Cage rest sounds pretty peaceful for the cat, but it’s a real challenge for the caregivers.
See 2 playlists of some of our rehab bobcats
While we do bobcat rescue, rehab and release in Florida, we will not relocate bobcats as state law requires that they be released very near where they were captured. They must be released on at least 40 acres and we must get written permission from the owner of the property. They may not be released into state owned parks (strangely) but rather must be released on privately owned land with the land owner’s consent.
Big Cat Rescue has decades of experience rehabbing and releasing bobcats back to the wild where they belong. We provide huge, naturalistic enclosures where these cats can learn or perfect their hunting skills before being released back to the wild. We have trained staff who are experts at capturing an injured bobcat or hand rearing orphaned bobcats until a surrogate can be found.
We go to great lengths to keep these wild cats from imprinting on humans and monitor their care via surveillance cameras to make sure they are thriving. When they are healed, or old enough for release (about 18 months of age) we find the best habitat possible for sustaining them and set them free to live out the life that nature intended.
If you have a bobcat emergency in a state other than Florida, we can help you find a rehabber or will be a resource to wildlife rehabilitators who need help with bobcats, lynx or cougars. When you are searching for a bobcat rehabber ask the following questions:
1. Do they have experience with bobcats?
2. How big are their rehab enclosures? (Ours start at 1200 square feet and some are double that)
3. Do they feed a live diet of prey to insure that the cats will be able to hunt for themselves?
4. Do they keep people, including themselves to the extent possible, away from the bobcat so that they do not imprint on people and end up approaching humans after release?
5. Do they have a vet on staff or on call 24/7 for emergencies?
Rehabbing and releasing bobcats is much more difficult that the rehabilitation of most wildlife. These magnificent little wildcats need every opportunity to fulfill their role in nature and Big Cat Rescue is here to give them that second chance.
We are thinking the bobcat rehab rebuild is going to run about a quarter of a million dollars.
The area that would be most suitable on our property would allow a foot print of about 200 feet by 800 feet and would give us about 1/3 of that in thick woods and 2/3 in grassy runs. The woods are a blessing and a curse when we are talking chain link boxes.
Click map to see larger
The pink areas are our permanent big cat residents. The green shaded area is where we want to move our bobcat rehab facilities. It will be the opposite end of our property from the new hotel that is going in on Easy Street.
The 18 acre lake was dug out by the previous owner and then he was filling it in, starting w/ the green shaded area, with concrete and construction materials from demolition sites. He dug the lake down to 30 feet in places, so we could have that much concrete to drill through.
Wild bobcats DO dig, so we have to have a floor. That’s why I was thinking that a big chain link box, complete with roof and floor, might actually work there. It would have to be 1 in mesh and at least 11.5 gauge to meet state standards and keep their live rats from escaping. We would put dirt, grass and shrubs over the flooring after install.
This year we had 7 bobcats in rehab, which is the most we’ve had at one time, but as our reputation for successful releases grows, more cats seem to end up here, so we need to be ready for that growing demand.
We are confident that we can end the practice of private ownership of big cats, so the wildlife rehab work will expand as the need for big cat sanctuaries decreases with our legislative wins.
We own the three houses and two barns that are south of the green shaded area, so there is water, power and Internet nearby. The main house and the two barns have a life estate by the elderly owner though, so I’d have to build something for indoor care of injured cats, but it wouldn’t have to be huge because of the opportunity to take over the existing structures soon.
Currently the intensive care is done in our on site Cat Hospitals, but it would really be nice to have the wild bobcats totally away from the hubbub of the sanctuary, in their own recovery facilities adjoining the outdoor runs.
What I envision here are 8 long, narrow runs, maybe 20 by 230 each, that could be opened up into 4 that are 20 x 470 when there are 4 or fewer cats. Still puzzling about how to make the space expandable, without shared walls, which are just a tragedy waiting to happen.
Whether a bobcat comes to us injured or orphaned, they usually go through these stages:
1. Inside intensive care
2. Outside, small (low) cages so they don’t climb and fall.
3. 1000 -2500 square feet of space to perfect their hunting, climbing, hiding skills.
Another factor that I haven’t quite figured out yet, is how to mount cameras so that we can make sure the cats are doing well, and to engage the public. Our Bobcat Rehab camera is very popular at http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-bobcat-rehab-and-release and a great way to engage people in caring about wildlife, so I want to build it with a goal of it being a good virtual visual experience.
Each cage will require 27,120 sf of 1 in chain link mesh. Or roughly 64,750 linear feet of 8 foot high chain link mesh. http://www.yourfencestore.com/ lists 10 gauge, 1 inch mesh for 11.14 per linear foot which means a retail cost.
Below are mockups by Kenni Pedersen of what the bobcat rehab runs will look like.
Purchase this Jumanji Black Leopard pendant to help with his care
It’s Valentine’s Day and my heart is restless with worry. Tomorrow Jumanji, a 20 year old black leopard and Bongo, a nearly 25 year old serval, will have to be sedated for treatment. Since a lot of our cats are over the age of 20, and these species usually don’t live past 10-12 elsewhere, there is always this low level tension tugging at our hearts. We are always watchful for any sign that one of our precious cats is on the decline.
Nature demands survival of the fittest, so cats don’t show their illness, unless they are so sick they just can’t hide it any more. In the wild they would become prey if they didn’t maintain the facade of being the biggest, baddest element in the brush. Even in captivity, they are stoic in their pain and masters of illusion. It usually is something they can’t hide that first gives them away.
Jumanji has had a growth on his face for a while that has concerned us, but sedation is such a dangerous thing for exotic cats, that we have just watched it closely for changes and figured we will get a biopsy of it, or remove it, if he ever had anything else going on that would call for sedation.
Yesterday, (Feb. 13) he left a broken tooth on his feeding platter. My first thought was that he was expecting the tooth fairy, but realized that he must have broken it off while chewing on a bone. He’s always had great teeth, so this was un expected and worrisome enough, considering the exposed root, that we decided to sedate him Monday, Feb. 15.
Purchase this cute serval kitten plushy toy to help provide care to Bongo
No sooner had we made arrangements with the vet, Dr. Justin Boorstein, who is seeing his dentist that same morning, that a radio call came in that Bongo had a swelling on his face, and didn’t want to eat. In more than 20 years of caring for Bongo Serval, I don’t remember anyone ever reporting that he didn’t want to eat.
Jamie Veronica went to take a look at him, and all indications are that he’s got a bad tooth too. “Dr Boorstein; could you make that two patients for dental work, Monday?”
I kid you not, it wasn’t 15 minutes later before there was a radio call saying that Zouletta Serval was doing that weird-serval-neck-arching-thing. We are baffled at this odd phenomenon that only affects servals and seems to be related to a change in the weather. When it’s cold outside one day and then really nice the next day, the arching seems to happen on the nice day. We’ve discussed the condition with experts in serval care across the country and have tried just about everything imaginable, but can’t tell that anything, other than continued warm weather, fixes it.
“Dr Boorstein; could you make that three patients for Monday?”
If you picture those horses that are trained to step high and arch their necks, that is what it looks like. There are variations on it where the cat’s forehead seems to be glued to the ground. Those cases get brought inside immediately. The cats are usually very wobbly in their gait and will fall over. It doesn’t usually affect their appetite though.
We were trying to decide if Zouletta should go into the West Boensch Cat Hospital for a few days, but by the afternoon she was feeling a lot better and thankfully, today, shows no sign of affliction. I’m crossing my fingers that it stays that way for her. Thor Bobcat really doesn’t want neighbors in the hospital and two cats in surgery are about all I can stand.
I don’t know what time Jumanji and Bongo will be coming into surgery, but you can watch it LIVE at http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-windsong-memorial-cat-hospital There is a discussion board at the bottom of that page where we can do Q and A with you, but the microphones are great, so you will be able to hear the vets and they often will speak directly to the camera to keep you informed.
As always, your gifts are tax deductible and much appreciated.
Cheetaro arrived at Big Cat Rescue in November 2003 from a roadside zoo. Cheetaro was confined to a corn crib with his mate and bred constantly so that his cubs could be sold. They braved the New England winters together where a chill factor of -18 degrees wasn’t unusual. They had no way to escape the sleet and snow. They had only the shelter of the corn crib’s tin roof and a box. They had no choice but to survive by enduring their fate together. When the roadside zoo closed in 2003, Cheetaro’s mate was sold off and Cheetaro, being male and of no value, was sent to Big Cat Rescue. Here he lays lazily in the sun on top of his den, or can hang out on his platform, but he has forever been separated from the mate he loved.
One of the wiliest cats at the sanctuary, he spends hours stalking visitors from his shaded cat-a-tat. Like all leopards, he excels at sneaking up on people when their backs are turned. The keepers are always very aware of where Cheetaro happens to be whenever they clean his area or prepare his food.
We can never make up for the previous life he had to endure, but we try every day to make life as enriching as we possibly can for him.
Cheetaro Leopard Has a Seizure
February 24, 2015 Gale reports that Cheetaro Leopard is “down” in his cage (meaning unresponsive) and the vets are called. Dr. Boorstein heads in from across town at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay where he works, and Carole and Jamie come in to help Gale and Jarred give Cheetaro fluids and to keep him near the side of his cage, where the vet can get to him when he arrives.
To our knowledge, only two white servals exist in the world: Tonga and his brother Pharaoh. The white coat is just the outward indication of the deleterious effects of inbreeding. Tonga was 15 years old when he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. Although most arise without antecedent cause, in many species, especially in white cats, prolonged exposure to sunlight is a major predisposing factor. Being a wild cat, Tonga lives outside, and what cat doesn’t love to nap in their favorite sunny spot?
Tonga’s adult life has been pretty uneventful from a medical perspective. He had a bad tooth extracted in 2010 and he had an abscess treated on his leg in late 2011 but his blood work was pretty much routine for an elderly cat. (In the wild and in most other places Servals only live to be 10 or 12, but at Big Cat Rescue they have an average lifespan of 17). In July 2011 our Education Director Willow reported on the Veterinary Observation Chart that Tonga had a cut or scab on his nose. It was treated and went away but then in February of 2012 Keeper Bren reported it had recurred. It was treated with antibiotics and subsided, but recurred again in August of 2012. Something strange was going on here and this time it looked much worse, so despite the dangers in sedating an exotic cat we decided to do a full work up on him first by Dr. Wynn at the Ehrlich Road Animal Hospital and then by Dr. Jen Coyle and Dr. Wendy Gwin at the Blue Pearl Oncology lab.
White Serval Tonga Licks Paw
We were crushed when we heard the devastating news that it was cancer. After many tests and a full CT scan of his nose it was determined that the only way to save Tonga’s life would be to remove his cute little pink nose. The surgeons have to take a full centimeter extra, around the cancerous mass, in order to make sure they get all of the cancerous cells. That will mean removing his entire nose, but the good news is that they said it should heal very well and that he will be able to live outside again once the skin has completely healed over. He will just have higher nostrils on his face and more of a Persian profile than that of a normal Serval. He will still be beautiful to us.
The other bit of good news is that Tonga is strong, has a healthy appetite and zest for life and the cancer does not appear to have spread into his brain or nasal cavities, so he could live another two years. That is an average lifespan for our Servals and we feel like this surgery will give him a chance. To leave it untreated will undoubtedly result in the spread to the rest of his body and cats are so good at masking pain that we fear he would suffer and not let us know. The only clue we had that there was anything wrong this time was a recurring sore on his nose.
While waiting on test results and several expert opinions on what could be done we have wrestled with these options. It will be thousands of dollars for the diagnostics we have already done and the delicate surgery that he needs. Tonga could die during surgery. He could have a recurrence or have the cancer manifest in other organs. He may live a few weeks, a few months or a few years; we just don’t know. What we do know is that we have to try. We hope that you agree that every life is precious and worth trying to save by helping us fund the work here and specifically Tonga’s surgery.
Update 8/18/12: Tonga had three hours of surgery today at Blue Pearl to remove his cancerous nose. Tonga is back at Big Cat Rescue, in the Cat Hospital, and will recover in there until his nose heals over sufficiently that it will not be bothered by bugs or get infected.
Tonga’s Dental Video
Tonga has since been moved to a shadier area of the sanctuary to prevent any more potential sun damage.
More About Tonga the White Serval
White Serval Tonga as a Cub
Tonga was born at Big Cat Rescue before we knew any better back in the 1990s. 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. Tonga was born to parents Frosty and Nairobi, who has since been neutered and spayed. We didn’t know it at the time, but they must have been closely related.
Tonga has a white coat and very few spots, the spots that he does have are silvery gray. Tonga is a shy cat that likes to keep to himself, except at feeding time, when he magically turns into your best friend in the whole world. Like many of the servals at Big Cat Rescue, Tonga loves enrichment involving scents. One of his all time favorite enrichment items were some pine tree cuttings. He rubbed all over these pine limbs and was soon covered in a mixture of sap and drool, his coat transformed from snowy to muddy. He made a bed underneath the pine limbs and this became his favorite napping spot for several months.
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.
Cybil has some moderate liver enzyme elevations for which she will start a new supplement as well as worsening kidney disease which is pretty significant. She will be monitored closely now that she is back in her enclosure.