The cougar “cubs”, Ares, Artemis and Orion get an armadillo and Gale has to save him. Jamie & Vern plan some big cat cages and moves. Tommie Girl is up on her new platform made by Jen & Darren Holley. The kittens escape! Nakita Lion gets enrichment made by summer campers. Joseph Lion gets a watermelon. Nikita Tiger goes on “vacation.” A rare conversation with the family matriarch, Barbara. Jamie & Carole talk about getting the newsletter done.
Bobcat Enrichment (photos are from pumpkin enrichment)
At Big Cat Rescue, the volunteers formed a committee to focus on the development of appropriate enrichment for the animals in our care. When using different enrichment techniques, the animals can be stimulated to investigate and explore their surroundings. This can be accomplished by presenting novel food items (or presenting food in different ways), as well as novel objects and smells. The presentation of new items and scents can help relieve boredom and improve the overall welfare of the animals. The committee decided to focus our enrichment on trying to encourage increased natural behaviors in our captive cats.
Being a sanctuary to approximately 100 cats we had to decide exactly where to start. As a committee we determined the easiest
way to approach our task was one species at a time. We started with our bobcats for a number of reasons. We are home to a significant number of them (over 40) at a wide range of ages. Also, they represented a variety of backgrounds. Some were pets, some came from fur farms, some were hand-raised and some came from the wild.
For our study of bobcats and enrichment, we used the SPIDER model, which was
presented by staff from Disney’s Animal Kingdom at a recent conference attended by some our our volunteers. SPIDER stands for Setting Goals, developing a Plan, Implementation, Documentation, Evaluation, and Readjustment. This presented a simple and organized system for us to follow.
The committee then used a list of questions to research bobcat behavior in the wild. These questions related to their hunting techniques and prey, territories and markings, threats, interactions with other animals as well as other observations. We also reviewed the histories of our current bobcat population and examined their enclosures. We investigated what bobcats did in their natural environment and then brainstormed ways to try to encourage and recreate those behaviors in their enclosures here.
From our research, we were able to target a number of behaviors that we wanted to encourage with our bobcats. These included grooming, water play, sunning, climbing and denning. When the committee developed ideas to recreate these behaviors, the ideas were then submitted to our staff and veterinarian for further approval. (It is important to consider individual health issues for each cat when determining the appropriateness of different types of enrichment.) These steps covered the goal setting and planning part of our model. Next came the fun part, the implementation!
For grooming, we used scents that we could spray into their enclosures. We used star anise and vanilla steeped in water. We then put the scented water into squirt guns and sprayed logs and trees in the bobcat habitats. (Just a note: the star anise was much more popular than the vanilla.) The bobcats would usually find the scent and either roll around or rub against the area we had sprayed. We found that when multiple bobcats were housed in the same enclosure, they would often start to groom each other as well. This was probably one of our more successful enrichment goals and it was fun to watch the responses of the cats.
They loved it!
During our research, we discovered that bobcats will sometimes spend time in the water. We purchased a galvanized tub that was large enough for the bobcats to play in, but small enough to be easily moved from cage to cage. The tub was placed inside an enclosure and was filled with a few inches of water. We found that some of our bobcats really enjoyed splashing around and investigating the water.
We also wanted to find ways to encourage our bobcats to sun themselves and climb, which were other natural behaviors that we studied. This involved examining our current enclosures. We had to determine which cages naturally had
rocks and logs in sunny spots or trees for climbing and if or how we could improve or change the others. We used scented treats in the higher spots of their enclosures to encourage them to climb. The bobcats seemed to enjoy this as well. We did note, however, that on our types of cage wire, the cats that were clawed sometimes had difficulty climbing the cage itself. We restricted any treats on the cage itself to cats that were declawed.
Our research also revealed that bobcats will often create temporary dens. To encourage this behavior, we placed large boxes in their enclosures. The boxes had holes in them large enough for the cats to enter. The results of this were mixed. Some of our bobcats loved them (although they did not necessarily use them for dens) and some of them were not interested.
After each implementation of enrichment, we evaluated our successes and failures, determined what changes we needed to make and sometimes tried again (the readjustment part of the model). The adjustments we made were noted above.
As far as documentation, we decided the easiest way for us to record our enrichment was to make a list of all of our animals. When one of our volunteers gives an animal enrichment, the date and type of enrichment is logged on the list. The lists are updated monthly.
The enrichment committee at Big Cat Rescue has found this model to be helpful in organizing, researching and documenting our progress. We have learned so much more about our animals through this process and with that knowledge, feel like we can give them better care while they are with us. We hope you can use some of the information we have shared here.
Former Volunteer, Carolyne Clendinen
Reactions ran from leaping, pouncing, rubbing, drooling, spraying, guarding and eating the pumpkins. Like most things, the best things in life are free.
These were some of the ploys used by zoo keepers across America to entertain captive cats. Our Volunteers implement them here for our animal’s enjoyment.
Laser Mouse: The red pin light pointing device. The cats will chase this thing anywhere, just don’t point it in their eyes. Even during the day, the beam is bright enough to catch their attention.
All Spice or just about any other cooking spice will “spice” up an old toy or cause the cat to rub all over a log of specific spot. Ask for outdated stuff at groceries or spice dealers.
Cantaloupe, coconut, apples in water bucket
Use yogurt containers to make blood- cicles for the cats to lick in the heat. Use bucket forms to make them for the Tigers. You can get plenty of blood at food prep at 7 pm each night.
Move their cage furniture around to make things more interesting, just be careful not to make an escape route.
Do not use staples, tape, wire or string in making permanent cage toys.
Pinecones, dipped in blood with meat chips smushed in are great amusement, but not on Mondays as the cats might be hungry enough to eat the cone.
Civet poop is very aromatic. Have a sample tested by the vet to make sure there are no parasites to pass along.
Pumpkins full of crickets. The crickets will hang out in the pumpkin for food and the cats will have fun chasing them if they don’t. Use natural vine to hang chicken wings so that the cat can pretend to capture it’s food. Be careful that the cat cannot hang it’s self. Tape recorder playing bird calls sealing in a plastic ball. Geoffroy cats, put their litter boxes as high up as you can as they use trees in the wild.
Astroturf, outside Lemur cage, but within reach. Spread with peanut butter and let them pick at it all day. Be sure to wash thoroughly.
Toilet paper rolls make great places to hide treats for cats, lemurs, civets, coati etc…
Training dummies soaked in hunting scents, like rabbit and grouse, hung from heavy duty plastic chains, at just above nose height, will keep
The animals enclosure should supply them with ongoing things to do.
Above right, Pisces, the Fishing Cat catches a fish in his stocked pond.
All tigers should have access to a pool. Three of our tigers have access to a lake in which they can swim. 11 of our tigers retired here in their golden years and had never had the opportunity to swim, so shallow cooling pools were created for them to insure they didn’t drown. Their pools over look the lake and have pumps that keep the water from the spring fed lake circulating through the pool and then back to the lake via a water fall. This creates a nice atmosphere in which the cats can lounge at the lake’s edge and dream about the swans and ducks they could catch.
A very inexpensive way to amuse cats for hours is to use paper towel, toilet paper and fabric tubes to hold various meats that aren’t the cats typical fare. The tubes are sometime sprayed with perfumes, or marinated in spices. All of our volunteers collect these card board tubes and save them up for enrichment days. One of our supporters, Kay King has a fabric related company and donates the fabric tubes for the larger cats. Photo by Anissa Camp of Mary Ann Reeds hands.
The cats will spend hours carrying the tubes around as if they caught the “prey” themselves. They roll on them, drool on them and eventually shred them to pieces to get to the good stuff inside. This stimulates all of their natural predatory instincts and provides a safe form of amusement. Photo by Anissa Camp of Shadow the Western Cougar sniffing his tube to see what the mystery treat of the day is.
Enrichment on a Budget
Being a non-profit sanctuary poses several obstacles for enrichment activities. Many resources, primarily money and time, are extremely limited. Volunteers are required to wear multiple hats to ensure a safe and healthy life for our animals. To add enrichment activities to the exhausting cleaning, maintenance, and fund raising was a daunting prospect. But despite the struggle, Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL has implemented a successful enrichment program.
Many of the enrichment types we utilize have already been mentioned in several places, so this article will focus more on how we’ve implemented the program, giving some insight into the challenges we faced.
One of the first actions taken was to determine what enrichment activities absolutely could not be accomplished. Mimicking foraging and other food-based enrichments are usually major activities at large institutions. We see the benefit of such projects, but are not able to implement any for our carnivores. Due to the fact that all animals are housed outside in Florida weather, mealtime comes just before
dusk for all meat-eaters. Any other feeding time would run the risk of increasing our bug and parasite populations. Another negative aspect is that the volunteers who prepare meals are not always the ones overseeing enrichment, so there is room for error in diet.
Instead, bite-sized “treats” are used in food-puzzles or as motivation to inspect a new object. Using frozen fish for enrichment has proven very successful. We feel that because fish is not an item used in our regular diet preparation, it is a novelty itself. Frozen fish purchased by the bag is inexpensive, and the long shelf life helps with our time constraints. A common use of food in our enrichment program is to hide a piece of smelt inside a paper towel roll with the ends curled in. We’ve received positive responses from Cougars (Felis concolor), Servals (Felis serval), Caracals (Felis caracal), as well as Binturongs (Arctictis Binturong) and African Civets (Civettictis civetta).
After determining what enrichment activities were unsuitable for our program, we then brainstormed the ease of implementing the activities left on the table. It may seem that the animals are being short-changed by our realistic approach, eliminating very effective and useful activities. But it is our careful thinking and knowledge of how the sanctuary must be run every day that allows the program to continue and flourish.
After all the planning, we ended up with a selection of easy to implement, use and monitor activities to enrich all of the species (over 25!) at the sanctuary. Many of the materials needed can be saved from the trash (yogurt cups make the perfect size bloodcicle to fit through our cages). We modified projects that required purchasing items to use things that were cheap and easily available. For example, a project that intrigued us was to cut holes in a gourd and stuff it with liverwurst. Gourds are seasonal and can be expensive, so we modified the activity to use potatoes. An apple corer is used lengthwise on the potato, and then the left over center can be used to either plug the potato, adding a level of difficulty to the activity, or the center is rolled in sweet basil and pumpkin spice and given to our Geoffroy’s cats (Felis geoffroyi). The Geoffroy’s have shown much more response to olfactory stimulation than any other toy or food.
What ties our enrichment program together is a database where all activities are recorded. This database tracks the date, species, name, enrichment type, and the animal’s reaction. The species, animal name, and enrichment type are fields that must be chosen from lists. We are alerted when an attempt is made to add an item to these lists. This gives us an opportunity to realize something new has occurred and we should discuss it with the rest of the group.
Besides reports on all the animals, the database can search on any of the first four fields (date, name, species, enrichment type). This allows for all sorts of questions to be answered. In an instant, we can learn who received enrichment last, what types of enrichment a certain species has responded to and how, as well as take a look at individual cases.
In particular, we have many cougars that were privately owned and truly enjoy human company. While this is an added bonus to help care for them, they often prefer the enrichment volunteer to the enrichment activity. It is extremely useful to have at our fingertips an individual history on each cougar of what has been offered them and how they have responded.
Big Cat Rescue houses approximately 100 animals on 69 acres. With volunteers undertaking the daily workload, starting an enrichment program seemed impossible. But with careful planning before implementation and the open communication of the database, we have logged hundreds enrichment activities and have seen wonderful reactions from all of our animals. Now that the initial hurdles have been conquered, we are taking steps to implement some of the more labor-intense enrichment activities previously discarded.
This may just be the perfect enrichment picture. Conan, a retired circus tiger, enjoying life on Easy Street in his 2000+ square foot Cat-A-Tat with earthen floors, real plants, trees, leaves and grass, a waterfall, pool with boomer ball, two white swans swimming by the outside (top center) and a box full of enrichment goodies. What a life!
The Ice Hasn’t Melted in Florida Yet
Below is enrichment made by Big Cat Rescue volunteers. Mice in ice blocks, swings in the shade and cool rock dens are all ways the cats of Big Cat Rescue can endure the summer heat.
This was a great day of enrichment for a few of the cats. Obviously, Moses and Ana really do love their swing. I found them on it in the morning when I arrived and pointed that out to all the guests on the tour when they were still hanging up there together.
Although Apollo and Zeus really could have cared less about their block of ice (ironic since they’re Siberians, huh?), Shadow was another story. He was still working on that block of ice at night when we were there to feed him. As food aggressive as he is, can you believe he didn’t even come to lockout to eat? He was still working on that rat in the ice and it had been hours already. Sugar had only been mildly interested, but was really much happier to be able to eat her dinner in peace while the beast just kept licking his icicle.
It gives us such a good feeling to see them enjoying themselves this much.
We are so pleased to announce that the Vacation Rotation Enclosure has been completed and Big Cat Rescues celebrated the grand opening of the new space with dozens of volunteers, donors, and the media. Everyone gathered early in the morning on July 30th to watch as Bengali the tiger was the first to explore the 2.5 acre enclosure.
After 11 longs months of hard work and $200,000 in cost the super sized enclosure inspired awe in the 18 year old tiger. Bengali made his way through a long tunnel connecting his enclosure to the Vacation Rotation Enclosure where he enthusiastically explored every square foot. He first checked out a large oak tree log and promptly scratch and marked it as his. Then he made his way over to the giant jungle gym and checked out the view of his domain from atop. Next he strolled over to the pond and took a long drink to cool off. After that he patrolled the perimeter, during which he make a few more trips to the pond. He has never had access to a natural body of water such as this and the muddy floor was a little intimidating to him. He is used to his concrete pool, so the squishy mud floor was a very different experience. After a long morning sniffing and marking Bengali finally retired to his giant cave den for a well deserved siesta.
Bengali spent a week in the new enclosure before giving way for 24 year old Flavio to have his turn.
Our sincere thanks to the many donors who so far have funded 80% of this project, and special thanks to major donors Reitzel Foundation, Larry and Pam Trissel, the Little Family Foundation, and David G. Nugent in memory of Barbara M. Nugent.
We are still $33,400 from meeting our fundraising goal for the construction of the Vacation Rotation Enclosure.
Bobcats Go Free
Leopards in a Barrel
What? You never played that game when you were a kid? Ok, so maybe it was monkeys…Anyhow, Sabre the leopard received a very unique enrichment item this past week thanks to a special request from our summer interns.
Many of our cats love to play with cardboard tubes scented with spices or other aromas. We use toilet paper and paper towel tubes, but recently received a large donation of some extra large cardboard tubes. These tubes were big enough for a leopard to get inside of and that is exactly what Sabre the leopard did.
He spent much of his time lounging inside his massive tube. However sadly with the daily rain showers at the sanctuary these cardboard tubes do not last very long before they become mushy and must be removed. Sabre was so sad when his tube was taken away. That is when the interns thought how nice it would be for him to have a permanent tube made of a more durable material.
And so Big Cat Rescuers took a large plastic barrel and cut the ends off making a lasting tube that Sabre could have forever. Sabre was especially grateful and immediately rubbed on and rolled the tube back and forth before finally plopping down inside. A huge roar of thanks to our thoughtful and creative interns!
Bobcat Kitten Moves to Outdoor Enclosure
Newest arrival Khaleesi the bobcat is doing great! Last month we told you about this orphaned female bobcat kitten who found her way into our rehabilitation program. Khaleesi has received her first round of vaccines and has been moved to our outdoor rehab enclosure where she will continue her training. She will learn to camouflage herself in natural surroundings, climb trees, find den sites, and hunt during her time with us. Once she is ready she will be released back into the wild where she rightfully belongs.
33% Match On Your Donations To Endowment
Our Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay is designed to insure that we can meet our commitment to care for the cats we take in to the end of their lives. Currently the Community Foundation has a wonderful program where we set a fund raising goal that we have to meet over three years, and when we get to 75% of the goal, their Matching Fund puts the remaining 25% of the goal into our Endowment account. This translates into a 33% additional matching funds for each dollar you donate to the Endowment. So, a donation of $100 from a supporter earns us an ADDITIONAL $33.33 from the Matching Fund!
This is a great way to leverage your donation and have even more impact for the cats. To donate by check to our Endowment and earn the match please make the check out to Community Foundation of Tampa Bay but still send it to us at 12802 Easy Street, Tampa, FL 33625. You can put Big Cat Rescue in the memo section for record keeping, but that is not necessary. You will receive a receipt for the tax deductible donation from the Community Foundation, which is a 501c3 non profit like Big Cat Rescue.
Thanks for helping make sure the cats can receive the best possible care for their entire lives!
Bella the Tiger Has Cancer
Bella is a 17 year old female tiger who was rescued along with TJ from a breeding facility that was shut down by the USDA in 2006. Bella is quite friendly and happily pounces over and chuffs at her keepers before flopping down and rolling the grass. While Bella was happily rolling on her back her keepers noticed a mass on her abdomen about the size of a tennis ball. So volunteer veterinarians Dr. Wynn and Dr. Boorstein sedated and examined Bella with the assistance of Big Cat Rescuers. While under sedation Bella received a full physical examination. Her body condition was good for a tiger her age weighing in at approximately 230 lbs. Her blood was drawn and a biopsy of the mass was collected.
Sadly, the mass turned out to be cancer, (adenocarcinoma) and now Bella is losing interest in eating so, by the time you read this, she will hopefully have made the walk out to the Vacation Rotation Enclosure so that she can experience some sense of freedom in her final days!
100% of the profits from the sale of the Dragon Fruit Lip Butter go to charity so the greater the sales, the greater the funding. The more votes we get, the greater the amount of funding we receive!
Big Cat Rescuers Go On “Shore Leave”
Thanks to the ROARING generosity of The Royal Manticoran Navy, the Official Honor Harrington Fan Association, representatives from Big Cat Rescue recently tabled and spoke as part of the 35th Annual Shore Leave Science Fiction Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
The Royal Manticoran Navy is comprised of an international group of incredibly talented and passionate animal advocates who have generously supported Big Cat Rescue’s fiscal and advocacy initiatives for a number of years, including approximately $3000 raised during Shore Leave 2013.
The group celebrates the literary works of David Weber and the universe he created in his Honor Harrington series of books, which boasts over 3 million copies in print. Mr. Weber has had more than 13 of his titles appear on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Shore Leave 2013 included such notable celebrities as William Shatner (James Kirk, Star Trek), Brent Spiner (Cmdr. Data, Star Trek, Next Generation), Amanda Tapping (Sanctuary’s Dr. Helen Magnus; Stargate G1/Atlantis’s Col Samantha Carter) and Saul Rubinek, Eddie McClintock and Neil Grayston (Warehouse 13).
We hope by sharing a new list with you each month that you will join us in speaking out for the big cats and cubs that are exploited across this country every day. We encourage you to take one small action today and reach out via phone or email to contact one or more of the offenders listed below and politely express your concern. Together we can be the voice for the voiceless…together we can make a difference. Please join us in our mission of Caring for Cats & Ending the Trade.
No. 1 The Midland County Fair (Michigan) has tiger “trainer” Brunon Blaszak’s tiger show at the fair this week. A news article in the Midland Daily News claims Blaszak is “educating those watching the show about the plight of the big cats.” Please help us educate fair manager Trish Steele and Midland Daily News reporter Kelly Dame that exploiting big cats in a circus show is no life for the cats and sends the wrong message to fair goers that it is ok to own big cats and use them as entertainment. Contact Trish Steele at 989-835-7901 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact reporter Kelly Dame at email@example.com and her editor Jack Telfer at firstname.lastname@example.org and 989-839-4240.
No. 2 The Chesterfield County Fair (Virginia) will have a new “white tiger encounter show” at the fair this year from August 23 – 31. Please help the fair’s management understand that the white tiger is not an endangered species. The white coat is the result of a double recessive gene and only occurs through severe inbreeding, such as father to daughter. Ask the fair to CANCEL this show and not allow big cats to be exploited for profit at their fair. Contact fair president Kenny Chandler at kc1861USA@yahoo.com and 804-908-1861. Contact fair manager Julia Williams at email@example.com and 804-405-9234.
No. 3 The New Jersey State Fair (New Jersey) ended last Sunday but it’s not too late to let the fair’s management know that big cat lovers do not want to see a tiger cub and Canadian lynx at the fair next year. Please let Executive Director Barbara Wortmann know that you don’t want to see Jungle Habitat bring wild cats to the fair in the future. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and 973-948-5500.
No. 4 Ventura County in Malibu (California) has conditionally approved the request by tiger merchant Irena Hauser, who owns 5 tigers, to house them in a residential area of Malibu despite the outcry and concern of many area citizens. We understand Hauser plans to use the tigers in the movie industry and transport them for filming purposes, putting the public at even greater risk every time the tigers are transported. Please contact Case Planner Jay Dobrowalski at email@example.com and let him know you oppose Case PL 13-0011 and the private ownership of big cats.
No. 5 Last month, the Uncle Sam Jam (Michigan) had a white tiger exhibit at this extremely loud event which featured monster trucks, fireworks, carnival rides and blaring rock bands all weekend. A supporter who contacted us said the noise level was incredible. Would you please speak out for this tiger and let the event staff know that their event is no place for a tiger? Contact the event manager at firstname.lastname@example.org and 586-493-4344.
If you hear about exotic cats or cubs being exploited in your area, please contact Susan Bass at Susan.Bass@BigCatRescue.org. As always, you can keep up with the latest action alerts at CatLaws.com. Thank you!
Enjoy tigers ripping up Summer Camper’s enrichment offerings, “play” with bobcats, see leopards leaping and attacking cardboard, hear about a water spout that passed by and more on this Sunday afternoon walkabout at Big Cat Rescue. Thanks to SkipAHolic Peggy McDermott Sundquist, we have three new computers donated by Ciber, Inc. the International IT Consultant company. Ken Goodrich is their Infrastructure Manager and came with Peggy to deliver the Dell computers.
Happiness is our own.
We are not responsible for other’s happiness and others are not responsible for our happiness.
Each of us chooses to be happy or not and no one else can make that decision for us. When we truly understand and accept that our happiness is our responsibility then there is no limit to the joy we will experience.
Naturally, it is important to behave in a way that engenders happiness in others; but if they are determined to be miserable, then we shouldn’t stress over it. I think it is kind of like religion. We can pray for others, but we can’t change their relationship with God. That’s their choice and all we can do is be a good example of why it is a good choice.
I believe that all humanity is moving toward enlightenment albeit at different paces and we are all at different places along that path. I try to remind myself that each person is doing the best that they know how, because if they knew how blissful it is to be happy all the time, they would choose to do things that yielded that result.
That seed of God in all of us lets us know when our bad behavior is hurting others and it isn’t possible to be truly happy if you know you are hurting someone else. If we are constantly having that argument in our head that says “we are being harsh with someone for their own good,” then we are obviously trying to convince ourselves of something we don’t truly believe at a heart level.
Maybe the easiest way to digest all of that is to remember that what we think about, we bring about. The Bible says this in many ways, and perhaps most visually in the “move mountains” example. I choose to be happy and when something happens that makes me sad, I look at it as a way of examining what it is in my own beliefs that needs work.
Feds Abandon the Florida Panther
In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that it is giving up its watchdog role over Florida’s endangered species in order to “streamline” the permitting process for development projects that may hurt rare plants and animals.
This means that the continued existence of several threatened species such as the Florida Panther are now in the hands of the State of Florida; an entity which in the past has more often sided with developers than wildlife.
Because of USFWS’ action, Florida is now expected to start fast-tracking development projects—such as fracking for oil in the Big Cyprus region—which will eliminate even more of Florida’s few remaining wild places.
What might be even worse than the threat to the Florida Panther is the precedent this action sets for all of America’s wildlife. Usually the reason that the Federal Government has to step in and place a species under its protection is because an individual state’s government has failed in its responsibilities to the public trust.
We got a call from someone who said her name was Amanda. She said she has a traveling tiger act and that her trailer, with the tigers inside, was stolen and she wanted to know if we could help her get them back. The volunteer who answered the phone told her that we cannot help her, but I thought you guys may want to call since it is a 941 area code in FL. 941 323-4182
The second complaint came in just now of someone selling a tiger cub on Craig’s list in Jacksonville Beach. They claim the tiger came from Africa. http://jacksonville.craigslist.org/pet/3891410977.html