The story of the O’Connors, told in Robin Washington’s Feb. 1 column, “A what in Proctor? Cougar story ends on sad note,” was very rare in that the family kept its cat for 16 years. My Big Cat Rescue group has been rescuing exotic cats from unwitting and unwilling owners since 1992. Of all the people I have ever known who had exotic cats as pets, only three kept their cats until the cats died in their teens.
At Big Cat Rescue, our cougars have been known to live up to nearly 30 years with proper care.
A chicken diet like the one the O’Connors reportedly followed is far from adequate for cougars. That, coupled with the family’s difficulty in finding a veterinarian, meant the cat likely languished in pain and probably suffered brittle bones and other issues from a poor diet. This cat’s life did end on a sad note, but what is even more sad is that the column may have left some people thinking it’s OK to breed wild animals for life in cages.
Big cat incidents are not so rare. A partial listing of incidents in the U.S. involving captive exotic cats totals 578 since 1990. The incidents in the U.S. resulted in the deaths of 21 people (16 adults and five children), the mauling of 190 more adults and children, 169 escapes, the killing of 92 big cats and 121 confiscations.
The bigger issue is that there is no cage that can provide the space and stimulation that any exotic cat needs to be who they are hard-wired to be. Keeping them that way is just cruel, and I and others are working hard to pass legislation to protect wild cats from the fate of being bred and traded.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Legislation cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.”
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
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