I have always been a cat person. I have had pet cats since I was a baby. My cats have all been little house cats…and I have never longed to own a big cat, but I do enjoy visiting a zoo to see the big cats. I am amazed at how similar a lion or tiger looks and acts like a house cat. Sleeping in the same way, cleaning themselves and even walking around like they own the place. Unfortunately, some people do decide to have a big cat for a pet – only to realize later that it wasn’t the best idea. Or others even breed baby big cats to use for photo shoots and then get rid of them after they have served their purpose or someone intervenes in cases where the animals are not properly cared for. Today’s organization makes a difference for these animals.
The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) was founded in 1999 by Tammy Theis. Tammy was a marketing executive who started to ask questions about the infant wildcat cubs that showed up for photo shoots. She wondered where they lived, where they came from and what happened to them after they were no longer valuable for photo shoots. As Tammy continued to ask questions, she began to realize the scope of the captive wildlife crisis and the need for a reputable sanctuary in the Midwestern United States. She could stand by silently no longer and set out to speak for the captive cats that she felt deserved to be as wild as possible.
TWS is a 501(c)3 organization that is a no-kill rescue facility located in Sandstone, Minnesota. TWS is the only accredited big cat sanctuary in the Upper Midwest. Their accreditation is from the American Sanctuary Association. The Wildcat Sanctuary has garnered endorsements from the Minnesota Zoo and the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Care Program. TWS provides for the humane rescue and sheltering of unwanted, mistreated, and neglected privately owned wildcats that pose a risk to public safety.
TWS currently cares for over 120 wildcats. The cats come to the sanctuary in a variety of ways – from private owners, lab test subjects, canned hunting facilities, wild born orphans, closed/defunct sanctuaries, and retired exhibitors to name a few. You can see images and read stories about the cats on their website.
In addition to housing cats, TWS is also instrumental in placing wildcats in other sanctuaries across the country when their facility is filled to capacity. You can read about some of these rescues on their website…however, I will warn you not to read these stories if you cannot handle stories of animal abuse.
The Wildcat Sanctuary does not buy, breed, trade or sell animals. They are also not open to the public. TWS is committed to being a sanctuary for the cats, not a zoo for animals. You can get a glimpse of the cats at TWS on their You Tube channel. You can also learn about all the species of cats in their online “Cat-A-Log”.
The other mission of TWS is education. In 2011, they are focusing on a public education campaign about the captive wildlife crisis. The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are 3,000 wild tigers in the world. That is a sad comparison to the estimate of 12,000 tigers being kept as “pets” in the United States by Association of Zoos & Aquariums. TWS plans to be at two community events each month to tell the public about the problem and their efforts to find solutions. TWS also offers veterinarian training opportunities and supports legislative solutions to the public safety issues created by private ownership of wild animals.
How can you help?
- Monetary donations are welcomed and can be designated in various ways, including sponsoring a wildcat, donation to build the wild woodlands, or general donations. Learn more and make a donation on their website. Donations are also currently being sought for a new memorial garden. Learn more here.
- Volunteers play an important role in The Wildcat Sanctuary’s mission. On-site volunteers help build cages, pools, caves, perches and hammocks for the cats. They also maintain grounds and equipment, clean public areas, and help with other projects as needed.
- Domestic Animal Care Volunteers are specially trained volunteers provide daily care for TWS’ domestic Bengal and hybrid cats and dogs. This includes feeding, cleaning and enrichment. These volunteers commit to a minimum of two days a month.
- Off-Site Volunteers work shifts at TWS’ educational booths at expos, civic events and festivals. They also call restaurants, stores, and other businesses for silent auction donations, and call other companies such as lumber yards and cat litter companies to solicit in-kind contributions.
- The Wildcat Sanctuary is also perfect for clubs, schools, civic groups and team building opportunities for corporations. You can review and submit the Crew volunteer form to receive further information.
Please consider making a donation to The Wildcat Sanctuary prior to April 30, 2011 via Razoo.com to have your donation matched dollar for dollar.