Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Exotic Cats at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue is an accredited sanctuary that advocates ending animal abuse and the captivity of wild animals. Facilities like this are always a plus in my book, so, when I found out that Big Cat Rescue was located just a short drive away in Tampa, I knew we had to plan a little road trip with a couple of our cat loving friends and stop by for a visit.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Since it’s opening in 1992, Big Cat Rescue has taken in exotic cats that have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, and even retired performing cats. Currently, there are around 100 cats living at the sanctuary; species such as lions, tigers, bobcats, servals, cougars and others now make this facility their home.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Tours of the facility are offered almost every day of the week, and there are several options to choose from. The tour options are regular day tours, feeding tours, kids tours, photo tours, keeper tours and private tours—each one offers a unique look into life at Big Cat Rescue. We opted for the basic day tour, which lasts around 1.5 hours and consists of a general tour of the sanctuary. The cost of the tour goes right back to the sanctuary to help pay for operational costs and food for the cats.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

After arriving, Micah decided he wanted to put on his sneakers, but he didn’t have any socks—obviously, the only answer at that point was to buy some stylish cat socks. Pretty manly, huh?!

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Our tour started out with an informational video and we were then escorted to the grounds where the cats were kept. We were given flashy red headsets so we would be able to clearly hear the stories from our guide.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

The sanctuary spreads across 67 acres and it was fun to walk around and see how the property works. I found it very interesting that the keepers don’t enter the cages with the cats—they feed and take care of the cats from the outside reaching in with poles.  Also, in order to let the cats live in peace, they never call at them to come close for visitors to see–instead, they bring tours to the cages where the cats are active.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Even though some of the cages look to be small, they twist and wind around and are larger than they initially appear. Also, the larger cats get a periodic “vacation” from their cages—there is a tunnel cage system set up to lead the cats to the wide open fields where they can have their chance at running around and relaxing in a more roomy area.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Each cat has a story, and we were able to hear the stories of the cats that we visited. They were so adorable and it was fun to get a close up view of many of them! We even got to hear one of the female lions roar—it was awesomely loud and exciting.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

The middle of the grounds is home to a cat cemetery to honor all the cats that are no longer with us. It reminded me of the cat cemetery at the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, except his cats were of a much smaller variety!

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

In addition to the facts about the sanctuary, we also learned quite a bit about the problems that exotic cats face. One of the main reasons exotic cats end up abandoned is that people keep them as pets until the owners eventually realize they don’t actually make good pets. In order for the sanctuary to take in the cat, the owners have to sign a contract stating they will never have another exotic animal as a pet again and if they breach the contract they will have to pay a large fine. These contracts exist with hopes to stop exotic animal ownership one person at a time. Even though the sanctuary will take in as many cats as possible, they end up turning away a large percentage every day as they do not have enough capacity to support and care for all the cats that come their way. Some of the other issues and abuse that big cats face is living in settings that offer petting lion and tiger cubs, cat exhibitions, zoos, circuses, and being hunted for their meat or fur, just to name a few.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Since large cats need space to run around, many of the privately owned cats are living in a space that is way too small. The regulations for circus animal pens and cages are so tiny that the cats barely have room to even turn around. I now know what it’s like to be an animal on display at the zoo. That’s right–I was picked to stand awkwardly in the example cage while they talked about the various regulations and sizes. This is partially why I don’t remember much about the details of these regulations—stage fright at its finest.

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue Tampa, FL

Overall, the tour was a wonderful way to get a close up glimpse of exotic cats and a great learning experience as well. At the end of the tour, we were given information to speak up for big cats and help make a difference. You can call your state Congress representatives, write an email, send a letter, and more—all the information you need is right there at the facility. Each person that gets involved helps make a difference towards saving big cats. If you aren’t able to pay Big Cat Rescue a visit, but you still want to help, you can head on over to their website where you can make a donation, record a message for congress and read up about all the FAQ’s regarding the facility and abuse of big cats. But, if you have the chance to visit, we would highly recommend the tour—nothing beats getting close to the adorable cats all while helping save them at the same time!

Do you ever visit animal rescue facilities?

 

14 Comments
  • Angela Travels
    Twitter:
    Posted at 18:30h, 25 July Reply

    So cool. Love seeing animals and interacting with them when traveling. I wouldn’t have thought of looking outside of a zoo to find them in Florida though!
    Angela Travels recently posted…Trekking Tongariro Alpine CrossingMy Profile

  • Janet
    Posted at 18:38h, 25 July Reply

    Actually Carole Baskin already had approximately 150 cats that were her breeders and pets when she began calling her place a sanctuary. She simply converted her private collection to “rescues” so the public could be tricked into supporting them. Ringling Bros circus not only paid for their tiger’s enclosures, they pay Carole to board their cats.

    This place rakes in millions a year in donations and continue to lie about their cats. The leopard pictured…is her name Sundari? Were you told she was a former pet who has trouble climbing because her cruel owner had her declawed? Sundari was born at BCR and Carole herself had her declawed. She used to have all her cubs declawed (the ones she didn’t sell) and made them sleep with paying customers in her bed and breakfast. Did the tour guide mention that?

    • Charlie
      Posted at 18:48h, 27 July Reply

      Yup, not only that, years ago the cats that belonged to her got human interaction, now NOTHING! The smaller cats aren’t even dangerous enough to kill a human. To raise them with human contact and then stop not for safety but to further your agenda is really crumby! You shouldn’t “rescue” animals raised as pets if you can not or are too afraid to handle them.

      • Chris
        Posted at 16:48h, 17 December Reply

        Charlie, I felt the same way until I looked it up. Google “Big Cat Rescue don’t they miss being petted”. Safety is only one reason they don’t allow contact. Petting is unnatural to a wild animal, it’s for *our* enjoyment, and it would be irresponsible and hypocritical for them to say no one should keep these wild animals as pets, then let people pet them like you would a house cat. They used to do that, then realized it didn’t make sense. Good for them. It must be so hard not to give in and pet them though, they’re so cute and fluffy, especially when they rub their heads on the cages. They’re just marking their territory though, not begging to be pet.

    • Chris
      Posted at 16:41h, 17 December Reply

      It’s amazing how Big Cat Rescue started from such an ignorant place and is now one of the best sanctuaries for big cats in America. I don’t know how much of that they share that on the tour but the tour is about the big cats, not the founder. You can find that info on their site. They reveal how they started out by buying bobcats as pets, used to let people touch the big cats, etc. They’re not hiding it. No one is perfect. The work they’re doing now is changing the lives of many big cats for the better. Other top sanctuaries list BCR as one of the best, and they have 4 stars on Charity Navigator. It’s so nonsensical to ignore the fact that she ADMITS they were mistakes and how that realization led her to eventually create one of the best sanctuaries for abandoned/neglected/abused big cats.

  • Susan Bass
    Posted at 17:44h, 26 July Reply

    Thank you for visiting Big Cat Rescue and the wonderful write-up about our sanctuary! Unfortunately people like this “Janet” want to continue to breed and exploit big cats and cubs in this country, so they routinely spout lies and nonsense about our sanctuary. We are nothing but transparent about the evolution of our sanctuary. You can learn more here on our website.
    Thanks!
    Susan Bass
    Director of Public Relations

  • Manti Edwards
    Posted at 19:01h, 27 July Reply

    Big Cat Rescue actually pays people to leave good comments about them and say negative things about private owners. They have had many cats die from cancer, probably from giving them water from their pond that is full of junk and old cars. THey want to take away animals from all private owners so they can be the only one with the animals and make money off of them. Last month a tiger was “rescued” and then euthanized before it had a chance to get the correct medical care it neededl

    • Chris
      Posted at 14:46h, 17 December Reply

      LOL. You don’t get cancer from bad water. You could get parasites and infections, which their animals don’t seem to have. Also, I’m not sure if it’s true that most of them die of cancer, but most of them live way beyond life expectancy in the wild or even in captivity and *everyone* eventually develops cancer if they live long enough. It’s the second leading cause of death in humans.

      The water probably looks dirty because their pools are fed from a lake. It’s so nice that the tigers get to swim in real water from nature like they would in the wild, not disgusting chlorinated water which is unnatural and might cause problems if they’re exposed to it every day. They’re wild animals who should have a natural environment! They like it or they wouldn’t be swimming in them constantly.

      You say they want to have all the big cats in the world to make money off them? That’s absolutely hilarious. They don’t want big cats in captivity at all. That’s what they campaign against. On their website they have pages set up for people to call congress and tell them to support laws which will make it illegal for private owners to have big cats. It won’t let me include links but search “Big Cat Rescue Cat Laws” in a search engine. They only exist to rescue animals that can’t be set free because they were born and raised in captivity by someone else. None of their big cats were taken from the wild and the last time they bred one was decades ago, when they didn’t know better.

      They have 150 UNPAID volunteers who make no money. The money goes into running the facility and you can find this information in documents the government requires non-profits to make public. It also shows where their money comes from. Search “Big Cat Rescue Finances”.

      No, I am not a paid PR person. The sanctuary costs $2 million a year to run and survives mostly on donations. You think none of those people who donated would voluntarily defend them from lies people spread?

      Who are you? Do you breed big cats for money, as throw-away cubs for pay-to-play cub petting, or fur or canned hunts, or have them in disgusting inhumane backyard zoos? You’d lose business if the law BCR wrote gets passed, so I can see why you’d want to spread misinformation and lies about them.

      To anyone thinking about supporting Big Cat Rescue, PLEASE do your research and do not listen to comments from random people on the internet. Sadly, there are a lot of people out whose livelihood is based on breeding (for money, not conservation – no animal bred in captivity helps conservation) and then using, mistreating, neglecting, abusing, or killing big cats for profit. Since BCR is so active in lobbying against that, these people have a financial interest in destroying the sanctuary.

  • Janet
    Posted at 00:29h, 28 July Reply

    Good try BCR. Sue Bass, aren’t you BCR’s paid PR person…paid to put out fires and clean up messes? Could be wrong. fyi I am not a breeder or exhibitor-don’t even own a domestic house cat. They won’t take a link here or I would tell these good folks where to go to see the truth. Go to the archives and put in the names Don Lewis, Carole Lewis, Wildlife on Easy Street. Don is dead -disappeared under mysterious circumstances, WOES is now BCR but it doesn’t change anything as far as who they were and how they still lie about their cats. The first cat you saw when you went into bcr was it a black leopard named Jumanji? Did your tour guide tell you he was a former pet forced to walk on a leash? Did they ask you to sponser him? Somebody did-or $20,000-and I wonder if they new they donated all that money to one of Carole’s pets that was born there and it was them who forced him to walk on a leash. They took him everywhere until he put 400 stitches in a volunteers arm so they finally locked him away for good. Did your tour guise tell you? Find it yourself on the internet.

  • Mary Calculated Traveller
    Twitter:
    Posted at 21:49h, 29 July Reply

    This sanctuary looks amazing. I’ve never been to a big cat sanctuary but I plan to be in the area in December so I’m going to put it on my list to check out. Thanks for the suggestion.
    Mary Calculated Traveller recently posted…10 Ways to Pay & Save by using a Credit Card for TravelMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 22:19h, 29 July Reply

      Hope you enjoy it if you get to stop by! And hope the trip to Florida is great too!

  • Lance
    Twitter:
    Posted at 20:36h, 06 August Reply

    Great post. I’m glad places like that exist. There’s just nothing sadder than animals in cages.
    Lance recently posted…Travel Hacking with Frequent Flyer UpgradesMy Profile

Post A Comment

CommentLuv badge