Don’t Pool all Cats Together: Some big cats like the water while others do not.

Fred loves swimming and playing in his pool!

It is summertime when our Animal Care Staff prioritizes cleaning and filling pools again. Since its beginning, the Refuge has provided water-loving animals with pools. Historically, we have repurposed big metal cattle troughs as pools for the animals. During pool season, our Animal Care Staff and Interns must consistently clean the pools, creating the most sanitary environment possible for the animals. One habitat at a time, we are now slowly constructing more permanent pools that are easier to clean and fill. 

But why do some animals like the water while others do not? Several factors contribute to this, including species-specific behaviors and individual preferences.  

Bagheera, a black jaguar, also loves to play in the water.

Tigers and jaguars are known as aquatic cats. In the wild, they are native to environments where water is abundant, including mangrove swamps, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and tropical forests. Jaguars are also excellent swimmers and aquatic hunters, preying on capybaras and caimans in the South American Rivers. Since these cats can hunt in water, they enjoy playing and practicing their hunting behaviors in the water. Adding pools to their enclosures is a great way to encourage these natural behaviors and increase animal welfare.

Leopards lay in the middle of the spectrum; some like water, and others do not. In the wild, leopards inhabit deserts, grasslands, jungles, and mangrove swamps.  Lions, on the other hand, are primarily found in the savannas and grasslands. Hence, it is rare for lions at the Refuge to enjoy swimming. Cougars, bobcats, servals, and caracals do not enjoy the water, and their wild counterparts do not specialize in aquatic hunting. 

This being said, some individuals do enjoy the water. Because of this, we give each cat we rescue a pool trial period. For example, Fergy the Liger loves playing in her pool, while Karma the Liger is indifferent. Cats with pools spend a lot of time playing, relaxing, and napping in them during the warmer summer months. In summary, pools are a great source of enrichment for big cats in captivity that enjoy the water. 


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