Sickly Tiger Rescued From Backyard Circus Is Now in Love and Happily Married

This tiger is healthy, happy and in love — a miraculous transformation from just five years ago, when she was sick, underweight and on the brink of death.

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Aasha the tiger was sent to live at the In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center in Texas after she was removed from a backyard circus, founder Vicky Keahey told

Keahey said she was told she should expect a 9-month old tiger, but was shocked to see something totally different.

"She was only about the size of a large bobcat," said Keahey, who initially weighed Aasha at 31 pounds, equivalent to a 3-month old tiger.

In addition to being severely undernourished, Keahey said the bald spots on her fur confirmed a bad case of ringworm.

Over the next few months, Keahey said she let herself in the tiger's isolated enclosure and bathed Aasha in medicated shampoo by hand to nurse her back to health.

"It was dangerous," Keahey said. "In the beginning she didn't like it. She had claws and teeth that were telling me she didn't want a bath, but I didn't have a whole lot of choice as to whether or not I wanted to be in there with her."

As Aasha started getting better, she also started having eyes for a male tiger at the rescue, Smuggler, who is about a year older than her.

Slowly but surely, they started dating.

Keahey explained that when tigers date, they spend about 20 minutes a day, "nose to nose", trying to get to know one another in the same enclosure. Ten or so staff members would supervise each date, just in case a fight broke out.

Then, at about three or four months into their relationship, they moved on to spending nights together with a staff member present to supervise overnight.

Next comes marriage! Keahey explained that while tigers are not monogamous animals, Aasha and Smuggler only have 'felines' for each other.

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While they don't expect striped cubs in their future — he's neutered and she's spayed — they currently live and eat together, and will celebrate their 5th anniversary in March.

Even though the couple might get into arguments, and sometimes Smuggler catches Aasha flirting with the lions next door, Keahey said they have one golden rule for a successful relationship: They always go to sleep together.

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