The Malayan tiger cubs at Fresno Chaffee Zoo are nearing 5 months old and still are adorable. But they also have hit a stage comparable to human children's terrible 2s.
They throw tantrums, refuse to do what they are told, whine if they don't get their way and demand to be first.
"Ask their mom," says Lyn Myers, the zoo's assistant curator for mammals.
Their mother, Mek, won't tolerate it. She growls and swipes at them. So Arya, Batari, Berani and Cinta do an end-around.
"They're obnoxious with each other," Myers says. "They take it out on each other. They grab, they sock -- nothing is out of the possibilities."
Born Jan. 5, the cubs turned 148 days old Monday. They are developing at just the right pace, Myers says. Once scrawny on top and with full bellies, they are starting to fill out. Their weight averages 35 to 40 pounds. They also are nursing less as well as increasing the amount of meat they eat one-quarter to one-half pound per week.
Batari, one of the two females, is experiencing the worst of the terrible 2s.
Come feeding time, she screams out if she isn't fed first.
So loud are Batari's high-pitched screams that Myers hears them at her zoo office a considerable distance from the tiger habitat.
"She wants it now!" Myers says. "As soon as she eats, she stops.
"Our staff is perplexed. We're trying to teach her to wait -- and that there's no reward for bad behavior."
Adding to the rough-housing, the cubs also are learning how to hunt. One way is to flip each other to the ground by the neck.
"It's fun now, but it's also honing them for skills to hunt," Myers says.
On Monday, when some of the cubs pounced on their mom, students from Eaton Elementary School on a zoo field trip let out "wows."
Tracy Andrade, a parent chaperone on the trip, says she understands how even tiger cubs can go through terrible 2s.
"They've gotten a lot more playful," says Andrade, who also visited the zoo when the cubs made their public debut March 11. And, she adds, "They've gotten big."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6304, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ronorozco_bee on Twitter.