Our recent short vacation to Tampa had been long wished for because of the proximity to a large cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue. For many years we have been watching their funny and sometimes poignant Youtube videos and sponsoring their cats. Basically they rescue large cats such as tigers and lions that have sometimes been abused, are circus cats or kept by inappropriate owners. Many of the US states have introduced new legislation to prevent any Tom, Dick or Harry from buying a tiger cub. Unless current owners are able to provide a safe, specifically fenced, environment then they must give their animal up. There are many sanctuaries all over America but it is very expensive to feed and house these large animals.
Big Cat Rescue is one of the more successful sanctuaries by taking advantage of social media to promote their sanctuary and reform of the law. Although it wasn’t Nirvana, the animals have reasonably sized habitats with rotation into a larger vacation area with water and trees. The caretakers obviously love the animals and take great care of them, attending to all of their medical and holistic needs. It is situated just north of Tampa on a large tract of land but it is not a zoo. You can pay for a short visit at certain times and they do have educational tours. We decided to pay for a feeding tour where we could get up close and personal with some of the cats.
When you look at my photographs, you may think that their cage area is very small but this is just the feeding area. This small compartment allows the staff to look closely at the animals, watch their appetite and any problems with chewing. Many of them are very old and get supplements or medication for arthritis and the like. Teddy and I were so excited to see them at last! So many years of laughing at their silly antics, shedding a tear as a favorite old cat dies or cheering as they release a local bobcat into the wild. It was everything we hoped for and a little more. We were alone on the tour because it is low season and got very close the big cats.
I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t take notes of who was who and I might not even have the species correct. White or cream tigers are a mutation, bred for their looks. The same thing happens with ‘domestic’ Bengal cats. They are half wild and not appropriate for a regular household. I can’t see any reason why you would have to buy a cat at all – just rescue one, unless you need a specific breed for allergies.
The old cats who have always lived in captivity, sometimes in very small cages, are now in their forever home but they also have local bobcats brought to them who have been injured or orphaned (usually in a car accident). If it is possible, they are always released back into the wild. They also socialize small domestic kittens in a separate area which then are housed by the local charity. Below is Sabre, an elderly black Asian leopard. Here he is chillin’ in his pad. We watched him eat a large piece of meat quickly because he was so excited to get his breakfast. I think we all knew what was going to happen. Sabre looked as though he had bitten off more than he could chew and retreated back into his enclosure. Then he burped, threw up the meat and then proceeded to eat it again. Hilarious! Just like our little cats.
You don’t have to go all the way to Tampa to enjoy them – just browse the Youtube videos.