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Big Cat Rescue

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Big Cat Rescue, a non profit educational sanctuary, is devoted to rescuing and providing a permanent home for exotic (i.e. wild, not domestic) cats who have been abused, abandoned, bred to be pets, retired from performing acts, or saved from being slaughtered for fur coats, and to educating the public about these animals and the issues facing them in captivity and in the wild.

The sanctuary is home to the most diverse population of exotic cats in the world, with 14 of the 35 species of wild cat represented among more than 100 residents. These include tigers, lions, liger, leopards, cougars, bobcats, lynx, ocelots, servals, caracals and others, many of whom are threatened, or endangered in the wild.

Today the sanctuary is devoted to its Vision of a world where animals are treated with respect, and its Mission of providing the best possible home for the animals in our care and trying to stop the flow of animals needing sanctuary by educating the public about the plight of the animals and supporting stronger laws to protect them.

The sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) not profit charity.  It receives no government support and relies on its educational activities, such as tours of the facility, and the generosity of donors for support of the cats.  Donations are tax deductible.  Because non program expenses (i.e. administration and fundraising) are funded from tour income, 100% of donations go directly to support the cats.

A world where the animals we share it with are treated with respect and caring and where habitat is preserved to insure the indefinite future survival of these wonderful gifts of nature. In creating such a world, we hope the same principles of respect and caring will carry over to the way humans treat each other.

To provide the best home we can for the animals in our care and to reduce the number of cats that suffer the fate of  abuse,  abandonment or extinction by teaching people about the plight of the cats, both in the wild and in captivity, and how they can help through their behavior and support of better laws to protect the cats.

Tampa is home to the world’s largest sanctuary for abused, abandoned and retired exotic cats. The sanctuary houses well over 100 lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, bobcats, servals and others, 16 species in all.  Most were former pets abandoned by their owners.

The narrow mission of Big Cat Rescue is to provide a good home for the limited number of cats that the sanctuary can afford to take in. But, we can only save a small percentage of those in need.  The sanctuary must turn away over 100 cats each year.  Because of this, the broader mission of the sanctuary is to reduce the number of cats that suffer the fate of abandonment and abuse by educating as many people as possible about the conditions that lead to the plight of these animals and how they can help.

There are two major sources of the abuse and abandonment. The first is the “pet trade”, the breeders who sell these wild animals to people as pets and the people who buy them. The second largest source of the animals is the “entertainment” or “edu-tainment” industry.

Most of our cats come to us because people buy them as pets and then cannot handle them. Breeders lie and tell people that if the cat is fixed it will not spray so they can keep them inside. Not true. The spray is so acidic it eats through our galvanized cage wire over time.  When they spray drywall, you do not clean it - you replace it.

Even kept outside, the cats usually make terrible pets. They are adorable cubs when purchased.  Having these “cool” unusual pets, the owners get the attention from other people that humans tend to crave. But the cats live for 20 years if well cared for, and as they mature they become increasingly problematic as instinct takes over. Their “play” is rough because their skin is thick enough to withstand it. Ours is not, so even their affection can be deadly.  It is pure instinct for them to attack children, other pets, or anyone whose back is turned.  They do not typically seek or give affection the way we are used to from domestic animals. There is no kennel to take them when you travel, and whom do you ask to come feed your 150-pound carnivorous cougar?  Many are abandoned because the owner’s personal circumstances change.  We get them because people get married, get divorced, get sick, die, get bitten, or just get tired of the heavy burden of caring for them.

In addition to the bad experience pet owners have, most of the wild cats purchased as pets have a horrible existence.  A large percentage die as tiny kittens because owners do not know how to bottle feed them. Of those that live, huge numbers suffer malnutrition due to owner ignorance of their nutritional needs. And most live a horrible life in cages that, while often legal, do not meet their physical or psychological needs.

There are countless reasons that non-domestic cats should not be pets, and no reasons other than human ego for allowing them to be pets.  Individuals can help end this constant stream of abused, abandoned and destroyed animals by not purchasing them as pets and by supporting laws, regulations, and critically the enforcement of those laws and regulations to end pet ownership of exotic cats.

You can learn more about these magnificent cats on a guided tour of the sanctuary M-F at 9:00 AM and at 3:00 PM, and Saturdays at 9:30 AM, 11:30 AM or 1:30 PM, if you have no children with you under the age of 10.  If you wish to visit with children, 10 or under, the only time to visit is Sat. at 9:00 AM.  Tours are $25.00 per person for an hour and a half walking tour of the 45-acre park, which is located across the street from the Citrus Park Mall in NW Tampa.

Emergency Response: GPS: Lat:28.061125 Long:-82.571387
Help Make a Difference

Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy Street
Tampa, Florida 33625
United States

Contact: Jamie Veronica
Tel: 813-920-4130
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