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Hold Off That Tiger: Shades of “The Hangover” in Real Life

What do you do if you find a tiger in the bathroom?

That was a plot point in the first Hangover movie, and now it’s a real-life story. The Salina Journal reports that last Saturday, a woman who’d gone to the circus went to the bathroom … and there was a tiger “at most two feet in front of me.” The tiger had escaped after its performance. The woman says, “I turned around calmly and walked back toward the door. Someone opened the door and said get out.”

And so she did.

In case this kind of thing should ever happen to you, here’s the advice of tiger expert Philip Nyhus, associate professor of Environmental Studies at Colby College.

1. “Stay calm. The tiger is probably just as surprised as you are.”

2. “You’d want a barrier between you and that tiger. There’s pretty much no good that comes from people and tigers coming together. If you have a door, close the door.”

3.  “Distance would be important. Keep your distance. Don’t get close.”

4.  “Don’t look like food: Don’t run with your back to the tiger. That may actually set off a tiger. A tiger is hard-wired from more than 10,000 years of evolution to run after small things and grab them by the neck and crush the vertebrae. So if you are facing the tiger, it is probably a good thing. Try and look big. Walk backward slowly.”

5.  “Call for help. Make noise.”

6.  If things aren’t going well: “Throw something at it to distract it.”

Above all, hope that the tiger is not a hungry tiger.

Picture of tiger opening its mouth
A tiger shows off its pearly whites. Photograph by Dilip Mehta, Contact Press Images/National Geographic.



  1. jane
    June 2, 2013, 8:48 pm


    100% man’s fault for keeping tigers? Maybe.

    But In Bangladesh, tigers still kill, on average, 50 people per year.
    I just looked at Wikipedia, and it is 50-250 people per year.

    Blame the humans? Perhaps the poor are encroaching on the poor poor tiger’s land…and we should have respect for the tigers’ territory? Seriously? Think: where do you live? Do you think your ancestors “lived in oneness with nature” and respected the fearful creatures? No, animals were booted out so that man could live happy lives without fear of animal attacks.

  2. Catherine
    May 4, 2013, 2:39 am

    How can one act big when she’s just 5yrs old.

  3. Craig Haynes
    Blue Springs MO.
    May 3, 2013, 8:12 pm

    If your in a small room with a tiger all the instructions in the world would fly right out except to know not to turn your back on the cat & run,besides that it’s up to the tiger & how he is feeling at that moment in time.

  4. tika
    east borneo, indonesia
    May 3, 2013, 7:20 pm

    but.. what if i want to touch that tiger? can i?

  5. Elisa
    May 3, 2013, 7:14 pm

    But first of all remember: such situation is 100% man’s fault, not the tiger’s. Let wild animals be free where they belong.

  6. Michal
    April 25, 2013, 7:02 pm

    Ok, that was easy one. And now let’s take a movie “Life of Pi”. And let’s say that this tiger is actually in this boat, not only in your mind. What to do then??

  7. Peter
    April 25, 2013, 3:41 pm

    Its not you to decide to keep distance,the ball is on the tiger’s court.

  8. Sara
    Corvallis, OR
    April 25, 2013, 2:55 pm

    And remember:
    Tigers love pepper, they hate cinnamon…

  9. Saurabh Rai
    New Delhi, India
    April 25, 2013, 4:05 am

    “Stay calm.” Are you kidding…
    “Don’t look like food.” You are the tastiest meat ever…
    “Call for help. Make noise.” Are you still able to speak….
    “Throw something at it to distract it.” Are you not freezed…

  10. cbaker
    April 24, 2013, 3:39 pm

    Tiger are are not social animals and do live in packs. Adult males tend to live on there own. The have no social group. but yes I agree circus+tiger= no good

  11. AdvoCAT
    April 24, 2013, 11:34 am

    This close call illustrates why exotic animals such as tigers have no place in modern circuses. These beautiful animals have a range of up to 75 square miles in the wild, but in the circus, they are confined to tiny travel cages. Circus animals are caged and moved from town to town, forced to perform unnatural acts and then caged and moved to yet another town for yet another performance. The best efforts of the most kind- hearted people in the world cannot make this process humane. It is cruel by its nature. For naturally free roaming animals such as tigers, the constant moving in confinement is enough to cause them to go out of control. Wild animals do not cope well with isolation from their social groups and with repeated changes in their territories, and may lash out at their trainers or the public.

    Furthermore, as there is little regulation of circus animals, tigers and other big cats that are unwanted by the circus are often sold to decrepit roadside zoos, private collectors, or canned hunts. Some are even slaughtered so that their parts can be sold on the black market. Having tigers in circuses isn’t good for the animal or the circus patrons. That’s why the UK, as well as most of Europe and several US cities, ban the use of exotic animals in circus acts. Tigers are critically endangered: in the last century, we’ve wiped out 95% of them. Today, only a few thousand remain, and if something’s not done soon, the tiger could easily go extinct within this decade. We should be concentrating on conserving the last wild tigers instead of breeding more animals that are doomed to live unnatural, abusive lives.

  12. http://stanito.com
    April 24, 2013, 6:51 am

    First of all, it must be hugely difficult not to freak out if you see a tiger in the bathroom. I’d be… white or probably on the floor with this expression on my face: X_X
    If a tiger is unleashed and sneaking around, it’s very likely that is hungry so looking around to find something tasty.
    Advice: after you freaked out, try to keep in mind that the calmer you move the better (it works with other animals, so pray it’ll work here too).

  13. Ima Ryma
    April 24, 2013, 3:28 am

    You’re at the circus – bathroom break.
    A tiger’s taken a break too.
    This could be bad – for goodness sake!
    What’s a puny human to do?
    Just don’t panic, the experts say.
    Don’t look like food is also said.
    Try not to look alive – okay!
    Cuz all too soon, you could look dead.
    Got your cell phone, so take it out,
    Call 911 emergency.
    A tiger tale – hope there’s no doubt.
    A tiger roar could helpful be.

    The tiger’s got your number, so
    The tiger calls it – doncha know!

  14. Tomas
    April 24, 2013, 3:17 am

    I sure do like them kitties!
    Best advice: Try and look big!!