A day spent at the Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota is a day filled with awe, wonder, excitement and learning.
It’s not just “Lions and Tigers and Bears...oh, my!”
The goal of this Gulf Coast Sanctuary is to shelter and take care of these magnificent animals.
These are animals that were once owned by private parties who either lost interest, didn’t have the funds to continue taking care of them or the animals simply became too big to be cared for by private parties.
There is much to see at the Big Cat Sanctuary in Sarasota and you get a great close up view of all the animals.
Some you can even interact with such as the Pygmy goats (very, very cute!) and at least one very polite bird, who speaks as if he’s happy to see you: “Hello – How are you today?” It also laughs and says goodbye. A very friendly exotic bird, if I do say so.
The grounds are large enough to house all of these animals and accommodate their well wishers in comfort despite some very warm days through early May, after which the shelter closes to the public through the hot summer months, opening again in the autumn of each year.
It’s really amazing as to what has been accomplished here; the care of all of these animals, some very big and the ability to accept visitors.
The numerous volunteers whom we encountered give their time joyfully and are polite, well informed and able to answer most any question about the animals or the sanctuary. You can really tell that they love being here amongst these animals, no matter what their size.
The big cats; tigers, lions, even a ‘liger’ all seem to know or recognize the volunteers who are near by to answer your questions and to keep a watchful eye on the ‘kings’ of the jungle.
What will you find at this non-profit sanctuary in Sarasota, Florida? Tigers-lions-bears-monkeys-goats-pygmy goats-turkeys-turtles-birds! How’s that for a short list of the inhabitants? There are many more!
This is quite the operation, started in 1987, by Kay Rosaire, an 8th generation animal trainer, to take care of unwanted creatures that came to her from all over.
Kay and the Rosaire family have even been honored by having been inducted into the St. Armands Circle Ring of Fame.
Even the state of Florida contributes with animals, but they don’t contribute to funding. The cost to maintain the animals and facility is enormous. Why it costs a ‘mere’ $6,500 a month just alone to feed the tigers and lions.
Why, just the cats, when sometimes they don’t eat for days in their natural wild environment, are each fed 20 pounds of meat a day. That’s a lot considering the sheer number of big cats you’ll encounter here. Several have very restricted diets and, as humans, specific tastes. Ground beef only, and chicken are among a few.
Some of the tigers and lions you’ll find here are: Rhaja who is 7 years old, Brutus, the liger, who at 14 months was already 450 pounds, which is considerably larger than a lion cub, which may be only about 50 pounds at the same age! There are also tigers named Conan and Kira and two white tigers named Vanna and Barry White along with many more.
In fact, all told, there are 19 tigers and 9 lions plus one liger at this writing.
There’s also a real ‘ham’ on the grounds that you may run into in the form of a 2 year old (at the time of this writing) Chimpanzee, named Chance, who was out riding around in a golf cart. He's funny, cute and charming all at once.
When you stand back and realize what the operation entails you can clearly see dollar signs spinning in your head.
But between some local donations of food from a handful of local grocery stores, donations made by the public to enter and other gifts, they are doing an extraordinary job of giving a safe haven to all of these delicate and magnificent animals here on the gulf coast of Florida.
They welcome donations from far and near to defray the cost of the operations for all these magnificent animals..
If you can give, I’m sure it will be greatly and gratefully appreciated by all those involved with the Sanctuary. Click this link to donate - As Kay Rosaire would say, “The animals thank you.”
Directions: You can find the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota a mile or two east of I-75 on Palmer Blvd.
Simply take I-75 to Bee Ridge or Fruitville and after you exit go west to Cattleman Road. Then from Fruitville Road head south on Cattleman Road to Palmer Blvd; from Bee Ridge Road head north on Cattleman Road, to Palmer Blvd. Then turn east and you’ll find it a couple miles east of I-75 on the north side of the road.
Regular hours during season: Gates open at 12:30 p.m. and they are open five days a week: Wednesday through Sunday 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. and there are demonstrations or shows Saturday and Sunday starting at 1:30 p.m.
Summer hours are: Wednesday - Saturday 5:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. with an educational animal demonstration Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m.
Hours and days are subject to change. More information at: 941-371-6377.
Donations are $15 for adults and $7 for kids (subject to change without notice). All parking is free.
This is truly a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and you are helping to take care of a wonderful endeavor with your small but meaningful donation. Find out more about the Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary.