Yesterday John and I went on a little trip to the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, NC. I love cats (and so does John, despite his constant threats to box ours up and ship them away), so seeing big kitties is always fun. The tour lasted a little over 2 hours, though we only saw a portion of the 76 big cats at the sanctuary. The animals they have were mostly rescued from private ownership or from failing zoos. Surprisingly enough, it’s actually perfectly legal to keep a tiger in your backyard in most counties in NC, and some people are actually stupid enough to do it. Because so many of their animals came from private owners who had no idea how to take care of a big cat or couldn’t afford to feed one, some of their animals are smaller than they would be had they they not been malnourished and some have other disabilities from being kept in tiny cages most of their lives. It was very interesting and informative, so if you’re in the area I highly recommend going.
Of course, since the sanctuary isn’t a zoo, it’s not set up for your optimal viewing pleasure. As a result, it was a bit difficult to take photos and, of course, they’re all through chain link fences, so I apologize for the quality.
First up on the tour were the caracals. They’re kind of like tawny house cats on steriods. They weigh between 30-40 pounds are are pretty cool looking. The guide said that they have to feed these guys separately because one of the females always tries to eat all of the food, and John and I both said, “Lily?”
Next we met the ocelot, Magoo. He was about the same size as the caracals. They feed the animals by inserting meat into a tube with a lid on it, and opening the lid seems to have the same effect on Magoo as opening a can does on our cat, Lily.
Raja Ji was the first tiger we met. The tour guides can give some of the animals treats (except for the ones on diets), so he was quite happy to come right up to the fence to ask for some chicken. Of course, we were informed that sometimes he likes to spray on tour groups. Our guide assured us that it really wasn’t that bad if it happened – it smells like buttered popcorn and goes away after a few minutes. John and I had to restrain ourselves from calling bullshit audibly. There’s no way a 500 pound tiger’s SPRAY smells better than our cats’ regular pee. Luckily, no one had to find out exactly what it smelled like that day.
We also met a few servals. Elvis was one who had a rather interesting story. He was actually abandoned in a dog crate in the Carolina Tiger Rescue’s parking lot with a note that said something like, “My mommy loves me, but can’t take care of me,” and was signed with his name, Elvis. When a vet examined him, they found out he was extremely underweight, had scars from rubbing against the sides of the crate, his hind legs were largely atrophied, and he’d been declawed on all for paws. So yeah, don’t buy big cats as pets.
They also have a couple of non-cats at the sanctuary – kinkajous and binturons. Kinkajous are pretty cute, but despite what Paris Hilton seems to think, they’re also very aggressive. Carolina Tiger Rescue has aggressiveness ratings for all of the animals with 1 being the least aggressive and 4 being the most. Tigers, lions, and kinkajous are all 4 on the scale.
Jellybean is the white tiger at the Carolina Tiger Rescue. Another interesting bit of information we learned is that all white tigers in captivity are inbred. The white coloration gene is recessive, so when they caught a white tiger in the 50s they could get any white offspring when they bred him. They decided to solve the problem by breeding him to one of him orange daughters. Creepy, huh?
We didn’t get to see the lions, because apparently lions are lazy bastards who sleep 20 hours a day in the wild and probably more in captivity. Despite the lack of lions, we still had a really great time, though it was quite hot outside. We saw some really cool animals, learned a bit, and didn’t get sprayed by any tigers. If you’d like to see any of the other pictures, the link to the slideshow is below.