Ariz. facility’s tiger having seizures

Luci Scott
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 3, 2007 10:49 AM

Dr. Scott McComb, a Chandler veterinarian, usually works on house cats. But he recently did tests on an ailing cat that’s much bigger: a 140-pound, 14-month-old tiger named Mattie.

The animal came to Chandler for evaluation from Keepers of the Wild Nature Park, a 175-acre wildlife sanctuary in Valentine, a small town northeast of Kingman.

“The physiology of the tiger is similar to house cats, especially when it comes to the heart and other organs,” McComb said. “In nutrition, there are some definite differences, but for the major underlying part, it’s still a cat.”

Mattie was having seizures. After she runs, she staggers a little as though she’s drunk, according to her owner, Jonathan Kraft, who founded Keepers of the Wild as a non-profit in 1995.

She came to McComb’s attention through one of his technicians, Andy Allen a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff who volunteers at Keepers of the Wild.

McComb, who also has an undergraduate degree in wildlife, has a special interest in big cats.

He did X-rays, blood and urine tests and an ultrasound on Mattie at his McQueen Veterinary Clinic.

Turns out the problem is in the tiger’s brain.

While evaluating her, McComb was cautious.

“The owners work with her so . . . she’s fairly tame, but she’s still a wild animal. At a moment’s notice, they can turn on you,” he said.

McComb at first thought she might have a heart ailment.

“The cat passed out once or twice, and that in cats can mean a heart problem,” he said. “As soon as I saw the cat, I thought, ‘Uh, oh, it’s in the brain.’ “

Mattie is now back in Valentine, and Kraft has sent her medical reports to a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colo., for another opinion.

“We might have to get CT scans and MRIs,” Kraft said.

For that, she would go to Las Vegas or more likely Phoenix, he said. The ailment could be hereditary, or some kind of disease or tumor.

To contribute to the Mattie Fund or for more information on the facility, go to


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