For my special one on one date with Giana before she heads off to second grade, I wanted to ditch summer camp and do something memorable. I have a list of attractions, parks and things I want to see and do around Wisconsin bookmarked on my computer. It was a matter of finding out what would thrill her, I gave Giana a couple options based on the things she enjoys. To my delight she shares my love for wildlife and chose the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue tour.
They offer a couple special tour options and we decided on the 8 am feeding tour, which was given by one of the owner/founders Jenny. This tour included background information on each of the 26 cats that they have rescued. The cats come from a variety of different situations, some were surrendered from individuals whom bought the cats as pets and quickly realized how unreasonable it is to think these wild animals can be kept as pets.
Several cats came from family run zoos that have gone out of business. A couple of the cats were born at the facility, this resulted from a mishap when some of the rescues were delivered pregnant and another set of cubs were born from a failed attempt of oral birth control. Surprise Kitty!
We had to get up bright and early to make the hour-long drive but that just added to the suspense of the adventure. I invited my girlfriend and her daughter who Giana is close friends with. Although the owners started the rescue park which is now on 30 acres of land, with great intentions they originally allowed visitors to take photo ops with the Cats for income. While this approach was extremely lucrative they found out that it created a stressful lifestyle for the cats.
The mission became clear and they have not looked back. They now rely on donations, sponsors and tours of the facility to provide a safe place for these cats to live out their lives. Here is the mission statement from their website:
“Is to provide a safe place and a comfortable home for abused, neglected, and unwanted
big cats and also to educate the public about these extraordinary animals and the
actions that necessitate the need for Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue & Educational Center.”
The feeding tour is $25, you arrive and are guided along the back trail of the enclosures. Another faculty worker drives a four-wheeler with gallon buckets that are labeled with the cat’s meals. Some of the cats are on medication, some have nutrition requirements or cannot eat through the bones, so it is important that they are given their specially prepared food.
Jenny said it takes 10,000 pounds of meat to feed all the cats every month. There are several big sponsors that have committed to helping fund or fostering a specific cat or set of cats. She also mentioned they are receiving meat from Feeding America. This meat is no longer eligible for selling in groceries stores but is safe for the cats to consume. What a great way to repurpose what would otherwise be wasted.
I struggle with wanting my kids to be educated on animals, share in my enthusiasm for them and not wanting to support organizations that exploit them. This is the type of educational center that deserves our support and donations. The cats are absolutely beautiful, the animals are not abused, neglected or exploited.
After the feeding tour we could stroll the grounds and stay as long as we would like. When we left the facility we checked out an art yard in Baraboo, WI. We strolled the cute downtown square, it had a lot of boutiques, shops and the town clock tower rings at the top of each hour.
We had lunch at the Baraboo Burger Company, the cheese curds were scrumptious and we let the girls pick out a toy from a local toy store http://www.justimaginetoys.com. All in all, it was a great way to wrap up summer and prepare my oldest daughter for the upcoming school year. She thanked me for a great day together and she was especially thrilled that I invited our friends to come along for the adventure.