What Do Big Cats Eat?
This week we ask ourselves, “What do big cats do as far as their diet goes?”, as we go behind the scenes to see what’s involved. It’s no easy task feeding a big cat, but there’s dedicated hard-working staff and volunteers to help, and the animals are taken care of well in their new home after arriving at PrideRock.
The cats are fed raw meat 6 mornings a week and over time the process has become a well oiled machine. Each big cat (and hyena) receive a 10lb brick of Triple A, which is a special type of meat well-suited for the big cats, ordered from Colorado, and it arrives in a refrigerated semi trailer once a month and is stored in the onsite freezer.
You heard it right, the meal is 10 lbs of meat! (which is 160 ounces) Each box of meat contains 3 10lb meals, and the boxes cost $15, which is an ongoing expense. A cat/hyena gets one brick a day.
There is also unseasoned fresh raw meat, which is added to the Triple A. These cuts of meat consist of chicken breasts, steaks, prime rib, briskets, roasts, and many others. The added meat comes from Walmart and is donated once it can no longer be sold. This is meat that is still good and fresh, it just falls after the sale date.
Before hand, this meat is sorted into barrels and stored in the freezer. A 44 gallon barrel containing a variety of meat is used every day to be dispersed along with the Triple A brick. The cats can eat 5% of their body weight, which can get quite extensive since we have some males well over 650 pounds!
After the meat is placed in the pans the pans are placed on a cart to deliver them to their specific locations.
Each pan is labeled and every cat is unique. Some of the animals need supplements or medications with every meal. These include Prednisone, potassium, and cephalexin if needed.
- Prednisone: we have several cats that are older, so to help them with any arthritic issues or stiffness that they may have so they can remain spry and happy.
- potassium: we have one cat that is naturally potassium deficient, so she receives potassium every day.
- cephalexin: it is an antibiotic, used if a cat gets a scratch or something from a sibling or enclosure mate. It will keep any infection away.
The cats definitely get tired of certain meats, so they have to have it mixed up like people do. We sort barrels to ensure there is plenty of variety to keep them excited.
As a result of all the related work, all the animals are well-fed and taken care of, and the process takes place every day.
Here are some additional questions that you may be asking yourself:
Q: Are big cats at all like little cats in terms of being finicky?
Big cats are very similar in that regard. In order to keep things interesting, we make sure that they get a variety. For example, they will get tired of chicken if they eat it too often, so they will just eat around it.
Q: Do big cats wag or twitch their tail?
Like domestic house cats, big cats show a tremendous amount of emotion in the movements of their ears and tails. Flicks, twitches, and full-blown swishes all have their specific meanings just like the cats we live with.
Q: In terms of supplements that the cats need, how did you figure out what they need – were they evaluated by a veterinarian?
We have a veterinarian in town that is familiar with the animals and their issues. Along with this, medicine is kept on hand for anytime a cat gets under the weather or gets in a spat with a sibling or partner.
Q: Do the cats know when feeding time is? Can you tell they are excited?
The animals absolutely know when feeding time is. They get very antsy and excited. They are wild animals however so there are a few differences. Having the strong instincts that they do, they get very protective and aggressive at feeding time. In fact, we have specially designed feed slots that allow for maximum safety in this process. Even our most mild cats will flare up at feeding time.
The Big Cats Rely on You
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