We’re often asked if we pet or interact with our cats. And, if they were previously owned as pets, don’t they miss that interaction?
The simple answer is no, we do not have free contact with big cats – for their protection and ours. But the answer is more complicated than just a yes or no answer.
Their Wild Nature
- The big cats we rescue are wild animals that are caught between two worlds. They were often pulled from their mothers when just days old to hopefully imprint on humans.
- In the wild, they would leave their mother and siblings when they’re a few years old and often challenge them for territory or food. When this happens in captivity, the owners wonder why their exotic cat “turned on them,” when they’re just doing what comes naturally.
- Captive wild animals have lost their fear of humans, but not their wild instincts. They can be even more unpredictable than the orphaned wild born cats we rescue.
- Even though a wild animal socializes to a human, a wild animal is never domesticated.
- Even if a wild animal is not trying to harm you, they can. Their sheer size and strength can harm or be fatal even from play.
- The animals pay the price when they bite or attack. They’re often euthanized.
- Over the years, we’ve taken in several cats who have attacked or injured their owner and three that had caused fatalities to their owners or trainers.
Do they miss being pet?
- In reality, big cats kept as pets often have little interaction with their owners. As cubs, the owner spent a lot of time with the cat, but as the cat grew and became dangerous, many no longer had contact.
- Most big cats we’ve rescued have been kept in outdoor kennels. Except for an hour a day when the owner came out to see the cat, the cat spent the remainder of the day in small barren cage.
- Besides lions and cheetahs, cats are solitary by nature. At the Sanctuary, we offer them companionship of their own kind if they show interest. It provides another layer of enrichment living in captivity. All cats are spayed and neutered so that we’re not contributing to overbreeding.
- For cats that want to live alone, we give them their space, but they have neighbors.
- Our goal is for the animals to enjoy every moment of their life at the Sanctuary. Waiting for human attention or interaction is not a positive behavior, it can be a destructive one. Once they have a stimulating environment and an opportunity to make their own choices, they’re much happier. They’re still social to their caretakers, but they have many other activities to keep them stimulated.
How do you know they’re happy?
- Our caretakers spend a lot of time with our cats, safely on the other side of the habitat fence. The cats are talked to and cared for daily.
- All cats are provided free-roaming habitats that offer stimulation, from space to run, perches to climb, pools to swim in and toys to play with.
- All cats receive ongoing enrichment to provide new and exciting items to explore. It also encourages natural behaviors such as scent marking and foraging for food.
- New cats that are easily stressed, or cats with a lot of energy, participate in our behavioral training programs. This keeps their mind stimulated and decreases stress.
What interactions do you have?
- Our sanctuary also rescues Domestic Bengal cats and hybrid cats. Our caretakers, interns and trained volunteers do interact with these cats. Many lived in the house for years and love human affection – and they sure get it! But others are feral or unsocialized since they were sadly breeders at catteries. They choose to spend their time on their own, exploring their outdoor areas and cozy indoor spaces.
- All our residents receive the best veterinary care. To make this less stressful, we gain their cooperation through our behavioral training program. The trained staff can provide topical treatments, vaccines and other preventative medical care.
- During medical treatments, cats are safely sedated. Our team handles the animal as necessary for procedures, but always with the utmost respect. This is when staff are safely able to touch and check the coat, nails, ears and more. Certain cats need supportive care, such as fluids for renal disease. Protected contact may be approved on a case-by-case basis by our expert management team.