Tigers really are as big and poofy and soft as they look, and they purr like a freight train going by. You find this out by taking one for a walk. To take a tiger for a walk, you first need a tiger. Tigers fresh from the bush are not recommended for the inexperienced. What you need is one who’s used to the procedure. He or she is thus liable to be merely playful, rather than actively irritated. You also need a friend, whom you really, really trust. The friend carries an apple wood cane; apple, or some other wood which will bend under stress rather than shattering. This, friend, is your backup, and the cane is his or her only tool for everything, from knocking stuff out of the way that the tiger is liable to eat, to crowd control, to hooking on and madly hanging on if things go wrong.
What YOU carry is a ten foot length of pass-link chain. This is your leash.
Pass-link chain is the stuff where the links will fit through each other. This is important. You need this so you can hook on a safety clip. The chain is looped about the tiger’s neck and acks as a giant choke-chain, but the clip is there to keep a loop of some sort in case things go badly wrong. You carry the chain looped in one hand in a peculiar fashion which permits the whole length of chain to be dragged from your hand without taking your hand and/or arm with it. You practice this beforehand till you’re sure you’ve got it right.
Then you go into the cage with the tiger. Your friend does not. You gauge the tiger’s mood and put the leash on the tiger. There isn’t a whole lot more to say about this step except to say that that is why your friend is there, OUTside the cage. On your side is the fact that the tiger knows what the leash is for by this time and presumably is largely in favor of the idea.
This is where you find out that tigers are soft and poofy. They are also much, much larger than you had ever dreamed, when you’re standing next to one.
Then you take the tiger for a walk. Your friend walks in front with the cane to clear the way. You walk with the tiger at your side, keeping pretty good control and letting the tiger know that you are Paying Attention, because if the tiger thinks you are not Paying Attention, it will do what housecats do, let you know that you should be Paying Attention. Unlike housecats, the tiger is big enough not to have to do anything truly outrageous to rectify the situation. Reaching behind you with one forepaw and sweeping your legs out from under you is generally considered good enough by most tigers. They think this is hilarious. To this extent, tigers differ from housecats in that they seem to have a sense of humor.
It is possible that the tiger will see something that it wants. In this case, the tiger will go where it wants to go, and your job is to stop it. This is generally done by wrapping the chain around something that you pass, as the tiger drags you away. This will slow it down enough for your friend to jump on top of you and grab the chain as you go bulleting across the countryside. The weight of two adult humans will generally slow a tiger down enough to make things manageable, whereas one will not.
It is not usual for the tiger to react to freedom by turning around and turning you into fajitas, though this would actually (at least in the short term) be an eminently practical thing for the tiger to do. They enjoy their fun but are generally not ill-tempered. If they are they don’t get taken for walks.
They also purr like a freight train passing. Experts in the field claim that this is not purring, that it means something else, but you couldn’t put it by me. Sure sounded like purring, at 16-2/3 RPM, but it sounded like purring.
All in all, an experience I highly recommend as a lifetime source of cocktail party conversation, but it sort of tends to leave you limp for the rest of the day.