A Day of Learning at Big Cat Rescue
Every year during the holidays we head south to Florida, to sunny Tampa where we get to celebrate Christmas with Steve’s family with palm trees and 80 degree weather replacing pine trees and snow. Of course one of my favorite parts of our yearly Florida trip is spending time with my niece Morgan, a super fun kid who is growing up far too fast for my liking. When it came time for our girls’ day adventure we had tons of options, after all Tampa is famous for its white sand beaches and theme parks. This year, our choice was completely up to Morgan and she had one place in mind-Big Cat Rescue.
Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue is one of the world’s largest accredited sanctuaries for exotic cats. A leading advocate against the abuse of captive big cats, Big Cat Rescue also works tirelessly to save wild cats from extinction. These animals have been abandoned, abused, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts and now get to live out their lives at Big Cat Rescue where they get care,space and medical attention they deserve.
Our tour at Big Cat Rescue starts with a short video on the history and mission of the sanctuary as well as a few basic rules to follow to ensure the safety of both visitors and cats. Armed with headsets our guides led the group out into the sanctuary, wide paths flanked by a shady mix of palms, ferns and oaks dripping with Spanish moss that hints at how wild this part of Florida once was.
Big Cat Rescue is currently home to over 80 cats ranging from scrappy bobcats and sleek servals up to majestic lions, tigers and leopards. For each cat we were able to see (cats are never paraded or made to do anything they don’t want) we learned about the history of each cat and how they came to the sanctuary. Each enclosure provides lots of space, shade, places to hide and places to lounge; as well as fun enrichments like pumpkins, boxes and specially made giant cat toys(be sure to check out Big Cat Rescue’s Youtube page for just how silly these felines can get) .
Morgan and I had a great morning learning about and observing the beautiful cats. In addition to providing a sanctuary to these felines conservation is the other mission of Big Cat Rescue; working tirelessly to end the exotic animal trade, fight animal abuse and prevent the extinction of big cats in the wild. What I loved most about this day though was watching Morgan learn more about the world around her and how she, even a one person, can effect change in efforts she believes in.