The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) in Minnesota is renowned for its breathtaking rescues of orphaned, injured or neglected big cats. Since it was founded in 1999 by executive director Tammy Thies – who gave up her corporate career to devote herself to the sanctuary – it has improved the lives of countless lions, tigers, cougars, bobcats, and other large felines who have endured the effects of human cruelty.
In late 2015, TWS welcomed two orphaned cougar cubs named Snow and Storm. The pair had been born in the wild, but when their mother passed away, they were in desperate need of help. The dedicated TWS team stepped in to give them that help, by flying them into the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and transporting them to the sanctuary, and spending months gaining their trust.
A sweet video of the pair exploring their surroundings can be seen below.
This adorable pair were soon joined by two other cougar cubs named Aspen and Blaze, who were also found in Washington and brought to TWS.
All four of them are now about six months old and have learned how to get along with each other and with the humans who care for them. In a press release, Thies explained, “It was important to have them get used to each other as soon as possible – while they were still young – if a friendship was to form. Without their mothers for comfort, having others of their kind to grow up with would be important for their emotional development. In addition, merging cats together also creates an open habitat and space for us to help rescue more cats in need.”
For the first few weeks following the cubs’ arrival, TWS caretakers had to work on building a relationship of trust with them.
Snow can be seen learning how to approach humans in the clip below.
Volunteers spent two hours at a time sitting outside the cats’ habitats, talking softly and reading to them, so that they could become accustomed to a non-threatening human presence.
Next, the two pairs of kittens were placed in neighboring habitats, so that they could become used to the sight and smell of each other. An opening was then made between the two habitats, so the babies could explore each other’s territory while still having the option of retreating to their own area, if necessary. The cougars’ meals were cut up into small pieces and fed to them, one piece at a time, through the walls of their feeding areas. This helped them to develop a necessary level of trust in humans.
The entire process was closely monitored by their caretakers.
The hope is that they will all be able to live in one area from now on, just like the adult cougars in the picture below.
The TWS team are pleased to report that “they all took to each other right away. Yes, there is definitely a pecking order and their personalities have been the same since arriving. Snow and Storm are much more comfortable around humans. Aspen is the most shy and stand-offish while his brother Blaze is the dominant cougar of all four.”
In spite of the trauma they endured early on in life, Snow, Storm, Aspen and Blaze have successfully settled into their new home as a comfortable and happy group. “Now, these four are enjoying life together as a true family unit,” their carers state. “Though they have multiple dens to cuddle up in, they choose to all be together so much of the time.” The sanctuary is now working on a larger habitat that will house the cougars as they grow into mature adults.
You can keep up to date with the cougars’ adventures by signing up to TWS’ mailing list here. To find out more about the sanctuary’s work, visit their website or Facebook page. If you donate to the sanctuary between March 1 and April 30, your donation will be doubled as part of their “Miracle Match” campaign.
All Image Source: The Wildcat Sanctuary