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T.E.A.M. – Treating The Entire Animal at The Wildcat Sanctuary



It can be easy to think that, with just a little TLC, you can turn around the life of a rescued resident.  In the best case scenarios, that can happen.  But, more often than not, the cats that come to the Sanctuary have extreme medical conditions, unknown history and, understandably, behavioral issues or fear of humans.

Each case is so different

DSC_1592Our job is to make sure we treat the entire animal, both physically and emotionally.  We provide the tools to help them heal.  Each case is extremely different and many are very difficult. 

Some struggle with neurological and auto-immune disorders, while others are medically healthy but battle with stress and fear issues brought on by past neglect and abuse.

Every single one deserves the chance to thrive and overcome the issues they arrive with or develop as they age.  And it’s important to us that we provide as many tools as possible to help them heal.  We know how important it is to you, too!

T.E.A.M. – The Entire Animal Matters

Quality care begins with our whole team sharing their input and20150203_075418_resized observations.  We each hold a piece of the puzzle that’s important in developing the best plan and path for each specific cat. 

The cat’s intake file may provide information about their past. As the founder, I may have a unique perspective about behavioral and health history information for our long term residents. 

New members of the team bring expertise and experience from past sanctuaries and their work environments that can shed new light and new ideas for consideration.

Caretakers observe and make notations about the animals daily.  Our volunteers see and share changes in animals each time they visit.    All these puzzle pieces come together so we can provide exceptional care for the cats.

Our veterinarians and specialists can provide the best medical treatment choices when they know as much as they possibly can about the cats  Each of us knows that T.E.A.M. stands for The Entire Animal Matters.

Preventative veterinary care is crucial

ScarletOur vets, including Dr. Lori Ballinger, conduct exams every three years and provide preventative care continuously.  They perform and oversee emergency surgeries that have helped cats like Asha the lioness and Aslan the lion survive life-threatening health issues.

Scarlet the clouded leopard wouldn’t have survived pyometra if not for the fast action of our surgical team.  At his advanced age, Nigel the caracal has needed supportive and diagnostic care for neurological issues that have required quick intervention, too.  The majority of our residents are senior and geriatric, so our veterinary team is ever vigilant in monitoring them closely.

Consulting with other experts 

Quality care means we seek the input of those outside our sanctuary, too.

This year, our Sanctuary Manager collaborated with International Fund for Animal Welfare and wild cat sanctuaries across the country to develop the “Best Practices in Nutritional and Feeding Protocols.”   The end goal of the working group has been to create a document with recommendations for the highest standards related to exotic feline nutrition and feeding considerations.  We know it will be a valuable resource for many in the field.

We also use an extended team and partnerships to expand the veterinary care we canSampson_dental provide.  The Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation brings vets and dentists from around the world to provide specialized dentistry treatments, such as root canals, for our cats. 

This year, they treated caracal Sampson, bobcats Buddy and Libby, lynx Leisha, serval Jaharah and tiger Ekaterina for their much-needed dental issues.

Lifelong effects of declawing

Prior to arriving at The Wildcat Sanctuary, a large majority of our cats were 4-paw declawed and several have complications.  We’ve seen regrowth that causes abscesses and lameness due to early onset arthritis. 

Our treatment plan includes providing pain relief through medication, as well as laser therapy.  We use two kinds of laser treatments, including low level laser therapy performed by Dr. Gordon. We also collaborate with Dr. Conrad, founder of the acclaimed Paw Project, to document the problems caused by declawing. We continue to educate others about why declawing big cats should be outlawed.

Plans for active or fearful cats

For cats that have extremely active minds or are highly stressed and fearful due to traumatic histories, we’ve developed behavioral training programs in conjunction with Active Environment.  We brought their expert onsite for a full week to learn about our Sanctuary, our cats, and those that seem to need special attention. 

When we strive to provide optimal care for our captive population, we also want to reduce or eliminate any abnormal behavior we might observe.  Again, it’s the entire animal that’s important – mind and body.

2PCML 3 JUNE 2014_36_SabrinaE_LRWe’ve successfully applied suggested behavioral modification techniques and positive reinforcement with several of our cats.

For example, tigress Sabrina’s sessions include acclimating her to new people and to more people so that she’s no longer fearful of humans. So far, by implementing the behavioral management tools we’ve learned over the years, the transformation we’ve seen in her has been amazing!

The role of our supporters

Quality care is something that takes a large team, both here at the Sanctuary and outside the Sanctuary.  YOU are a big part of that team, too.  You help us bring all the puzzle pieces together to provide the highest level of care possible for these cats we all love – and we thank you!

Our volunteers and donors have a lot to say too:

“Your staff was amazing to watch yesterday! They really turned on a dime and made the day happen in a big way – on many fronts! … Lots of good work being done by lots of good people. Makes me really proud!”

“I forgot to tell you before I left on Saturday about my visit to Nikita–you would have been so proud.  I saw her stalking us when we went by and all of a sudden she came running up to the fence, stopped, laid down and just looked at us.  Nothing to indicate any fear, anxiety or anything… Gosh, what a great place that is!”

“I was honored to be at the sanctuary this past weekend to “help” with dental day. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to be with a TEAM who respects each other’s knowledge and gifts. There were no egos. The TWS staff, vet and dental staff knew their strengths and looked to others when they were not sure what was needed.  It was a truly wonderful experience and I know the cats were well taken care of and their needs came first.”


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