Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary
Big Cat Habitat is an exotic animal sanctuary in Sarasota, Florida. I’ve known it’s existed for a few years now, but what really drew me to it, is that it’s right by my house. So close in fact, that if we sit on our patio, we can hear the cats roaring in the morning and at night during feeding time. It took us almost a year of living nearby to visit, but I’m really glad we finally did.
I’d consider myself a big animal lover, especially as I’ve gotten older. Big Cat Habitat isn’t like a regular zoo though. The animals that live in the sanctuary were almost all at one point “privately owned” AKA illegally acquired by people who thought they’d like to have wild animals as pets. The sanctuary is actually a family owned, non-profit rescue that takes in these animals after they’ve been surrendered by their owners. So, as sad as it seems that they are in cages, they really wouldn’t be able to live any other way after being in captivity their whole lives.
The sanctuary is open year-round, Wednesday-Sunday from noon-4pm. Admission is $18 for adults and $8 for children. There is a bird show daily at 1pm and an exotic animal show at 2pm in the air-conditioned arena. The seating for the show is bleachers, which may be uncomfortable for some older guests. We got there around one and missed the bird show, so we walked around and saw the spider-monkeys, lemurs, ostrichs, bears and cats, while we waited for the show at 2pm.
It started with Chance the Chimp doing some tricks, and then one of the owners brought out the Liger, Mia and the white tiger, Barry. He explained that the sanctuary houses around 30 big cats, all of which eat about 25lbs of meat per day! The big cats seemed so calm and tame, they actually reminded me of my dog! They yawn a lot, like to play, and lick and scratch themselves.
Overall, it was a really nice time for a few hours! The ticket price was a bit steep, but the fact that they shelter and feed so many animals makes it understandable. If you’re in the Sarasota area or in a driving distance of a few hours, I would definitely recommend making a day trip out of it!