Why We Do It!
If we are to keep
the great cats in
captivity, it is our
provide the most
and the utmost in care
that we are capable
All big cat facilities are different. They are run by people and people, by nature, have different approaches on how to go about things. Some people feel that the cats should never be touched by the human hand, that they should remain as close to wild as possible.
At the other end, some people feel that the cats should be trained to perform tricks, do a job every day, and fear their master. And there is an opinion for everything in between.
Some people feel that cats should not be kept in captivity at all, that the species should become extinct rather than being "caged" by humans.
Our philosophy is likely different from others, but it works for us and we do continue to learn every day.
One thing we do feel strongly about: A sanctuary must be a safe place for the cats, and a permanent home. If we rescued cats then later sold them, loaned them, or even gave them to others then Tiger Haven would not be a sanctuary.
A sanctuary does not breed cats just to have cubs that will draw more paid visitors who want their pictures made with them. A sanctuary should not take a cat temporarily, accept the praise for the rescue, then find someone else to shoulder the permanent responsibility. This we feel strongly about.
Keeping Cats in Captivity
Obviously, we feel that cats can be kept in captive situations and still be happy and content. One reason our great cats are becoming extinct is that they have no place to live.
There are few cats in this country that were wild caught. Most were born in this country, in captivity. If released in the wild they would likely starve because they do not know how to hunt (or, more importantly, what is appropriate to hunt). Many are de-clawed and could not catch their prey. We do not like the alternative, so we will continue in our efforts to give them peace and contentment in their captive situations.
No creature who has boundless energy should ever be forced to stay inside a cage where it cannot exercise. Enclosures should be large enough for the cats to run. Even adult cats like to run and play. There should be enough space that the cat has a feeling of a "territory" that belongs to him. It should provide a view beyond the enclosure. It should have access to water for the cats who like to play in water.
The cats' enclosures are their homes for life. It should be as interesting and comfortable as possible while providing items for curiosity and challenge.
Most of the enclosures at Tiger Haven fit this description, and new enclosures are constantly being constructed. The enclosures must also be safe, both for the cats and people. An escape anywhere is rare, but it is usually the cat who is killed or injured rather than a person.
All enclosures for climbing cats should have tops but still things to climb. All enclosures should have double gate entries for safety. Our entire sanctuary is surrounded by an eight-foot perimeter fence. Incidentally, Tiger Haven has never had an escape.
It should never be done. It is cruel and useless at best and it provides a false sense of security. Properly handled tigers and lions do not use their claws on their people after they are a few months old. Should they ever become aggressive enough a tiger or lion can hold and kill a person without using claws.
Climbing cats - leopards and cougars - use their claws to climb, and their enclosures should have climbing materials in them. Without claws they run the risk of injuring themselves in a fall. Without claws a cat will never have the satisfaction of sharpening them on a log or tree, and cannot even scratch behind their ears.
If we must mutilate the cats in order to touch them or have pictures made with them, we are missing the point somewhere. I would suggest that if one must de-claw a cat that they pull out their own fingernails first to see how they get along without them. Then try to scratch an itch.
We do not sell our cats. When you sell a cat how would we know it will be taken care of for the rest of its life? Even if the cat goes to the perfect home, how do we know it will not be sold again, and into a bad situation?
Cats are intelligent animals with logical thinking and emotions. Is it morally right to sell such a being? We do not want to make that decision.