Big Cat Rescue Visit

The Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary in Tampa Florida for big cats.  Since they are not a “zoo” the cat and welfare of the animals comes first and foremost.

I took a day tour on the weekend which was $29 per person. It seems like a lot but when you think of how much you spend to go to an amusement park for a day including parking and food, that’s nothing. The best part is that the money goes directly to the animals and their care.

If you love cats big and small I would highly suggest going. Not only is it great to know they are well taken care of, but some of these cats have very sad stories of how they were found.

Most of what the Big Cat Rescue does is they want to rehabilitate the cats and send them back into the wild, unfortunately not all of them can be sent back. Some of the cats are permanent residents. Here are a few of them:

Caracal-

The name Caracal is derived from a Turkish word “karakulak” meaning “black ear.” The Caracal was once tamed and trained for bird hunting in Iran and India. They were put into arenas containing a flock of pigeons, and wagers were made as to how many the cat would take down. This is the origination of the expression “to put a cat amongst the pigeons.” The Caracal is capable of leaping into the air and knocking down 10-12 birds at one time!

(taken from http://bigcatrescue.org/2011/caracal-facts)

Banjo a binturong – which for those that don’t know is also called a bearcat.. unfortunately my pictures of banjo were not that great so i borrow an image from wikipedia.

They are pretty ugly little things.. but they aren’t really bears or cats. They are omnivores and are nocturnal

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binturong for more information on them)

Amazing Grace the Ocelot was telling us that she was not happy to have visitors. She was making the kinds of noises you would expect from a demonic possession…I tried not to laugh because here you see this beautiful animal (who by the way is bred for their fur.. only the underbelly fur) and here’s this horrid noise sounding like a mad-as-hell-gremlin coming from it.

Tiger yawning.. they were being lazy.

Jumanji the black jaguar.

One of the florida panthers enjoying some enrichment time… with cinnamon. He was rolling around in it like a domestic cat with catnip.

A siberan lynx – though he looks like a bobcat he is not. bobcat’s have a white and black tail, the siberan lynx has a black spot on it’s tail.

Cameron the lion trying to rouse Zabu the white tiger.

The most interesting thing was seeing a real white tiger and learning for every white tiger (there are about 200 in existence) hundreds of colored tigers had to die. White tigers only exist through inbreeding, there are none in the wild for obvious reasons (they can be seen to easily by predators), and most don’t live past 2 years of age because of the genetic problems that come with inbreeding.

Zabu though beautiful   has a hairlip and cleft palate, which means she has no upper lip to protect her teeth. For more about Zabu…

check out http://bigcatrescue.org/2011/zabu

Raindace the bobcat

Purchased from a fur farm in Minnestoa, when she was picked up the owners found out it was a fur farm for not just minxes and foxes but for cats as well and ended up buying the remaining kittens and cats and coming back to Florida with them.

(Taken from http://bigcatrescue.org/2011/raindance)

Part of what the Big Cat Rescue does is provide enrichment for the permanent residents. They get things they would not get out in the wild, like cinnamon, cat nip and christmas trees.

The main goal of the Big Cat Rescue is to educate people so they no longer want these wild cats as pets, stop the trade market for their fur and various parts and restore them back to their natural habitats.

(these signs are posted in several spots on the fences…I wanted to take a picture and add it to the facebook page and to this blog)

For more about visiting, the cats, or what to do to help them please visit http://bigcatrescue.org/

Note – After writing this article I spoke to another feline lover about the big cat rescue and she explained the reasons why she was boycotting them.

I wanted to present some of the facts that are involved in a some of the rumors.

Yes, they do feed live rabbits to the cats. Most of the cats are in rehabilitation for one reason or the other and will be re-released into the wild and though I am against the cruelty of animals feeding them rabbits is so they can learn to hunt.

Below is the link to their response on the feeding of rabbits.

http://bigcatrescue.org/2011/feeding-rabbits-to-bobcats-at-big-cat-rescue

For more addressing the issues with the big cat rescue see the link below.

http://www.pictures-of-cats.org/is-big-cat-rescue-a-sham.html

In a quick search for cruelty and abuse in regards to the Big Cat Rescue I found an interesting clip from the local news (Tampa Bay)

And another clip in regards to what the former volunteers have had to say about the truth of the Big Cat Rescue.

I leave it to you to decide whether or not they are what they say. I for one will not be returning as I feel that they are not as truthful as they should be about the reports of the cats origins nor the conditions in which the animals were living in prior to being brought to the Big Cat Rescue. But that’s just me.

Meet Oskar the blind cat

Meet Oskar, he was born blind.

He was adopted July 2011 at 8 weeks old.

Below is the transcript of my interview with one of his guardians.

Were  there any certain changes you had to make when bringing Oskar home for the first time?

We made some changes at home the day we adopted Oskar (he was also taken to the vet for a full checkup before we brought him home to ensure he didn’t get our other cat, Klaus, sick).  We created a separate space for Oskar to live in while Klaus was getting accustomed to a new cat in the house (we just had Klaus prior to Oskar’s arrival).  The new space consisted of a comfortable bedding area, a separate litter box, toys, food and water bowl, and absolutely nothing else on the floor that Oskar would bump into.  We put pillows and blankets along the edges of the wall just in case he ran into things, but that was never an issue.

He began to memorize his new surroundings almost immediately,  We also made sure to keep the toilet lid closed at all times, and to leave all interior doors open at the point that Oskar started roaming all over the house (this way he wouldn’t fall in when climbing up on the toilet — he started doing thisal most right away).  He was isolated from Klaus for about five days — we fed the cats on the opposite sides of the closed door so they could get used to one another.

Did you watch him like a hawk and try to get things that could be dangerous out of his way beforehand or did you let him explore with minimal supervision?

The first full week that he had access to the whole house we watched him very closely.  We wanted to make sure that Klaus didn’t start to assert his dominance by growling or biting him.  Within about 5 or 6 days, Klaus really became quite affectionate with Oskar and we could trust him fully.  By this time Oskar was also so comfortable with the layout of the rooms that he used only the main litter box (shared with Klaus) and could navigate everywhere without hitting the walls.  Of course we kept the layout of the place the same, minimized any floor clutter, and kept the inside doors open for consistency.  We also elevated the house plants that were on the floor because Oskar took an interest in climbing inside and digging out the dirt (Klaus never bothered the plants).

How did his big brother react? Do you think he could tell there was something different about Oskar?

The first three days that we had Oskar really bothered Klaus.  He growled at the door to Oskar’s room, was aggressive towards us, and would not lay with us while we watched TV or while we were in bed (he was with us 99% of the time before).  We were worried that we would have to divide our place for a long period of time until they could accept one another (Oskar was actually very happy to have a friend, so it was mainly Klaus’ issue).I think we also tried some special calming scent that was emitted from a diffuser that was supposed to calm cats, but it didn’t seem to do much.  After three days of Klaus’ protesting, we began to slowly introduce Oskar by keeping him on our lap for a while and letting Klaus sniff him.  Once he realized that we cared for the little guy and he wasn’t going anywhere, he began to tolerate him more and more.  He quit batting at him and growling about five days or a week after the adoption (we think that’s very good — we knew Klaus would tolerate him because he was living in a room with other cats and kittens at the shelter where we adopted him from).I am sure Klaus could detect something was a bit off about Oskar.  Cats, like most predators, look at facial cues to determine mood, aggressiveness, intent, etc..  I am sure the eyes are critical to this.  The cool thing is that despite having no eyes, Oskar can still move the facial muscles around the eyes so you can still read his face.  I can tell when he’s squinting, or when his eyes would be big and wide open, for example doing play time.

Do you believe Oskar has a better sense of smell and/or hearing to make up for the lack of seeing?

 I don’t think Oskar’s other senses are stronger, but because he relies on them so much, he can utilize them more efficiently.  His sense of hearing is vital.  His ears are always pointed forward and he moves his head around capturing the stereo sound spectrum.
He can pounce with full accuracy on anything making noise or emitting vibrations, such as when I wiggle my index finger under a blanket.  Honestly, I think he has very little disadvantage at all!  He also spends time running around the walls jumping as high as he can and feeling for ledges, etc., that he may be able to climb on.  At this point he can get up on anything in the house and Klaus has no safe refuge!  Oskar can even jump onto the bed or his big cat tree from a full run.  It’s truly amazing to watch!

What advice would you give to someone considering adopting a blind cat?

Advice to anyone adopting a blind cat is as follows.  You don’t have to alter your environment too much — a blind cat can adapt very quickly.  You will not have to clean up messes either — Oskar never made one mess anywhere and he learned to use a litter box from the first day.Basically, don’t be afraid of the challenge, because the cat will prove to you that he or she can still do all the normal “cat things” despite the missing sense.  I would strongly suggest that all blind cats stay indoors, however, unless supervised on a harness.

Does Oskar stay on the ground mostly or does he climb?

Oskar climbs anything and everything!  I don’t even remember a time that we had to rescue him from a ledge which he climbed and couldn’t get down from.  He is pretty darn brave.

Does Oskar sleep with you or does he have a special place he sleeps? Does he snuggle like some cats do?

Oskar sleeps in three different places each night. He starts off on the floor next to our bed. He then transfers to the sock-monkey cat bed that’s on the night stand next to the bed (we actually have one on each side of the bed now, my wife found another one of the same pet beds). He will get in the cat bed even if Klaus is already using it. They snuggle up then.

By 4am he’s in bed with us. While Klaus likes to sleep on my chest for part of the night, Oskar chooses the bottom portion by our feet. He does come up by my head by 7am and I have to cuddle and pet him for a while. Although he is not a lap cat like Klaus (yet), he will get there soon. For the past couple of weeks he has been more and more needy and affectionate. He has also become more vocal too. I think he is learning all these things from Klaus.

Any other words of advice for someone adopting a kitten/cat with any type of special need? Or just considering a cat in general?

If you are considering adopting an animal, you clearly want to spend time with it.  A special needs animal may need a bit of extra care (in Oskar’s case we do wipe off his eye lids a couple of times per day to minimize risk of infection), but that’s a perfect time for you to bond!
I suppose the main thing is to give a home to those animals who need it the most.  You don’t become cool by buying a $3500 cat or dog from a puppy breeder so you can show it off like a Rolex watch.  Hey, we adopted the blind cat nobody wanted and he became an international celebrity — now that’s cool!
Last bit of our advice:  cats live a longer and happier life when they are kept indoors.  Consider adult animals too — we got Klaus when he was fully grown and he is amazing. I know many people want a kitten or puppy, but you can really see the character of an adult animal and it’s easier to find the right match.  Oh yeah, don’t remove the claws — that’s what makes a cat a cat!  We also discourage ear cropping or cutting of the tails in dog breeds.  Leave nature alone people — you can’t improve on perfection!

Update:

 Oskar & Klaus now have a store – http://www.oskarandklaus.com/
And Oskar won the Friskes best cat video award..
this was the video that  won:
Watch the replay of the show here – http://www.thefriskies.com/
Go say hi & congrats – https://www.facebook.com/BlindOskar
Check out the blog  at http://www.blindoskar.com/
Author’s Note: I would like to thank Mick & Bethany for letting me do the very first ever animal article interview and being so patient with me as I got everything together. Congratulations on the award for Oskar and hopefully there will be many more in the future! =^.^=

Cats, cats and more cats! =^.^=

=^.^=

I did  a small article last year about cats.. and wanted to do a much larger one about the difference between dogs and cats that some people don’t know.

Since this is a large article I split it up in main sections

The Basics

Cat Communication 

Communicating with Cats

Cat Affection

Cat Treat Recipes

The Basics about Cats

1) you can pick out a dog 90% of the time, but a cat will pick you 100% of the time. Case and point… my other half was picked by our first cat Bubby (he was known as Jelly Belly at the time) he was pawing and wanting to be petted. Our second cat Buggy (then known as Yankee)  picked me… he was friendly and kept pawing at me from the kennel at Petsmart and was being super loving with me.

The exception to this rule is our third (and possibly final) cat Miss Bit-bit (known as Jessie) she was found as a feral near a dumpster and she was tiny.. we saw her at Petsmart and picked her. She was a kitten at the time so that’s an exception that can be made

2) Cats will come to you for attention – Bubby does this often

3)  Not all cats like catnip

4) Cats really should not have human milk as most are lactose intolerant (I have tried to explain this to Buggy, but he paws me for more milk aways)

5) Cats have an much personality as dogs

6) It is possible to walk a cat on a leash (though I would highly recommend a harness, they sell them at Target or at petstores) Buggy loves going outside on his, I tend to make sure no one is in the front yard for fear of him getting laughed at.

Cat Communication

(Taken from http://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-talk-to-your-cat)

The following vocalizations are fairly common to most cats:

  • Short meow: “Hey, how ya doin’?”
  • Multiple meows: “I’m so happy to see you! Where’ve you been? I missed you!”
  • Mid-pitch meow: A plea for something, usually dinner, treats, or to be let outside.
  • Drawn-out mrrraaaaaoooow: “Did you forget to feed me, you idiot? I want dinner NOW!” or similar demand.
  • Low pitched mraaooww: “You are so lame. The service around here sucks,” or similar complaint.
  • High-pitch RRRROWW!: “OUCH!!! YOU STEPPED ON MY TAIL YOU IMBECILE!”
  • Purr: Most often a sign of contentedness, but can also be used when in pain or afraid — an instinctual response to hide weakness from predators.
  • Hiss: “Steer clear. I’m angry and I’m not afraid to draw blood.”
  • Clicking sounds: Cats who are tracking prey will make a distinctive clicking sound.

Most Cats Use the Following Gestures to Communicate:

The Tail:

  • Tail straight up or straight up with a curl at the end: Happy.
  • Tail twitching: Excited or anxious.
  • Tail vibrating: Very excited to see you.
  • Tail fur sticks straight up while the tail curls in the shape of an N: Extreme aggression.
  • Tail fur sticks straight up but the tail is held low: Aggression or frightened.
  • Tail held low and tucked under the rear: Frightened.

Eyes:

  • Dilated pupils: Very playful or excited. It can also indicate aggression.
  • Slowly blinking eyes: Affection, the equivalent of blowing a kiss.

Head:

  • Ears pinned back: Fear, anxiety, aggression
  • Tongue flicking: Worry, apprehension
  • Rubbing head, flank and tail against a person or animal: Greeting ritual, ownership claim
  • Head-butting: Friendliness, affection
  • Face sniffing: Confirming identity
  • Wet nose kiss: Affection
  • Licking: The penultimate sign of affection. Or an indication that you need to clean up after a sardine snack

Communication with Cats

(Taken from http://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-talk-to-your-cat)

Helping Your Cat Understand You

As you communicate with your cat, the words you use are less important than how you say them and the body language that accompanies them. If you say “DOWN!” or “NO!” in the same tone you use for, “Good Kitty! Here’s a treat,” you’ll confuse your cat and she’ll misinterpret what you’re saying. Consistency is the key to successful communication with your cat.

To correct behavior, use a loud, firm, authoritative voice, and use this same tone consistently in conjunction with body language. For example, when ordering your cat “down,” make a stern face, and use one of your hands to point down.

For praise, or when calling your cat to dinner or offering treats, use a higher-pitched “happy” voice, smile, and beckon with your hand.

If your cat is begging for attention when you are trying to work or accomplish some other task, you will need to say “NO!” firmly, and gently push the cat away without showing affection. Cats don’t have much respect for the human’s personal space and will try repeatedly to invade it, so you may need to repeat the NO-push combination several times before Fluffy gives up and leaves you alone. If you say “no” and pet your cat instead of pushing her away, she will interpret your actions as a welcome signal.

Most cats will also respond to a sharp hissing or spitting sound as a “no” command when they are doing something seriously wrong and need to be stopped.

If you consistently use the same voice, facial expressions and hand gestures, most cats will have no trouble understanding what you say. The more you communicate with your cat, the better the two of you will become at understanding each other.

Cat Affection

(taken from http://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-affection )

Slow Eye Blinks

When cats encounter strangers or other cats, they usually greet them with an unblinking stare. Slow eye blinks – often called “Kitty Kisses” – are a sign of contentedness and affection. You can make a game of this by slowly blinking back at your cat and see how long the interchange can last.

Grooming

Grooming is not all about hygiene. Cats groom each other both as a stress-reliever and as a bonding mechanism. If your cat grooms you, it’s a sign that she accepts you as part of her feline “family.” It can also be a way of claiming “ownership” of you.

Head Rubbing and Butting

If your cat rubs her face on you, she is “marking” you as her property. There are glands on her face that secrete pheromones which act to mark territory as well as signal comfort and familiarity. Each cat’s pheromone signature is unique, just as our fingerprints are. When she leaves behind this calling card, she’s saying “MINE!”

Proximity

If your cat follows you from room to room and hangs out wherever you are, it’s a sign that she’s interested in you and wants to be where you are. Some cats who otherwise do not display affection can still express their love just by “being there for you.”

Bringing You “Gifts”

As repugnant as it is to find that Fluffy has left a mutilated mole or dead bird on your doorstep, do not yell or hurt her when you find it. She has bestowed a cherished gift upon you and is hoping you’ll be pleased with the offering, just as a child seeks approval from his parents. The best way to discourage this behavior is to keep her indoors.

Excitement at Your Return Home

You may not witness this, but your spouse or roommate might. Most cats who are bonded to their owners will respond with excitement when they hear your car in the driveway, or when you make distinctive sounds (like jingle of the key in the lock) when returning home. If they run for the door when you come through it, they’ve missed you and are relieved that you’ve returned safely home to them.

Belly Display

When your cat rolls over and exposes her belly to you, she is signaling that she trusts you and loves you. Exposing her belly exposes her vulnerability. If she did that in the wild, she’d be toast. She’s comfortable enough with you to let down her guard.

Tail Position

Many cats use a question mark-shaped tail to greet someone they like. A tail in the full upright position also indicates familiarity, trust and affection.

Kneading

This instinctual gesture originates from birth, when your cat kneaded her mother to stimulate milk flow. In later life,kneading signifies contentment, pleasure and adoration, especially if accompanied by drooling. This is one of the greatest expressions of love that your cat can bestow upon you.

Cat Love Can be Subtle

Unlike dogs, cats usually won’t shower you with sloppy kisses, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. In their own subtle way, cats will let you know where you stand, and petting a purring, head-butting cat in your lap is a quiet pleasure that can make your day

Recipes for Cat Treats

(Taken from http://www.catster.com/cat-food/valentines-day-treats-for-cats)

Nik Nak’s Valentine’s Tuna Treats

Adapted from Simply Pets

Your cat’s heart will melt for these healthy tuna-infused hearts!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup nonfat powdered milk
  • 1/2 can tuna or 1/2 cup chopped chicken (cooked)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil or cod liver oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup water
  • catnip (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets with cooking spray.

  1. In large bowl, mash the tuna (or chicken) into smaller pieces. Then add flour and milk. Mix well.
  2. After all is mixed, pour in water and oil. Mix well again.
  3. Now, beat the egg in a separate dish until egg gets a foamy texture. Add to mix.
  4. Mix well. (The dough mix will be sticky.)
  5. Using your fingers, shape dough into small bite size balls, about the size of a marble. Put balls on the greased cookie sheets. Flatten balls with hand, and shape into little hearts.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove heart treats from oven, then wait five minutes and turn treats over so other side will cook. Bake 10 more minutes or until golden brown in color.
  7. Place treats on cookie rack to cool. Cool for 15 minutes. And NEVER give treats to your pet right after cooking.

Note: You can add the catnip to the recipe or sprinkle on top of treats. They like it either way. Store them in an airtight container and keep treats in the fridge or a cool, dry place.

Catnip Heart Cookies

Adapted from Free Pet Projects

Most cats go cuckoo for catnip in any form, but put the magic herb in a heart-shaped cookie and watch the fun begin!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons of wheat germ
  • 2-4 tablespoons of catnip
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of molasses
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, wheat germ and catnip).
  3. Combine the wet ingredients in a bowl (egg, milk, vegetable oil and molasses).
  4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and work it into a dough
  5. Lightly flour the counter or other work surface
  6. Remove a portion of dough and use a rolling pin to uniformly flatten the dough to a thickness between 1/8 of an inch and 1/4 of an inch.
  7. Cut the dough into hearts using a cookie cutter or a knife.
  8. Place the cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  9. Bake the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are crisp and lightly browned.

This recipe will make approximately 50 medium-sized cat treats. Once the treats have cooled, gently remove them and place the cookies into several small freezer bags.

Since these treats are preservative-free, they will not last forever. So to extend the life of these treats, store them inside the freezer in several small freezer bags. As needed, remove a bag from the freezer and leave it out for several hours to thaw. Once the treats are thawed, transfer into a Tupperware container for easy access and store the treats inside the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Links for more information

http://www.catster.com/ -> is a wonderful source of information on all things cat.

http://lovemeow.com/ ->  all things cat (and cute!)