Male Siberian Lynx
4/1/92 – 3/11/11
Arrived at Big Cat Rescue 9/19/93
Katmandu was rescued from the same fur farm as Anastasia’s mate (Stalker) on 9/19/93. He was too young for the breeder to use, but was such an exceptional male that it cost us twice as much to get him off the farm and home to Big Cat Rescue. His little sister is Natasha. Sadly, his older brother, who was the fur farm’s star breeder, was shot to death when he escaped from the farm in Minnesota.
Katmandu was neutered in 1998 and was often found snoozing the day away curled up with Kanawha under the trees in their cat-a-tat. As they aged, as her health began to deteriorate, Katmandu would always stand guard over her when she wasn’t feeling well. His aggressiveness at feeding time was legendary, yet his protectiveness of her was touching. His loss leaves a huge hole in our hearts, and hers.
Anal electrocution was the only way to escape the fur farm…at least as far as Katmandu knew, until the day his older brother made a gallant run for it. Moments later though, the sickening sound of the shot gun blast and Katmandu knew he would never see his big brother alive again. There was little consolation in the fact that his brother’s pelt was now too riddled with holes to become another fur fashion.
Katmandu had seen things that you just can’t get over. His siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles all killed and skinned for their fur. He and Stalker had been spared because they were the biggest and most handsome lynx yet and their owner knew that their size and looks would pass on even better coats to “harvest.”
When we arrived in 1993 Katmandu was only a year old, but he had seen the inhumanity that man was capable of and would never forget it. His little sister, Natasha, was too young to have witnessed or remembered the horrors of the fur farm and while they shared a similar birth, in the tiny, steel, wire floored cages in a metal Minnesota shed, their attitudes going forward were as different as night and day.
One of the first cages built at Big Cat Rescue housed Katmandu. Most cats figure out pretty quickly that coming here really is life on “Easy Street” but I don’t remember a time in those early years that Katmandu didn’t puff at me and strike the side of his cage whenever I would walk by. I always tried to give him an extra wide berth so as to not frighten him into such displays but, unlike the rest of the cats here, he never trusted me.
When we had to give the cats vaccines in the early days it usually meant netting them, which involved chasing them around until we could net them and inject them. Not Katmandu. To vaccinate him meant at least three big guys with nets and all of us dressed in enough padding to have been hockey goalies. The moment we stepped into the cage it was “game on” and the game for Katmandu was to see how many of us he could take down before I got him with the needle.
Thankfully our cage designs improved over the years so that the cats had a lockout area where we feed them every day that became the area we could call them into for shots. That became easier and easier through our operant conditioning program where the cats learn that coming into lockout is almost always something good like food and treats. But, not Katmandu.
It didn’t matter that 364 days out of the year there would be something good about coming into lockout, he wasn’t going to do it if there was any chance that a human was going to try and get anywhere near him. For 10 years Katmandu was the scariest cat on the property. No matter how much all of us tried to show our love and respect for him, I never saw any change in his ferocity until 2003 when he met, and fell in love with Dr. Liz Wynn.
She worked tirelessly with him and his cage mate Kanawha until she gained their trust. I didn’t see how she initiated operant conditioning with them, but was just stopped dead in my tracks one day when I saw the result. She was standing over Katmandu who was in his lockout, looking up at her with adoration and expectation as she was giving commands and treats on a stick. There was no growling. No puffing threats at her. No slashing claws. Just Katmandu and what could only be described as puppy love in his demeanor.
I began to take note that every time she walked by he came, on the run, to see if she would stop and talk with him. It was one of those little pleasures that put a smile on my face every time I saw it because I felt that finally this brave cat had found a soul mate here, not only in Kanawha, but also in Dr. Wynn. All of the cats here have Keepers and Partners who are especially dear to them and we often note that they pick you rather than the other way around, but to see Katmandu have a person he trusted was something extraordinary.
There may have been others here who he came to love. There were certainly many who tried to gain his favor, but I never saw anything like what I saw between Katmandu and Dr. Wynn.
There is a lot that love can do, but it can’t stop the ravages of time. When Keepers reported that Katmandu had his third eyelid up and was unsteady on his feet and drooling, we knew something was wrong. For the first time in the 18 years that I have known Katmandu he didn’t rush over to threaten me when Jamie and I went to check on him. Over the years his arthritis had become so bad that he was on two strong painkillers both night and day. His back leg now had an even worse gait and it turned out that the cause of the third eyelid being up and the drooling was because of an abscessed tooth. His kidney values six years ago had not been good, but now they were really bad and at the age of 19 were only going to get worse.
The odd gait turned out to be a torn ligament in his knee that would have required extensive surgery and many weeks or months of recovering in a small cage in the cat hospital. There is no way that Katmandu would have been able to withstand the fear of such tight confinement as it would have been too much like the fur farm cage of his youth. He had already lived 7 years longer than anyone would expect a Siberian Lynx to live and it had been a pretty good life for a cat in a cage.
He had been able to retain his command over all around him and had lived a life of dignity. He had made a friend in a vet who would now help him ease over into the life beyond the walls of his cage. He had taught us all how awful the fur industry was by his refusal to ever forget those who were not as lucky and he, Kanawha, Natasha, Willow, Apollo and Zeus were to escape.
We will never forget Katmandu and will never forget why we endure the trials we suffer to end the trade in these great cats as pets, props and for their parts and fur….Carole, Founder and CEO
My tribute to Katmandu is this video. He was wild in spirit until the very end of his days. When I say he will not be forgotten, it’s true….he won’t, either by Kanawha or by all of us who shared his days….Julie, Senior Keeper
Slumber sweetly and run freely Katmandu. Thank you to everyone who took care of him and especially to Dr. Wynn who was able to show him that some humans have the capacity for great patience and love. I know you will be missed by many…Kim D, Volunteer Keeper
Katmandu was my favorite lynx to feed. He was so feisty, and when him and Kanawha were fed next to one another, I used to stay and wait for her to eat so he didn’t steal her food. But that always meant he got a neck or two extra and he seemed pleased with himself that he could swindle me out of a couple of necks. My heart breaks for the second time in a week and I cry again. Now arthritis free, Katmandu can run free amonst our many friends that have crossed the rainbow bridge. He is loved by me and will be missed by me…Regina, Volunteer Senior Keeper
May 3, 2011
Katman… it has been so hard to say good-bye to you. The first time I laid eyes on you I fell in love with your fierceness and extraordinary beauty. I also remember that you were the first cat I ever fed and the possible scenarios that ran through my head before I tossed that first neck! While I and others will miss you terribly and never, ever, forget you I am glad that you are pain free! Be at peace!
More Memorials at http://bigcatrescue.org/category/memorials/