Auroara Tigress

Female Siberian/Bengal Hybrid

DOB 2/96 – 10/21/08


Auroara was said to be a descendant of the Exxon Tiger. She was the runt to Bombay and Sunny and was cross-eyed and lame in the hips, so she was not wanted for commercials.  She loves to swim and has a one-acre cat-a-tat where she can swim and play and talk to Shere Khan and China Doll, her neighbors.   She loves people and can really “work” a crowd from her vantage point along the main path.  You get the feeling that you’re “walking a tiger” since Auroara will follow you along the entire length of her cat-a-tat. Despite the fact that she drools, she wobbles and she scratches the air, Auroara seems to enjoy every day.  Whenever you spend time with her, she will chuff and chuff as if you’re both having a serious conversation.  She will stalk you, hide in the bushes, and then bound out after you to elicit the playtime attention she wants.  Auroara is not a tiger you can ever walk by without smiling at her antics.

Auroara was euthanized 10/21/08 as she was suffering from a blood-born cancer (hemangiosarcoma)

At Big Cat Rescue these cats have been honored as the individuals that they are.  They have been loved for who they are.  Thanks to all of our wonderful supporters these cats and many, many more have had the chance to live out the rest of their lives in peace.  There is no better fate available to captive bred wild cats than Big Cat Rescue, but we can do more for them.

We can end the breeding of exotic cats for lives in cages.  We can save habitat so that their wild cousins can live free.  When we do so, we are creating a more compassionate society and a healthier planet for all of us.  Be sure to sign up at so that you know when there is an important issue that needs your voice.  Your contact info is safe with us and we respect your privacy.


People always ask me if I have a favorite cat and I don’t.  They are all special to me and I love each of them for who they are, whether they show any affection to me or not.  I know our staff does not believe me when I say I have no favorites though, and understand why.  They see me spending more time with some cats than others when I do my daily walk through to check on all of the cats, so those cats are perceived by others to be my favorites.

Chuffing is usually associated with being a happy tiger greeting, but tigers also chuff when they are scared and looking for reassurance.  Auroara chuffed more than any tiger I have ever known and most of the time she was happily chuffing as she would approach a keeper or a tour.  She loved people and just couldn’t get enough attention.  Everyone was her friend.  She and Catera are probably the happiest cats in the sanctuary.

Being gloriously happy in a cage is not the sign of being at peace with their lot in life as much as being a symptom of their mental retardation due to the inbreeding that produced them.  You could see the inbreeding in Auroara’s every feature;  she was lame in the hips, cross eyed, she drooled, she was uncoordinated and she was prone to seizures. She was a tiny thing, only weighing 210 lbs and everyone called her “the tiny tiger.” Despite all of her challenges though, she was like a little clown in a tiger suit.

Being at the top of the food chain, tigers are fearless.  When I see one who cringes at the sight of a stick in my hand, I know how badly they were beaten to do the stupid pet tricks people will pay to see.  No tiger should know fear.

Auroara was only a few weeks old when she arrived at the sanctuary and has only been treated with love and kindness, but she was a fearful little tiger.  She was bred by Predators Unlimited who were in the business of taking big cats to schools, carnivals, fairs and photo ops.  It was at their facility that I saw some of the most grotesquely deformed tigers because of their inbreeding to create a white coat color.  We made a lot of stupid mistakes up until 1997 and most of what I am about to tell you are things I would never do now that I know better.

Auroara was raised with Jumanji and Black Majik the black leopards, but even though she was bigger than they were there was two of them and that arrangement didn’t last long.  Living in my bedroom didn’t last long either for the three, as the leopards would leap about the room and sometimes land on me in their late night escapades.  I usually wasn’t asleep but they would knock the breath out of me.

I wasn’t asleep because Auroara preferred the bed for sleeping and would stretch out in every direction, as far as she could, and she didn’t want to touch anything, including me.  If she could reach out and touch me, she would whine and push me further over to create a space between her outstretched paw and my body.  Mind you, this was well after she had done all the snuggly Auroara-loves-you-and-wants-to sleep-next-to-you finagling.

When they were big enough to stay outside in their cat-a-tats all night the leopards were happy to do so.  They could chase each other all night long now and not have a pillow thrown at them.  Auroara wasn’t afraid of the dark, but she was afraid of thunder.  She was terrified of stormy weather, unlike all of our other tigers who seem to think it is the gods doing a light show for them, while playing with them in the sprinkler.  I kept trying to help her work through the fear, often sitting out in the rain with her, but just as often as not would give in and both of us would climb into bed, sopping wet and exhausted from the ordeal.

She came to love the hair dryer (for obvious reasons) and reveled in having the wind in her face.  I could turn a floor fan on and she would sit there, nose into the wind, for hours.  It was a cheap baby sitter that let me get work done at my desk.  If I had to take her somewhere in the car or van, the only way to calm her was to put the window down and let her stick her nose out the window.  When the vehicle came to a stop at a sign or light, she would immediately start complaining about the fact that the wind had been turned off.

We had a child’s swing in the yard, shaped like a little airplane.  Auroara would gleefully swing all day in that thing, if you stood there to push her.  My favorite photo of her is one of her trying to climb the tree herself to get in that swing.

She loved to swim too, if you could call that swimming.  It looked more like drowning, but as long as she wasn’t in over her head, she seemed to really enjoy thrashing about in the lake.  She did get in over her head once and sunk like a stone.  I dove in after her and reaching the bottom of the lake pushed up hard with my legs to get us both back up to the surface.  We gasped a lungful of air and Auroara wrapped herself completely around me, holding on as tight as she could.

She pinned my arms down to my side and she outweighed me by a good bit.  Pound for pound tigers are 12 times stronger than a person.  I couldn’t free my arms to swim with her and we sunk again.  Each time we would sink to the bottom of the hole I would bend my knees to push up as hard as I could back to the surface hopping and gasping each time we broke the surface until I was able to get us back on the shore.  We laid there in the sand, and in between gasps for air, Auroara chuffed continuously for assurance.  I promised to never take her swimming outside of her shallow section of the lake again.

Last week as I was doing my walkabout I saw Auroara walking down to the lake, wailing at the top of her voice.  That was something I had not heard her do in many years.  When I called to her she turned and trotted up chuffing frantically.  Something was up, but I didn’t know what.  She looked fine but she didn’t eat that night or the next night.  I thought this may be the onslaught of another of her epileptic episodes and the next day she was sleeping most of the day, but not having seizures.  While sitting with her I noticed what had looked like a fold in her skin was actually a lump.  When she would lay in just the right position I could see that it was about the size of a nerf foot ball, cut in half.  Dr. Wynn biopsied the lump and then began the days of fretting over whether or not it would be cancer.

The sample went in on a Friday and the results came in the following Tuesday.  Over the weekend we tried everything to get her to eat.  She would get up and drink on her own and when it rained she would heave herself to her feet to go in her den.  Her pain was obvious, despite being given medication to ease it.  All the while though, she chuffed.  Others were hopeful that she would be okay, because she was chuffing.  She was happy, right?  I hoped so too, but I knew how often Auroara would chuff when she was unsure…when she needed reassurance that all would be okay.

Her lab reports confirmed our worst fears.  Auroara had an untreatable form of cancer that affects the blood vessels and causes them to rupture throughout the body, causing internal bleeding.  The mass on her side, was just the first and most obvious.  It would only get worse from here and we decided to end her suffering as soon as we knew there was nothing more we could do for her.  Making that call usually falls to me and I do so based upon the advice of our vets, but I am usually not involved in the sad process from that point forward.  Unless the cat in question is one who particularly needs me, the staff finds it easier to do their job without my crying.

Auroara’s chuffing told me that she needed me to be there.  It reinforced what I know to be true about the dedication of those who never get out of this dreadful procedure.  Dr. Wynn, Scott and Jamie are almost always the ones who have to do what is most merciful and yet most gut wrenching.  They have to stuff down their emotions and stay clear-headed and strong through ending the lives of the animals they love.  What greater love is there than this?

When I feel the wind in my face, or hear the thunder I will always think of Auroara.  It will be a reminder to me to be fearless for the cats so that we can end the abuse….Carole Baskin

“Another tragedy I never expected. I’ll never forget Auroara as I have a picture of her on my wall playing with her ball. Well, all I could say is rest in peace Auroara, everyone at BCR including me will miss you.”… Ben Walden

Walking thru the sanctuary for the first time, my eyes wandered from enclosure to enclosure. I accepted those cats so easily. But my heart melted and the world seemed to stop when I saw Auroara. She was the one.. She was the one who held my attention, who made me smile so brightly, who made everything around me disappear. With one chuff, all my problems faded. From then on, I made it my routine to stop by to see her every chance I got. I often found myself taking longer than usual to get somewhere on property because I always had to stop by to talk to her. She was my everything.

I have so many funny memories of her I can’t seem to keep track or know which ones to share for this. This particular time, which is fairly recent, Jen made it a project to re-bury the Tiki man pole on the beach. Well, Auroara HAD to investigate us, she had to know what we were doing. I spent more time looking at her than the task at hand. Waiting for supplies, we decided to pick weeds from the sand. I claimed the section closest to Auroara, of course. Several feet away, she was laying down watching us. I smiled so brightly, talking to her, I could talk to her for hours.. and hours. Every time I pulled a weed

, she chuffed. Like saying “Good job! Now bring it over so I can sniff it..” Then she started to roll around, then pausing to look at me to see if I was watching. Of course I was. Of course I would look at you Auroara. There wasn’t a second where I wasn’t looking at you, or praising you on how amazing and supportive you were.

She was the one who gave me strength. She taught me that no matter how many problems we have, things always got better. She was right. No matter how rough my life was, how much I wanted to break down and give up on something, she was the one to pick me up. She was my support system. I’d ask her what to do, and she’d just chuff and rub her cheeks against the enclosure. Not exactly ‘words’, but it was more than enough for me.

My last memory of her, was her just a little bit before this all happened. I got my 11:30 tour, and I took them out to see her at the beginning of it. I brought them around, explaining her story, and I called for her. All I saw was a striped butt in the back corner. Khan was on the other side. Showing my guests Khan, I called for Auroara again, just like her to be the happy greeter, she got up and walked over. It was non-stop chuffing. It didn’t even seem like she took a breath. My heart raced and I had a huge smile. I was going to be able to share my friend with my guests. Chuffing and rubbing against her enclosure, I happily told them about her, about how truly jaw-dropping, unbelievable she was. I told her over and over how much I loved her. Told her so many times I couldn’t count, and told her how happy I was that she came over to see my tour. We were there for a good ten minutes before we left, and as I walked a way, I said I’d come right back to see her.When I came back several times that day, I couldn’t see her. That Sunday, I didn’t see her. I figured she was by her lake or sunning herself on the far end of her enclosure. I wish I tried harder to see her that one last time.

To my beautiful… amazing.. smart girl. Auroara, you were my life, my love, my world… and you will always be .. my life, my love, my whole world.. I love you baby, and it kills me to know that I won’t see you bouncing around like a little kid, or be able to ask you for help. I want to be selfish and want to bring you back, I want to be that person, but I can’t.. I know that you are in a place where you can feel no pain, where all your problems are fixed. A place where you can roll around and around in the tall grasses like always, sit up, then slam a paw down on a very tall weed and then look to see if its dead. You can never know just how many times you saved me, and for that, Thank you. Thank you for being you, for being the one I could always turn too, for being my best friend. I love you, I love you, I love you. Good bye….Shiloh,Volunteer Keeper


By Darlene M. De Santis

What was it about you
That caught my eye Auroara?

Your name conjures visions of a princess
Beautiful, powerful
Sweet and adored

Your amber eyes hold in them knowledge, sadness, and a strong spirit

A beauty in my eyes Sweet Auroara
Yes, I chose you and hoped one day our eyes would meet

Like a new parent
Your pictures are proudly displayed
Over and over I watch moving images of you
Leaping, splashing, and swimming

You live each day – fully
I know you are cared for and loved

Miles separated us, but still I felt a connection to you –
Maybe “we” were not “perfect” but “we” had “good hearts”

I longed to make that journey someday
To stand before you, in awe of you sweet girl

You would greet me with your wonderful chuff I have heard so much about
And I would hope – our eyes would meet

But it was not to be
The news of your passing devastated me
Once more my heart weighed heavy with sadness, disbelief and regret
Tears fell for you
My consolation – I knew you were always taken care of
Loved and Respected

And now “tiny tiger” you are free
Strong and healthy
Running wild, swimming in azure lakes

You touched many hearts
Mine among them
So let us not remember you with tears
But with the special gift you gave –

making us smile

You will not be forgotten Sweet Auroara

What a beautiful yet delicate tigress. The first time I saw Auroara was as a guest on a Saturday morning tour with Denny. She happily chuffed at Denny and the tour and followed us up the path toward Shere Khan and China’s enclosure. Over time, I was able to see her different moods and respect her need, at times, to be left alone. My favorite memories of her are always on Sundays when there are no tours and she felt free to interact with the Sunday volunteers as they passed to and fro performing various tasks – but almost always taking the time to talk to Auroara. She would typically chuff right back at us. Her presence will be missed but I am happy her spirit is free and she no longer has to be confined…..Lisa, Volunteer Keeper

Our beautiful “butterfly girl” went on her long far away trip today… Our “little jumping bean” is no longer with us… Not with us physically… but in our hearts, she will always be, jumping around, following us, and chuffing as loud as she can… telling us that she is now alright and happy and with the rest of all our lost beautiful and happy chuffers! Go Aurora! Go, run in the fields of freedom and never forget us… because we will NEVER never forget you little girl!……Marie, Senior Volunteer Keeper

Has it only been a week? I look over at your enclosure and it seems so overgrown and empty already. But, in my mind’s eye, I still see the vision of you just the week before you left. Hidden, lurking in the tall grass, you suddenly sprang out of nowhere and leaped 10’ so that all I saw, out of the corner of my eye, was a tiger tail in flight. I made everyone stop to watch and relish your antics – typical for you, enjoying each moment of life and what it had to offer.

I’ll never forget when we moved you to the Outback so your enclosure could be improved. That ride you took around the sanctuary, caged in the back of a pickup truck with Carole reassuring you the whole way, was priceless. You were as interested in every animal you passed as they were in you. And what a roar you gave to those you didn’t particularly like or who scared you.

“Ro Ro,” you were such a silly, freaky, character for a tiger. No wonder so many will be mourning your loss – you were unforgettable. Enjoy your new found freedom, you’ve always deserved it……Julie, Volunteer Senior Keeper

Tigers portray strength and endurance and Auroara was no exception. Full of charm and creativity, she loved to play. Whether it was swimming or hiding behind the bushes waiting to surprise you when you least expected it, her endurance never waned. She was truly a special girl who really enjoyed people and needed their love and attention. She thrived on it. Never missing an opportunity to say hello, I shall never give Auroara a final good-bye….Laura, Volunteer Keeper

Auroara was very special to me. She may have been called the “tiny tiger,” but she had more spirit than any tiger I know or have known. You usually knew where you stood with Ro….if you walked too fast past her enclosure, you usually got roared at. If you walked up, stopped, talked with her, told her how pretty she was, or just told her your problems, she had that very special, precious chuff, just for your ears, just to brighten your day and make you smile…’s what she did best. She had what I called a “limp-hop” and it was so rhythmic you could almost set it to music. It was these flaws, in my opinion, that made her the perfect tiger.

Run free beautiful girl…no thunderstorms, only shallow lakes, and some pretty awesome company up there….tell them all we miss them. Your journey has been a long one, but now you are where you need to be…….Regina, Volunteer Senior Keeper

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand;
the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they’re gone – George Eliot

There are no words. The road seems so cold and silent…… It will never be the same without our precious chuffing angel. I feel privileged to be her forever sponsor and grateful that I got to spend some time with her just before she left; she will be forever in my heart….Deborah, Volunteer Keeper

What can I say about Auroara but that she was the friendliest cat to me. When I gave a tour, she was always out and in the front of her enclosure chuffing away! She was a champion chuffer! If I walked down to the Gift Shop Storage area, she’d accompany me the length of her cage, again, chuffing and talking all the way. I will miss my interactions with her but know she is now at peace…..Pat, Volunteer Senior Partner

I first met Auroara in the dead of night on Friday 28th December 2001, during the ‘Wild Eyes at Night’ tour. We met properly the following day when I had my first experience of a day time tour, where she followed us for the entire length of her enclosure as we walked down the road. Over the following years, I was lucky enough to capture video of her trying to get a pumpkin out of the lake –whilst refusing to get her feet wet and photos of her in various poses. My final and favorite memory of her is captured forever on video. In July 2008, I returned for my eighth trip to the sanctuary. She was back in her original enclosure, which had just been renovated for her, and back to her usual antics of following everyone as they walked alongside her enclosure. As I stood watching, some guinea fowl wandered over and started looking for bugs beside her cage, thinking that they were safe as she was several feet away. But she spied them, shuffled her body and clumsily pounced, taking great delight in frightening them into flight. I have laughed so many times on re-watching this video, as it captures everything that made her so special. She may have been a ‘throw- away’ tiger because of her medical problems caused by in-breeding, but she probably did more for the plight and problems of breeding tigers in captivity than any other cat, just by being so ‘in your face’ with the public who have visited Big Cat Rescue. Once you met her, you never forgot her. It was such a privilege to have known her and I really cannot believe that I won’t see her bounding over to greet me again. Such a happy girl, so full of fun and always chuffing at everyone. I will miss her so much, she was never a ‘throw-away’ tiger in my eyes and I have shed many tears since……Daphne, Volunteer Keeper Trainee/Advocat

Auroara the Tiniest Tiger at Big Cat Rescue

Auroara was one of the first tigers at Big Cat Rescue, she was one of the favorites with everybody who volunteered and visited the sanctuary. She lived in a one acre enclosure with access to the lake at the back, loved to swim and was really good at making you smile whenever you walked by, she will be dearly missed.

Watch along as Big Cat Rescue’s silly Tiger Auroara takes a quick dip in the lake. Tigers love water and Aurora proves that cats are actually awake and active when they are in a stimulating environment.

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