Cherokee the Bobcat at Big Cat Rescue



hear big catsCherokee
Female Bobcat

DOB 7/13/94 – 3/30/2015

Rescued 9/13/94


Cherokee was purchased at an auction at the age of six weeks. She apparently had never been handled and was very wild. Although she spent much time around people from a very young age, Cherokee is very elusive and prefers the company of her bobcat neighbors as opposed to her keepers. Cherokee loves enrichment time and when given tubes with her favorite spices in them she will flop and roll around on her back and rub her chin on the ground incesently. Keepers hand out enrichment every day in order to entertain these captive cats.





Most of our bobcats were rescues from fur farms.  The deal Our Co-Founder made with the three fur farms we discovered in the U.S. was that he would pay top dollar for every cat and kitten they had as long as the fur farmer would agree to never buy and breed cats again for slaughter.  It came at a time that the public outcry was against the fur industry.  Many of these animals were purchased at auctions where the uncaring owners were dumping the cats with no concern about their welfare.  There is much controversy over whether we did the right thing by paying the ransom for these cats.  We still accept many unwanted cats each year, but do not pay for them and typically require that their owner surrender their license, in an attempt to keep people from just trading in their cats each year for a newer, cuter model.  We have to turn away more than 100 cats each year due to a lack of space and funds and the lack of regulation of the exotic pet trade. Read more about our Evolution of Thought HERE

Cherokee Sees the Vet

When we sedated Cherokee the bobcat in 2015 we realized it was the first time in 20 years that she’s been sedated.  She has been amazingly healthy all these years, and is still in pretty good shape.  We found arthritis, as to be expected, and her kidneys are beginning to fail, but all she needed during this exam was some help with her grooming.

Vet Cherokee Bobcat

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Tributes to Cherokee Bobcat

Lynda Licht Aug 22, 2015
Despite being reclusive, I’ll always remember how you got excited for your chick with your meds in it. Hiding in the clump of trees near your lockout, you would bound forward to retrieve the chick and then run off to eat it. I’m glad those things made you happy and I got to share it with you. <3

Sharon Henry Apr 12, 2015
Even when we suspect the end is near, it’s still hard to accept. I miss seeing your little face peering out of your den and the way your little mouth would move as if you were talking to me but no sound would come out. That always made me smile. You are free now little girl, run wild and be happy.

Meredith Pennino Apr 6, 2015
Cherokee, my bob, my angel, you have always been my favorite, and always will have been.
You’ve taught me so much: how persistence leads to gain an animal’s trust, and that no matter how long an animal spends life in a cage, they can never become adapted to that lifestyle. It pained me to see you constantly in your den. You and I worked together with operant to get you on top of your platform many times, however I never saw you in it any other time. I attempted to get you into your hammock but you were not interested. You were a true recluse. A true bobcat, and nothing could change that. I will miss your precious little sounds. The “Hhrrrahh” are forever ingrained in my memory and heart. For such a small bob you were so fierce. I loved how you would wait just outside of lockout and rush in to grab the chicken from the feeder. One great memory was when I got to feed you a half a Cornish game hen. It was awesome to watch you carry it to your “spot” where you ate. In younger days, you could put down some food, my little “basketball with feet”. So petite, and such a unique shape, with the most adorable “nugget” tail. Your “spotty nose” was the best and uniquely you. My beloved Bob. I will miss you incredibly, however I have made peace with your passing, because you were never meant for life in a cage.

Regina Rinaldi Apr 6, 2015
My favorite feisty bobcat girl. I will miss her. She had the attitude of a cat much bigger than she was, and that’s what I loved about her. She had a unique sound, kind of like a growl, but with an underlying purr. She was one of my babies and I’ll miss her terrible. Run free baby. You have lots of friends waiting on you at the Rainbow Bridge.

Carole Baskin Apr 6, 2015
We had to make the sad decision to euthanize Cherokee.

She’s been in renal failure for a while, but for the last three days she’s stopped eating more than a couple ounces per day and is becoming dehydrated. She’s nearly 21 years old and this is never going to get better, so Jamie and I decide it is time to let her go.

I know it’s harder for Jamie. Tears are streaming down her face as she holds Cherokee for her last breath in this soft, pudgy, bobcat form. I know she feels like she’s failed the cat. When Cherokee arrived, from the Woods & Waters Auction in Delphos, OH at the age of 2 months on 9/13/94 she was already full on BOBCAT! Don offered to pay Jamie to tame her down and Jamie used every trick at her disposal, but Cherokee must have been raised by her own mother before being auctioned off and was taught to never trust a human.

Despite trying for years, Cherokee never trusted anyone. Now in her last days, she could have had a few more weeks or months, if we could entice her to allow us to give fluids, or feed her from a stick, but she would have none of that. I think that’s why Jamie was crying. Other than the guilt we often feel, for believing we just didn’t do enough, we are both pretty secure in our belief that we are all eternal and this form is just one of many that we signed up for during our last rendezvous with the Universe.

Maya Bengal Cat Female

DOB 7/16/1996 – 3/30/2015

I don’t know if we have ever had two cats die the same day. Today we lost Maya, a Bengal Cat and Cherokee a Bobcat, and had the trauma of sedating Cameron the lion for a mass removal. It’s 3:36 now and I can finally exhale, knowing that we aren’t having to say good bye to three old friends to today.

Maya was the accidental kitten of Draikko the Leopard Cat and Sheeba, a domestic stray. She and her brother and sister, Kiki and Tiki, were born on 7/16/1996 after a case of mistaken identity caused their mother to be put in the “Bengal Barn.”

When my Dad came to work at the sanctuary in 1996, his first project was to build some fountains and a play yard for the Bengal Barn cats. Draikko, Shalimar and Zazu were the Leopard Cats who lived there and Atlas, Rafiki, Arianna, Kinza, Kaleena, and Zulu were the Bengal Cats who lived there and then there was a domestic tabby cat or two as well.

The Bengal Barn was a 70 foot long, single wide mobile home that we had gutted and turned into indoor cages for the cats, with a little window run on the outside of the trailer, so the cats could come and go from the air conditioning to the fresh air outside. The window runs were only about three feet deep and three feet tall and stretched down the exterior of the mobile home in compartments for each cat or group of compatible cats.

One day in 1996 a volunteer came up to me and said that somehow Sheeba must have escaped the Bengal Barn, but that she had put her back with Draikko. Sheeba had been spayed and kept Draikko from being an absolute spaz, so it had been a good arrangement. Except for doing the wormings, vaccines and medical care, I didn’t go in the Bengal Barn very often, as I had horrible allergies to cats that required daily doses of Claritan.

When Sheeba had kittens, it came to my attention that the tabby cat who had been found wandering and thought to be Sheeba, was a different cat. No one had seemed to pick up on the fact that there were two tabbies, living in the Bengal Barn that were both being called Sheeba, because they were thought to be one and the same. I’m sure the people who fed and cleaned in there must have thought it odd that we would have two cats with the same name and never thought to point out to me that odd fact.

At any rate, being F1 Bengal Cats, the kittens were wild as the wind, but beautiful. Kiki and Tiki found homes with volunteers. Maya found a home with a volunteer, or a visitor; I don’t remember exactly. When Maya became an adult the person brought her back to me. She said her father loved the cat, but she sprayed, and pooped all over the house, so he had to keep her on the lanai. Now her father was sick and could no longer care for the cat, and she remembered that I had told her to bring the cat back if things didn’t work out.

Maya, being a Bengal Cat, wouldn’t adjust to new cage mates and we had no space at the sanctuary for her. I took her home to the island and figured on almost 5 acres of river front property she could be free and live in the yard. That didn’t last long.

Because I am licensed as a wildlife rehabber, I get the weird calls. This one was from a man, just hysterical that a Florida Panther was stalking his wife in broad daylight. When I asked where he lived, I learned that he was my neighbor. I asked him to call me the next time the “Florida Panther” showed up and sure enough, it was Maya. I promptly netted her and decided she would have to live on my porch if she wouldn’t stop stalking old people.

For the next 14 years Maya lived on the porch. I never was able to pick her up or pet her, but I respected that. She never did learn to use a litter box, although in her last few years of life she would relieve herself on newspaper…most of the time. The porch reeked, despite frequent blasts from the pressure washer and digging out all of the dirt in the flower beds and replacing it year after year.


When Howie moved in, in 2003, he made it his mission to make friends with Maya. She would hiss and swat and gave him NO encouragement for the first few years. He still fed her every day and gave her treats. He earned her trust and she would allow him to pick her up for a few seconds and he could pet her briefly.

Babylon’s arrival in 2010 meant everyone in the house, which included Maya and Sidney, began eating his very expensive brand of cat food that was designed to keep him from having a reoccurrence of crystals. After Sidney died last year, Howie decided that after nearly losing Maya a few times, she should be allowed to eat what ever she wanted and what she really wanted was Little Friskies.

Maya’s last days were her best. She had always had a heart murmur but on Saturday she acted pukey and I thought it was just the result of her catching another lizard. When she was worse on Sunday we called Jamie and Justin to look at her. They took her in to the Humane Society to run tests and sent her home on fluids, potassium paste and Amlodipine. When I got home at 8:30 pm, after filming Katie Nikic’s baby shower and editing the video, Howie said Maya was worse.

We brought her into my office for the night, gave her 150 cc of fluids and got the potassium in her. She wouldn’t eat and I wasn’t sure if she had already gotten a dose of the Amlodipine earlier in the day at the vet’s, so we opted to let her sleep and try again in the morning. I checked on her a couple times and she was sleeping peacefully, but at 4:30 am I found her dead.

I had a hard time getting back to sleep because I knew we had to sedate Cameron the lion to remove an oozing growth from his back at 9 am. I rushed in to work to take photos of the procedure, both for our archives and to help thank those involved. It is always scary to sedate a cat, but even more so when I am so raw with the emotions of losing Maya, and knowing that something has to be done today about Cherokee’s failing health. Add to that the fact that Cameron the lion is one of the most iconic cats at the sanctuary because of his love affair with Zabu the white tiger.


Thankfully, Cameron’s operation went smoothly. Jamie and I had five minutes to get from surgery to our quarterly board meeting. After that I had to eat, before I collapsed and then had to make the sad decision to euthanize Cherokee.


More Memorials at

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