It can be easy to think that, with just a little TLC, you can turn around the life of a rescued resident at The Wildcat Sanctuary. In the best case scenarios, that can happen. But, more often than not, the cats that come to the Sanctuary have extreme medical conditions, unknown history and, understandably, behavioral issues or fear of humans.

Our job is to make sure we treat the entire animal, both physically and emotionally. We provide the tools to help them heal. Each case is extremely different and many are very difficult. Some struggle with neurological and auto-immune disorders, while others are medically healthy but battle with stress and fear issues brought on by past neglect and abuse.

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Every single one deserves the chance to thrive and overcome the issues they arrive with or develop as they age. And it’s important to us that we provide as many tools as possible to help them heal. We know how important it is to you, too!

Treating Individuals

Quality care begins with our whole team sharing their input and observations. We each hold a piece of the puzzle that’s important in developing the best plan and path for each specific cat. The cat’s intake file may provide information about their past. As the founder, I may have a unique perspective about behavioral and health history information for our long term residents. New members of the team bring expertise and experience from past sanctuaries and their work environments that can shed new light and new ideas for consideration.

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Caretakers observe and make notations about the animals daily. Our volunteers see and share changes in animals each time they visit. All these puzzle pieces come together so we can provide exceptional care for the cats. Our veterinarians and specialists can provide the best medical treatment choices when they know as much as they possibly can about the cats.

Each of us knows that T.E.A.M. stands for The Entire Animal Matters.

Our vets, including Dr. Lori Ballinger, conduct exams every three years and provide preventative care continuously. They perform and oversee emergency surgeries that have helped cats like Asha the lioness and Aslan the lion survive life-threatening health issues. Scarlet the clouded leopard wouldn’t have survived pyometra if not for the fast action of our surgical team. At his advanced age, Nigel the caracal has needed supportive and diagnostic care for neurological issues that have required quick intervention, too. The majority of our residents are senior and geriatric, so our veterinary team is ever vigilant in monitoring them closely.

Scarlet target training 2Scarlet gets back to playing after care

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Quality Care Means We Seek the Input of Those Outside Our Sanctuary, Too

This year, our Sanctuary Manager collaborated with International Fund for Animal Welfare and wild cat sanctuaries across the country to develop the “Best Practices in Nutritional and Feeding Protocols.” The end goal of the working group has been to create a document containing the recommendations for the highest standards related to exotic feline nutrition and feeding considerations. We know it will be a valuable resource for many in the field.

Tackling Dental Issues

We also use an extended team and partnerships to expand the veterinary care we can provide. The Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation brings vets and dentists from around the world to provide specialized dentistry treatments, such as root canals, for our cats. This year, they treated caracal Sampson, bobcats Buddy and Libby, lynx Leisha, serval Jaharah and tiger Ekaterina for their much-needed dental issues.

Overcoming Existing Conditions

Prior to arriving at The Wildcat Sanctuary, a large majority of our cats were 4-paw declawed and several have complications. We’ve seen regrowth that causes abscesses and lameness due to early onset arthritis. Our treatment plan includes providing pain relief through medication, as well as laser therapy. We use two kinds of laser treatments, including low-level laser therapy performed by Dr. Gordon. We also collaborate with Dr. Conrad, founder of the acclaimed Paw Project, to document the problems caused by declawing and we continue to educate others about why declawing big cats should be outlawed.

Behavioral Rehabilitation

For cats that have extremely active minds or are highly stressed and fearful due to traumatic histories, we’ve developed behavioral training programs in conjunction with Active Environment. We brought their expert onsite for a full week to learn about our Sanctuary, our cats, and those that seem to need special attention. When we strive to provide optimal care for our captive population, we also want to reduce or eliminate any abnormal behavior we might observe.

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Again, it’s the entire animal that’s important – mind and body.

We’ve successfully applied suggested behavioral modification techniques and positive reinforcement with several of our cats. For example, tigress Sabrina’s sessions include acclimating her to new people and to more people so that she’s no longer fearful of humans. So far, by implementing the behavioral management tools we’ve learned over the years, the transformation we’ve seen in her has been amazing!

Quality care is something that takes a large team, both here at the Sanctuary and outside the Sanctuary. YOU are a big part of that team, too. You help us bring all the puzzle pieces together to provide the highest level of care possible for these cats we all love – and we thank you!

All image source: The Wildcat Sanctuary