Maya was the best thing to ever happen to me. She loved without reservations and gave everybody a fair chance. Considering the hard knocks life had given her, she never let it show. She could appreciate the simplest pleasures from running for the fun of it, to watching the sunset over her view of the lake. She taught me my patience with animals. I spent many nights of feeding in the dark by flashlight and sitting and waiting for her to decide to eat. She liked that she had special feeders, there for her alone. She also taught me not to give up. She fought for every day, even when we had almost given up on her. She died two weeks after getting out of the hospital in her cage on her terms. She was and will continue to be the strongest force, human or animal, that I have ever known. I am lucky to have known her and will always miss her”….. Kathryn, Senior Volunteer Keeper
Being a volunteer at Big Cat Rescue, many of the animals become your dearest friends in the world. A lioness named Maya was one of the animals that really touched my heart. Some of my fondest memories of Maya are when I would approach her cage to give her food and medication. As soon as she noticed me she would jump up in the air and whip around to come running over. This was one of the funniest sites because Maya was extremely uncoordinated and grace and agility were never one of her strong points. Her keepers would call this her rocking horse move. One day she learned the fun of doing a typical big cat behavior of stalking people. However she never learned that we could see her standing in the middle of the cage. She never figured out that she had to try to hide when she would stalk us. We would be cleaning her cage and she would be running around and then just freeze. After a minute her keepers would realize that Maya did not think we could see her standing there. Finally Maya would come running over as if she had just won the game she was playing. Maya came to Big Cat Rescue because many people felt she would not have a good quality of life because of her injuries. This could not be farther from the truth. Even though Maya had many hardships because of the body she was trapped in she had more spirit then most of the people I know. She taught me that no matter what life deals you we still need to enjoy everyday of life. I will always miss her dearly …..Jennifer, Volunteer Board of Directors
“The one cat at BCR that had the biggest impact on my life was Maya the lioness. She came to BCR a one-year old stubborn rambunctious lioness and passed away 3 years later when the seizures she was affected by finally overcame her. I don’t think she ever realized there was anything different about her. I spent a lot of time with her during her time at BCR and she was a very good listener. When things were not going right for me, I know I could count on her to listen. When she got excited and playful she would lift her front legs off the ground and leap up like a bucking horse. I remember feeding her by car headlight because she was so stubborn when it came to taking her meds that I could never count on getting done before dark. I love her for teaching me patience. I think it’s ironic that I am now using the patience I learned with her, on a blind, seizure prone, black-hawk eagle that I am taking care of now”…..Anissa, Senior Volunteer Keeper
For several weeks in July and August, Maya had been in intensive care in the Big Cat Rescue Cat Hospital due to complications with her seizures. During that time she had several bad days that made us just about decide that euthanasia was the only humane thing to do, but about the time we would finally decide that she had been through enough, Maya would decide it wasn’t time to go yet and would make another miraculous rebound. It has always been our policy to continue to provide whatever heroic efforts were called for as long as the cat seemed to be choosing life over death. Maya seemed to really have a strong will to live.
By August 16th her cage had been outfitted with an air conditioned den and as she was doing better, Maya was moved from the confines of the hospital back out to be in her own familiar grassy cage, next to her buddy Nikita. She was the picture of contentment and although she would occasionally step in her den to cool off she preferred to lounge in the shade. Her favorite pose was up against the cage wall with all four feet in the air.
On August 19 and August 22 most of the regular Big Cat Rescue staff were in Zolfo Springs helping the Peace River Refuge and Ranch recover from Hurricane Charley so only a skeletal staff was left behind. Maya seemed fine and was no longer on round-the-clock observance.
On Sunday the 22nd, Howard Baskin was giving a VIP tour when he discovered Maya breathing hard. He alerted the staff of her condition by cell phone. Within 5 minutes Carole arrived and began hosing Maya down to cool her off. Soon after, Scott Lope, Cathy Neumann, Kathryn Quaas, Becky Gagliardo and Dr. Liz Wynn raced onto the scene. Maya was carried back into the cat hospital where it was discovered that her temperature had spiked to 109 as the result of a severe seizure that must have ended shortly before Howard’s tour arrived. Maya was given fluids and Dr. Stacie Wadsworth
and Dr. Rose Borkowski were called for advice. This time Maya was not responding. Scott tried to call Carole to ask if Maya should be euthanized because this seizure had left her with no chance of ever enjoying a quality life. Before the call could be answered, Maya made the decision herself and breathed her last.
We are thankful that she got to spend her last couple of hours with the people that she loved most. We are grateful for the time she spent with all of us in teaching the lessons about accepting and making the most of the hand we are dealt. Maya touched so many hearts and inspired so many people. She will always be remembered as a brave little lion with heart of gold and an indomitable spirit. A special thank you to all of the generous supporters that have donated towards Maya’s Medical Fund over the years. In her honor, Maya’s Medical Fund will remain set up for other animals in need that find refuge at Big Cat Rescue.