Mickey Cougar’s story is so long and heartbreaking that it will be hard to tell in just a few minutes. (Watch his rescue video to find out the whole story.)
Animal House, in Moulton, AL, was a backyard zoo that operated with a USDA license up until 2006 when it was revoked. At the time Alabama had no laws to regulate the private possession of wild animals, so once USDA washed their hands of the mess, there was virtually no government oversight of the facility. Former volunteers say the owner had no other source of income than her social security check and that she had contracted with the county to become their dog pound.
In 2013 conditions there were reported to be so grim that the county revoked her contract and rescue groups went in to save the dogs and cats housed at Animal House. One of the rescuers video taped a leopard who had been injured by a Doberman, two years prior, and sent the photos and video to Big Cat Rescue asking for help.
We were told that the owner had been feeding the dogs and cats there to her wild animals and that the Doberman had fought back. Her family said the dog had just been in an adjacent cage and the leopard reached through. Regardless of whether it was malice or neglect, the leopard’s leg had bones sticking out and festering tissue exposed. Big Cat Rescue tried, unsuccessfully, for months, to get USDA, the USFWS, the State of Alabama and the local Sheriff to either confiscate the leopard or get her medical attention. When they failed to help the cat we appealed to the media, who said there wasn’t a story if they couldn’t get permission to go film the cat themselves, which the owner was NOT going to allow.
The leopard died and had probably suffered unimaginable agony for two years or more until her wounds killed her.
We never gave up and 2014 began negotiations with the owner, her family members and the state department of natural resources to rescue the cats who still were being kept there. When we saw the condition Mickey Cougar was in, we didn’t know if he would make it at all.
Both of his back knees suffered from torn ligaments so that when he walked the bones on top would just roll and slip off the bottom bones. It was painful to even look at him. Despite the fact that he was grossly underweight and had almost no muscle mass we had to make the difficult decision to sedate him to evaluate the damage and then again to try and repair it.
Dr. Hay, an orthopedic specialist, did the surgery, using something like a synthetic ligament mesh, to mend back his first leg. Dr. Wynn used a new technique of spinning the patient’s own blood and harvesting platelet rich plasma, to quicken healing, which was injected into the other knee. We had to reduce the size of Mickey’s cage, so he takes it easy while he is healing. We will probably have to go back and do surgery on the injected knee once the first one has healed.
Meanwhile Mickey seems to have a strong will to live and we are going to give him every chance possible at a happy life.
Update Feb 22, 2016
Mickey Update Oct. 15, 2014
I can’t even look at Mickey without tearing up because he is at once, both so pitiful and yet so determined to overcome. We knew it would cost a lot to try and fix him.
For the past week or so, Mickey has been getting rehab treatments, to encourage him to use the leg and build up some muscle. It is Mickey’s nature to have two speeds: Laying around and full out running for the dinner plate. The twice a day rehab work gives him food treat rewards for walking slowing and deliberately.
We can see a pronounced improvement in the leg that was repaired, as he can keep the knee in place much better, but because of his lack of strength, from nearly starving to death in Alabama, and having no muscle, he trips over his back feet.
We film some of these sessions so the vet can see his progress and have shared some of them online, but it hurts to watch.
Dr. Hay visited the sanctuary recently, to see the rehab session himself. He said at Mickey’s current pace he thinks the surgically repaired knee should be strong enough that he can operate on the other side in 3 to 6 months.
Every day it is touch and go with Mickey because he needs to let the repair heal fully, and thus distribute his weight to the repaired leg and the one that still slides all over the place. Too much reliance on the repaired leg and it could damage the work done and never heal right and too much reliance on the broken knee, and his muscles on the other side will continue to atrophy.
Everything has its side effects, so even the pain meds have to be very carefully monitored, as too much can make him nauseous or cause him to sleep all the time and too little can make him not want to move at all.
Whenever there are cats in need of rescue, we always offer to take the oldest, sickest or most impaired because our sanctuary is unique in its ability to provide the best veterinary and supportive care. We have 2 vets that have been with us for about a decade each. They visit twice a week and provide all of the house calls for free.
We have specialists in orthopedics, eyes, cancer and teeth who dramatically discount their work because they love the big cats. We have 14 paid staff, who do administrative work and manage our 80-100 volunteers who put in the collective hours of 40 more paid staff. By spending the time and money to train expert volunteers, our donors’ money can go directly to the cats.
The reason we can provide such excellent care is because people like you care. It is your donations that keep the food coming every night, the medications on time, the emergency care and the ability to take in other cats like Mickey, who wouldn’t have a chance anywhere else.
Mickey Cougar Update March 6, 2015
Mickey Cougar was rescued in 2014. He was in such bad shape that we weren’t sure if we should try to fix everything that was wrong with him, or put him out of his misery. This video does not seem to have ever been posted, as it was 40 minutes long and 6GB in size. It’s been cut down to 12 minutes and shows the horrible decisions we often have to make.
Check out our main YouTube channel at BigCatTV.com and our website at BigCatRescue.org
This leopard demonstrates, better than most, the fact that you may be able to take the animal out of the wild but you will never take the wild out of the animal. Sundari will watch very closely as groups of people walk through the sanctuary. She immediately sizes up “the herd” from a distance and determines who is the weakest, the youngest or the most infirm. That is the person who gets her utmost attention. She’s even been seen climbing to the top of her enclosure just to get a closer look at whomever she has singled out. It is easy to explain the concept of “survival of the fittest” with Sundari’s enthusiastic demonstrations. Two of our senior volunteers love the way Sundari will roll over on her back showing everyone just how beautiful she is in hopes of finding a “boy” leopard – or at least someone who wants to volunteer to be a boy leopard.
“Sunny” has so many places she loves to lounge in her cat-a-tat. You’ll find her literally hanging from her tree sound asleep or draped across her concrete bench with all four legs dangling over the side or on top of her mountain den or just upside down in the middle of her cat-a-tat with her belly proudly in view. She’s very personable and always interested in anyone who comes by to visit. With this personality, she’s earned her nickname.
Sundari was born here back before we learned that no privately held exotic cats serve any sort of conservation purpose. Back then, in the pre-Internet era of the 90’s, the only people we could turn to for advice were breeders and dealers who lied to us about the necessity of breeding exotic cats to save them. As soon as we learned better we stopped breeding and began campaigning to end the abuse of breeding wild cats for life in cages.
Pharaoh’s coat is snow white and his spots are a silvery gray, just like his brother Tonga, although he has two unusual dark yellow spots and one black spot on his shoulder and his hind leg. There was a time when we believed that breeding exotic cats would save them from extinction and while that may be true we later concluded that it was not our right to impose captivity upon another creature to ensure that it would be here for the benefit of man. We ceased intentional breeding of all of our cats in 1997 and have long since managed to spay, neuter or separate all of our animals to prevent any accidental births.
Pharaoh was born at Big Cat Rescue before we knew any better back in the 1990s and his parents are Nairobi and Frosty. When we first began we only had the guidance of those who bred and sold cats and believed that what they said was true. We started breeding some cats under the misguided notion that this was a way to “preserve the species.” We had not then figured out what seems so obvious to us today, that breeding for life in a cage an animal that was meant to roam free was inherently cruel. Pharaoh’s parents Frosty and Nairobi, have since been neutered and spayed. We didn’t know it at the time, but they must have been closely related.
Pharaoh is very timid and only likes a select few people. He is however always curious of passerby’s. In order to gain Pharaoh’s trust of a greater number of keepers he participates in the operant conditioning program. He is doing very well in the program and quickly learned to keep a look out for trainers as they head out in the morning. If he is passed by he will call out in his loud serval cry as if to say, “What about me?”. Pharaoh always puts a smile on keeper’s faces with his silly antics. He will burst through the high grasses of his enclosure to surprise keepers cleaning his Cat.a.tat and then quickly hop back into the grass before tearing around the corner and leaping on top of his cave den. Pharaoh also loves water and will spend hours swatting at a stream of water shot out of the hose.
Because white footed servals and white servals are rare, people will pay to see them, so breeders will inbreed to get the defective genes that produce the un natural coat color. They cannot survive in the wild because they could not hide from predators and cannot sneak up on prey even if they did manage to survive to adulthood. They do not live where it snows. There are only a handful of white footed servals in the world and only two white servals that are known to exist. These are not albinos as they have pale blue to green eyes and some golden patches. They are born and mature approximately 20% larger than the normal colored servals. For the first year, their health is much more delicate and we have never known of white serval females to survive more than two weeks. We will not sell (although we’ve been offered $75,000.00 each) nor allow others to breed to our white servals because we do not want them to be exploited and the only way we can control that is to control their offspring. The demand for white tigers causes many of the normal colored cubs, born to these litters, to be destroyed. We will not be a part of anything that could cause the same to happen to golden colored servals. We do not breed cats, nor sell cats at Big Cat Rescue.
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
Little White Dove is well known for her beautiful golden eyes. She chose to bond and live with Running Bear. Though she was once food aggressive, as so many of the wildcats here are, she now defers to Running Bear at feeding time. She will even allow him to be fed before her.
During the day, they spend much of their time perched high up in their tree sleeping. Seeing them up there, it is easy for guests to understand the nocturnal nature of bobcats and how easily they can camouflage themselves in trees. Despite development and human encroachment of their habitat, bobcats can sometimes manage to stay hidden from view and manage to survive.
Most of our bobcats were rescued from fur farms where they were being raised to slaughter for their fur. 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
Serval Rescue! An African Serval was limping along in the Arizona desert until she collapsed alongside a road.
She had almost completely given up the will to live. She was probably a pet or perhaps used in the hybrid breeding scheme that has become all the rage where Servals are bred to domestic house cats to produce Savannah Cat hybrids. The domestic cats are often killed in the process. The kittens sell for thousands of dollars, but when they mature they typically spray and bite and make awful pets. The hybrids are usually discarded by the time they are two or three years old.
This Serval was obviously abandoned and was placed by authorities at the Tucson Wildlife Center, a non-profit sanctuary dedicated to native wildlife. Lisa Bates-Lininger the founding president of the Tucson Wildlife Center said, “She was dehydrated and tired and just ready to give up. She may have died last night, but luckily we got her in. We got her emergency treatment, fluids for shock, and she’s also missing a rear leg.”
Despite 18 media posts including TV news in Tucson and a post on Craig’s list looking for the owner no one admits to having abandoned this Serval to die in the desert. Thanks to some very generous supporters the serval was flown to her new permanent home at Big Cat Rescue where she is recovering well. Servals can live into their late teens and proper care is thousands of dollars each year. Her new 1,200 square foot Cat-a-tat had to be specially modified to accommodate her three legged hopping. It seems that she only recently lost her leg as she has a very difficult time keeping her balance. We are writing vets in the Tucson area to find out if any of them know what tragedy caused her to lose a limb and to see if there is any way to prosecute those who exposed her to such danger.
Jade arrived at Big Cat Rescue with her sister, Armani. Jade is definitely the more mischievous one of the two. Like all leopards, she loves to jump up in the branches of the tree that is in her cat-a-tat. Most people have a very hard time telling the two sisters apart, they look so much alike. But, if you look closely, you can tell Jade from Armani by the V-shaped row of spots on her forehead that look like a tiara.
These two are so beautiful that some of the volunteers refer to them as the “Hilton Sisters.” Could it be because they just don’t take a bad picture? Or, could it be that we just love to spoil them so much?