PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Bella is a young tiger, just learning to perform for an audience.

It’s a learning experience for the tiger, and those who watch. And it gets even more interesting when her feline friends join the act.

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Trainer Alexander Lacey says he and the cats respect each other.

“When I show my animals to the public,” he says, “it’s very important that they see the friendship and the bond I have with the animals. But also, I show the animals off. I don’t show myself off.”

His lions and tigers have different personalities and abilities.

“None of the animals perform things that they find difficult for them,” the trainer explains. “That’s the secret to training lions and tigers.”

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It still takes a measure of courage to train big cats for a living. The young audience can relate. Each child has medical issues symbolized by their “Beads of Courage.”

“It kind of gets them away from the medical aspect of things,” one mother says, “and gives them a chance to enjoy life, as a child.”

Lions and tigers sleep 22 hours a day, but that’s not so for the trainer.

He’s on duty almost 24/7.

“It’s not a job,” he says. “It’s a way of life.”

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