So I'm writing a book series called The Weasel Sagas (link here if you want to know more about that). Anyway, there's this character named Santa Muerte (her birth name is Beth but that's a story for another time), and she's been assigned to a planet called Aztlan by the evil overlord that she works for. Aztlan is based on Mesoamerican culture and mythology, but also is home to prehistoric creatures, the T-Rex being among them. Anyway, during a walk through the jungle one day, she finds a T-Rex nest with the mother who laid the eggs dead next to it (she was killed by local villagers after she came too close to their village). Although the villagers stole most of the eggs and ate them, Santa Muerte found one buried a little bit under the nest. She decided to take the egg back to the cave she lived in, and incubated the egg near a campfire. The egg eventually hatched, and voilla! Santa Muerte has her own baby T-Rex. Now the question I have for you guys is: is there a way Santa Muerte can raise this thing as a pet from birth and not just have it become violent and dangerous like the rest of its species?
Difference Between Tame and Trained
We don't really know what kind of instincts a T-rex had, but odds are due to its size that it was not a social hunter. This means its the worst kind of predator to attempt to tame, a solitary one. The reason wolves eventually became dogs is because due to their pack behavior they are more predisposed to submitting to another and obeying orders and accepting training. The key word here is more not totally. Wild predators raised in captivity are incredibly dangerous, because no amount of conditioning can guarantee that at some point millions of years of evolution wont reassert themselves and the animal you have "tamed" decides to rip your throat out. Many people who have had a close and supposedly loving bond with their exotic pets have ended up mauled to death when their "baby" decided their exposed jugular was just too tempting to pass up. Humans tend to anthropomorphize our animals, but the truth is that even after 100,000 years of selective breeding domestic dogs even occasionally snap and maul somebody to death. Its not impossible to train a wild carnivore, but you will never truly tame them short of a very intensive selective breeding program. Even then, bad apples get through.
The problem with trying to tame a 20 ton carnivore is that its actually more dangerous than you think in all the ways you haven't thought of. I learned a bit about large animals training horses. They don't have to even intentionally do something to hurt you. When a large animal "nudges" you it can send you sprawling, or maybe it just misjudges the distances and gets a bit clumsy and you end up crushed up against a solid object. When a horse does this you end up with broken bones, sprains, and severe bruising. So imagine an animal that weighs as much as a bulldozer accidentally pinning you between a tree or a rock, or it trips and steps in the wrong direction. You end up permanently maimed and crippled, or just dead. So even ignoring the animals innate predatory instinct and predilection towards independence and belligerence you could end up killed just because it has bad eyesight and steps left when it should have stepped right.
Feeding and Housing Will be a REAL Challenge
An animal the size of a t-rex is going to require meat by the ton. Every. Single. Day. It would be a very difficult and expensive animal to feed even by today's modern standards. Obviously the animals more natural instincts will surface more strongly and more often if it gets hungry. You CANNOT let it get hungry. Additionally animals tend to either become lethargic or hyper aggressive when confined to an area an order of magnitude smaller than their natural habitat. To contain this animal in a manner that causes minimal stress (which would interfere with training) would bankrupt most modern zoos today.
It's actually not 100% impossible to train an animal the size of a T-rex, it is just extremely dangerous, expensive, and unpredictable. The issues brought up above would need to be at-least partially addressed to make the story believable. Perhaps the T-rex is born from parents descended from a line of them intentionally bred for train-ability, they are kept in a somewhat nomadic fashion wandering the wild attended by the people who use them where they are used as hunting beasts and are allowed to largely feed themselves. They are never truly tame, but more like a very very large falconer's bird, never tame, simply trained to be useful. (falconer's birds often just leave with the quarry and never come back, and even the best falconers have scars from when their bird decided to ignore training and attack them.) The people in this society who can train T-rex's are a unique combination of foolhardy risk taker and highly regarded expert. After all, any trainer who is less than perfect or even just a wee bit unlucky gets killed. They probably are seen as spiritual and political leaders within their tribe. The occasional squishing or munching is seen as divine judgement on their leadership and skill.
I think in this way the whole thing can be made a lot more believable and also serve as exposition on the people's culture within the story.
WARNING - THIS WILL NOT END WELL
Lets assume a T-rex lived in modern times. This would be dangerous to have as a house pet. Many brave (sorry stupid) people have tried raising lions, tigers, etc AS HOUSE PETS AND HAVE BEEN KILLED BY THEM. This is not always due to hunger or agression. These animals do not understand human fragility compared to them. So even a mild kick or swipe indicating "OY THAT HURT!!!" can be fatal. This is even worse with a dinosaur large enough to swallow a human whole. As a baby it will be fine but this pair better seperate before adulthood.
Note: People who run zoos are TRAINED PROFESSIONALS. They went to school for that. They also do not live in the same space with the animal.
is there a way Santa Muerte can raise this thing as a pet from birth and not just have it become violent and dangerous like the rest of its species?
Maybe it won't eat her if she she was the first thing it saw (imprinting), and works really, really hard at:
- keeping it fed,
- ensuring that it seeing that she is the provider,
- and doesn't do anything stupid like antagonize it (especially when hungry).
She'd better not get to chummy with a handsome native, because the t-rex might be jealous.
It depends on how intelligent the t-rex is. Wolves and lions, for example, can be tame if raised from birth. But black widows can not be. We don't really know how smart our historical t-rexes were, though its size points to decently intelligent. And it's not clear if the t-rexes in your world are the same.