Baby TIGERS! - Phil's Rambling Rants
Keeping a tiger responsibly requires that it be kept in some kind of secure structure. It may be able to be outside of that enclosure on certain special occasions, but most of the time it does have to be confined. However, there is a huge range of confinement. A decent amount of space and a reasonable environment in the enclosure is quite expensive. Poeple who can't or won't pay for it shouldn't get tigers, and that is true whether they are private citizens or public zoos. (Many zoos keep tigers in small bare cages. Even zoos that have big fancy enclosures for public display often have animals off display in much worse conditions.)
Being kept in a cage is different from being isolated from physical contact. Some people regularly spend time in the cages with their tigers. Some people even construct their houses, or parts of their houses, to be secure enclosures that the tigers can be in.
If the animal is healthy and happy, I don't think it matters whether you classify it as a pet or a captive or both or neither.
It can be done. It is hard, and a lot of people fail, and a lot of tigers are kept in inadequate conditions. But that doesn't mean that the people who are doing well by their animals, and not putting anyone except themselves at risk, should not be allowed to continue doing it, or that someone new who comes along with the training, experience, and resources to do it right, should be banned because other people have been stupid or evil.
Aside from the fact that I don't think that keeping a tiger and playing with it is ridiculously stupid -- it is dangerous, but the reward is well worth the risk -- that is my basic point about banning exotic cats being anti-American.