By Michelle Colesanti

Just over 25 years ago, Big Cat Rescue Founder Carole Baskin saved a bobcat kitten at an animal auction from certain death. Naming her Windsong, she had no idea of what the future would hold for both her and the bobcat, but that rescue stole her heart and set the wheels in motion for what would eventually become Big Cat Rescue.

Big Cat Rescue’s care for cats that were once abused and can’t live in the wild is near ‘purr’fection. It currently is the ‘fur’ever home to 70 cats. Through the years, the sanctuary has also released 45 wild native Florida bobcats back into the wild.

The sanctuary is currently working to change laws which allow for the exploitation of the cats. A few examples include those who exploit baby cubs, keeping cats in small cages for exhibitions, tiger farms, breeding facility where tigers and other exotic or wild animals are bred like livestock for their meat, skin, and parts, circus acts and much more.

According to Director of Public Relations, Susan Bass, Big Cat is ardently working on passing the federal bill for big cats called the Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR 1818) in Congress. “Once passed, the bill will ban most private ownership and breeding of big cats and will also ban the public from having direct contact (holding/feeding a bottle) with cubs. We believe this will end most of the suffering of unwanted captive big cats in America,” she said.

You can help by asking your House of Representatives member in Washington DC to co-sponsor the bill at

A visit to Big Cat Rescue is a great way to learn about the resident cats as well as the plight of animal exploitation in general. If you wish to tour Big Cat Rescue, it is recommended that you reserve your spot at as tours fill up quickly.

Along the way, you will meet Cameron the Lion and Zabu the White Tiger, both born at a roadside zoo. The two remain best friends and live together. In reality, lions and tigers do not live in the same type of habitat so these two should never have met. They were brought together by people who wanted them bred to birth Ligers and bring in tourist dollars. After years of abuse, they were rescued and brought to Big Cat where they now can enjoy their retirement and each other.

Big Cat recently became the permanent home for an 11-year- old male jaguar named Manny and a 16-year- old female leopard named Natalia (Nat) from Omaha, Nebraska’s AZA-accredited Henry Doorly Zoo. The cats needed to be relocated because the Zoo’s exhibit they were housed in was being replaced with a new one.

Natalia is a16 year old Amur leopard, the first at the sanctuary. There are less than

Natalie (Nat), a 16 year old female Amur leopard, was recently relocated from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. She is the first Amur at the sanctuary. There are less than 70 Amur’s left in the wild.

70 Amur leopards remaining in the wild.

Not only do big cats get to enjoy the premises which include a vacation retreat, but the sanctuary also fosters domestic kittens for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Taking care of all of the cats require a lot of help.

There are currently about 80 volunteers assisting at the Rescue. If you have interest in volunteering, you can learn more and fill out a form at
You can also be an advo’cat’e for the residents of the rescue by donating at

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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.