Lynx, servals, savannah cats, bobcats, lions, tigers and more. These are just some of the animals you can expect to see at the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, Florida. With over 100 felines, the centre is the world’s largest accredited sanctuary dedicated to big cats. What makes Big Cat Rescue unique is that it is a home dedicated to cats that have been abandoned and abused.
Rated 4 Stars (which is the highest for an animal charity) by Charity Navigator, the centre, which is a non-profit education sanctuary, was established in 1992. Yet another wonderful place for children and adults alike in Tampa, the Big Cat Rescue forms for an engaging half day visit when in the city.
Philosophy and Mission
Big Cat Rescue was initially started with the objective of saving cats from trade that included breeding them for the manufacture of fur coats and also training them for performing acts. Today, the centre is involved in not only providing the best possible care for these abandoned animals but is also actively taking measures to prevent the extinction of several species like Servals, Ocelots, Cougars and Bobcats.
More importantly, the goal of Big Cat Rescue is to tackle the issue at the root by ending private possession of all exotic cats and abolishing trade through legislation which they do by education and spreading awareness.
One of the most popular places to visit in the city, especially with children, Big Cat Rescue offers a fun yet intuitive learning experience. Spread over an area of over 50 acres, the sanctuary is nestled within the Citrus park area of North Tampa. It is key to note that the centre is not a zoo and hence animal care is of prime importance here.
Any visit to the centre is by prior reservation and one can choose from a variety of tours including the day tour, kids tour and the private tour. Guests are not allowed to wander unescorted and all tours are conducted with the help of professional inhouse guides who share a host of information about each of the cats.
Housed within enclosures, the centre has species like caracals, Canadian Lynx, jaguars, cougars and Siberian Lynx. The centre till date has rescued over 200 cats either from abusive owners, accidents or simply from people who did not want them anymore. All cats are given a habitat that is closest to their natural one. Information boards pertaining to the species that is displayed in front of each enclosure is particularly useful and engaging.
Adhere to rules
While visiting the sanctuary it is best to follow the rules laid down by the guide(s). While photography is allowed, visitors are not allowed to venture very close or touch the animals. Feeding is strictly prohibited and the diets of the animals here is closely monitored and approved by vets who work closely with the Big Cat Rescue team. A great way to end your visit is to stop by the gift shop where you can pick up some unique feline themed souvenirs including T shirts, caps, magnets and bracelets.
There are several ways you can help Big Cat Rescue and this includes donations, memberships and by volunteering.