Feed Cats

Feed Cats

Big Cat Rescue’s Feeding Protocol

WHAT BIG CAT RESCUE FEEDS

Big Cat Rescue feeds our 500 pounds of food per day and we use Triple A Brand Meat Company because it is the best and the cats LOVE it.

Feline Complete Diet: Beef muscle meat, KanTech Feline Complete vitamin/mineral premix.

  • Packaged in three 10 pound frozen bags per box
  • Click here for complete nutritional information*

Bones:Bovine leg shanks.

  • Packaged in one 40 pound bag per box
  • Choice of 4-5″ small and 8-10″ large
Raw Hides: Beef Hides
  • Approximately 18″ x 24″ pieces, 6 pieces per box
Chunk Meat: Beef Chunk
  • Packaged in five 5 pound frozen bags per box
  • Click here for complete nutritional information* 

 

Please call for further information at 1-800-437-5581  sales@tripleabrandmeatcompany.com

Log in every morning between 8:30 and 9:30 am EDT to see lions and tigers being fed.


Log in to this page every day between 4PM and 8PM EDT to see Nikita Lion being fed.

If you see Nikita Lion pacing behind the gate at her feeding area, that means the door has been dropped so the Keepers can safely put the food in the lockout area for her.  Then they open the gate to let her in.  Nikita has another water bowl in the other side of her cage, so don’t worry if the door is down to this one right before feeding.

 

Read this article on a site that specializes in pet cat diets:

http://feline-nutrition.org/features/theres-no-kibble-served-at-the-big-cat-rescue

We also use Colorado Box Beef

Colorado Box Beef $ per lb Master Purveyors $ per lb
Beef Beef
Kidneys $0.93 Kidneys 0.59
Livers $0.87 Livers 1.15
Tongue $2.30 Tongue 2.55
Head meat $1.52 Head meat 1.5
Back Rib bones 1.16-1.79 Back Rib bones 1.62
Tripe(Stomach) $0.62 Tripe(Stomach) 0.8
Hearts $0.90 Hearts 1.19
Clods $2.09
Tenders $2.26
Turkey Turkey
Necks $0.54 Necks 0.58
drumsticks $0.90 Drumsticks 0.94
Wings $0.94 Wings 0.98
Chicken
1/4’s 0.52
Necks 0.35
Wings 0.88
Drumsticks 0.76

 

[toc]

INTRODUCTION

 

Big Cats Love Feeding Time!

Nutrition is the process by which an organism takes in (ingests), digests and assimilates food. The types of food ingested and the manner in which they are taken in are as varied as the animals in the sanctuary. Nutrition is a science, while feeding sanctuary animals is an art. Feeding involves the animal’s behavior, the kind of food, when, where, how and why it is fed; the preparation and presentation of the food; feeding records and the sanctuary Commissary.

 

THE KEEPER’S ROLE

 

The Keeper is the interface between the animal and all the other staff in the sanctuary. This role is especially important where feeding is concerned because only the Keeper knows how well an animal is eating, whether or not the animal finds the food acceptable, and its general condition resulting from what, when and how it is fed.

No matter how good the diet is, it must be properly presented to the animal, at the optimum time, and under conditions that allow the animal to eat adequate amounts. The Keeper’s role is extremely important in the preparation and presentation of food and cannot be stressed enough. A knowledge of the kind of animal, its behavior and nutritional requirements are all necessary to provide a properly presented diet. Check diet sheets regularly to familiarize yourself with any changes and to ensure the diet as offered matches the diet sheet.

 

 

DAILY REQUIREMENTS

 

For most animals food is presented on a daily basis. Feeding times vary with different species, and with animal management techniques; for example most of our larger carnivores are fed in the evening or late afternoon to reduce the attraction of flies and ants.

Sanitation is very important, especially where the food offered is moist or starts to decompose rapidly (e.g. fish, meat or fruit). Dry foods such as hay and browse offer less of a problem but must be kept clean and uncontaminated. Food bowls, trays, feeding platforms and areas must be kept clean and (usually) dry.

Every organism needs nutrients for its maintenance as well as for growth or production. Maintenance is defined as the condition in which an animal is neither gaining nor losing body energy (or other nutrients). A maintenance diet is one that keeps the organism alive and healthy but does not provide for additional energy uses; these may take several forms – exercise, building additional organic substances (growth), production of a fetus or milk, and increases in reserves such as fat. Maintenance requirements are for maintaining body temperature, physiological functions (such as respiration and digestion) and repairing and replacing tissue, without the animal gaining or losing body weight.

 

 

FEEDING CONSIDERATIONS

 

Volume 6 of the International sanctuary Yearbook lists several criteria of importance in the feeding of sanctuary animals.
Tiger eating a bone at Big Cat Rescue

The employment of the teeth and digestive organs in such a way as to keep them healthy. Supplying the necessary nutrients which each animal requires. Providing occupation and contentment with respect to the feeding process. Allowing for seasonal changes in needs (sexual activity, external environment etc). Avoiding psychological stress, which is linked with nutrition. (R.Fiennes, Feeding Animals In Captivity) The cost of various foods must also be considered in the sanctuary. In feeding sanctuary animals we try to ensure that each animal ingests sufficient food to maintain its physical, physiological and psychological well being. Several points should be considered. The nature of the diet being offered – is it a natural or man-made diet? Does it require supplementing or is it already balanced?

The type of feed container, how many are needed, and the location.
The type of exhibit or holding area.
The number of animals and the sex ratio.
Dominance factors.
Seasonal requirements (climatic).
Mixed species exhibits.
The physical condition of the animal being offered food.
The animal’s previous diet.
Control of the animal’s routine.

 

FEEDING BEHAVIOR:

 

In order to establish an effective feeding method we must take into consideration the animal’s natural feeding behavior. Some animals have evolved into very specialized feeders, which causes problems when trying to provide natural or acceptable substitute diets for them in captivity. Some animals are continuous feeders while others are occasional feeders, and food must be offered accordingly.

 

FOOD PRESENTATION:

 

The presentation of food is as important as its composition. Animals which feed on live food may be gradually weaned onto dead food, which is often easier to keep, less costly and less dangerous.

Animals seek their food aided by their sensory organs; sense of smell, taste, touch and vision are not all equally well developed in all animals. Some species may rely heavily on a single sense, in which case the presentation must make the food appealing to that sense. Birds are often very dependent on vision. A perfect food in pellet form for a bird may be unacceptable because the bird does not recognize the diet as food. It may be necessary to put animals which aren’t familiar with an “unnatural” food together with others who already recognize the food and accept it, in order that the first group can learn to identify the new diet as a food source by watching the other animal eating.

As well as the need to recognize food as such, the animal must also be able to eat it. The physical adaptations of an animal, its food intake organs (tongue, teeth, lips, beak etc) must be considered when offering food; we must also consider its feeding patterns.

Many species swallow food whole. The size of the food particle is important. Rodents require material to gnaw on for dental conditioning.

 

LOCATION OF FOOD:

 

The positioning and number of food bowls and troughs, feeding stations etc. should be based on the feeding behavior of the species. In displays with a number of individuals several dishes may be necessary to reduce or avert fighting over food.

Hygiene considerations also dictate where bowls are placed; they must be positioned to avoid contamination with feces and urine. Food should be protected from rain, snow, excessive sunlight and heat. Pests such as mice, sparrows and insects must be kept away from food as much as possible. The public should have no direct access to animal food containers except under direct supervision. Keepers must be able to service the feeding area in a safe manner.

Hay feeders should be above ground to avoid fecal contamination, but should not be so high as to force the animal to reach too high for its feed. Grazing animals, with their continuous feeding habits, would in this situation, spend much of their time in unnatural positions which could result in spinal deformation. Eye infections and irritations can be caused by hay particles and dust falling into an animal’s eyes when the animal has to reach into a high feeder.

Construction of feeders should utilize smooth surfaces and rounded edges to avoid injury. Dishes for many species should be well fastened.

There are other special requirements; experience and a good basic understanding of animal feeding habits, behavior and adaptations will provide a guide for constructing safe effective feeding stations and for proper feeding techniques.

 

TIMING OF FEEDING

 

Animals feed at different times in a 24-hour period (nocturnal and diurnal feeders); some feed over very long periods and are continuous feeders whereas others feed only for short periods. Some animals feed several times a day (or night) while others, such as snakes and birds of prey may pause for days or even weeks between feedings.

Keepers have less opportunity to observe feeding in those species which are nocturnal, unless the light cycle is reversed. Animals which are continuous feeders make it difficult to judge the total amount of food consumed, especially when they are exhibited in groups. Some animals may be separated at feeding times, as part of their normal routine. This allows the Keeper to monitor the animal’s food intake, make diet adjustments; it also allows for exhibition in natural groups once feeding is over.

 

FOOD AND WATER CONTAINERS

 

Big Cat Rescue uses different kinds and sizes of containers for food and water:
Rubber bowls (2.5, 5, and 10 gallon size)
Stainless steel bowls, ceramic bowls, and plastic bowls
Wood and metal feed troughs various sizes and shapes
Paper plates

Food and water bowls should be cleaned thoroughly each day. Don’t forget the outside and underneath of the containers.

When selecting a container for an animal’s food or water, consider the hygiene requirements, pest control, safety and serviceability, and the position and number of bowls required. Always remember to clean the area around and underneath food stations.

 

ANIMAL TYPES

 

There are many different aspects of food intake and several categories can be identified besides herbivorous, carnivorous and omnivorous, which only describe the type of food eaten.

Predators and Prey animals: Predators and prey show important differences in feeding behavior. Predators are species which may pursue and kill other animals, and consume them. The competition for potential food and the animal’s predatory skills develop an aggressive behavior and intolerance for other individuals. A Keeper may expect fighting over food with animals of this group during feeding. Ideally all individuals in a group of predators are presented with food simultaneously and spaced as far apart as is necessary to ensure a peaceful meal.

Competition and fighting over food stands in direct relation to its abundance or its availability to the species. Ungulates normally seen grazing peacefully together may become competitive and aggressive when a Keeper hands out tidbits, or where the feeding station is too small to allow all animals to feed together.

Group feeding disadvantages include:
Competition for food; fighting and possible injury.
Uneven distribution of various food items among individuals.
Lack of Keeper control over individual intake.
Individuals with specific needs (medication, lactation supplements, etc.) may not be served.

Competitive fighting for food, has no place in the sanctuary. Remember that animals will defend food or that food may be the cause of aggressive behavior in an otherwise calm and approachable animal. Take care in approaching animals which have food, or if you are carrying food.

 

FOOD PREPARATION AREAS

 

Make sure your kitchen or food preparation area is kept scrupulously clean. All tools and equipment must be kept dry, clean and oiled if necessary. Keep knives honed sharp; make sure all equipment is hung or shelved. Any foods or supplements should be kept in tightly closed, rodent proof containers. Containers should be amber, opaque or light proof as many vitamins are destroyed by light and heat. Disinfect this area regularly; clean benches, and keep cutting blocks dry and clean, and sinks scrubbed.

 

FOOD PREPARATION

 

Keepers spend a good part of their day preparing foods for the animals in their area. The amount of time spent depends on the kind of animals and their diets. Each Keeper must be familiar with the kinds of food being fed and the manner of preparation and presentation. Keepers should take special care to see that food items, additives and supplements are properly mixed and presented in a manner acceptable to the animal. Do not assume that refusal of certain items is a rejection of that food without first altering food size or method of presentation.

The sanctuary’s Nutritionist has the responsibility of formulating the animals’ diet, working with the curator and veterinary staff. The initial preparation of the properly balanced diet for all of the variety of sanctuary animals then falls to the Commissary staff. The Keepers responsibility is the final preparation and presentation of the food in a manner which is acceptable to the animal in quality, quantity and timing. Keepers should be familiar with their animal’s nutritional needs, and can have direct input into the dietary system through requesting diet changes and speaking with the Nutritionist.

 

COMMISSARY AND NUTRITIONIST

 

Big Cat Rescue believes in the nutritional concept of sanctuary animal feeding. We have a fully trained Commissary staff working seven days a week.

Animal nutrition in the sanctuary involves a two way flow of information between the Commissary staff on one hand and the Keepers on the other. Feedback on diet acceptability, consumption levels, etc. is essential in the planning of sanctuary animal diets. Not much information is available on sanctuary nutrition because it is such a new field. Diets are often based on those developed for domestic stock or through ranching of such animals as mink, and proceed by trial and error often, until the right balance is achieved for sanctuary stock.

If you find new or relevant information in your reading which applies to sanctuary animals, share it with the Nutritionist. People with specific interests may come across dietary information of value to the sanctuary. Because sanctuary nutrition has become such an exact science the Keeper can be a valuable source of information from outside the sanctuary, as well as information about his or her animals.

The Commissary staff prepare and store all the food used in the sanctuary. Food is distributed to the Keepers daily or special additions as needed.

Big Cat Rescue offers a variety of pelletized and cubed foods for its animals as well as commercially prepared and packaged foods, whole animals and live foods. Pellets, crumble, cubes are all dry foods, often specifically prepared for the sanctuary from formula provided by the sanctuary’s Nutritionist.

Most foods are supplemented to correct nutritional imbalances, and where possible, formulated diets, (prepared flash frozen meats, pellets, cubes) that have a complete balanced nutritional “package” are offered.

However, the change of seasons, personal preferences, or specific animal manipulations may require dietary changes that the Keeper should initiate. No diet should be altered without consultation with your Foreman/Overseer, Nutritionist/ Veterinarian, or Curator. Even the slightest dietary change could have far-reaching positive or negative consequences that all the above should be aware of.

 

FOOD RECORDS

 

By defining diets for each animal or group in the sanctuary, and closely monitoring animal health, reproduction, longevity and food intake, we ensure the best quality of life for our sanctuary stock. A number of forms are used to facilitate this feeding control.

 

DIET SHEETS

 

Each animal or group of animals has a diet sheet listing the kinds of food the animals receive, the quantity, how often and what supplements are added. The sheet is kept in the animal’s holding area or in a central kitchen area such as in each pavilion. These sheets are the results of considerable work and the instructions and amounts should be followed accurately. Diet sheets must be kept up-to-date and should reflect changes in the group (births and deaths), seasonal needs and the amounts and types of supplements required.

The Keeper’s sheet must be up-to-date and represent what the animal is actually being fed; make sure your sheets are reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

Diet changes can be requested on a feed requisition form (see 2, below). Provided that you have supplied relevant information about the diet and the animals involved, and that the changes are nutritionally acceptable, a new diet sheet can be issued within two days.

Current diets for all animals in the sanctuary are kept by the Nutritionist; outdated diet sheets are also kept so that the entire dietary history of an animal is available for reference. This enables us to correlate diet with breeding activity, birth rate, survival and growth of young to establish species parameters.

 

FEED CONTROL SHEETS

 

For some species we utilize feed control sheets which record the daily amounts of food offered, the different kinds of food, and the amounts eaten and refused. Diet control sheets offer an excellent means of closely following variations in food intake; studies of these sheets can determine whether diet changes are related to seasons or are for other reasons. They are also useful in establishing diet parameters for newly arrived species, determining quantities and preferences, and deciding maintenance and lactating diets.

The sheets are filled out daily by the Keeper; food going into an exhibit as well as the food coming out (as refuse) must be carefully weighed and recorded.

 

GUIDELINES FOR ANIMAL NUTRITION

 

Know what to feed and how much to feed. Underfed animals are more susceptible to disease; overfed animals may have health problems (from obesity) or reproductive problems.

Know what size food to offer each animal. Generally the smaller the animal the smaller the food size. You can provide occupational value by varying the food size.

Be familiar with different kinds of food used.

Try to feed according to the animal’s needs and feeding patterns; always use a routine.

Don’t feed spoiled, moldy or dusty food or food of poor quality.

Check all your food for contamination and spoilage, even in the bag.

If the food has been rejected by an animal, find out why. Is the animal sick? Or the food spoiled or at the wrong temperature? Has it been fed at the wrong time of day?

Make sure all animals in a group receive an adequate share of food, supplements, water and medication.

Keep food containers, bowls, storage bins, etc. clean inside and out.

Observe, record, report and follow-up any diet changes. Follow up on diet change requests.

If you are in doubt about an animal’s diet, ask questions.

When reporting an animal’s food consumption, report its attitude towards the food.

Keepers can present food in exciting and imaginative ways to interest their animals, (e.g. hiding food so the animal forages for it).

Feeding should be limited to how much the animals need and can eat, not the amount you think because they “look” hungry. Feed by your diet sheet; if this is too much or too little, have it changed.

Rotate your feed stations where possible – always clean up underneath feeding areas.

Use as many feed sites as are needed to safely feed your animals.

If your animal isn’t eating, tell someone. Note it on your report.

When storing bulk food, never add fresh food to older, stored food.

Empty and thoroughly clean out the container (jar, bin, etc.) before adding new foods.

Order only what food can be consumed in a reasonable period of time.

For example, the Mega C is readily oxidized. Even primate cubes with stabilized Vitamin C loses half of the Vitamin C within six weeks. Distinguish between production dates and expiry dates on bags before returning unused foods.

 

WATER

 

Most animals require fresh water for drinking, bathing or living in. The basic rule for the Keeper when supplying fresh water is to provide it as often as the animal requires, several times a day if necessary. Always keep your water dishes cleaned and disinfected; clean them inside and outside and underneath. Place water dishes in the exhibit in such a way that the animal won’t defecate or urinate in the bowl e.g. don’t place the water bowl under an arboreal animal’s branch. Use a dish of adequate size for your animals, or more than one dish if necessary. Some animals and birds delight in manipulating bowls, so sometimes a heavy ceramic or concrete dish may be needed.  Be sure the dish is shaded.

Remember that most animals have no access to water other than that which you provide for them; a good Keeper doesn’t go off on a coffee break if his animals don’t have adequate clean, fresh water.

Water is used in a variety of ways by many species. Snakes may bathe in a water dish prior to shedding their skin. Before supplying an exhibit with water, make sure it is at the correct temperature; try to match the temperature with the animal’s environment. Never offer water that is too hot or too cold.

City water supplies usually contain chlorine, often in amounts which can vary from day to day. The chlorine in the water reacts with iron or copper in the water pipes to form metal (chloride) molecules which can inhibit absorption through the skin of oxygen in the water by amphibians. It is important that tap water isn’t used directly in amphibian tanks or displays; a supply of water should be kept at all times, aged for at least 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissolve out of solution into the air before the water is used.

 

A NO (PUBLIC) FEEDING POLICY

 

Most sanctuary’s discourage the feeding of sanctuary animals by the public, but a no feeding rule is hard to enforce. Visitors like to feed animals because it links them with the sanctuary animal; it is a contact and a relationship, however brief. It may allow them control over the animal and may also stimulate behavior or movement in an otherwise inactive animal.

All sanctuary animals receive good, plentiful balanced diets; extra food isn’t required and can harm the animal. Most animals are like children, and will eat sweet food or junk-food all day. The sanctuary’s responsibility is like that of a child’s parents who must control the child’s diet. An animal full of junk-food won’t eat its normal sanctuary diet.

Animals will often eat whatever is offered to them – cigarettes, matches, food, bubblegum, cans, etc. Other animals are more fussy and won’t accept food that is very different from their basic diet.

Visitors who attempt to feed sanctuary animals should be apprised of the following facts:

 

  1. The animal receives a nutritious balanced diet and doesn’t need extra food. Many animals will eat junk food or sweet food even when they aren’t hungry. The sanctuary can’t control what they eat when people feed them – animals can end up with deficiencies, poor teeth and bad health. Food offered by visitors to certain animals can transmit disease (such as measles and colds to primates). Feeding by visitors disrupts the proper maintenance cycle of the animals – renders any feed control data invalid and may cause the Keepers to make inaccurate observations on how much the animal is eating.
  2. Causes aggressive encounters and a stereotyped dependency (begging).

There is no such thing as a free lunch for sanctuary animals. Make sure the public understand why they aren’t allowed to feed. The sanctuary staff aren’t trying to spoil the visitors fun, they are trying to discharge their responsibility in caring for their animals.  The exception to this are the supervised Feeding Tours.

Sand Cat Videos

Sand Cat Videos

 

 

We are proud to have some of the happiest cats around. And right now our sand cats are at the top of that list as they love their new sand. A BCR supporter named Lindsay chose to have her friends give money to donate to a project for us rather than spend it on gifts for her. When donating money you can earmark the donation and tell us exactly what you want that money to go to. She picked a “Casper project” (named after a cougar we all loved) and wanted sand to be put in our sand cat enclosures. We were happy to add to her donation, so we could get three huge loads of sand. Watch along as our sand cats Canyon and Genie explore and check out their homes. We truly have the best supporters in the world. Thank you. http://bigcatrescue.org

 

 

Welcome to another edition of Big Cat Rescue’s species spotlight. We now take a look at one of our smallest residents as well as a very elusive feline that not a lot of people have ever seen in the wild or in captivity. The sand cat is one of our favorites and hopefully will be one of yours as well. And this goes without saying but even though they are small they would not make a good pet. Hopefully this video will inspire you to support feline conservation efforts around the world. 2007

 

Of course we think all of our cats are cute, but we have selected 15 different cats to let viewers decide which they think is the CUTEST! Watch the video decide which cat you think should win, then simply visit our facebook page and comment on their photo, the cat with the most comments and “likes” will be crowned “Big Cat Rescue’s Cutest Cat” and the person with the funniest comment will WIN an original Paw Painting by Contestant #8 Narla the cougar worth $100 – The purr-fect Christmas gift!

 

 

So get commenting and GOOD LUCK! Contest ended in 2010

 

Watch all of our exotic cats videos in the faster loading YouTube Big Cat Rescue site.

Now at Big Cat Rescue Oct 9 2014

Now at Big Cat Rescue Oct 9 2014

Tiger Swims, Bobcat Runs and Jungle Cat gets Scratched

 

Alex the Bobcat goes back home.

The flooding at the sanctuary has the roadways being used by ducks.

Working on a room addition for Jumanji the black leopard.

Playing with kittens.

Moving Mickey Cougar back out to his Cat-a-Tat.

Our new net launcher arrives for catching injured bobcats at a distance.

Enrichment Committee makes a huge candle for Nik Tiger’s birthday, but he mostly just needs to pee.

Sundari Leopard gets locked up so she can get some new platforms.

Willow’s first attempt and using the telescoping back scratcher to help Rambo Jungle Cat with his grooming.

Zeus Tiger comes home from “vacation” in Vacation Rotation enclosure.

You saw TJ tiger in SloMo in the water, but here is some full speed video of him having fun in the lake.

 

WILDABOUT30

 

Join me for unlimited drinks, food, dancing to support the cats

The Centre Club at Westshore and Kennedy is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a party that is the bargain of the century and will help fund the surgery on Mickey the cougar’s other leg.

For only $30 you get unlimited hand crafted cocktails, delectable hors D’oervres by their expert chef, live music, dancing, silent auction, all the in elegant setting of this exclusive dining club.

What a deal! Please come join me on Saturday, October 18 for a fun evening that will help us provide Mickey with the medical treatment he needs.

To reserve call 813-286-4040 or visit https://classic.als.net/Register/?id=1201

 

Enrichment in a Puzzle Box Quiz for Cats

 

 

 

Enrichment-Puzzlebox-Cat-Quiz

Big Cat Rescuers help researcher determine if cats can figure out a puzzle

 

Enrichment-Puzzlebox-Cat-Quiz

and if they do, can they remember how they figured it out a few days later?

Enrichment-Puzzlebox-Cat-Quiz

Cats are VERY smart.  The question in our mind is whether the puzzle makes sense to a cat?

Enrichment-Puzzlebox-Cat-Quiz

Each cat has their own way of approaching the challenge.

Enrichment-Puzzlebox-Cat-Quiz

As in life, it doesn’t matter if they win or lose.  The fun is in playing the game.

 

TJ Tiger

Now at Big Cat Rescue Oct 8 2014

Now at Big Cat Rescue Oct 8 2014

In Case You Are Wondering What the Fuss Was About

 

Last Friday (Oct 3, 2014) the Florida Wildlife Commission inspectors came out, based on a complaint filed by Vernon Yates and Kathy Stearns, of Dade City Wild Things.  The officers told us that the rules say you can’t have leopards in an open top cage unless you get a prior, written, approval by the FWC.

This was news to us, because in the past it was OK to have leopards in open top cages and back when we first built the sanctuary, a lot of our leopard cages were built that way and passed inspection every year.  Attached at the bottom is the actual rule, so you can see how confusing it is, but I have highlighted the sentence in yellow so you can find it at all.

The one sentence about leopards and open top cages was buried in a section about cougars.  The FWC inspectors said they thought the cage was safe for leopards, but that they couldn’t make the decision, so they told me to contact Tallahassee for the request.  I did so within the hour.

Since we were obviously not aware of the rule and there was no imminent danger, they issued a warning, instead of a citation.  The warning gave us 5 days to remedy the situation.  All that meant was that leopards can’t go on vacation, until we hear differently from the FWC.

Yates and Stearns, apparently gleeful to have at least secured a copy of the warning letter, immediately sent out the following press release to all of the local news outlets, and included three photos that I took of the day the leopard went on vacation and lied, saying they had an undercover spy inside BCR who gave them the photos:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BIG CAT RESCUE ENDANGERS THE PUBLIC

Big Cat Rescue local Sanctuary was issued a warning by Fla Fish & Wildlife Commission for unsafe caging.  Per Carol Baskin’s own claims “Dangerous Leopard” that could of escaped and BCR put the public at risk.

On Friday October 3, 2014 the Florida Wildlife Commission issued a citation to Carol Baskins and her roadside zoo Big Cat Rescue for illegal housing of a leopard, (citation # W716942). The citation was issued after receiving a complaint from Vernon Yates, complaint #13437. Mr. Yates, who runs a shelter for exotic cats in Seminole Florida, was sent pictures by an informant who works at Big Cat Rescue. The pictures showed Ms. Baskin releasing the leopard into a non-covered enclosure, and he forwarded them to the Florida Wildlife Commission for investigation. Florida law prohibits the keeping of cats like leopards and jaguars in non-covered enclosures and it does so for good reason; leopards are excellent climbers and thus present a real and immediate risk of escape if housed in an enclosure that is not completely covered. Without a top to the cage the leopard can simply climb out.

It is shocking that Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue would endanger the lives of their neighbors as well as their own employees and volunteers in this way. It is shocking that they would endanger the life of the leopard itself in this way since there is a very real risk that the leopard would be hurt or killed if it had escaped. It is ironic that Big Cat Rescue frequently criticizes other zoos claiming that Big Cat Rescue is better able to handle exotic cats.

On Christmas Day in 2007 a tiger escaped from an enclosure in San Francisco zoo and killed a zoo visitor. Carole Baskin previously had a cougar escape from her facility in 1996 when her zoo was called Wildlife on Easy Street.

Vernon Yates requests anyone knowing of any animal facility, SPCA or Humane Society or Big Cat Rescue to contact him so that he may take action to protect the welfare of the animal and the public.

Vernon Yates, President & Founder
Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation

727-399-1525

Kathy Stearns

Dade City   s Wild Things

37245 Meridian Avenue

Dade City  FL  33525

mail@dadecityswildthings.com

352-5667-9453

813-714-2555 mobile

 

Reporters from TBO the Tribune and WFLA (Ch 8) all called me.

This is what I sent them:

Would you send me a copy of the news release, please?

I’d like to sue Vernon Yates and Kathy Stearns, of Dade City Wild Things, because of all of the false complaints that I believe they have been filing.  A copy of their news alert would be helpful.

Feel free to call me on my cell

They lied if they told you it was a citation.  The number referenced is their complaint they filed.  The Florida Wildlife Commission inspectors said they saw no way a leopard could escape our vacation rotation enclosure but that I would have to apply to their boss in Tallahassee, which I have done, for an exception.  They issued a warning, not a citation, because they believed it was clear that no harm was intended and no harm would have come of the situation.

 

Here is what I sent Captain Kara Hooker.

Dear Captain Hooker,

I’d like to obtain a variance for our 2.5 acre Vacation Rotation area for our leopards.

All of the cage material is 6 gauge, double galvanized, wire panels with 4 ” square openings.  (The wall, cantilever and wire drape)

The panels are hog ringed with 9 gauge hog rings.

The cage wall is nearly 20 feet high, consisting of an approximately 15 foot high side wall (14 feet and 4 inch at the least) with a 5 foot cantilever extending inward.

What is unique about this construction and makes it safe for even the most athletic cat is a curtain of wire, a foot high, that drapes from the highest peak down toward the floor.  This is braced at regular intervals to keep it in place.

If a cat were to climb, upside down, for the five feet of the cantilever, this draping of a wire panel keeps them from being able to get a paw out past the wire and over to the top of the cantilever.

The walls are staked at the bottom to follow the terrain so that there are no gaps.  There is an apron along the eastern wall, because that is the side that faces other cats and where the most pacing and posturing goes on, although there has never been a serious attempt at digging by any of the cats.

There are 3 roofed sections that are attached to the outside of the enclosure where the cats are fed each day and we do feed every day; unlike any other place I know.  If the winds get up to 30 MPH the cats are locked in the roofed sections until the winds die down.

The platforms and trees are positioned 16 feet from any point on the cage wall, cantilever or curtain.

The poles are 18 foot long, 3 inch steel pipes, sunk in concrete, at 10 foot intervals.

Maintenance to the trees, grass and foliage is done every two weeks, in between cats’ turns to be on vacation.

Attached is a video we made about the construction and photos of the cage.

Most captive leopards only live to be 10-12 but all of our leopards are over the age of 16; 16, 17, 18, 20 and 22.  All but two of these leopards have been declawed by former owners as well. (none of the clawed leopards have been in the enclosure)

Would you grant us a variance on this cage design for our leopards so that they can have the benefit of 2 week vacations where they can run, swim and have an unobscured view of the sky?

What happens next?

There is no fine or strike on our record for the warning letter.  We have applied for an exemption to the rule and now it is up to the FWC to approve this fun space for our leopards, or deny it. Meanwhile, no leopards can go on vacation.

We believe Vernon Yates and Kathy Stearns also filed another false complaint with OSHA.  I haven’t gotten a copy yet, but will have to address their nonsense formally.  The complaint, as read to me over the phone is about the leopards on vacation endangering staff, something about a cougar being lifted off a platform that was more than 4 feet off the ground, which requires safety harnesses if the employees are up on the platform, and exposing employees to zoonotic diseases by not quarantining animals.  All of these claims, as well as the last round of false complaints are ridiculous, but it is the only way they can divert us from the work of passing the Big Cats & Public Safety Act, which would stop them from breeding, buying and selling big cats for their own personal gain.

See the actual caging rules and note how tiny the minimum standards are.  Yates and Stearns have both been previously cited for failing to even meet these miserably minimal standards.

 

Cameron and Zabu in Vacation Rotation Enclosure

 

Vacation-Rotation-Cameron-Lion_1169

How to build a strong brand on Facebook

How to build a strong brand on Facebook

How to build a strong brand on Facebook

 

“Organic reach of the content brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero. It’s only a matter of time.” says Social@Ogilvy writer on March 6, 2014.

Non profits, like Big Cat Rescue, are “brands” so that didn’t bode well for us.

brand reach is falling

Social@Ogilvy went on to say, “100 brand pages, organic reach hovered at 6 percent, a decline of 49 percent from peak levels in October. For large pages with more than 500,000 Likes, organic reach hit 2 percent in February. And Facebook sources were unofficially advising community managers to expect it to approach zero in the foreseeable future. ”

When in the face of danger, I’m always reminded to do what I do best.  Default straight to your greatest strength to over come the crisis before you.  In the case of social marketing, our greatest strengths are that our photographs and videos of our cats are beautiful and inspiring and our staff and volunteers are engaging.

If Big Cat Rescue was going to survive the downward trending Facebook algorithms for brands we had to ramp up our engagement and make sure that every post was worthy of our audience.

This chart shows how Big Cat Rescue stacks up against 3 of the most popular brands in 2014; Apple, Coke and Microsoft and in our industry of animal rescue and advocacy.

Facebook-Compared-Industry

 

Note that even though Big Cat Rescue has fewer fans than most of these sites, our engagement is matched only by Wildcat Sanctuary, who has more than twice our number of fans.

The first thing we needed to know is “Who are our fans?” and “What do they seem to like?” and give them more of that.

 

Facebook-Demographics

 

One of the key reasons for building a strong brand is support for your business or cause.  In our case, advocacy is a big part of what we do, so it’s important to note that many of our fans are not from the U.S. and won’t be able to help with legislative issues that are keyed to U.S. zip codes.  We need to always keep in mind ways that they can help too.

By paying attention to who our fans are and giving them the content they love; lots of beautiful photos and videos of lions, tigers and other exotic cats, we continue to build our Likes, Comments and Shares, even during these difficult times for brands, as illustrated by this year to date graph.  It is clear to see that Facebook implemented an algorithmic change that affected us in a good way beginning in April of 2014.

 

 

Facebook-Likes-Comments-Shares

 

Comparing last year’s statistics with this year’s you can see that our Total Reach averaged 53,810 in 2013 and is averaging 226,063 in 2014.

 

Facebook-Total-Reach-YTD

 

Comparing last year’s statistics with this year’s you can see that our individual Post Reach averaged 42,451 in 2013 and is averaging 215,181 in 2014.

 

Facebook-Post-Reach-YTD

 

Comparing last year’s statistics with this year’s you can see that our individual Shares averaged 508 in 2013 and is averaging 2,852 in 2014.

 

Facebook-Total-Shares-YTD

 

Comparing last year’s statistics with this year’s you can see that our individual Likes averaged 7,191 in 2013 and is averaging 27,136 in 2014.

 

Facebook-Total-Likes-YTD

 

 

How do we know that our continued growth is reliant on engaging with our audience?

 

During this period of time our primary Comment Responder, LaWanna Mitchell, was off for 3 days and the numbers immediately began to drop.  Our New Page Likes had been growing by 8.2 % and dropped to 5.2 % as soon as this person was away from the helm for a few days.  For the months of August and early September we were in between Media Producers, and that lack of great content during that period hurt our numbers during that time frame as well.

 

Facebook-Last-Month-Stats

 

The good news is that our new Media Producer, T.O. Lawrence, is coming up to speed and he and our primary Comment Responder, LaWanna Mitchell are working together to streamline our posts, using scheduled posts, Buffer and IfTTT.com.  Getting some of that automated will free up their time to Like our fans comments and respond to them in real time, which is critical in building a brand.

Our statistics on YouTube.com look very similar and for all the same reasons.

People ask for our “secret formula” all the time when it comes to social marketing and there is no trick or gimmick to it.  Building up a strong relationship takes time, requires listening and then demands that we respond to our fans in a timely manner.  We are a small non profit, with 14 paid staff and 80-100 volunteers and interns.  Our annual budget is 2 million dollars a year to care for about 100 lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, bobcats and other wild cats.  We are able to raise these funds and give the best care possible because our fans love and trust us, because they can see how their donations are being spent.

 

Toyota Tundra Won by Big Cat Rescue

Toyota Tundra we won via Facebook voting contest

Building a fanatical fan base is a lot of work, but it means the difference of life and death to big cats who are depending on them.