Big Cat Rescue in NY Post



June 28, 2009

Talk about animal "crackers."

A South African woman shares her bed with four cheetahs — and five lions and two tigers roam her house and 3-acre property.

Riana van Nieuwenhuizen, 46 and single, started adopting wild cats in 2006 in an effort to preserve the endangered species.

As her menagerie of exotic felines expanded, she decided to give up her government job and her social life to create a sanctuary for her furry friends.

"The last feeding is at 10 p.m., so they don't leave much time for dating or a social life. But they keep me happy," van Nieuwenhuizen told The Post.

Scott Lope, operations manager of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., says sleeping with big cats is a bad idea.

"The biggest misconception is that when you raise these animals, that they are somehow tame," he said. "They're dangerous creatures. That doesn't change because someone sleeps in a bed with them."

Van Nieuwenhuizen draws the line at letting the cats share her dinner table — though they try. "They always climb on the table," she says.

The majestic animals scarf down about 55 pounds of chicken a day, and they're always angling for extra snacks.

Fiela, the first of her adopted brood, can open the back door on her own.

The sanctuary is funded by Nieuwenhuizen's pension, but the money is running out. "At this stage, I would like to get more animals," she admitted. "But we're struggling financially."

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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