About once a month some film producer calls me and makes some variation on this pitch:
“We want to find cases where we can bust down the door, like Dog The Bounty Hunter, and save these animals from their current situations. We’d like to find enough cases to sustain several episodes.”
It just doesn’t work that way.
Our response is typically,
“The only time animals can be seized by USDA is usually at the end of a 6 + year long legal process. States have a patchwork of rules and in 30 years of rescuing exotic cats, I can’t think of a single time when there was a “bust down the door like Dog The Bounty Hunter” moment. It just doesn’t happen. The state processes are like those of the federal government and require years of court battles before the person eventually gives the animal up.
Even then, they usually won’t allow cameras and when they do, it is not an explosive situation, if the person rescuing the animals has any concern for the animals. The best way to move any exotic cat is through patience, quiet and working with the existing owner to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.
The only accredited sanctuaries are listed at SanctuaryFederation.org Any place else you send a wild animal could very well end up in trouble again not too far down the line. That wouldn’t reflect very well on you. Accredited sanctuaries do not buy, breed, sell, allow public contact nor take animals off site for exhibition. People who run accredited sanctuaries aren’t going to act stupid on film for you and do things that would jeopardize the animal or public’s safety.
Every situation is different, but the following is a step by step guide that Big Cat Rescue uses when rescuing an exotic cat.
1. Gather information
We try to gather as much information as possible on the cat and the situation. Rescue logistics are almost always tricky and you can’t be prepared for every possible snafu unless you have asked the right questions and listened to the answers. There are the obvious questions, such as species, name, age, claws or not, neutered or not, bottle raised or not, health, temperament and the size and complete description of the existing cage. Getting a cat out of a tiny cage is not too hard because they are usually more than glad to escape into any other contraption to get out of their confinement, but if they have space to hide, or avoid capture, they will use it.
Write it all down, as soon as you find out, because different people will tell you different things and you’ll probably have to extrapolate the actual situation based upon a lot of faulty input. Ask someone who is there to send photos, video or sketches of the cage, the surrounding terrain, roads for your vehicle and the distance you will be carrying some 400 lb cat by hand to get to the road. Assess weather norms for the area and a forecast close to travel time. You can almost count on the fact that it will be raining, snowing and sleeting in a lightning storm, during an eclipse, regardless of your best laid plans.
Unless it is a government seizure, or an abandoned cat, we require that owners contract with us to never own another exotic cat. Most people who are unloading lions and tigers on others are using them for profit while they are young and then discarding them when they are no longer making money for the owner, or when they are too big to play with any more. We believe that it just enables this bad behavior when sanctuaries allow exotic owners to use them as a dumping ground, because the owner will often go out and buy another cub or kitten to use.
If you want to send your exotic cat to Big Cat Rescue you will have to sign a contract that says we will take your cat, at no charge to you, but if you obtain another exotic cat, or even pose with one after the date of the contract, then you owe us whatever it would cost to take care of your abandoned cat for the rest of their life (which can be more than 20 years.) This contract is usually the deal killer and the irresponsible owner will just find some roadside zoo, breeder or pseudo sanctuary who won’t hold them responsible for their acts.
To bring a cat into Florida we have to get a Health Certificate, from a veterinarian who is licensed in the state where the cat is, stating that the cat is healthy enough to travel. No shots, blood tests or any other kinds of tests are required and every vet’s office has these three part forms, which are typically used for moving dogs and cats across state lines. That means that the exotic owner, who has probably never provided vet care, now has to get their cat to a vet, or get the vet to their home, to do this Health Certificate, which will be good for 30 days.
When dealing with exotic pet owners, we know how flaky they usually are, so we don’t even apply for an import permit until they have signed the Surrender Contract, in front of a notary, and have obtained the Health Certificate from a vet and faxed both to us. There is no sense in tying up our Florida Wildlife Commission staff in issuing an import permit when most exotic pet owners will fail to comply. If they do comply, then we fill out a form and submit it to the Florida Wildlife Commission and ask that they allow us to import the cat. They will contact the owner and the wildlife department of the state where the cat lives, in order to make sure that no laws are being broken. It can take 2 days or 2 weeks to get this permit issued and it is good for 30 days.
The clock is ticking down from 30 days on the Health Certificate so all of the other arrangements have to fall into place before it expires. Here are examples of the paperwork. Health Certificate FL Import PermitContract For Surrender USDA Transfer Form
3. Reducing Stress for the Cat
If possible, we like to give the cat time to feel comfortable in the transport carrier. If it is a small cat, an airline kennel works well, but for cougars on up, it has to be substantially bigger and heavy duty enough to prevent an escape. The exotic pet owner is almost never equipped and/or willing to build something for the cat to use. They just want the cat gone and don’t usually care how that happens. This often means that we have to send someone up, ahead of the rescue team, to build a transport cage on site and install it so that the cat gets used to eating and sleeping in this new crate.
If you were to play this video in reverse, you would get an idea of how we hook the transport up to the side wall of the existing cage to get the cat used to using it.
It at all the possible the cat should be allowed to come and go freely from the small transport cage while eating and for sleeping, so that when moving day comes they feel safe in that small space. You will notice that we cover the cage, so that it looks like a nice, safe den.
4. Prepare for the worst
We make every possible attempt to safely capture the cat without sedating them. Exotic cats often die from simple procedures because of hyperthermia caused by the drugs used to anesthetize them. Even if the sedation doesn’t kill them right away, it is a toxin that their kidneys can’t fully flush out and over time can result in renal failure. If you take your time, prepare in advance, and watch the cat for cues, you can often manage to crate them for transport without using drugs.
Nonetheless, we have to prepare for the worst; ie: the cat just won’t go, or the cat escapes because of the rickety enclosure where they have been housed. Even if our vet goes along on the rescue, they cannot transport drugs across state lines, so we can bring the “jab” stick, the blow pipe, and the dart guns, but we have to find a vet where the cat lives who will meet us at the scene with the appropriate cocktail of drugs to sedate the cat and a willingness to be in a situation that is usually fraught with danger. That is a pretty special vet and can be hard to find. We often spend hours on the phone trying to find just one who will help.
If the cat were a cougar or larger and managed to escape during the rescue attempt we have to be prepared to shoot to kill because sedation drugs take 20-30 minutes to take effect and often do not work at all if the cat has enough adrenalin pumping through their veins. Being free for the first time in their life is usually enough that there is no drug that will bring them down. Even if it did, they are 30 minutes down the road and could be drowning or stumbling out into traffic.
5. Send enough of the right people
Everyone at the sanctuary wants to go on a rescue. It’s exciting! But, the people you need on the rescue mission are the most experienced, the most calm, and depending on how far you are traveling, they have to be expendable from the daily work of the sanctuary. You may be able stop for food and overnight resting on the way up, but not on the way back. No one is going to let you rent a room and haul your circus wagon with a tiger in it into the motel for the night. You can’t leave the cat in the trailer because they make noises that attract ignorant people who will do stupid things to see what is inside.
You will have to have a crew that can take shifts driving if you are coming across country with a big cat. Nothing spells disaster for good working relations like traveling 3 days straight, eating junk food, listening to static on the radio and smelling cat urine for hundreds of miles.
6. Be ready to receive the new cat
The people left behind are usually trying to raise the funds for the rescue, building or modifying a cage, making arrangements with the media and then wrangling the press on the day the cat arrives. The media can be a sanctuary’s life blood because a good story, along with thrilling photos and video, will raise awareness about the plight of these cats in captivity but you have to keep the press from getting in the way or scaring the animals. They often want snarling photos and roaring cat sounds, but our mission is to make the transition as smooth and peaceful for the cat as possible. To do that you have to have the media area staked out and enough people to keep them far enough from the cats that they cannot spook them. Giving the press a great spokesperson to answer all of their questions is a great way to make the most of the situation and insure that they understand why it is so important to put the cat’s needs first.
7. Follow up
Even if the exotic cat owner was a jerk, we let them know that the cat arrived safely and encourage them to follow us on Facebook and YouTube for updates about their cat. We follow up with the press to give them updates, although it is rare that the media will report anything after the initial rescue. Whatever money you raised before the rescue is all you are going to raise, for the same reason. Before the rescue the public is on pins and needles, following you through every step that you will share with them and helping as much as they can. After the cat is at the sanctuary, most member of the public are off looking for the next “feel good” story where they can be involved in another rescue.
The cat you rescue today could live another 20 years, so it is vital that you have planned for that long term care. I have never seen a rescue effort raise more money than the first years’ cost of the cat. All too often “sanctuaries” continue to rescue animal after animal because of the funds they can get from the initial rescue, but it is never enough for life time care and eventually the places implode and the animals are all shifted around the country again.
This photo was from circa 2009 when Precious could get up in her tree. She’s had a stroke, at the age of 21, but has been working hard to get back on her feet and managed to do so recently. The photo below is Levi bobcat during a recent vet check up.
Food Prep Photos
The building was built by friends of Big Cat Rescue in 2003-2004 for $40,000. The lion’s share of the money raised to build it came from Jamie Veronica’s college fund, supplied by Jacqueline Norris, her great grandmother. Jacqueline was known to her grand children as Momma Jacquie, and thus the sign out front that says, Mamma Jacquie’s Cool Cat Cafe – Food Prep Center.
At the far left is the “rat room” and laundromat for the Cat Hospital next door. Live rats are raised there for the rehab bobcats. This area is screened for fresh air and is also where the hot water tank and water purification system is housed.
We later added on a metal roofed carport for golf cars, our beast wagon and our van.
The right end of the building is a carport styled “roof over” for the two walk in freezers. The small freezer is for whole prey and frozen treats for the cats. The larger freezer can hold 17,000 lbs of food and contains the ground diet, beef and chicken. Having these freezers under the roof will extend their lives.
The back of the freezers shows that the compressors are kept under the roof as well to protect them and the whole area around the freezers has hurricane panels cut for quick installation in the event of an emergency.
Behind Food Prep is a propane storage system and generator, donated by the Body Shop, to run Food Prep in the event of a loss of power.
Inside the main section of Food Prep is the computer where volunteers and staff log in and out for the day. It is also where another computer is set up for them to log their observations from feeding and cleaning the cats into the Intranet site for Big Cat Rescue. These entries send emails to the CEO, President, Operations Manager, Maintenance Team and Vet, with the full report of feces found, food left behind and any maintenance or veterinary issue that is observed.
Feeding supplies, such as paper plates, rubber gloves, paper towels etc. are on the top shelves in the back ground and cleaning supplies are on the bottom, so that there is no chance of something spilling and contaminating the food delivery products. At the left you can see stainless steel sinks and cutting boards where the food is chopped.
Behind the shelves is a huge walk in cooler that is the full width of the building. In the photo you can see an Intern carrying a box of frozen meat into the cooler where it will defrost for the following day.
Inside the walk in cooler are racks on the left for thawing whole prey and wrapped items and on the right is a stainless steel morgue table for draining the blood off the meat which is captured in buckets below. The walls are clad in an easy to clean water proof sheeting like you would see in a shower stall. A lot of our cats are on special diets due to old age and health issues, so the buckets on the rack in the back right of the photo are for creating those diets before the feed wagons leave the Food Prep area.
Special lights are needed inside freezers and coolers and are very expensive.
The stainless steel sinks wrap around three sides of the room. There is a lot of natural light in the room from windows and there are overhead lights as well. The floors are all tile and mopped down daily after feeding.
On the left is a cabinet for feed and bedding for the rats and stainless steel rat cages on the right. The washer, dryer, hot water tank and purification system are behind the rat cages. In order to keep vermin from entering this area, the screens are covered with a 1/4 wire mesh on a frame mounted to the outside of the room over the screened windows.
When another sanctuary asked for details about our nutrition center or food prep area, I figured I’d just post it here for anyone who is interested.
From our friends at HSUS:
California Restricts Bobcat Hunting and Bans Lead Shot
Today is an important day for wildlife protection in California. Gov. Jerry Brown signed two pieces of legislation today thanks in no small part to all the hard work The HSUS and our supporters have put in to protecting California’s wildlife and people.
Gov. Brown’s signing of AB 711 means hunters in California will be required to use non-lead ammunition to stop the incidental poisoning of dozens of species, and stop these bullets from killing long after they have left the chamber. His signature on AB 1213 will add a no-trapping buffer zone for bobcats around Joshua Tree National Park and stop commercial trappers from catching and killing bobcats on private property without the consent of the property owner.
Our California State Director Jennifer Fearing says, “California has led the nation in creating humane laws, and today’s pair of actions by Governor Brown is an incredible victory for wildlife and humans alike.” Read more on my blog»
Thank you for all you do for California’s animals.
Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States
Domestic cats win hands down when it comes to house manners and exotic cats are more easily influenced by what other cats show them than what we try to teach them. For this reason, we employ domestic cat mothers, strays with kittens of their own for the most part, to help us guide these impressionable little ones. Our Veterinarian, Dr. Stacie Wadsworth D.V.M., specializes in cat care with her own clinic called Carrollwood Cats and takes in all of the felines brought to her doors. She screens them for every known disease, worms and vaccinates them and then adopts them and their kittens out. We often turn to her for surrogate mothers and step brothers and sisters for our exotics. Even free ranging domestic cats will use a litter box if they are confined to a cage.
We use a four foot square wire cage that is two feet tall. It is light weight and easy to move around and clean under. Even if the surrogate mother is not inclined to nurse the exotic cub, after proper introduction, we have never had to worry about her hurting a kit. When she teaches her own young, or when she uses the litter box, the exotic kitten will follow their example and it’s as easy as that. Once the cats, kittens and cubs are all consistently using the box, then we allow them to run loose. If someone has an accident, then he goes back in the cage for a day or two until manners are resumed. For the exotic cat, this re-learning process can be necessary for a lifetime. If the cub is larger, you may need to confine him to the bathroom for a couple of days until he remembers what that box full of sand was for. Just like with domestic cats, if you see the kitten going where it shouldn’t then scoop him up and take him to the box. A lot of yelling will only frighten him and may cause him to hide under the bed, or in the closet to eliminate.
If a surrogate mother is not practical, then you will have to do this in cages and in stages. When the kitten is about four weeks old, offer a box with low sides and a non clumping litter. (The popular clumping kind turns to cement in their intestines and must be surgically removed). This year we had ten bobcat kittens that jumped right in and knew what the box was for. If your kitten prefers to eliminate somewhere else in the cage, then scoop up the poop and put it in the litter box and put the box in the corner the cub had preferred to use. Repeating this process a couple of times is usually all it takes. If you allow the kitten to roam freely before being adequately trained, then you may never instill this litterbox habit and it won’t be long before you won’t want to live with this animal any longer. Another trick to teaching the kitten to go to the litter pan is to pour a little ammonia in the box to attract them for that purpose. Cats like to use the same area as everyone else, at least when they are young and subject to peer pressure, so they may believe that another cat went there before.
Because of this, it is very important to keep the floors clean, so that the cats do not choose their own spot and then entice all their friends to do the same. Under beds and behind the furniture are favored spots and you may have to customize your furnishings to prevent cats from getting to these humanly inaccessible places. Once a bad habit is started it is very hard to break. It is worth the extra effort to make training as positive an experience as possible.
We have had some kittens that required more work than any others. For these we use little baby steps by using a large tray filled with litter that fills the entire floor of the cage and gradually reduce the size of the box as the kitten accepts the difference between litter and no litter. Each time the cub has an accident, then we back up to the size that worked last and after a few days of success, return to reducing the size of the box. When the kitten is using the litter pan regularly, then we can let him roam freely, but any accident results in return to the cage and the litter box, until training is re-established. N o one hates to see cats in cages, more than us, but it is a necessity that will allow the cat many years of freedom if you are consistent.
Toilet training is quite easy for some breeds who naturally prefer to eliminate in the water. Bobcats are a natural for this sort of training and as long as you don’t mind sharing the commode with the cat (they are a little messy) then it can be the easiest for you and the feline. A common problem with exotic cats and housebreaking is that if you teach a cat to use a box, then it cannot distinguish a box with litter in it and a box with jewelry in it. Any box is fair game, as is anything that could be loosely construed as a box, such as an arrangement of high things, in box like formation, like a living room pit group, with the ottoman missing. Even cats with very good house manners will fall into a case of mistaken identity. The same is true of cats trained to water, you must cover your fish tank and not leave big bowls of water, or sinks full of water, or bathtubs full of water where the cat is likely to come across it. To the exotic cat, water is water and the toilet is no more compelling than any other large body of water.
Training a bobcat, or Leopard to use water, only requires offering a large, shallow pan full of water and nature will take it’s course. As the cat gets larger you can place a toilet seat over the pan of water, or over the litter box for cats started on litter so that this becomes routine. N ext move the accepted “toilet” closer and closer to the real thing, until they are side by side. Then using telephone books, you can gradually lift the height of the “toilet” upwards, until it is level with and adjacent to the target toilet. The transition over should come natural after time, the key is to be patient and observant. Once the switch is made you can remove the bogus “toilet” and work on teaching the cat to flush. The only drawback to toilet training is that some cats like to stand in the water while they go and then when they hop out they get the seat all wet and smelly. I find it easier to wipe down the seat than to deal with litter boxes though.
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Some breeds of cats are so insistent on using water, that they will soil their own water dishes and for these we offer a water bowl and a bowl to defecate it. Most exotics will be happy enough with this provision, but some want to go in ALL water containers and for them you must get creative in providing a clean water source for them to drink from. If they are caged it is not too difficult to attach a water dish to the wire, with the top being higher the rump of the cat, so that it has to reach up a little to drink. If the cat climbs the wire to go in the dish, you can attach a shelf over the top of the dish, high enough for the cat to stick it’s head in and drink, but low enough that the cat cannot squeeze in backwards. Another alternative is to cut a hole in the wire and hang the dish on the outside (enclosed with wire of course) so that the cat must stick it’s head out to drink. Some people use water bottles and/or drip lines, but the bottles are a pain to clean and the drip line could clog for days, before someone noticed the cat was parched. If your water soiling cat is a housepet, you can provide a sanitary water dish by using a plastic bucket or container with a lid. In the side, a few inches up from the bottom, we cut a hole large enough for the cat to poke his head through comfortably and drink.
If the cat was properly house broken and then begins having recurrent accidents there could be more going on than their forgetful nature. Often sickness will manifest itself in the cat soiling places other than the accepted container, as the cat may not be able to control it’s bladder or intestines. Sometimes the feline is trying to tell you something, such as “I don’t like the new cat” or “I don’t want to share this space with your new friend” or “I’m ready for love! Can anyone out there smell me?”. Be sure that the cat is in good health and stress free before assuming that the problem is a training issue.
If the problem is health related, you will need to have that diagnosed and cured before your training can resume. If the cause is stress then each and every situation will require it’s own remedy to remove the cause of the stress if possible, and if that is not feasible, to help the cat cope with the new situation. Cats, both exotic and domestic, are creatures of habit and they do not like change. Something as simple as moving the furniture around can really upset a cat so keep this in mind when you begin thinking about introducing new animals or people to your “pride”.
If the problem is due to the cat being in the mood for love, there is nothing you can do to stop the spraying. It doesn’t matter how early you spay or neuter and exotic cat. When they are full grown they all spray. Males and Females, neutered, spayed or not; they ALL spray. Too many people think that they will take home a cute little exotic, raise it up and let it pay for itself by producing a litter or two of kittens but then they have an adult that they can no longer handle. Even females will spray buckets on everything, including you to attract a male and the males are worse. We have terrazzo floors, plastic on the walls and two full time housekeepers to clean up behind all of them, and if we didn’t, we couldn’t live in the same house with them.
Neutering a male is a simple procedure and he can come home the same day. Spaying a female requires the removal of the womb and requires an overnight stay. Altering is a permanent decision and not one to take lightly. If you were to die, or be incapacitated, would there be a home waiting for your neutered pet? Many of the cats we have brought home from auctions were cats that were altered or too old to breed and the only people who would purchase them were the taxidermists and the owners of hunting ranges. In many cases, an old or un-breedable cat is worth much more to some people, dead than alive. The tamer the cat the more valuable they are to the sport hunters, because even a lousy shot can bag a Mountain Lion or a Lynx, when the cat will walk right up to them. Canned hunts are abominable, but they are not illegal, and as long as there are sick people in this world, your pet is not safe if out of your sight.
It is legal in the USA to operate what are commonly referred to as game farms or hunting ranches. These are businesses that cater to enormous, macho egos of those “humans” who thrill at killing an animal. For a fee a hunter can be guaranteed the opportunity to tract down and murder the animal of his choice. For a few hundred dollars a person can go to these farms and be guaranteed the kill of a Cougar. Because the rancher is dealing with the lowest form of coward, the best animals for him to purchase are the discarded pets sold at auction. This way the hunter is at virtually no risk and can get very close to his target. It is openly legal to offer Cougars, Bobcats and Canadian Lynx for the killing, but it is possible, illegally and at a considerable price, to “hunt” Lions, Tigers and other endangered species by invitation.
There just no are good options for exotic cats and the best thing you can do is to not support the exotic cat trade by buying.
Big Cat Rescue has evolved since its inception in 1992. By 1997 we had seen enough of the abuse and abandonment caused by the pet trade that we had previously engaged in to know that there was no reason to breed exotic animals for lives in cages. As a result we increased our efforts through spaying, neutering and cage building to ensure that we would no longer be a part of the problem. As we have continued to learn about the causes of so much suffering we have become
active in stopping the exotic pet trade through education and legislation. The above is provided only for those who have already made the mistake of supporting the pet trade so that the animal in your care does not suffer even more after being ripped from his mother.
Note: I am not a veterinarian. Please consult with a licensed veterinarian if your exotic cat is dehydrated.
Hygiene serves as a most important tool keeping sanctuary functioning property. There are several reasons why hygiene must be effective in the sanctuary.
(a) Health Needs: to help prevent the spread of disease among animals and zoonosis between staff and visitors and the animals.
(b) Husbandry needs: to provide clean safe conditions for the maintenance and housing of animals (biological needs).
(c) Aesthetic needs: to provide a clean environment to enhance visitor learning.
Hygienic work practices include the following procedures
Removal of animal discharges.
Removal of spilt and left over food stuffs.
Removal of other wastes and organic material that will decompose rapidly.
Removal of all waste material without exposing it to other animals or to visitors.
Regular cleaning and disinfecting of tools and equipment.
Periodic replacement of exhibit furniture.
Cleaning of exhibit surfaces with water, steam, chemicals, etc.
Replacement of natural surfaces (sand, earth) and bedding materials.
General maintenance of grasslands in pastured exhibits.
Frequent changing of pool water, cleaning of pool surfaces and flushing to remove chemicals.
Daily cleaning of food and water containers, replacement of drinking water.
Cleanliness in handling, presentation and storage of foodstuffs, including hay.
Cleaning of food preparation utensils and areas.
Cleaning of public areas, washrooms, facilities, general sanctuary grounds.
Care and attention in handling animals.
Big Cat Rescue endeavors to house its animals in naturalistic surroundings. This means additional labor to maintain substrates, plants, cage furniture etc., and not many “wash down” exhibits. However, basic wash down procedures are used in feeding areas, all primate holding areas, in the Cat Hospital and recovery cages.
PERSONAL HYGIENE AND ZOONOSIS
Tiger Taking a Bath at Big Cat Rescue
Personal cleanliness and hygiene in the sanctuary cannot be emphasized enough; it is an extremely important part of Keeping. Many of the problems of disease and infection can be prevented by cleanliness and common sense.
The keeper should be aware of the ways in which disease and infection can be spread. Disease can be introduced into the body through injuries from animals, particularly cuts, bites and scratches; it can be caused by contact with feces, urine, saliva, skin, or direct respiratory exhalation. It can be present in cage soil or substrate, in objects removed from the cage, boots, dirty hands, clothing, or it can come from direct contact with the animal. (Don’t kiss the llamas)
Avoid unnecessary contact with animals; wear rubber gloves, coveralls, boots and proper protective clothing. Use a face mask when spraying or working in very dusty areas.
Before leaving the sanctuary site, wash up and change clothing.Report any cuts, scratches or bites, no matter how small, to your supervisor and to first aid.Wash your hands before eating or smoking, whenever leaving or between work areas, or after handling animals.Don’t eat or smoke in animal containment areas.In quarantine, follow the posted procedures; they are for your protection and the protection of your stock.Never touch dead animals or animal fecal matter (especially primate) with the bare hands. Use rubber gloves.Remember you can bring disease into the sanctuary from farm animals, pets, and other humans, as well as spreading sanctuary diseases outside the sanctuary site. If you are sick or have any kind of respiratory ailment, flu or cold, try to stay away from primates – they are susceptible to human diseases. Wear a face mask if primate contact is necessary. Cats are carriers of strep throat. Keep your fingers out of your mouth, eyes and nose.
Zoonosis is defined as those infections which are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and man (W.H.O. Committee on Zoonosis, 1969). There are more than 100 diseases of vertebrate animals that can be transmitted naturally and directly from wild and domestic animals to humans. Read about some of them HERE.
Big Cat Rescue has a Human Health Program and Zoonosis Control Advisory Group which meets several times a year to monitor and control zoonosis in the sanctuary. It is made up from the Animal Care Supervisor, volunteers and first aid staff.
Every zoonosis is a potential threat to human health; zoonosis is an occupational hazard for sanctuary staff who have close contact with the animals.Zoonosis is defined as infectious diseases, and are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa or by parasites. They may infect the body through the respiratory tract, mucous membranes, the mouth or the skin.Zoonosis can be transmitted from animals to man by several methods. The diseases used as examples below are listed according to their main method of transmission, but most can be transmitted by several different methods:
Direct Transmission; direct or immediate contact with a diseased animal. (e.g. Rabies, ringworm). Indirect Transmission; exposure to disease by being in contact with objects or materials which have been contaminated by a diseased animal. (i.e. Amoebiasis, hookworm). Contact with Disease Carriers; some diseases may be carried by a species without causing illness, but contact with the carrier may cause illness or death in susceptible species. (i.e. Herpes B virus). Infections from Food and Water; some diseases persist in contaminated food and water, and are transmitted by ingestion. (i.e. Giardiasis, salmonellosis).
Air-borne Infections; disease organisms can be transmitted on droplets of moisture coughed or sneezed by a sick individual, or on dust particles in a contaminated environments, and breathed in by the susceptible host. This kind of transmission is facilitated by close proximity and a closed-in environment. (i.e. Psittacosis, tuberculosis).
Infections from Blood Sucking Arthropods; Some diseases of man and animals are normally passed through the bites of fleas, flies, mosquitoes, lice, or ticks. (i.e. Equine Encephalomyelitis, malaria, West Nile Disease, FeLV).Zoonosis confirmed in animals at the Big Cat Rescue (as of 11/2003) include:
Salmonellosis (one lemur in 1999)
Scabies (bobcat in 1993)
Ringworm (bobcat in 1995)
Cryptosporidiosis (lion 1994)
Most zoonotic infections can be avoided by persistent cleanliness and sound personal hygiene. Prevention by means of vaccination and control by check ups, X-rays, and stool checks on a regular basis are successful. All new keepers should participate in the sanctuary’s health program, including vaccinations and regular fecal samples.
By knowledge of disease transmission, good personal cleanliness and clean working habits, the keeper can take precautions against being a link in the transmission of disease between animals and man and vice-versa.
For further more detailed information on zoonosis see “Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine”. W.B.Saunders 1986, edited by Murray Fowler, D.V.M
BIG CAT RESCUE’S PEST CONTROL PROTOCOL
Pest control in the Sanctuary is necessary to help prevent the spread of disease and infection, to protect the visitor from exposure to certain zoonosis, to reduce the annoyance to both animals and man, and to ensure that captive animals receive the food set out for them (rather than having that food consumed by rodents, birds or insects).
Rodents include rats, mice and voles, both those common to human habitations as well as local and naturally occurring wild rodent populations. Rodents can be disease vectors as well as freeloaders on a Sanctuary’s food supplies, and rodents can also cause physical damage to material and to other animals.
Birds such as pigeons, sparrows, starlings, raptors and various waterfowl can compete for food with sanctuary animals, foul food and water and be vectors and reservoirs for disease.
INSECTS AND ARACHNIDS
Cockroaches, flies, ants, ticks, fleas and lice all cause various problems, they contaminate food supplies (their larvae), spread disease and are parasitic on (or annoy) sanctuary animals. Cockroaches can carry several infectious agents and parasites. Spiders are generally beneficial but centipedes can bite.
INDIGENOUS AND FERAL CARNIVORES
Predators can cause much damage in sanctuaries by killing and injuring animals spreading disease such as rabies, and generally stressing animals. Stray cats and dogs, raccoons, foxes, skunks and owls all cause problems.
Poisonous plants, thorny brush, trees and weeds can also be annoying/dangerous to animals, staff, and visitors.
Many factors contribute to the presence of pests in the sanctuary today and much can be done to eliminate them or reduce them to manageable proportions.
Improper sanitation: Spilt food in food storage areas and kitchen refuse all become a food source for pests. All bulk food should be stored in rodent proof containers, preferably off the floor in a clean dry place. Always clean up spillage, never leave spilt food where it may attract pests. Kitchen areas must be kept scrupulously clean, as must all storage areas. Animal wastes should be bagged where possible and stored in a proper location until garbage pick-up. Bagged refuse should not be accessible to rats, mice, raccoons, etc. Keep drains and ditches clean eliminates breeding places.
Nesting areas: Don’t leave timber and other material laying around where it can provide resting places for rodents. Keep your area tidy, clean up woodpiles and block all holes in floors, walls, eaves, etc. to keep out sparrows and other birds.
Inadequate barriers: Many buildings abound with places for rodents to hide and nest. Keep food in tightly lidded containers. Keep doors shut; check fences top and bottom and ensure that they are predator proof. Block off holes which might provide access for birds.
Sanitation: Maintain a clean work place.
Physical control: There are various live traps which can be used for rats and mice and others to catch larger predators – skunks, raccoons. The simple rat and mouse traps, spring loaded, can be very effective when properly used. (Trainees should read the chapter on “Catching Mice Without Bait” in H. Hediger’s book “Man and Animal in the Sanctuary”, available in the Sanctuary library. Flypaper, mechanical devices, electrical fences and pest proofing can all reduce pests to a controllable minimum.
Chemical control: Application and procedures involving chemical poisons must follow federal and provincial regulations. Poisons can be dangerous in the sanctuary unless sanctuary animals are absolutely protected against accidental contamination, from both the poison source and from poisoned pests. Pesticides (paints, sprays, fogs, dust and baits) are used; so are anti-coagulants in baits and traps. No-pest strips can be used in small exhibits to control insects, especially overnight if the cage is empty. Flypaper is safe and effective in non-animal areas -corridors and kitchens.
Biological control: In some cases biological control of pests using natural or imported predators or disease may be undertaken, but this isn’t very common in the sanctuary. The use of ferrets and snakes as a control on rodents has been successful under some circumstances; lady bugs have been used to protect some of the sanctuary’s plants against whitefly (aphids).
PEST CONTROL AT BIG CAT RESCUE
Pest control at the Big Cat Rescue is carried out by the staff and coordinated by the Supervisor. The staff are responsible for traps, poison baits, bait stations, spraying, etc. but can only be effective if the Keeper does a good job and reports any pests or signs of pests. The Keeper must also take care that all pest control measures in his area can in no way be a danger to Sanctuary animals:
Maintain a clean and tidy work environment.
Know the location of traps and bait stations in your area.
Don’t wait until an area is saturated with rodent or bird fecal matter; act as soon as signs of pests are noticed.
Look for fecal matter in bowls, on ledges and in the exhibit and in and around food daily.
Use wire mesh to block off holes where mice or birds may enter a building.
Make sure that regular checks of the bait stations and traps in your area are a standard part of the routines; don’t just leave this to the pest control officers.
Kill all pests, voles, deer mice and field mice, etc. Just because something looks cute doesn’t mean it can’t transmit a disease or contaminate or consume Sanctuary animal food.
Use boiling water or grits on ant beds inside cages and Amdro outside cages.
Hire a licensed trapper to relocate raccoons and other large, unwanted pests.
Pest control is the Keeper’s responsibility and the commercial agency used by the Sanctuary is a means to control pests.
Hazards to the Keeper – Never handle dead animals with bare hands -always use rubber gloves. Be especially careful of unnatural behavior in animals such as raccoons, foxes, skunks; these animals may be rabid. Do not approach them if alive, and if dead, use extreme caution when handling the carcasses. Always double bag the body. Use care around sprays, baits and traps. Wash your hands if you have been working around any poisoned material. Avoid skin contact with poisons, which can cause skin reactions. Hazards to Sanctuary animals: Rodents or birds can consume so much of an animal’s food that it does not get enough to eat. Check all feed dishes, especially dry food, for rodent feces, by which disease can be spread to your animals. Rabies is a dangerous disease; its frequency of occurrence coincides with increases in natural predator populations (such as skunk and fox.) Observe your animals for any bizarre behavior or sudden behavior changes, both of which might indicate contact with a rabid animal. Hazards to the public: Remember that Sanctuary visitors can be exposed to infection or disease through contact with pests in the Sanctuary. Keep your areas as clean as possible. Wild birds: Wild birds are often a problem in the Sanctuary. Their extreme mobility makes them a dangerous disease vector, their droppings contaminate food and water areas and they can consume more sanctuary animal food than the animals for which the food is meant. Wild bird populations may also be reservoirs of avian T.B. Poisonous plants: Poisoning of Sanctuary animals by consumption of plant material containing toxic substances is uncommon, though any animal fed in a controlled environment can be exposed to toxins. Usually when good food is available foraging animals won’t select poisonous plant; as many of these taste bitter. Dried and cured poisonous plants usually lose their toxic properties (i.e. in hay.) Sometimes they may inadvertently be used in an exhibit as cage furniture, decoration or be offered as browse or occupational food. Poisonous plants should not be planted or allowed to remain in or near animal exhibits; all areas in and around exhibits should be regularly checked for poisonous plants. Mold: Common mold is not poisonous to most animals, but is an indicator that the food it is on is undergoing chemical changes and that toxins may have developed. Sweet clover is poisonous when moldy; equine animals are most sensitive to moldy hay; sheep are often affected while cattle and pigs appear most tolerant. Never feed moldy hay or allow hay to get moldy or damp. Check each bail before feeding out.
Botulism: (Clostridium botulinum) The botulism organism develops in decaying plant or animal matter; it is anaerobic and doesn’t require oxygen for its survival. It can also be found in stagnant water and in food that does not appear to be spoiled. This organism can be controlled if hygiene principles are closely followed when dealing with foods and feeding.
Fungi: Ergot, a fungus found on rye and some other grasses, produces a large misshapen dark “seed”. Poisoning isn’t very likely in the sanctuary, as grain normally undergoes control by feed companies.
Much of the Keeper’s time is spent in basic husbandry routines such as cleaning and feeding. Unless efficient procedures are mastered the Keeper can waste much time in unnecessary movement and labour, especially where large areas must be covered. Proper routines are efficient, effective and flexible; they have been developed over a period of time into the best way to cope with a particular job. Routines are always subjected to change as they deal with living, changing animals; routines evolve and change as necessary for safety and efficiency. Do not stress animals for the sake of the routine.
FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT
A conscientious Keeper becomes thoroughly familiar with the area in which he works. He/she knows the layout of the run or building, location and names of all the individual animals, cages or holding area, entrance and exit doors, and where all the equipment is kept. A good knowledge of the location of all safety equipment (telephones, fire extinguishers and alarms, animal escape equipment) is helpful.
The Keeper should know the condition of the facilities and make necessary repairs promptly, or report the need for repairs right away. It is a good idea to make a daily check to spot needed repairs and note potential hazards. A Keeper who is on good terms and cooperates with the Maintenance Department has a better chance of getting needed work done quickly. If a problem arises the Keeper must determine (a) what effect it will have on the animals, and (b) what precautions must be taken to alleviate the problem. Animals may have to be taken off exhibit or moved temporarily to effect repairs. Remember that the Keeper’s primary responsibility is to the animals he/she cares for.
All barriers, fences, glass, bars, etc. should be routinely inspected to make sure they are strong, safe and in good condition. Do not forget that animals under stress are often capable of prodigious physical feats and feats of strength. Maintain the integrity of your barriers at all times.
No area should have loose fencing, wire, nails, twine, tools, loose boards or protruding screws in it. Everything which is taken into an exhibit for repairs or cleaning, make sure you take out, before the animals are given access. A few extra minutes spent checking your area will prevent possibly fatal accidents. “Hardware disease” occurs when a foreign object, such as a piece of wire, punctures the reticulum of a ruminant; this can easily happen because ruminants are often indiscriminate feeders, and so are exotic cats. Always bend back wire and nails to prevent injury; even years after construction has taken place in an area, nuts, nails and bolts, etc. can work their way to the surface. Sometimes earth fill contains wire, cans, etc. Use a magnet to check over a new exhibit, or where repairs have been made, before the animals are allowed into the exhibit.
Keepers should watch for foreign objects thrown, blown or dropped into exhibits; animals will consume plastic bags, paper cups, the poisonous backing off Polaroid films, coins, etc. Be aware of materials inadvertently left in an animal area that might be thrown or dropped into exhibits (stones, bricks, boards, scrap material, etc.)
Keepers should obey no smoking signs wherever these are posted; older wooden buildings, some beddings are all highly flammable. Each Keeper must know the location and type of fire extinguishers in his area, and what they are used for; fire procedures for each area should be worked out before there is a fire.
Never “fool around” in front of animals. Two Keepers wrestling or even back-slapping can upset some animals, such as primates. Other people (visitors or staff) may upset the animals, and you, as their Keeper may be the object of the animal’s stress or frustration. Always check the condition of your animals before you enter the cage.
One of the goals of the Big Cat Rescue is the conservation of wildlife. We must also consider conserving other resources, such as fuel, water, gas and electricity. Keepers can help conserve resources by efficient work routines and by not wasting water and electricity. This is money down the drain when a resource such as water is wasted. Every dollar saved here can be applied to new exhibits or to updating and repairing older ones.
A basic work routine benefits both Keeper and animals; it helps identify problems, allows for prompt treatment and ensures that all animals in an area receive proper care and attention. It can be used to reassure the animals and reduce stress, by providing them with certain fixed times in their day, and generally is an efficient way for the Keeper to organize his/her work, with the least chance of missing important steps.
When developing or learning a routine, try to avoid having to retrace your steps unnecessarily. Learn to use efficient time and movement patterns in your area. Do not assume that what one Keeper can do can be done by all.
The Keeper’s day usually starts with a check of all animals in his or her area. Where possible this will be done first thing in the morning; at this time all the animals are accounted for, their general condition is noted, as is the general condition of each exhibit, amount of food and water remaining, temperature, etc. where relevant. Before checking, the Keeper should check the dry erase board, read Keeper Observation Reports and if possible speak to the Keeper who last worked in the area (especially if it is some time since you worked in the area). This way the Keeper doesn’t get any unexpected surprises when he/she starts the rounds.
During this first check, all animals that were sick, injured or due to give birth are given extra attention. If any medical or maintenance problem needs immediate attention, the proper personnel are notified promptly. Fences, windows, water levels, temperatures, mesh, and physical features are all checked.
By talking, whistling or singing, the Keeper lets the animals know he is approaching; his voice identifies him to the animal. The sound of the Keeper’s voice can soothe an excited animal; even though the animal can’t understand the words, tone and calmness are easily understood. In some areas a radio can be helpful to provide background sounds and voices. Animals have highly developed extra sensory perception and can easily pick up on your moods. Keep a positive attitude and let the animal know that you are just there delivering “room service”.
Before entering an exhibit to remove food or water, or clean, it may be beneficial to the animal to allow it to move to another cage or enclosure. This applies even to animals which pose no threat to the Keeper, as well as to highly excitable or dangerous animals. Cleaning is important but not at the animal’s expense.
Knowing how to work with various species and individual animals is very important. Eye contact can elicit an attack; exotic cats and primates feel threatened or challenged when looked at while some timid species of birds and animals will remain calm and can be moved if the Keeper’s back is kept towards them. Large raptors may be aggressive, but can usually be kept at a safe distance by keeping eye contact all the time the Keeper is working near them. The Keeper should move slowly and deliberately around his/her animals, and try to develop an air of confidence.
Cage cleaning should be thorough and efficient. Keep your proper tools in good working condition, and your disinfectants and cleaners in a safe, convenient location, close at hand, but out of reach of animals. Use chemicals according to their instructions, don’t contaminate an exhibit by flushing debris or feces into it from another cage. Don’t return animals to a unit until it has been properly cleaned, food and water containers cleaned and replaced, all cleaning materials have been removed, and the cage securely locked.
Some animals anticipate feeding time: it may be the high point in their day. Part of the Keeper’s daily routine is to feed the animals on schedule; this includes both the number of times during the day the animal is to be fed as well as the hour the food is offered. Animals with high metabolic rates should be fed often; it is important that such animals do not go for long periods (when they are active) without food.
Keepers should “police” their area as part of the daily routine, especially on crowded days, to discourage visitors from feeding or harming animals, to remove harmful objects from cages, and to explain the policy of no-feeding if this is being abused. This check also provides the Keeper with a chance to observe the animals.
In addition to the morning check, the Keeper should routinely check all the animals in his area before leaving at the end of the shift, to ensure that:
all animals are alive, well, and accounted for (count them).
all exhibits were cleaned and are free from harmful foreign objects.
all animals have been properly fed and watered (including adequate overnight supplies where necessary).
doors are properly closed and locked.
all lighting and temperature control equipment is properly adjusted and that adequate provision has been made for weather conditions.
Important information should be entered into the record system at the end of the work day or shift. A Keeper’s notebook is handy for jotting down information during the day so that it can be transferred to the day or area book and the Keeper Observation Report. Additional information for the next shift should be provided using the blackboards, notes and reports.
When working in an area, a new Keeper should stay with the person instructing him and follow all instructions. Do not run in or around any animal exhibit. The Keeper is in control of his animals, and this contact can be lost or destroyed unless orders are followed.
Wherever there are two or more Keepers in an area never change anything unless at least two people agree. Change can be disruptive to the animals; stick to your routine and only make changes by agreement with the other Keepers involved.
Try to work out effective compromises for the animal’s benefit, not just the Keepers.
Routines must be flexible to allow for unexpected accidents or injuries to be treated and for additional work that disrupts schedules. Routines help provide the animal with a sense of security and can be a self-checking practice for the Keeper.
There are a number of different ways to clean cages, using both wet and dry methods. Cleaning removes the causes of disease and infection, rotting food, fecal matter, mould, etc. It also helps meet the aesthetic needs implicit in public viewing. Cleaning also helps lessen odors and “offensive” smells.
Cleaning usually takes place in an empty exhibit; if the Keeper is working in an exhibit or holding area where animals are present, extra care must be taken not to upset the animals or place the Keeper in a dangerous situation.
SERVICING OCCUPIED CAGES
Certain procedures should be followed when entering a cage already containing an animal. If the animal can be moved to another cage without stress, then this is preferable to subjecting it to the stress of being in the same cage at the same time as the Keeper.
If the cage is occupied, the Keeper should never move immediately to the center; keep to the edges or perimeter of the enclosure and don’t crowd the animal. Give it as much space as possible while you work or clean. Move to the center part of the cage for cleaning last, once the animal has become used to your presence, and will better tolerate you coming closer. Don’t shout, gesticulate or make any abrupt movements. Watch the animal using peripheral or direction vision, whichever is best for the species involved.
Don’t waste water; when not using the hose, turn it off. Dirt, feces, food and other matter can be loosened by first spraying it with water, and leaving it to soften. Wasted water is money down the drain. Keep the hoses away from the cages. Many cats will reach out for it and then bite it full of holes. Don’t pull the hoses if you cannot see what is holding them back. Too much pressure will cause them to snap off at the base and then the water must be shut down in the entire park until it can be fixed.
If you are cleaning walls, start from the bottom and work up so that you don’t leave stain marks from cleaning agents on the walls. Make sure all surfaces are rinsed free of cleaning agents when you clean a cage. Bleach or disinfectant can burn animal’s flesh.
When dry cleaning try to avoid creating unnecessary dust – many animals (especially birds) are susceptible to respiratory illness and infection caused by dust. If you are raking hills, where possible rake along contours or uphill. Raking down hill eventually wears down the hill. In aviaries and other sandy areas, don’t rake towards the door, rake back into the exhibit or sand build-up will prevent the door from being closed. Some Keepers like rake marks in the sand, others prefer to sweep lightly over the rake marks with a broom. Either method is preferable to a row of boot prints.
Don’t overload your wheelbarrow; fill it only to a level you can comfortably manage. Tamp down material on the barrow before moving it. Rake in the direction of the wind where possible to avoid making extra work. Clean-up after yourself; once you have moved the bedding, clean up the debris. Keep your service areas and garbage dump areas clean.
Dry bedding is important – don’t just add dry material, remove wet bedding first.
Remember (in winter especially) it may be better to have a dry, dirty cage than a clean, wet one. The Zoo is not a hospital; the cleaning levels required are those acceptable to the Zoo Management, the animals’ needs, and the conditions at the time.
Learn to clean properly – don’t clean in a sloppy, dirty manner, or use more tools than are necessary. Make sure you clean stall corners and don’t forget, cob webs belong to Keepers – look up when you are cleaning.
Spot cleaning an exhibit can sometimes be as effective as a total cleaning. It may be better to clean-up feces, etc. but leave one rock uncleaned for marking, to provide the animal with a familiar smell. Cleaning can be considered with reference to the size of an animal’s normal living area in the wild state. If it has a large territory then it probably has minimal contact with its own feces; animals in small spaces are much more likely to come across their own wastes during their daily activities.
Cleaning can also be considered from the point of view of the animal’s cycle. For example the cage may be given regular cleaning for one reproductive cycle of the animal, and then cleaned extensively.
When cleaning up feces, look under leaves, etc. Some animals hide their excrement. Move substrate material around to air it. Pick up the feces with a shovel or scoop; also remove some of the contaminated substrate from underneath the feces. Try to pick up all fecal matter before you rake or sweep the exhibit, to avoid spreading excrement. Some parasite ova have a very long life and you could spread eggs, etc. around the exhibit.
SUBSTRATES AND BEDDING
Different materials are used at Big Cat Rescue to provide bedding and substrates for cage and exhibit floors. In inside exhibits almost every kind of material may be used: concrete, earth, clay, bark or wood chips, wood mulch, sand of different grades, large gravel, biturninized surface (for water ponds), pine needles, clay pellets, peat moss, sphagnum moss, etc. DO NOT USE HAY OR STRAW. There have been two cases of cats cholicking, like a horse would, from ingesting hay, so it is not reccomended for bedding for exotic cats. The substrates are chosen as best suitable based on water-retaining abilities (or lack), their aesthetic appearance, the fact that some are sterile, or to provide burrowing or digging areas for some animals. Concrete, rock or hard earth may be necessary to provide claw wear.
Check fill dirt, especially outside, on a daily basis to find items working their way to the surface.
Sometimes animals require various nesting materials for lining nest boxes or making nests. Quantities of the appropriate material should be added when necessary and can be collected throughout the year (dry grass and dry leaves, for instance) and stored.
In some areas of the Sanctuary we use hot beds in winter as a means of providing a warm surface and bedding for the animals in outside enclosures. Check these regularly to be sure they are working properly, are not overheating and that the power supply cords are intact and out of the reach of the animals.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
Proper use of tools and equipment makes the Keeper’s work easier and more acceptable; it can save much time and unnecessary labour.
Each work area usually has one or more places where the tools and kept. Make sure you return tools to the proper place for storage when not in use. Don’t take more tools than you need into an exhibit to clean; it is easy to leave one behind when you have finished, so always check the exhibit when you have finished for rakes, shovels, brooms, etc. before you let animals back in.
Use the proper tool for the job; square-mouthed shovels are not suitable for digging.
Don’t overload your wheelbarrow – only put in as much as you can comfortably carry. Before moving the wheelbarrow, tamp down the load, to compact it; you will lose less material off the barrow if you do this and save time and effort when cleaning up.
Don’t use corn brooms in water – they quickly rot and soon lose their bristles. Use a stable (yard) broom or leaf rake.
When cleaning, try to have a routine which you follow, rather than a haphazard cleaning of an exhibit. Account for all your tools when you leave an area, make sure they are all in their proper places.
Remember that tools which you are using in an exhibit occupied by animals may elicit an attack or a reaction. Some hoof stock, for example, may react to your rake as though it was a set of antlers or horns. Don’t poke at animals with tools.
When you are lifting (wheelbarrows, shovel loads) bend the knees, not the back.
Keep your equipment in good order. Tools are kept clean for a reason, not just so they look nice. Hygiene and longer tool life are both better served by well kept, properly stored tools. Linseed oil and turpentine on the handles of tools make them smoother and less likely to splinter.
When tools are properly stored, other Keepers know where they are and don’t waste time hunting for them.
Hang brooms to dry. Rakes and shovels should be washed after use and hung up out of the way. Periodic oiling of all metal tools increases life; grease your wheelbarrow axle as a part of your routine.
Always keep your tools stored neatly; treat them as though they were your own. Tools cost the Refuge a lot of money – don’t misuse them.
Tools and equipment left lying around are dangerous – people may trip over them. Keep your wheelbarrow and buckets clean and stand them up out of the way to dry.
Remember that pitch forks and bale hooks are potentially dangerous and always use them with care. Never swing a bale hook towards your body or legs, always off to one side.
A clean exhibit can be spoiled if the area around it isn’t clean and tidy. Keep your hoses neatly coiled out of the way, and all tools hung in their proper place where they won’t impede passage, especially in areas without much space. Place all bagged trash in containers and secure the lids.
Oil locks, door hinges and sliding bolts and pulleys. It is a good idea to establish a regular routine for this job, say once a month, so that it becomes another work habit.
Try to keep your garbage storage areas as tidy as possible. Clean up around garbage containers, wash and disinfect your garbage cans regularly.
Money which the Sanctuary spends on tools, equipment, uniforms etc. isn’t available for use in other areas. If you are working in water, wear rubber boots. Leather boots should be regularly treated with a waterproofing compound if they are to last any length of time.Restraint and safety equipment is also the Keeper’s responsibility; all equipment should be kept in good condition and properly stored in easily accessible places. Make sure you are familiar with the equipment and where it is kept -someone’s life may depend on it.
THE KEEPER IN SUMMER
Extra care in Keeping is necessary during the sometimes very hot summer temperatures.
Keepers should make sure that animals have adequate shade where necessary. Remember that some animals, such as light coloured animals have sensitive skin liable to sunburn.
Make sure adequate clean water is available and replenish as needed. Animals may consume more water than normal during especially hot weather.
Very hot summer days may necessitate changes in the feeding schedule. Be aware that meat may quickly spoil or become flyb1own in the heat; it is better to feed smaller amounts more often to avoid this problem, rather than feeding all the food at once. The cats are fed at dusk to eliminate this problem. Other mixed, moist food, or cut fruit, etc. may spoil rapidly in hot weather; gelatin melts in the sun. Sometimes wild animals will steal food unless small quantities are fed (e.g. rats stealing food).
Keepers should also consider their own health and safety during very hot weather; wear a hat if you are working in the sun and protect your neck; both habits will help prevent sunstroke. Cover your skin if you are susceptible to sunburn. Drink plenty of liquids to replace those lost through sweating. Adjust your routines to do heavy outdoor work in the cool of the morning or late afternoon, rather than during the heat of the day. Wear mosquito repellant if needed. Watch for mosquitoes on the animals and log it on the Observation Chart.
Remove algae on a regular basis to prevent a major build up and a slippery safety hazard.
If the cat has stopped breathing and the heart has stopped beating there are two methods of resuscitation. Chest compression stimulates the heart to beat and if done correctly, can force air in and out of the lungs. If you cannot hear the intake and exhale of air, you should add mouth to nose forced respiration.
1. Feel for the heartbeat and watch closely to see if the chest is moving.
2. Open the mouth, wipe away fluids and check for something stuck in the mouth. If there is something stuck too far down use the Heimlich Maneuver, by laying the cat down on his right side. Place one hand on the belly and one on the back, just behind the back rib and exert four quick thrust. Repeat until the object is dislodged.
3. Lay the cat down on a flat surface with his right side down.
4. Pinch the cat with one hand, from the belly side, just behind the elbows and squeeze the chest sharply from side to side. Release quickly. Repeat six times and then wait five seconds to see if he takes a breath. Repeat until the cat begins breathing on his own.
5. If this is not causing the cat to breathe, pull his tongue forward and hold his mouth shut . Be careful not to pierce his tongue with his teeth.
6. Place your mouth over the cat’s nose and blow in until the chest rises, then release to allow the air back out. Do not blow too hard or the lungs could burst. Continue with the heart massage and blowing in the nose until the cat is breathing on his own or until all life signs have stopped for over five minutes.
This procedure can be used even on stillborn kittens with great success.
Prevention being the best remedy, you should know that some causes of a cessation of life signs are:
· Prolonged Seizures
· Head Injury
· Electric Shock
· Sudden Death
Don’t leave electrical cords plugged in or exposed. Don’t allow your cat to play with things that could be chewed up and choked on. Don’t allow your cat in contact with insecticides or toxins. They will chew through the bottle to get to something that will hurt them. Don’t allow your cat into an area from which he can escape, and make sure all of the exits from your home or his cage have safety entrances installed. If you can keep him safe from all of the above, the time will still come when he will find that window of opportunity to get into trouble, but you can limit his exposure to risk.
Note: I am not a veterinarian. Please consult a licensed veterinarian for the care of your exotic cat.
Note: I am not a medical doctor. Please consult a professional for human first aid.