RIP Katja: Calgary Zoo euthanizes 19-year-old tiger suffering ovarian cancer

The Calgary Zoo called it an “extremely difficult goodbye.”

But zoo staff watched with worry for the past few days as the facility’s 19-year-old Amur tiger named Katja began slowing down and declining food.

Veterinarians put the big cat under anesthetic Monday to help get a better handle on what was wrong. But her health was so poor and her prospects for a satisfactory quality of life so bleak, officials made the “difficult decision” the euthanize Katja.

“A necropsy performed this morning determined Katja had ovarian cancer and related issues,” the zoo announced Tuesday. “Katja was a cherished member of the Calgary Zoo family.”

Katja was born Apr. 20, 2000. She spent her whole life at the Calgary Zoo and gave birth to three healthy cubs, who have since moved to other zoos as part of an international Species Survival Program, aimed at creating more diversity and perhaps one day, save Amur tigers from extinction.

There are perhaps 400 Amur tigers left in their home range of eastern Russia and northeastern China.

Katja seen here on her 19th birthday. She was born at the Calgary Zoo in 2000. Her father was a rescued from the wild as an orphan. Calgary Zoo/Facebook

While the zoo said Amur tigers generally live 16 to 18 years — making Katja’s more than 19 years a good, long life. It doesn’t make the loss any easier on zookeepers.

“The zookeepers and veterinary team that were privileged to care for Katja are devastated by the loss of this playful tiger who was always keen to interact with her human caregivers and participate in her daily training sessions,” the zoo said.

Here is Katja opening wide, which made it easier for zookeepers to check her mouth and teeth regularly. Calgary Zoo/Facebook

Messages of condolence have been pouring in.

Photos Calgary Zoo/Facebook

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