A Tour of Big Cat Rescue

For my upcoming birthday I decided to give myself a tour of Big Cat Rescue. I’ve always wanted to see the sanctuary for myself, and so I did.

I have to say, it was not what I expected.

Oh, not the rescue itself. The 60 acres are well-maintained and give the resident cats places both sunny and shady to roam. The cats are moved about periodically to give them a different experience. Big Cat Rescue trucks in 500 lbs of meat per day to feed the cats. Interns and paid staff work to keep the enclosures clean, including daily scooping of big cat poop.

Old guys like this panther require vet care too. If you look carefully you can make out his white beard. 

It’s just that I hadn’t thought through the reason this sanctuary exists. I was imagining healthy, happy cats, both big and not-so-big, living out their days in a lush, comfortable environment.

This is a male lion. He lost his mane following his neuter. Originally they resisted neutering him but he started being aggressive with his mate so it became necessary. 

But this is a sanctuary for big cats who were abused and/or neglected. And so you see cats like the female tiger from Ohio who could not walk when removed from her owner by the State of Ohio. Today she still struggles with walking, but at least she is no longer the victim of other tigers’ aggression and lives in comfortable surroundings.

There is the white tiger who is the result of inbreeding. Her eyes are crossed. Their former owner’s plan was to breed her with a lion and have white ligers to sell. She continues to live with her lion companion but both have been spayed/neutered to prevent reproduction.

This white tiger is the result of inbreeding. White tigers are a defect of nature and do not survive in the wild. Those bred for this defect suffer from problems such as hip displasia. Breeders sell the white tigers at a premium. No one ever asks what happens to all the little ones that didn’t come out white. 

There is a 20+ year old tiger who struggles to walk and is on medication for his ailments. He spent a good deal of his life being kept in a cage not quite the size of a food cart. And that is absolutely legal, according to the USDA.

According to the USDA, if the big cat can stand up and turn around, the enclosure is large enough to house the animal for all of its life. 


The saddest part of all is there being a need for a place such as Big Cat Rescue in the first place. Why on earth do we allow people to own big cats?

This bobcat looked down on me from a high perch in the cool shade.

Big Cat Rescue rehabs some animals that were injured in the wild or babies whose mother was killed, then releases them back into the wild. These animals who remain at BCR could never be returned to the wild. They are too familiar with humans.

A sleepy Canadian Lynx. Can you believe he was being kept as a pet? Most former pets were declawed and had their teeth removed. I Googled Lynx and found I can buy a kitten for as little as $1750. These cats are also raised by breeders to be slaughtered for their fur.

If you’re going to be in the Tampa area, it’s worth it to schedule a tour of Big Cat Rescue. I suggest you take the earliest tour available as big cats like to sleep away the hot summer days. You can tour BCR for free if you show proof of spay/neuter of your cat within the past year. But with their budget of over $2 million per year, if you can afford to give, please do.

There are plenty of other places where you can see big cats, but most of them are unscrupulous breeders who are using these majestic creatures for their own financial gain. Don’t support them in any way, shape or form!

And please, contact your elected officials and tell them to end the practice of legal exotic animal ownership. It should not be possible that there are more tigers in private hands than exist in the wild.


All photos on this post are mine and may not be used without my permission. 

38 thoughts on “A Tour of Big Cat Rescue

    1. And yet it happens all the time. Bengal cats are not a breed of cat; they are hybrids. Other wild cats are bred with domestic cats to create new and exotic breeds of cats. It is not good and sometimes ends up causing harm to humans and domesticated animals.

      1. I agree…. bad things happened with the savannah cats, they are banned now and only allowed with special permissions… I don’t want to know what happened to all those big cats whose owners refused to get such a permission :o(((

  1. It’s heart breaking to see such wonderful creatures in an environment that must be very alien to them, but it’s lovely to know that they can now live out their time in peace; be cared for, and respected, for the glorious creatures that they are. 🙂

    1. It’s also heartbreaking to know that it’s perfectly legal in many states in the US to own a tiger. A tiger!!! One of these tigers was chained in the basement of a drug dealer’s house in Tennessee! How does that happen?

      1. It probably happens because legislation is driven by politics, which is driven by business and the popular vote. How much support would legislation get in the case of the Tennessee tiger? How much resource do the police need to impact all the various law breakers?

        We need a decisive cultural shift in responsibility of a supposedly humane population. Both wild and domestic animals are horribly abused by both owners and businesses, and I don’t see much changing while 90% of the population has got its head buried in sand!

      2. Isn’t that the core problem? So many people with humane views, but only a minority that are prepared to speak up. The internet is slowly changing that as various organizations are polling their readers and producing some quite impressive numbers of supporters that can effectively challenge some issues.

  2. I am glad that this was stopped in the UK,Even zoo’s come under strict controls with the enclosures having to meet set minimum requirements for size and environment.Very sad the this happens in the US thank god for places like this,xx Rachel

  3. I toured Big Cats maybe 5 years ago and was both moved and surprised. The work they do is amazing and the animals are fabulous. I get their mailings and they continue to be active in rescues all across the country. This was the highlight of my Florida visit.

  4. I did not know that about white tigers. We had a favorite white tiger at the San Francisco zoo and he thought he was a rock star.

    Loved this post although sad to think of them being abused.

  5. They are safe and protected. Even if not in expansive acres – many of they couldn’t cope with big spaces after a cramped life. There are strong exotic animal laws here – but big cats are still the favorite guards of local drug dealers and human trafficking thugs.(Those who don’t follow any kind of laws no matter how many laws are on the books.) The SPCA just broke ground on a larger big animal facility – they/their vets are the ones who get the call by police for help
    Support the sanctuaries you know are doing good

    1. Actually BCR does provide a sizable enclosure for each cat. Their creative designs allow room to roam yet still allow for scooping of the poop without having to enter the enclosure often. Less disruptive.

    1. It is sad. It’s also happy that for these cats they finally have a whole host of people who care that they live out their days in comfort and peace.

  6. I hate that humans treats these beautiful creatures (and others) as trophies and that some feel the need to have them on display, dead or alive. They deserve to live life as they have for thousands of years and not in a cage in someone’s backyard or private zoo. I’m glad that there are kind people in this world who rescue them, I just wish they didn’t have to.

  7. First things, first…Happy Birthday! Next, thanks for bringing up the topic of exotic cats in captivity. In Colorado, there is the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a 720 acre site created for the purpose of rescuing and providing life-long homes for large exotic and endangered captive wild animals, and to educate the public about the causes of, and solutions to the world’s captive wildlife crisis.(http://www.wildanimalsanctuary.org). Exotic animals in captivity have become a huge problem especially in states where regulation is essentially non-existent. 55 tigers, 73 lions, 110 bears, 26 wolves, 6 leopards and assorted mountain lions, camels, lynx, bobcats, and other species have been rescued and are living out their lives in the spacious habitat on the plains outside of Denver. We must do a better job protecting these creatures from illegal and abusive situations. Step one is education, so thank you for bringing up the topic. Hopefully we can save these magnificent creatures from future abuse. ❤

  8. Thank goodness Big Cat Rescue exists. But how heartbreaking and maddening that it needs to exist. 😦

  9. Very interesting tour, Jen…..Ididn’t know that there are so many storiies about those big cats…..

  10. I have always wanted to go there. I follow Big Cat Rescue on YouTube. It is insane that there are more tigers living in people’s homes in the US than there are in the wild!?! What the hell are people thinking?!?!

  11. what a great place. I would love to visit. I am forever traumatized by a child hood visit to an abusive zoo in upstate new york Ill never forget the pathtic look of the poor lion in a tiny cage

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