Big Cat Rescue!
In 1999 for my birthday, I spent a night with some very big cats! There is this place in north Tampa, FL called Big Cat Rescue and if you like cats, you'll love this place. All information on this page is old information from 1999. Cost of visits and rules of the park may have changed.
This beautiful Bengal Tiger and his female companion roam a 3 acre fenced in area that is bordered on one perimeter by water in the form of a charming little lake. Prime property in the Tampa Bay area. But the wonderful woman who owns this land doesn't care about the worth of the land, she cares about what happens to these breath taking cats.
The whole site is run by volunteers, and they feed the animals with donated money, money charged for visiting the place, and the owner supplies the rest which run over $100,000 in that year. The 3 or 4 hour visit is a donation and they suggest $10 per person. You can rent what they call a cabin for $120 a night and this includes a free run of the place for two days. I did this for my birthday and it was heaven. That's when I got these pictures of the tiger playing in the lake, I was the only one there to see this and I was ecstatic. I think I took 5 or 6 rolls of pictures in a matter of minutes. This beautiful tiger put on a show just for me, and he was so close to me at times, he could have easily jumped up and grabbed me but he wasn't interested in hurting anyone. In fact, he likes people and one of the volunteers pets him regularly.
I was standing on a dock that went out into the lake, and there were no fences between us, only air. I was about 5 or 6 feet above the water, and by the way that he was powerfully playing in the water, I believe he could have easily reached me without much effort. He looked me directly in the eyes twice, and I was humbled.
It was about 10:00 am Sunday morning and I walked onto the dock bordering his "cage". I couldn't believe my luck when he came strolling up to the water (see first picture) and plopped down panting. I held my breath hoping he wouldn't turn and leave. His companion lay to the left of him and did not participate in the fun.
He stood up and looked like he might go to the water, I was begging him to do so. He walked to the water (see picture 4) and waded up to his belly and took a little drink. Then he decided to give me a show and what a show it was.
He was a powerful swimmer and had no trouble paddling in water way over his head. He had some toys in the water, a big red ball marred with his teeth and claws, and a pony keg. He first played with the ball, he actually was able to get a hold of the ball with just his teeth. During this time I ran out of film and had to run back to my car and get more rolls of film and run back. He had left the water, but when I returned, he too returned to the water to play.
After playing for about 30 to 45 minutes, he tired of the whole thing and walked dripping to dry land. Then I saw a little glimpse of my own cats in him as he eyed up a tree and decided to give it a go. He was able to climb the tree about 10 feet before his massive body weight over took his claws.
If you rent a "cabin" (and don't expect much! It's all volunteers and the point is to live with the cats for a day) you get your own cat that is caged with the cabin and you can visit and pet this cat all you want. They used to let you bring the cats into the cabin anytime you wanted, but quit that at the beginning of the year.
I got to bed down with a Bobcat named Little Feather. She was a treat and that hand you see petting her is mine.
Little Feather and my hand...
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