Monday, July 31, 2006

Beating The Heat - Big Cat Rescue Style

AP Report July 20, 2006:  Britain Endures Record July Heat  "Lions licked blood-flavored ice blocks in the zoo, judges went wigless in court, guards at Buckingham Palace ducked into the shade."
What's news in London is a typical day in Tampa at Big Cat Rescue.  With summertime temperatures consistently in the 90's and a humidity level that makes it feel so much more, our lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, lynx, bobcats, servals, caracals, ocelots, and little cats look forward to their regular frozen "sicle" treats.  Besides cooling them down, there's always something yummy inside as a special treat for them.  Our keepers become certified in handing out enrichment items of this type to our cats.  Tossing enrichment items into our big cats' habitats stimulates their hunting instincts.
At Big Cat Rescue, we use small paper cups to freeze treats like chicken pieces or beef pieces or even sardines in flavored water.  It's always fun to watch the big cats lick, lick, lick away at the "sicle" until they get to the treat inside.
Today's enrichment with one of our bobcats was more a sporting event than anything else.  With temperatures feeling close to 98 degrees, all the cats were receiving frozen "sicle" treats to help cool them down.  One of our bobcats had other ideas, though.  He took his frozen beef pop and turned it into a World Cup Soccer match.  He ran back and forth batting it as hard as he could so that it flew outside (through the 4x4 wire enclosure) and rolled back in the other side of the enclosure where he would already be waiting to swat it back the other way again.  Back and forth, back and forth, he scored goal after goal after goal. Who knew that a fur farm rescued bobcat could become such a fantastic soccer player?  Senior Keeper Julie Hanan who gave him his treat, just stood there holding her arms up saying "SCOREEEE!!!!"  He had turned enrichment into an athletic event!
**Enrichment - In the wild these cats have miles and miles of territory to explore.  They run, smell, taste and chase prey.  In captivity these cats have an enclosure to explore.  They see, smell, and taste the same things every day.  Animals in captivity can become bored and display negative behaviors.  They can pace, over groom or become aggressive.  Here, at Big Cat Rescue we have a very active Enrichment Program.  We enrich our cats daily, helping to alleviate boredom.  Our enrichment helps to stimulate our cats emotionally and physically.
Barbara and Julie

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