We finally visited the Exotic Feline Rescue Center after 8 years in Southern Indiana, an excellent post-Thanksgiving day trip.
It’s a couple miles off 46 East on the way to Terre Haute. The entrance has a vague resemblance to an autobody parts store or some such. You pay your entrance fee, and one of the volunteers/employees explains the rules/guidelines (if you touch a cat you will be asked to leave; if a cat turns its rear end towards you, it may be planning to spray you; move quickly to the side) and takes you on a tour.
It’s an amazing place! They have about 200 big cats. A lot of tigers, some lions, and also leopards, bobcats, servals, cougars, and ocelots. Most of them were rescued from abusive/neglectful situations: breeders, pet owners in over their heads, drug dealers, other shady characters who like the idea of having a lion in their backyard. They do not breed animals and they don’t place them elsewhere; it’s a permanent retirement home. They say that for every animal they can adopt, they have to turn down about 40.
The animals definitely seemed to pay special attention to the girls and another young boy with our group.
The animals tended to be fairly interested and would come up to check us out. You’re not supposed to come within an arm’s reach of the cages, which at some points means you kind of have to squeeze through a relatively narrow passageway with giant cats sitting or pacing on either side. It all seems very well run, but on the other hand, it’s just normal fences and padlocks between you and the animals, no high-tech zoo moats or walls. At one point Iris got scared and didn’t want to come into one area; she eventually braved it by riding on my shoulders.
A few minutes into our tour the lions started roaring back and forth, a very eerie sound. We saw one of the big lions chewing on a leg of some sort — the lady said that local farmers will often donate a cow or horse that dies. The center goes through 3000 pounds of meat a day.
They’re definitely doing good work here. Sad to think of so many of these creatures kept as pets. There are no national laws governing exotic pet ownership so it’s a state by state patchwork; in Indiana (surprisingly) it’s fairly stringently regulated but in Ohio there are virtually no rules, anyone can buy a tiger cub, stick it in the back of the pickup truck and take it home.
This was a cute guy rubbing his head against the fence.
As we were leaving we noticed a little tabby cat walking around the entrance area. She looked ridiculously tiny. I guess she must know to stay out of the cages.