As with many of the servals we have at Big Cat Rescue, PURRsonality seems to enjoy the daily attention she gets from her volunteer keepers. She eagerly plays with any enrichment items that are given to her to break up the monotony of life in captivity. She can be seen batting spice bags around and rubbing and rubbing them until the scent has completely disappeared.
As with most of our servals, this is the type of playful, non-threatening behavior you’ll see from them during the daytime. But, feeding time is a whole different story. The minute food is involved; these diminutive little cats become dangerous carnivores. PURRsonality is no exception.
Though servals are often touted as great exotic pets, nothing could be farther from the truth. Ask many of our keepers and they will all say the same thing: they’d much prefer feeding the larger tigers than these little wildcats like PURRsonality. Looks can be very deceiving!
Most of our servals were rescued from people who got them as pets and were not prepared for the fact that male or female, altered or not, they all spray buckets of urine when they become adults. Some were being sold at auction where taxidermists would buy them and club them to death in the parking lot, but a few were born here in the early days when we were ignorant of the truth and were being told by the breeders and dealers that these cats should be bred for “conservation.” Once we learned that there are NO captive breeding programs that actually contribute to conservation in the wild we began neutering and spaying our cats in the mid 1990’s. Knowing what we do about the intelligence and magnificence of these creatures we do not believe that exotic cats should be bred for lives in cages. Read more about our Evolution of Thought HERE
7/26/16 Today Santino was “down” in his den and surrounded by flies. We caught him and took him into the Windsong Memorial Hospital and Dr Wynn agreed to come by at noon. When we tried to fire up the generator, to run the X-ray machine, it wouldn’t start. We had a close lightning strike last week that took out the power and think it may have fried something. So, we drove Santino to Ehrlich Road Animal Hospital for X-rays, blood work and a sonogram.
During the ultrasound they expressed his bladder and found it to be bloody and full of crystals.
Back in 2013 we found masses in his liver but the blood work came back inconclusive on whether or not it was cancer. The X-rays and ultrasound showed the liver to be as bad or worse than before, but rather than open him up for exploratory surgery we opted to send out the urine, blood and a sample of the liver that was drawn today, to see if we can get a more conclusive report. He’s lived w/ the liver issue for many years, and I believe we have seen similar liver tissue in his cage mates who all came from the same pet store in NY and were probably all from the same backyard breeder.
Santino was 17 years old, and did not wake up from the anesthesia today. He’s gone on to join Doodles, Zoul and his former cage mate who died before we were able to rescue them from the basement in NY. I am sure that Zouletta will miss him, as we all will. Run in Paradise Santino.
A woman in NY was battling cancer, her sister had run off leaving her with her three children ages 6-17 and her home was in foreclosure…. She also had five servals living in her basement!
She would never be able to rent an apartment to keep her five servals and was left no choice but to try and find them a new home. After careful consideration we decided that we were able to rescue the 5 servals and immediately went into action. All the servals currently at the sanctuary live alone which they prefer as they’re solitary by nature, so in order to house 5 servals in one enclosure we had to get creative. We joined two existing enclosures together which made one huge 3000 sq ft space that the servals could roam around in and enjoy.
On top of joining the enclosures together, we added platforms, den boxes, hideaway areas and we were told they had a waterfall as kittens and loved it, so we also added a pool! We received the import permits, loaded the van with carriers and equipment then started on the long drive to New York while others finished preparing the enclosure.
We arrived in Cohoes New York, just north of Albany to a typical residential neighborhood, the 5 servals had been kept in the basement of the house which had been converted into a living room and except for a few escapes over the years including an incident where one of the owners was bit and in hospital for a week, they’d never spent any time outside. There were 4 males, Santino, Doodles, Zoul and Zimba and 1 female Zouletta, all 5 had been declawed and were between the ages of 12 and 14 years.
All the servals except for Doodles are related and had been purchased from a pet store in Latham NY, Doodles was added to the serval pack at a later date and ironically belonged to a man in Florida who’s wife told him to choose between her and the cat!
It was a kind of a bizarre and an uneasy experience to walk into the basement area and see the 5 servals hanging out in front of the fire, by the TV and on top of the hot tub! It is hard to imagine that these cats spent much time out of their concrete floored cell because the furniture and hot tub cover were not chewed and these five love to chew! But most of all it was just sad to see these 5 wild cats in such cramped unnatural conditions. The owners obviously loved the cats and had planned on them being a part of their life, they’d constructed a caged area with a drain in the floor so they could clean more easily and shut them off into the area when they had company or weren’t in the house. The cats weren’t living in filthy conditions, it was obvious they’d been fed as they all looked overweight, the owners recounted stories of them playing on pool tables and with their air hockey game, but it didn’t change the fact that their ignorance had led to the cats living on concrete in these dungeon like settings for over a decade….
Of course life has lots of surprises and circumstances change and the owners are now unable to afford or house the servals any longer…
So the rescue began…
With the help of the owners we managed to get four of the five servals into the carriers quite easily, but Doodles wasn’t impressed with these strangers invading his territory and wouldn’t go into the carrier even after we tried using food to lure him in, so he had to be netted.
Sedating cats is always the last resort, certain cats can react badly to the drugs, so we never do this unless it’s absolutely necessary…
With all 5 servals safely loaded into the BCR van and the last tearful goodbyes said, we began our long drive back to Tampa, we drove straight through the night and over 20 hours later arrived back at the sanctuary!
More staff members were waiting to help unload the cats, we weighed all the servals on the way to their new enclosure, they weighed between 31 and 42lbs, ideally they should have weighed between 20 and 30lbs.
We lined the carriers up and prepared them so we could simply unlatch the doors when we were out of the enclosure. Santino, easily recognizable with his old injury of a broken ear was the first to emerge from the carriers and explore. One by one the other servals finally began to follow his lead and introduced themselves to the outside world and their new home.
The only way we can continue to rescue cats in need like Santino, Doodles, Zimba, Zoul and Zouletta is through your support. Stay tuned for future updates on all 6 servals and how they’re adapting to life at Big Cat Rescue. You can help us change the way people treat big cats by sponsoring them here: http://big-cat-rescue.myshopify.com/collections/sponsor-a-cat
These are a few of the photos from the rescue of five servals who had been kept in a NY basement for more than 12 years.
Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, FL is excited to tell you about an opportunity that is sure to feed your beastly appetite for adventure. Our Big Cat Keeper Tour is the most exclusive behind the scenes experience you can find in the animal world that is respectful to the animals and safe for the guests. If you are an animal lover and want to see the inner workings of a real animal sanctuary, then this 2-hour experience is what you have been searching for. No where else can you get this close, interact with such a wide variety of wild cats, and support a great cause at the same time.
The Keeper Tour includes:
Enrichment: You’ll make toys and treats for the cats to stimulate an animals’ activity level and watch as keeper hands out what you’ve made. Observe the animals’ reactions as they investigate their enrichment that you helped create for them.
Operant conditioning: You’ll witness a training session between the cats & keepers. During this activity you will accompany our keepers who will teach critical behaviors to one of our feline residents, such as go into lock out, stand up so we can observe the paws and underside, and much more!
History: You’ll learn the history behind our furry friends and how they came to call Big Cat Rescue home. In addition, you’ll also hear the story of why Big Cat Rescue was founded, as you take a guided mini tour of the 67 acre sanctuary.
On your exploration you will see many of our approximately 80 exotic cats, of many species of exotic cats! Learn about where these great cats come from in the wild and what you can do to help their plight. You will join an exclusive group of adventure seekers and a few of our highly trained staff for an orientation that will prepare you for Behind the Scenes excitement!
Each Behind the Big Cat Scenes Adventure is unique and different, so you never know fully what to expect, besides a roaring good time!
Keeper Tours are available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays ONLY at 10 AM. Participants in the Big Cat Keeper Tours must be 10 years of age or older.
Be sure to read the following before booking your tour:
Kricket the serval was born in 2001 and had been kept as a pet, but when her owners divorced, the wife decided that she didn’t have time for Kricket and began looking for a home for her.
We agreed to rescue Kricket and began preparing an enclosure for her with lots of places to hide and fun things to explore, she’d just spent the last ten years living indoors so we wanted to make her adjustment to life outside as stress free and enjoyable as possible.
Her owner was willing to contract with us to never possess another exotic cat, Kricket was then shipped from Virginia to Florida via Delta Dash.
We were at the airport to pick her up and Joseph the lion gave Kricket a roaring welcome to the sanctuary when she arrived!
Exotic cats kept as pets are often fed improper diets resulting in serious health problems. Her former owner, a vegan, insisted that Kricket chose a predominantly vegetarian diet, but we’ve never known a cat to do so.
The former owner said the deformities that Kricket suffers from were from injuries and not diet related.
She insisted that Kricket preferred broccoli to animals, but here Kricket loves the variety of raw meat.
Whatever Kricket’s diet was it’s obviously taken a toll on the little serval, her back and rear legs show signs of stunted development and her tail is unusually curled, which is most likely the result of her past injuries, inbreeding that is common in the pet trade and her insufficient diet. Some of Kricket’s bone deformities have improved since she has been on an improved diet.
Watch more about Kricket and a few of her new serval friends who were rescued the same year.
Male DOB 1/1/03
Caravel (Caracal / Serval Hybrid)
Meet Jo Jo the Caracal Serval Hybrid
I first met JoJo the Caracal / Serval hybrid at the South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in 2005 after a hurricane had taken down the perimeter fencing and dumped piles of deadfall on the cages.
The owner, Dirk Neugebohm, had ended up in the hospital with a heart attack from trying to clean the mess up by himself.
He wrote from what he thought was his deathbed back then to anyone and everyone he could think of asking for help; and asking for help was not something that came easily to this hard working German.
What we found, when Howard and I visited, was a man who was way in over his head. Donations were almost non existent, the cages were old, dilapidated, small and concrete floored. The freezer had been damaged and he had lost his food supply, so we sent food and volunteers to help him clean up and rebuild.
The tiger back then was Sinbad, who lived in what is commonly used for housing parrots. An oval corn crib cage with a metal roof. Sinbad died recently after a snake bite, leaving Krishna, pictured, as the only remaining tiger.
We had a donor and a sanctuary (Safe Haven in NV) that were willing to take Krishna, but we were told that the Florida Wildlife Commission had found someone less than 6 miles away to take him.
Dirk managed to keep his sanctuary afloat, if just barely, for the next 8 years, but a couple days ago one of his volunteers, Vickie Saez, who we had been helping for the past couple of years with infrastructure and social networking, contacted us to say that Dirk was dying of brain cancer in the hospital and that she had convinced him to let the animals go to other homes. She said the Florida Wildlife Commission had arranged for most of the homes, but that Dirk was very happy that we could take JoJo. Our sweet Caracal, Rose, had died July 31st and her cage was empty.
We were told that all of the other cats had new homes waiting, except for Nola the cougar, but she was very ill. We offered to pay a vet to do blood work on her to make sure that she was not contagious. We were concerned because she had a history of some very contagious diseases, which had left her severely debilitated. What concerned us was that her caretaker said she looked bloated.
A vet had arrived to help with the transfer of two leopards to a place in Jupiter. He sedated Nola to see what was wrong.
We are told that he palpitated three melon sized tumors in her abdomen and that with every touch of her belly she exuded foamy blood from her nose and anus. He was sure that there was no hope for her and humanely euthanized her.
This photo was Nola back in 2011. While we were sad that we would not be able to give Nola a new home here at Big Cat Rescue we are glad that she is not suffering any more.
JoJo at Big Cat Rescue
JoJo has arrived at Big Cat Rescue and settled in nicely. It is quite possibly his first time to walk on the soft earth.
His cage has been a small (maybe 60 square feet) of concrete and chain link for at least 8 years and probably longer. He is thought to be about 10 years old. Sometimes breeders hybridize exotic cats because there are no laws on the books that regulate them, but in Florida, the inspectors say, “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck; it’s a duck.”
JoJo now has 1,200 square feet of earth, bushes, trees and grass.
He really likes the grass. Are you hearing the Beetles lyric, “JoJo left his home in Homestead-Miami looking for some Florida grass?”
Mac was brought here by his owner to be boarded because of zoning laws changing in his owner’s home town, but that was many years ago. He now has a permanent home at Big Cat Rescue and enjoys a 1200 square foot lush Cat.a.tat with a large cave den.
Mac has a particular penchant for small children, as do most big cats. Big cats see children as potential prey and having a big cat as a pet is a recipe for disaster.
When a group comes by on a guided tour, Mac always picks out the smallest child (or person) in the group and you would think there was no one else on the tour if you judged from Mac’s perspective.
Exotic cats are opportunistic hunters and the weak and the small are the easiest targets.