As a photographer focused on animals and wildlife, my introduction to WildCat Haven was several years ago, for a story I was doing for a national magazine. Due to the nature of my work, I've photographed at many places that call themselves sanctuaries, and I've seen it all--the good, and the horribly, abusively bad. WildCat Haven is one of the very few, TRUE sanctuaries: sanctuary defined as a place of refuge and protection. But, WildCat Haven exceeds just 'refuge and protection.' I've had the unique opportunity to be able to spend time getting to know WCH--the place, the cats, and the people--and there is no question that this place exists for no other reason than to give these cats a comfortable place to live out the rest of their lives. Wildcat Haven residents do not have to put up with hoardes of general public gawking and jeering at them. WCH residents are not overcrowded, or crammed into 10x20 stalls of stone and fencing. The cats do not pace back and forth in their enclosures. The residents at WildCat Haven live on grass (not concrete slabs), surrounded by natural forest. Their bellies are full, and they have the best daily care that any captive cat could ask for. Cheryl and Mike Tuller, and Renee (the head keeper) dedicate their lives to these animals. The place is immaculately clean (feces and dirty bedding is nonexistent and water buckets are always full), and enclosures cleaned out daily. The enclosures are larger than required by law. These cats are as happy as a captive cats can get. Owning and running a sanctuary is a selfless job--a job that is a result of the selfish human act of desiring to own and control a wild animal. There are no 'thank you's' in the life of an exotic animal sanctuary, and It takes hundreds and thousands of dollars to keep these places functional. The money raised by WCH, goes straight back into the well being of the cats--larger enclosures, vet care, food. Cheryl Tuller's dream is for each of her cats to have more space. Space takes dollars. Dollars don't grow on trees. So, if you are looking for a place to support, WildCat Haven is one of the very few true havens for captive wildcats-and if you get the unique chance to visit, it will impress you as a sanctuary, and it's residents will steal your heart. Thank you Mike, Cheryl and Renee; for doing the job you do.
My husband and I sponsored a wildcat and had a private tour of WildCat Haven. It was a wonderful place, quiet, secluded, lots of trees and the most noise we heard were the birds chirping. The cats were in huge pens with trees and things to jump on and get under. They all seemed very relaxed, we didn't see any of them pacing. The people there spent over two hours with us, answering questions and telling how the sanctuary started and how they got to where they are today. We will continue to support this place and feel good about how our donations are helping.
WildCat Haven has grown over the years to be a premier wildcat sanctuary. As with most sanctuaries they started out the wrong way, purchasing a wildcat as a pet. Things change and growth comes out of knowledge. They have always been honest about their beginnings, using it as an example of how foolish it is to want to make a wildcat a pet. Now, as an accredited sanctuary they are making a difference in the lives of wildcats who need a safe, lifetime home. Over the years they have (obviously) made some people unhappy by no longer supporting private ownership, but I for one am glad that they learned and now do all they can to support legislation to stop the breeding and selling of exotic cats. They don't have to defend their past record, what they do as a sanctuary is important and much needed.