Animal Care

TCWR’s mission is to provide a lifetime refuge for all rescued animals with the care, safety, and well being of the animals being the number one priority. All animals are treated with the dignity and compassion they deserve. TCWR has developed a reputation for this compassionate care across the country with law enforcement, universities, and others sharing a commitment to the Big Cats and other animals. This reputation has, unfortunately, made a waiting list a necessity.

Not wanting to hamper the care of the existing TCWR population at any given time, rescue of an endangered cat cannot always be done. Each rescue presents its own unique set of circumstances, with the need to re-arrange living space of existing animals and/or the construction of additional housing – always a financial strain because the person(s) responsible for the rescue of a cat or other animal invariably do not contribute financially to the welfare of the animal in question. Although monetary assistance would be greatly appreciated and helpful when an animal is rescued, TCWR’s protocol is that we do not buy, sell, or trade any of our animals; and when they come to Turpentine Creek, they have come to their lifetime home.

Of the many refuges in the United States, TCWR is one of the largest facilities of its kind open to the public anywhere in the world. Big Cats have been rescued from many states across the country including Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, and Tennessee and are provided a home in a caring and nurturing environment.

Over the past several years, we have mandated that any animals we rescue be examined by a veterinarian in the location of the animals’ former home before they are transported to our facility. Once the animal arrives at TCWR, it is then evaluated by our own veterinarian(s), provided any medical attention deemed necessary, neutered/spayed where applicable, and kept in quarantine for a period of at least four to six weeks before being integrated into the existing population.

TCWR is not a breeding facility and we make it a point to spay/neuter where necessary. All males are either neutered immediately upon arrival, placed alone, or with other males. Rescued, pregnant females are allowed to have their offspring, are kept with their mate (if rescued with one) after the mate is neutered, and their offspring are neutered/spayed accordingly at the appropriate age.

Since 2007, USDA regulations stipulate that no exotic cats be de-clawed, so a vast majority of our cats still have their claws. Safety for the animals, staff, and visitors is paramount. Stringent policies and procedures have been developed and are enforced. Staff members do not physically enter cages of cats weighing more than 35 pounds. Keys to cages and habitats are limited to a few individuals, and when necessary to enter an area, multiple checks to verify the animal is safely locked in its den are implemented and the cage/habitat is again properly secured when leaving.

All cats and dangerous animals are fed, medicated, cleaned, and attended to from outside their respective cages and/or habitat areas. Only when necessary, animals are tranquilized for routine on-site veterinary visits for procedures such as neutering, tooth extraction, ingrown claw removal, etc. Periodically more extensive care or life-saving medical procedures are deemed necessary, requiring transport to the Refuge’s off-site veterinarians. (One of the refuge’s goals and needs is to have a functional veterinarian clinic on site that can accommodate these large animals and any special needs. TCWR dreams of the day when a clinic is built with quarantine areas for the animals to be comfortable, segregated, and easily monitored.)

Although safety is the main approach for all personnel, the needs of the animals are the first priority of all staff that cares directly for the animals that reside at TCWR. No matter what the weather, all cages and habitat areas are cleaned daily. Animals are fed daily according to their dietary needs. Water dishes are cleaned and filled three times daily. Animals are routinely checked for indications of impending health problems, i.e. lethargy, lack of appetite, change in stool consistency, or changes in behavior. Integrations of ‘new’ cage-mates are undertaken over a period of weeks and months before animals are allowed to be housed with one another.

All animals have either shade cloths and/or access to shaded areas at all times. Cement dens are provided for the cats and bears, which provide warm or cool refuges as the weather dictates and also provides the animals a safe, secluded place for privacy.

During the hot summer months, a combination of swimming pools, mist systems, and water baths are provided for the animals. During extreme cold weather, the animals that require extra insulation against frigid temperatures are provided straw and blankets in their dens. For those animals not tolerating extreme cold, i.e., caracal, and servals, space heaters are strategically placed outside their dens (safely out of reach of the animals on the exterior side of their fencing) to furnish essential heat inside their living quarters. Our leopard habitat was opened in July of 2010 and includes a heated building for the comfort of the animals living in the habitat.

In 2010 TCWR worked with the University of Arkansas, and their engineering department came up with a prototype of a heat pad to be placed in the floor of each den box. We put one in the den of a lion that has arthritis and it helped her immensely. It would cost $750.00 to add a heating pad to each den, but it would ultimately save on our electric bill.

Our ultimate goal is to have all of our animals housed in natural habitats. Since 1998 we have gained invaluable experience in the construction of natural habitat enclosures and currently have all of our animal residents living in natural habitats. At present, we have 57 naturally enhanced areas for our large carnivores, ranging in size from 8,000 sq. ft. to 20,000 sq. ft., which includes natural grasses, trees and undergrowth. Each habitat houses between two to six Big Cats and/or the bears. Material costs for these projects run $25,000-$50,000 each.