Big Cat Rescue Corp founded by Carole Baskin and Don Lewis in 1995, is a sanctuary for exotic cats that rescues abandoned and illegally bred animals, treats, operates and helps to rehabilitate injured, sick or tortured animals. Based in Tampa, Florida it is one of the premier establishments for animal rescue and protection.
As of 2019, BCR is home to over 51 animals-17 big cats and 34 smaller cats with cats belonging to different species. BCR’s main goal is to put an end to owning exotic animals privately and stopping their trade entirely. In 2015, I came across their YouTube channel and was amazed at the sheer effort put in by the volunteers who give it their all to make a great rehabilitation home and retirement in captivity for sick and battered animals.
One of the first videos I saw was about how cats at the Big Cat Rescue were fed. (2014) The set-up is well made and organized. The sanctuary is divided into 4 parts as feeding routes- front, centre, back, and outback. Approximately 2000 lbs of meat are fed to cats around the sanctuary each day.
(Source of Below Information: BCR: How to feed 1000+ Big Cats)
Interns begin prepping the food at food prep, reading out from the call-out sheets with designated food portions mentioned for each cat. Portions sizes and food allotments are made to every feeding route. Cats with special diets are highlighted on the call-out sheet. Some cats at the sanctuary have mobility issues and limited teeth that make them unable to pull off fur and grind bone. Soft food diets are prepared for older cats making them easy to chew, eat and digest.
The menu comprises a carnivore diet with added nutrients, beef and chicken. Natural prey in the whole form is also given out twice a week so that it keeps stimulating natural hunting instincts alive amongst the big cats and they also get access to vital nutrients from the internal organs of the prey. A nutrition supplement is added to the food to increase bone strength in cats.
The sanctuary uses a lock-out system to lock the cat out from the serving section of the sanctuary. It is a smaller section where food is placed on the food slab and cats have access 24×7 to fresh water every day. Cats tend to become a little too excited to eat and end up hurting or not letting the keepers do their job. The cat is locked out using a small door system that helps the keeper in placing the food safely without the cat being there.
As the door is pulled open, the cat can walk to its food wherein the keepers can take a good look at them to make sure they’re not limping or injured. While they are eating the staff makes sure to check for a cut or swelling and records any observations if necessary in the form of data or pictures. The same is then logged in the database to let the vets or the senior staff know.
Volunteers then double-check each other, with senior keepers reading out the names of all the cats from the feeding sheets to make sure that no cat has been missed. Once the hour-long feed is done, the volunteers go back to the food prep and start cleaning up the mess. The bowls are washed down, extra food is bagged up and labelled, food scraps are disposed of, and the feeding track and cart are sanitised and wiped down, after sweeping and mopping the feeding prep area.
Big Cat Rescue is an amazing place that exhibits true love, care, and quality service for animals. More power to this organization!