Sylvester Cougar




Sylvester aka Max

Male South American Cougar

Date of Birth: 3/1/90 – 2007

Max came to Big Cat Rescue from Hayes Paradise with his mate, Morgan. Their owner asked us to care for them while a new pen was being built. He has never returned and has moved from his previous address, leaving no forwarding information. Max is very sweet, but he has his claws, which makes him much more dangerous. He thinks himself quite the stud and wants no other males around. He is a very strong cat and once bulldozed through 11½ gauge wire, so his current enclosure is constructed with 6 gauge.  In this picture Sylvester is doing what he does best, lounging up high in his tree.  He is incredibly agile! We neutered him a few years after his owner abandoned him here.  There is no reason to breed cougars.





Why didn’t we name you Casanova – you were such a ladies man?  A flirt, a player, whatever term you use, that’s what you were.  You had us each swooning over you.  First, you used my favorite flower to lure me to you.  You surrounded yourself in gorgeous gardenias, how could I resist?

On a hot day, you would lay in your lockout and I knew just what you expected.  It had been handed down by others who served you well.  Dribbling cool water on you made you so happy and I gladly became your personal slave, too. I couldn’t help but picture myself with a palm leaf fanning you and dropping treats in your mouth. You made me laugh when you purred so loudly.

Never could I pass your cat-a-tat delivering enrichment to others without paying a toll to you.  Most of the time it was a treat, sometimes just my attention.  You were happy with both.  When I led a tour by your cat-a-tat, you’d always follow me with that head cocked and those intense eyes staring at me and make your special cougar sound calling out to me.  Everyone oohed and aahed and said how you obviously loved me.  But I knew that I wasn’t the only one, you didn’t have me fooled.  I’d explain that you were a carnivore in search of food, just toying with my affection, food being the ultimate goal.

But, in the end, I was wrong.  In the final days, when I sat with you for hours and hours, you shared the truth with me.  Our years together were really special.  Food wasn’t what you wanted from me.  It was just me, my time, my heart.  And, as always, I gave them all to you.

Our relationship started with the lure of the fragrant gardenias.  Now you’ve left me as they are in full bloom. Was that your plan? Am I always to remember you whenever I smell that sweet aroma?  You didn’t have to worry.  My heart won’t allow me to ever forget you.

I said, “I love you” as you drifted off to sleep.  I know you will remember and take that with you wherever you are – finally running free. That is my comfort…………….Julie, Senior Volunteer Keeper

A Song for Sylvester
Trees, swaying in the summer breeze,
Showing off their silver leaves
As we walk by.
Soft kisses on a summer’s day,
Laughing all our cares away,
Just you and I.
Sweet, sleepy warmth of summer nights,
Gazing at the distant lights
In the starry sky.
They say that all good things must end some day;
Autumn leaves must fall.
But don’t you know that it hurts me so
To say goodbye to you?
Wish you didn’t have to go,
No, no, no, no.
And when the rain beats against my window pane,
I’ll think of summer days again,
And dream of you,
And dream of you…….

During his last days with us, Barbara, a Senior Volunteer Keeper, would quietly sing “A Summer Song” to Sylvester because it just seemed to be their song.


He finally went all the way up his tree…
so far that we can’t see him anymore…
but he is there…
way up there…
looking down on us.
He left us down here, but we all know that he’ll always be in our hearts, along with all his friends.

Sylvester, again, I am so sorry that we took your last toy,
that poor, scared armadillo, away from you that morning…
I know by looking in your eyes later that day, that you were not mad at me.
And how fortunate I feel that I got to say “I love You” one last time “face to face,” “eyes to eyes”… I will never forget you MY LOVE………Marie, Senior Volunteer Keeper

Sylvester was a cat that touched the hearts of not only every volunteer at Big Cat Rescue but also every guest that came for a tour.  Sylvester was always eager to greet every visitor to Big Cat Rescue.  I feel one of the things that makes Big Cat Rescue stand out is you can see, smell, and hear many of the wonderful things nature has to offer.  When doing tours for guests I would stop my tour at Lola and she would growl (usually because she was in heat).  Then Sylvester would come running over with his belly bouncing left and right to see what the guests were all looking at.  He would rub up against the cage and then start purring loudly.  He would do this on cue every time and he always made the guests ooohh and aaahhh in amazement hearing him.
One of my favorite tours was when we stopped at Sylvester’s cage and he got up in his tree.  All the guests, myself included, enjoyed watching this large cougar get out on the teeny tiny branches of his favorite tree.  As my tour moved on and walked over to Sugar and Shadow, Sylvester took the branch he was standing on and the one above him and started banging them together.  It seemed like he was not done putting on his show for the visitors.  He got what he wanted and the whole tour went running back to watch him.

Sylvester is one of the cats that enjoyed every day of life.  He never seemed stressed and was always eager to see his friends.  I will miss putting him in lockout and hiding all of his toys.  Then, we would let him out of lock out and he would run and hit every toy right away.  I will miss cleaning his lockout and having to give him a shower before he would leave the lockout area for me to clean.  He was truly a unique cat that will be missed by many, many of his friends…….Jennifer, Director and Volunteer Coordinator

My first day as a volunteer in June 1998, I was on my way to the back with the coordinator at the time, Stephanie. She was taking me to clean the serval area and as we walked toward the back we paused at a cougar cage. The tag on the cage read Max, but when she called out Sylvester, he called back with an enthusiastic, high-pitched squeak and lumbered over to our side of the cage. He let out the loudest, deepest purrr and at that moment I fell in love with Sylvester and Big Cat Rescue. I will never forget that day. One of my other fondest memories of Sylvester was the first time I fed him. As a yellow shirt Jamie was teaching me to feed and she gave me Sly’s food and sent me over to feed him. He was so quick and dead set on getting a hold of that food as soon as possible that I nearly didn’t get it in there fast enough for him. That was a totally different side of him than I had ever seen. After feeding him a handful of times “kamikaze style” I asked if I could try and get him to lay down before putting the food in so his beautiful claws weren’t always so close. Of course after only a couple of short training sessions at feeding time he was a real natural at the down command and feeding him became a lot easier on him and the feeders. Sylvester was really a one-of-a-kind cat. He loved food, pumpkins, bowling balls and his boomer ball. He was also one of the only cougars who would, on warm days, just lie on his food tray while you were trying to clean and get soaking wet. He loved to lie still while being soaked with a gentle stream from the hose and when he was thirsty he would groom the water right out of his fur. Sylvester’s other favorite spot in his enclosure besides on the feeding tray was in his tree. Anytime he was frightened, tired or even playful and curious he was up that tree. One of my favorite pictures of him is standing on a branch up in that tree, surrounded by leaves, just looking like a wild cougar, with a big, open-mouthed smile on his face. I still picture him like that today, and I always will………Anissa, Senior Volunteer Keeper


When I first visited Big Cat Rescue in 1999, the cat that stood out most was Sylvester. I remember being amazed that a cat that big could prance around high up in the branches of his tree and still keep his balance.  After I became a volunteer, I could always count on Sylvester coming over to greet me.  He was a ham and loved having people around his cage.  When I started giving tours, guests would love when Sylvester would lie on top of his den box within a few feet of them and start purring.  He had a very deep, robust purr that everyone could hear.

He was clawed, and therefore always had the potential to be dangerous.  Yet, I never saw a single act of aggression from him.  Not once did I see him extend his claws or reach out towards anyone with malicious intent.  Even though he was loud and excited at feeding time, it was more out of anticipation of another meal, than any form of aggression.

Most of the cats at the sanctuary are aloof, but the special ones are the ones that always acknowledge your presence and welcome you as you come near.   The cats with special personalities seem to have a much different look in their eyes than the other cats.  While the other cats seem to look right through you, cats like Sylvester peer into your soul and communicate so much through their eyes.

Sylvester was a special cat and will be missed.  While the death of every cat is devastating to the volunteers that love them, we know we gave them the best existence that can be provided in captivity.  Every time we lose one of our dear friends, it presents us with the opportunity to help save another animal.  Hopefully, one day, the cages will be able to remain empty because there will no longer be cats that need rescuing……Matt, Senior Volunteer Keeper

I’m a Partner Volunteer at Big Cat Rescue.  I give tours and work in the gift shop.  Since I am not a Keeper Volunteer, I do not have the opportunity to establish any intimate relationships with the cats.  I don’t feed them, clean their cages, or give them enrichment treats.  Sylvester never seemed to care about these facts.  When I would bring a tour by his cage he would always either come over to the fence or climb up on his mountain and show us what a real cougar looked like waiting for his prey.  Of course, he’d be purring when he was sitting on his mountain.  I felt he connected with me even though he only saw me once a week.  I’m going to miss him…….Pat, Volunteer Partner


Sylvester was one of my favorites.  He would always come into lockout for his morning shower and to greet his cleaner for the day.  He didn’t sound like other cougars, no, Sylvester would greet you with “MACH” and an incredible purr.

My favorite moment with Sylvester was right after I became a yellow shirt volunteer. I came up to clean his lockout, and found it very strange that he was not there.  I walked all around his enclosure calling his name, but to no avail.  So I next tried the “flirt” tactic, and told him how handsome he was….that always got a response out of him….still, no response.  I was really starting to get worried when I said out loud “Sylvester, where are you, enough already!” I heard a faint “MACH,” and I looked up and found him in his tree because someone was working on a cage nearby.  It was then that I realized 2 things: 1) I really loved him because he showed me his vulnerable side, and 2) that you really are what you eat…CHICKEN!!!!

About 1 week before Sylvester’s passing, I was cleaning his enclosure and he had a strange look on his face (he knew), and he came and sat in front of where I was as if to block what I was doing.  I said, “Sylvester, don’t you leave me.”  He looked at me as if to say, “Regina, I’m going, don’t cry…I’m happy and I had a good life.”  It’s all I could ask for. He’ll be in my heart forever, right next to NINI……Regina, Volunteer Keeper

As a partner I’m never feeding cats, but Sylvester always seemed to flirt with me when I was there.  My personal nickname for him was Don Juan. How fortunate we are to make the lives of these animals as good as it can be. And how grateful we all are for the lessons they teach us daily.  This quote says it all for me:
“Saving one animal may not change the world…
But surely, for that one animal,
Life will change forever”…….Merrill, Volunteer Partner


Sylvester was one of those cats that knew exactly what he was doing.  He flirted with all the girls, in hopes of extra treats and as evidenced by his weight it worked.  He knew that cute face would get him whatever treats were available; red meat, enrichment, or just a few words of affection.  He looked at you with those entreating eyes and that rumbly purr and you couldn’t deny him.

The first time I cleaned him, I didn’t know about his shower.  Before cleaning his lockout he got a shower with the hose.  I kept trying to clean and he kept trying to get his shower and we were both confused.  Finally he helped me figure out what he wanted, he got his shower then I cleaned the lock out and all was good.  At the time I didn’t realize I was the one being trained, he trained us way more than we trained him.  I think Sylvester should be proud of his trained staff of cleaners.  He was a big personality and a big presence at BCR.  He touched a lot of lives and will be missed…….Kathryn, Senior Volunteer Keeper


He was such a magical combination of power and gentle spirit. I shall truly miss his handsome face and wonderful purr; I shall truly miss him……Deborah, Volunteer Partner Trainee

What a loss for all of us. My heart is broken as if I’ve lost a favorite pet I’ve had for many years. So silly, but can hardly see to write this for the tears that are flowing, as I’m sure was the case for most of our volunteers.  I’m on the partner side and loved him so, as did my tour guests. He always came to see me – except the last time. He didn’t get up, but followed me with his beautiful eyes as I rounded his enclosure talking to him. One of the guests said “He sure is watching you, but doesn’t want to get up.” That was just a few days before his last day. What a handsome cougar he was. So strong, but still sweet as he would lie there on his perch purring, and sticking his huge paw out as if to say that he wished we could touch and be friends — and we were friends. We’ve lost too many of these friends recently and it’s difficult to bear for all of them. Each one is special in his own way, but it’s going to be a tough act for any cat to follow Sylvester — one very special and much loved cougar…..Ann, Senior Volunteer Partner


As a Volunteer Partner, I didn’t have the opportunity to really get to spoil Sylvester with treats and enrichment, give him the shower he so delighted in, or actively participate in keeping him from getting bored, but that never seemed to matter to Sylvester. When I backed up a tour, he would initially act coy and stay hidden but after telling him how handsome and strong he was, he would follow my tour group up to the top of his rock mount and there he would enjoy the many tributes always sent his way. With his funny purr and his head cocked to the side, he would acknowledge his adoring crowd and allow them to take his picture. I will always remember him as the first cat that seemed to take an interest in me & follow me around the enclosure during a tour, even though I never had a treat to give him. He will be in my thoughts always for being such a personable cat…….Diana, Volunteer Partner


Sylvester was my friend.  I could always count on him to demonstrate that huge purr he had.  He charmed so many people with it.  He would always rub his chin up and down on the cage wire while he purred away.  I also remember how he used to entertain our guests when they wouldn’t pay attention and he would jump up into his tree and shake the branches so people would look at him.  He was the class clown.  I could always count on him to demonstrate to our expedition guests why cougars do not make good pets during the feeding tour when he would growl and snatch his food.  He was a perfect ambassador for his wild brethern.

Mostly, though, I remember how he would always try to con an extra treat or ice sickle.  I remember his last days when he would try so hard to eat something for me even though it was difficult.  He would lay down next to the fence and just look at me with those great big eyes and purr.  I really miss him!  He was special……. Susan, Senior Keeper

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