak (which is the same stuff delivered to the local hotels!), and talked to us about what he was doing the whole time.
It was so interesting to watch his bond with these animals. It was as if his every sense was on alert the whole time while his body and reactions let off a sense of serene and calmness at the same time. There was definitely a mutual respect between the cat and Lacey.
The most awe-inspiring moment through the presentation was when Lacey not once, but twice, leaned in for a kiss with this big cat! Amazing!
After we saw exactly how these big cats were trained we were able to ask some questions of our own.
And I was delighted to see that my little boy had his hand proudly, and patiently, raised up high waiting for his moment in the spotlight. Finally when it was his turn he asked, "Cats eat in the morning?" and Lacey confirmed that yes, as he had discussed before in the presentation, the big cats are fed up to 16 pounds each of the best beef steaks, livers, and hearts every day in the early morning.
Because the cats digest the meat while they sleep, they need to eat first thing in the morning so that everything is digested by showtime (Bella is not yet in the show so she could snack all she wanted during the presentation).
We also learned that big cats are rather lazy, sleeping an upwards of 22 hours during the day! Sound familiar? My cats growing up seemed to do the exact same thing! As does my dog. Ahh... the life of a cat.
But just because these large animals seem lazy doesn't mean their senses don't need to be constantly heightened and challenged. Each city brings on new smells, sights, and people! So every week these animals are in a different environment to keep them on their toes.
The position of the other animals around them also helps. By having the elephants to the north east and the horses and other small animals to the south west the lions and tigers are getting a constant sniff (as are the other animals) of those around them.
And through the interactive toys left in their cages, there is also plenty of time to play and converse with heir fellow big cats. Bella was still wet from a little swim she had in their small pool. There were also branches and balls for more fun play!
We absolutely loved learning more about these beautiful big cats and hearing how Lacey works with them and trains them to become the stars they are.
To learn more and read all about the Lacey family check out the Ringling Bros website!
If you're looking for an amazing, family-friendly activity to do this weekend and are in the San Diego area, head on out to the circus for a fun-filled experience!
You will absolutely love the performance and I am sure will be in awe as I was at the skilled performers throughout the show.
For more information check out my post here (includes show times, where to purchase tickets, and more!)
Disclaimer: As a Feld Family Ambassador, I received a family 4-pack of tickets to this show. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.