Release of Rain and Dancer Bobcats

Release of Rain and Dancer Bobcats

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Rehab Bobcat Release!

Today is the big day for the release of Rain and Dancer the Bobcats. Thanks to our first time partnership with The Nature Conservancy Florida we can give these precious bobcats a safe place in the wild to call home, the Conservancy’s Venus Flatwoods Preserve.  Be sure to LIKE them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NatureConservancyFL

The cats, rescued in July 2015, were released to the Preserve on Thursday, February 4, 2016.

Venus Flatwoods Preserve is located in Highlands County, west of Lake Okeechobee, and has been protected and managed by The Nature Conservancy for over 20 years. This 100-acre property provides the perfect habitat for the bobcats. The preserve includes one of the few remaining areas of old growth longleaf pine forest in Florida and is home to many species of wildlife. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker has been observed onsite. The property is surrounded by timber, citrus, and cattle ranch land, and its borders are not adjacent to highways or heavily trafficked areas that would endanger the cats.

Rain Dancer Release Team

“The Nature Conservancy’s Venus Flatwoods Preserve is the perfect location for these two young bobcats. We expect them to do very well in the healthy, maintained habitat of this protected property,” said Adam Peterson, Central Florida Fire and Land Management Specialist, The Nature Conservancy.

Rain Dancer ReleaseThe sibling bobcats, named Rain (male) and Dancer (female), were rescued by Big Cat Rescue as kittens when they were found on the side of a highway without their mother in Highlands County. Thanks to the efforts of Big Cat Rescue’s bobcat rehabilitation team, the wild cats were provided with the care and training they needed to be returned to the wild. Cameras will be set up on the preserve in an effort to continue to monitor the now nine-month old cats.

“Rain and Dancer have grown up to become strong, healthy bobcats equipped with the skills to return to the wild where they belong,” said Jamie Veronica, President of Big Cat Rescue. “We are thrilled that they will be released on a vast, protected property where they will be able to find everything they need to thrive.”

Bobcats are found throughout Florida. They prefer deep forests, and are also adaptable to swamps, hammock, and rural landscapes, as well as urban and suburban backyards.

You can read more about their Rain and Dancer’s initial rescue here.  https://bigcatrescue.org/4-bobcat-kittens/

Rain and Dancer have been released! Watch it via Periscope / Twitter herehttps://www.periscope.tv/w/1eaKboQOrreGX

Rain and Dancer’s Life in Videos

See Rain and Dancer getting their shots.  We use a killed virus vaccine to protect them against the same cat diseases that your domestic cats can get.

Watch the video of Rain and Dancer, the bobcat kittens, moving from the on site Cat Hospital to the Rehab enclosures.

Rain and Dancer are all grown up and ready to go start their new life in the wild.

Today (Feb 4 2016) you can watch our Facebook feed for live streaming events around their release at https://www.facebook.com/bigcatrescue

Love Kittens?

If you love bobcats kittens and want to be part of our efforts to rescue them from certain death, rehab them for life in the wild and then have the pleasure of helping them get back to the wild where they belong, there are several ways you can help.

Donate

Give to Big Cat Rescue

Wear With Pride

My Bobcat is in Rehab

Share!

Even if you can’t afford to help, you are their voice.  Please be sure to subscribe and share all of our social channels.  Just look for BigCatRescue on all of your favorite sharing sites.  Use hashtags #BigCatRescue #bobcats and @BigCatRescue

JoJo

JoJo

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JoJo

Male DOB 1/1/03
Rescued 9/1/13
Caravel (Caracal / Serval Hybrid)

JoJo-Caravel_4628570305914395538_n

 

 

Meet Jo Jo the Caracal Serval Hybrid

 

JoJo the Caracal / Serval Hybrid

hear big cats

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.

JoJo hybrid 2012 Big Hiss

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.

Bird Caged Cats

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.

Krishna 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.

Nola cougar 2011

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.

JoJo-at-Big-Cat-Rescue1

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-at-Big-Cat-Rescue2

JoJo now has 1,200 square feet of earth, bushes, trees and grass.

JoJo hybrid Grass Hide

He really likes the grass.  Are you hearing the Beetles lyric, “JoJo left his home in Homestead-Miami looking for some Florida grass?”

JoJo hybrid GrassClose Up

His diet has only been chicken necks for as far back as anyone can remember.  I think he is really going to like the menu at Big Cat Rescue.  You can help make rescues like this possible and help feed all of the cats at:  http://big-cat-rescue.myshopify.com/collections/sponsor-a-cat

 See More About JoJo:

JoJo the Caravel is up on his platform in this Wildcat Walkabout Video on May 1, 2014 – http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-may-2-2014/

Get the Meet JoJo iBook in iTunes

Meet another Caravel at the Wildcat Sanctuary

 

 

 

 

 

Nala Serval

Nala Serval

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hear big catsNala

Female Serval
DOB appx 1/1/10
Rescued 1/5/13

Nala-Serval_562550340569609007_o

A man called on Dec. 13 and I called him back the same day and told him we would take his father’s serval if he would contract to never own another exotic cat.

On the first call he said that his dad was in the hospital and not expected to survive. I told him all of the rules for us taking the cat and he agreed, but then I didn’t hear from him for 20 days.

Meanwhile, on Dec 18 we were asked by USDA to take 2 bobcats from a Donna White, but I never have been able to connect with her. Also, on Jan 1, one of our supporters asked us to rescue a rehab bobcat in CA. We contacted the rehabber there and offered to assist, but they had been misquoted in the press and the bobcat was doing fine.

On Jan 2 he called and said his dad had died and that he wanted us to take Nala. I told he we would need a health certificate and would have to ask the FWC for an import permit, which can take 2 weeks.

Nala ServalOn Jan 3 his vet called and asked what we needed him to do as far as a health certificate because no one could handle her. I told him that the vet only has to look at the cat and say it is breathing for the purpose of the certificate. He said his wife was a vet who had worked at Jeff Kozlowski’s big cat place in WI and that he had done some exotic cat work, but that he was very happy he didn’t have to handle her. He said that he knew her vaccines were not up to date; that he thought she was declawed and thought she might have been spayed. Jason faxed me the health certificate that night and the next morning I applied to the FWC for the import permit.

On Jan 4 the son called and asked me, again, what airline to try and I told him Delta might do it, but that it was hit or miss with them. He asked if they would come get her and I assured him they would not and that he would have to catch her, put her in a dog kennel and then at the airport he’d have to show the health certificate and even then they might not take her. I told him a couple hours in the air would be a lot less stress for her than riding all day in the back of a van, but that if the airline wouldn’t accept her, we would come get her. Much to my surprise the FWC issued the import permit the same day and faxed it to me.

I emailed the son and told him the import permit had arrived. He called me late that night and said that Nala had cost him a lot more already than he thought she would to send and that he was going to ask his brother to help pay her 360.00 airfare.

On Jan 5 the son sent an email saying Nala was “paradise bound”, was in the air and would be here by 3PM. We picked her and released her into her newly renovated Cat-a-tat and video will follow soon.

 

Sponsor Nala http://big-cat-rescue.myshopify.com/products/serval-sponsorship

 

Nala-Serval-2014-09-16-13.48.30

Nala Serval Airport Nala_03

Nala_07Nala_08Nala_13Nala_11Nala_10Nala_09Nala_14

More About Nala

** January 2013 Advocat Newsletter – Nala Arrives – Nala arrived on Sunday, January 5th at Tampa International Airport.  She was met at the cargo warehouse by BCR CEO Carole Baskin, President Jamie Veronica, and volunteer veterinarian Dr. Justin Boorstein.  After a short car ride she was exploring her 2,000 square foot enclosure;  her new home at Big Cat Rescue. http://bigcatrescue.org/advocat-2013-01/

** Today at Big Cat Rescue February 8, 2013 – See several photos including some of Nala. http://bigcatrescue.org/today-at-big-cat-rescue-feb-8-2013/

** Walk About Video from March 9, 2014 – See a cute clip of Nala Serval chasing her tail in front of a private tour. http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-march-9-2014/

** Big Cat Walkabout Oct 2013 Video has several of the cats in it as well as, Nala.  http://bigcatrescue.org/today-big-cat-rescue-oct-21-2013/

** January 15, 2013 – What is a typical day at Big Cat Rescue like? http://bigcatrescue.org/today-at-big-cat-rescue-jan-15-2013/

 

 

Narla

Narla

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Narla

NarlaCougarAngelFemale Cougar
DOB 1/1/97 – 2/3/16
Rescued 1/8/2010

 

Rescue of Narla the Cougar:

This is a letter from someone who knew the Loppi’s.  This person below, wanted us to know that Rob was well intended and I post it here as an example of how even the best intentions usually end up bad for the exotic animal.

According to a number of emails I got after the fact, Rob’s wife was looking to euthanize the cat, but Rob’s friends, family and the media were on her case and she couldn’t  do it without looking like a monster when we were standing by, ready to take her. It is only because of supporters, like you, that we can help cats like Narla in their greatest moment of need.

You can read tributes to Narla here:  https://sites.google.com/site/bigcattributes/home/narla-cougar

 

 

Eye Specialist Sees Narla Cougar

Dr. Tammy Miller and Dr. Liz Wynn check out Narla Cougar

Narla has been pretty much blind since she arrived, but Dr. Miller came out to check on her eyes again today.

 

Dr. Tammy Miller and Dr. Liz Wynn check out Narla Cougar

Dr. Liz Wynn has many friends in the veterinary community and calls in specialists when it is warranted.

 

Dr. Tammy Miller and Dr. Liz Wynn check out Narla Cougar

Previous exams have shown Narla Cougar to have eye ulcerations that have been treated with eye drops.

 

Dr. Tammy Miller and Dr. Liz Wynn check out Narla Cougar

This exam reveals that the back side of her eyes are degenerating and Dr. Miller suspects it was from her first 14 years of insufficient nutrition before coming to Big Cat Rescue.

 

Dr. Tammy Miller and Dr. Liz Wynn check out Narla Cougar

Dr. Tammy Miller says Narla is one of her favorite patients.

 

Dr. Tammy Miller and Dr. Liz Wynn check out Narla Cougar

When big cats are pulled from their mothers to be hand reared as pets, like Narla had been, they never get a sufficient diet on kitten or puppy milk replacer. This causes a life time of debilitation.

More from Narla’s Rescue:

Dear Big Cat Rescue:

 

I am very happy that you are giving Narla a new home. Since her owner, Rob Loppi’s, death last May, I can’t tell you how many people worried and wondered what would become of Narla.  My reason for writing to you is not just to thank you for taking care of Narla, but because I wanted to give you some background information.  I feel it is important for you to know how Narla came to Rhode Island in the first place.  Since the story of Narla’s rescue broke, I have read and heard many negative comments about Rob Loppi having this animal in the first place. There have been many comments in the newspapers that are just not accurate. Since Rob is no longer with us, and can’t defend himself, I would like the real story known. He didn’t just wake up one morning and decide on a whim that it would be great to have a cougar.  I was there, and would like the true story to be told.

 

Rob got Narla when she was a baby, not 5 months old as was inaccurately reported.  She was no bigger than a puppy, still had her baby fuzz and spots and was still being bottle fed.  She was obtained by a person that Rob knew casually.  This friend purchased her from a breeder in Virginia, thinking that it would be cool to have a mountain lion as a pet.  When he got her home, his fiancé, correctly, would not allow him to keep her, so he brought her to Rob. People were always bringing unwanted animals to Rob…cats, dogs, goats, pigs…whatever.

 

Initially, Rob did not want to take her, but he was afraid that if he refused she would end up in a bad situation.  Rob took her in and set about trying to find her a home.  Since she was an illegal exotic at that point, this was not an easy task.  He contacted the Dept. of Environmental Management in RI anonymously and was informed that they would confiscate the cat and most likely she would be destroyed – unbelievable, but true.  They said that it was not their policy to find homes for dangerous animals, just to protect the environment and maintain public safety.  He then contacted Roger Williams Zoo and asked them to take her – they refused because a). they do not take animals from private parties, only other zoos, and b). she came from a breeder and was bottle fed.  They said that other cats would not take to her and would possibly harm or kill her.  After many more such calls…you get the picture.  No one would help.  You should also keep in mind that this time period was before the internet was a household item, so trying to get information was much more difficult.

 

Feeling like he had no other options, he contacted the breeder in Virginia and asked to bring her back.  He drove her to Virginia and was appalled at the conditions.  Virginia’s laws on exotics are (or, at that time, were) very lenient and this guy would obviously sell to anyone as long as the price was right.  He just couldn’t leave her there.  He knew that she would be re-sold and probably end up in a traveling carnival or roadside “zoo” with her teeth filed down, being whipped into submission, living in deplorable conditions and spending most of her life in a crate.  He knew that he could do better by her, so he made the decision that he would have to keep her to make sure that she was cared for and safe.  Unfortunately, this would mean having her declawed for safety.  This wasn’t something he wanted to do, but he did it in an effort to try to maintain her.

 

He then set about getting Narla legal.  Since he already knew DEM’s position, he went to the Federal level.  USDA told him what he needed to do in order to get a license to keep an exotic (again, at that time, their rules were much less stringent).  He built the double cage (making it bigger and stronger than the required size and pipe diameter) with natural materials and different levels and perches for climbing, set up an account with a chicken farm so he could feed her properly, contacted a veterinarian who had the qualifications to provide medical care for Narla and set about learning everything he needed to know about the care and husbandry of mountain lions.  USDA inspected and found him to be a suitable owner and he was granted a license.  Once he had the USDA license in hand, DEM could not confiscate and destroy her, so he was then able to begin application for a RI license.  He hired an attorney and, after getting through all the paperwork and red tape, he received the license. RI DEM inspected regularly, including random and surprise visits, always finding Narla in good care and condition.

 

Rob NEVER tried to domesticate Narla.  He was very well aware that she was a wild animal.  While he did have an amazing connection with her, she was always treated as a mountain lion, not as a house cat, which has been implied in the media.  Narla has been characterized as “gentle and affectionate” and she was…with Rob.  This, as you know, is the case with big cats…they bond to one person and can be jealous and aggressive with others.  Visitors and friends were not allowed to just hang out in the living room with her.  She didn’t just wander freely around the house or yard.  Even Rob’s closest friends were not allowed direct contact.  This wasn’t Siegfried and Roy.  She is a predator and certainly capable of attacking and killing.  He knew that, and safety was always the first priority, not just our safety, but Narla’s too. People can be foolish and cruel, which is why Rob didn’t want the general public to know about her.  That was another reason for the double cage, not just to keep Narla in, but to keep people out.  There was only one other person, Rob’s friend Mike, who was allowed to care for Narla and did so during Rob’s illness.  Mike was trained in Narla’s care and feeding and did a great job.  Rob was so grateful to Mike.  With all he was going through, many rounds of chemotherapy treatments, numerous infections and finally a bone marrow transplant, at least he knew Narla was in good hands.

 

Rob didn’t use Narla as a gimmick or sideshow attraction.  Sure, people knew about her and would be curious to see her, but he never profited from her.  He allowed “ordinary” people to come to see her in her cage, but never allowed media attention.  He wouldn’t give interviews, allow media photos or any exploitation of her in any way.  He didn’t want to glorify having a big cat in his yard.  He didn’t want people to think that it is ok to try to keep a mountain lion as a pet.  Rob knew that keeping her was not an ideal situation, but at that time, he felt he was doing what was best for her.  When he made the decision to keep Narla, he took on a huge financial burden…food, supplements, veterinary care, etc. and he could have very easily used this beautiful animal as a way to make money, but that was never his way.  He just wanted to give her the best life he could and keep her safe.

 

So, now you know Narla’s story.  I felt that it was important for you to know that, while she may have been raised in someone’s backyard, she wasn’t just a passing fancy, she wasn’t a “pet“ in the conventional sense of the word.  She was a lifelong responsibility taken on by a guy who made a hard decision based on limited options.  Had she not been born to a breeder in Virginia who sells these animals to anyone with enough money to buy them, without any thought or concern for where they will live or how they will be treated, she would not have been in Rhode Island.  If Rob hadn’t “rescued” her first, Big Cat Rescue may have found Narla in a horrible situation, if she had survived at all.

 

Thank you again for all that you do for these animals and, especially for Narla.  She is always loved and surely missed.

 

Sincerely,

 

Julie A. Aldrich

 

Skinny

Skinny

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Why Do Our Cats Look Skinny?

We hear that question a lot and it always surprises us a bit, because we know that our cats live far longer than they do in the wild or even at the best zoos or sanctuaries.  We just assume that everyone knows, when they see our cats’ photos and videos, that they are already twice as old as most other cats ever even live to be.  Apparently not, so here’s the skinny on why some of our cats look thin.

Whenever we post a photo or video of one of our cats we try to include the name because, if we don’t, the next hundred questions will be, “Who is that?”  All of our cats have their own bio page located here:  https://bigcatrescue.org/catbio and most are easy to guess, as they will be the cat’s name after the URL, so Keisha would be https://bigcatrescue.org/Keisha  If you go to the CatBio page, click on the hyperlinked name of each cat to go to their page, or you can play their story by clicking the play button next to their name.

At the top of each page about the cat, and usually in the recorded story, you will find the cat’s date of birth (DOB).  Do the math and you will find that more than 20 of our cats are over the age of 20, which is just about unheard of.  Most cats in the wild, or in most captive settings only live to be 10 or 12.  When you hear about an exotic cat living to 17 or 20 it’s usually considered newsworthy, and that’s how you even heard about them.  Seventeen is our average age of death and as of 2016 we have 60 cats who are over the age of 15.  48 of those are over the age of 18.

 

Like they say, “Old age ain’t for pussies.”

When animals, including humans, get old we lose muscle mass.  Our skin sags, our bones protrude and our gait slows.  We lose our teeth and our appetites.  In nature the old become prey as they lose their ability to hunt and fend for themselves.  In places that force cats to live together, the elderly are often killed by their cage mates and quietly disposed of, before the public shows up… if the public is allowed visitation at all.

Little-Feather-bobcat-Laser-2015-02-02 15.55.24

Toothless, Little Feather gets a tuna popcicle treat to help stay hydrated

 

At Big Cat Rescue our cats can live alone if they prefer, and most do.  That way they never have to fight for food or the right to survive.  We base euthanasia on quality of life issues and the advice of our vets.  We will assist the cats in having that quality of life with a number of tactics.

  1. Several meals a day for picky eaters
  2. After the age of 17 the cats call the shots on whats for dinner and get huge platters of assorted meats to choose from
  3. We assist with grooming the places they can’t reach
  4. We provide pain management and joint supplements
  5. Blood cicles are given daily to those in final stages of kidney failure to keep them hydrated
  6. Many of the cats have heating pads in their dens, even though it almost never drops to freezing in Tampa, FL
  7. Sometimes they get misting fans to keep them cool if they seem bothered by the heat

 

We don’t kill a cat just because it is going to be a huge burden on our finances or our schedule.  We wait until the cat tells us that they are done.

That is after we have eliminated all possible reasons for inappetence, such as dental issues, bowel obstructions or infections.  When we know that none of those are the reason for the cat giving up their will to live, then we call in the vet to make that transition to the other side as painless and stress free as possible.

 

Is It Better to Be Fat or Thin?

Ask any doctor and they will tell you that you will live longer if you are lean.  Ask any vet if it is better for your pet to be fat or thin and they will tell you that it’s better to err on the side of too thin than too fat.  Cats are picky, finicky eaters and what they loved yesterday may bore them to tears today.  While we go to the extreme for our elderly or sickly cats, we do mix it up for all of our cats to keep it interesting.

We are the only sanctuary I know that feeds their cats every day.  We used to fast on Sundays, but as our population has become so old, we started feeding them every day in 2014.  Old or sick cats have always been fed every day.  Our primary diet is a ground carnivore diet with all of their vitamins and minerals mixed in, but they get varying amounts of it each day, because let’s face it; who wants meatloaf every day?  We also feed varying amounts and cuts of chicken and beef and twice a week they get whole prey (fed dead).  They like chicken necks and those are good for cleaning teeth, but are not a primary food source because of the lack of nutrition in that piece of grizzle.  Sometimes they get turkey, cornish hens, lamb, and an assortment of organ meats.  More about our feeding here: http://bigcatrescue.org/feed-cats/

Despite all of our best efforts, it is a real challenge to keep all 80+ cats at their perfect weight.  In the summer, when it’s hot, they just won’t eat, so some get thinner than we would like.  In the winter, Mother Nature tells them to bulk up for the freezing famine ahead, but it’s Florida and they are going to get fed every day, so sometimes they get too fat.

What is constant is our attention to their condition.  With more than 90 volunteers and interns on the grounds every week, feeding cats and cleaning up what they leave, we get a very good picture of how our cats are doing.  After cleaning every day the volunteers and interns log what food was left behind, and what the feces looked like.  That sends an email immediately to the CEO, President, Operations Managers and the and anyone else in our volunteer corp who choses to subscribe to those alerts.  I can tell you, in real time what a cat did or didn’t eat, what they may have caught on their own, what their poop looked like, and if they were acting weird, limping, etc. because every few seconds I am getting those reports throughout the day.  It’s also compiled into each cat’s chart so we can pull up any cat and see everything that has been reported about them.  Our vets have access to these records 24/7 via the cloud and their iPhones.

We are constantly discussing individual cat’s diets with our vets and trying to keep them at their healthiest weights.  Each of our vets visits twice a week or more as needed.  We are also constantly sharing photos and videos of the cats with them, when there is a situation we need them to assess.

 

Our Cats are Very Very Old

Some of our oldest cats have been Scratch Cougar who was one month shy of 30 when he died and Flavio Tiger who died at the age of 25.  At this writing some of our oldest cats are Bongo Serval who is 24, Sabre Leopard who is 23 and The Great Pretender Bobcat who is also 23.  To figure out what an exotic cat’s age would be, compared to yours, it is about the same formula as for the domestic cat.

To convert cat age to an equivalent human age, an accepted method is to add 15 years for the first year of life. Then add 10 years for the second year of life. After that, add 4 years for every cat year. This means that by year two, a cat has matured to about the same as a 25 year old human.

That makes Bongo 113, and Sabre and Pretender 109.  When you are thinking one of our cats looks thin, please look up their bio, do the math and be as amazed as we are at how good they do look!

Sabre Leopard is Looking Good

Lonely

Lonely

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Aren’t They Lonely?

People keep commenting, when they see that our cats have enclosures all to themselves, that they must be lonely.

Trust me; if the cats actually wanted to share space with another cat, we would gladly do it because:

  1. People wouldn’t keep insisting that they are lonely
  2. It would increase our ability to rescue more cats if we could double or triple cats up in a cage
  3. People just love those rare shots of cats being nice to each other and would share us more

Exotic Cats are Solitary by Nature

NikiPumpkinMineImmediately people will argue and say, “Lions live in prides!”  That’s true, but those are families of lions who were born into their hierarchy, or are the result of outside males coming in, killing all of the cubs and taking over the social system.  It is not because lions just love to be with lions.  In fact, lions are one of the most temperamental and hot blooded of the cats and will kill over the slightest, perceived provocation.  Our lioness, Nikita, hates other cats of all species (lions included) so much that she can’t even be housed where she can see another cat.  If she can see one, she will spend all day trying to get at them; threatening them all the while.  We have found that she is much happier and the sanctuary much more peaceful if we keep the other cats out of her sight.

Some will argue that cheetah males live in coalitions, but that is only because it is a successful hunting strategy and not because they really like sharing resources.  Besides, you won’t find cheetah in sanctuaries.  They fetch too high a price in the retail markets of zoos to ever end up in need of rescue.

What About All Those Photos of Cats Grooming Each Other

Photos and videos of wild cats grooming each, playing together, or napping in a pile are the ones that go viral.  Just like the ones of big cats and pigs, dogs, goats, etc. People love the notion of “everyone getting along” and will share those photos and video clips over and over and over.  I’ve been on the Internet since 1996 and one of the first images of a tiger that I remember seeing was the tiger, staged with piglets wearing tiger skins.  It’s still around and is a horrible place in China that exploits the common human desire to be dazzled; at the expense of common sense.

Staged tiger piglet image

We share photos and videos of our cats who like each other, but at this writing, in 2016, we have 86 exotic cats.  11 of them live in pairs and we have two sets of trios.  The cats who live together at Big Cat Rescue have to have a full cage to themselves, and separate areas for feeding, because even the cats who adore each other at some times, will try to kill each other in the presence of food or treats.  Before feeding time, and before handing out medications (in meat treats), enrichment or treats, we have to go through the sanctuary and separate them into their own spaces so they won’t fight.  We have to make sure all scraps are finished before opening them back up or they will fight over what is left.  They are just hard wired to be that way.  Nature tells them they won’t survive if they share.

All of our cats who live together had been raised together since they were young.  Max and Mary Ann were right on the outside limit of what we thought might be a safe age to try and pair them.  It worked, but sometimes we have to call a time out because they will get so moody with each other.  As long as they continue to show us that they want to be together, we will accommodate that, but when they tell us they are done with each other, then they can have their own space and never have to deal with the other again.

That’s what happened with Zeus and Keisha.  They seemed to want to be together and we did everything to make that happen for them, but Keisha was just too playful, and with Zeus’ failing eyesight she was scaring him all the time and he was lashing out.  They seem to like being neighbors without actually sharing a cage.

To reiterate, cats who share have additional enclosures which doubles or triples their territory. Another good reason for our enclosures being built in sections so we can quickly and safely separate cats as needed without any of them being cheated on space. More about our cages here:  https://BigCatRescue.org/Cages

How Do Other Places Get Big Cats to Get Along?

When you see a bunch of wild cats living together in captivity, it is either because they are still not mature (even though them may be full size and look grown up) or they are only showing you what works and hiding what doesn’t work.  We have LIVE webcams all over the place, allow public tours 6 days a week, and will always respond to our fans’ questions, if they ask politely.

When we rescued bobcats and lynx from fur farms there were 56 in 1993, 28 in 1994 and 22 in 1995 and we kept many of them in huge groups because they were youngsters.  They grew up together, but what happens, even though we spay and neuter them, is that when they become adults, nature tells them to carve out their own territory and run everyone else off.  When we would see a cat being picked on we would build them their own cage.  That’s why we have over 100 cages here.  No one should come to a sanctuary and have to fight for their survival.

Some places continue to make the adult cats live together and take the attitude that a sanctuary has been provided and the cats will just have to work out their differences.  What you won’t see are the cats who were starved out by the pack, the ones with missing tails, ears, limbs or eyes.  You won’t see the ones who have been mauled to death by their “family.”  You will never know for sure who lives in a group because if the cats all had names, bios and some way for the public to always check in on them, the gig would be up that it doesn’t really work the way it appears to in photos and videos.

About the only method that can keep the peace at all is to over feed the cats to the point where they are so obese they haven’t the energy nor the strength to fight.  That means shorter life spans for the cats too though because studies show that being overweight is the single most contributing factor to disease and death in all animals.  Even that method of controlling the fighting doesn’t work and Teisha Tiger is the perfect example.

Photos of her at her previous home showed that she and her cage mates were morbidly obese.  This is often from the fact that the cheapest food to feed big cats is the fat that is trimmed off meats cut for human consumption.  It’s usually free and is enough to keep them alive, if not healthy.  Teisha’s owner reportedly told the government agents who seized his tigers that she couldn’t walk because the other tigers “beat her up all the time.”

Teisha Tiger at Mike Stapleton's backyard zoo

Teisha Tiger at Mike Stapleton’s backyard zoo

 

At Big Cat Rescue we try to give the cats in our care the best life possible.  No cat born in a cage can ever be set free, so it is up to us to make sure the rest of their lives are as free from stress as possible.  Not making them share space, when it is against their nature to do so, is just one of the ways we do that.