Feeding a lion at Catty Shack Ranch.

Kristi and I are animal lovers. One of our favorite animal experiences where we live is Catty Shack Ranch.

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary is an all-volunteer big cat rescue facility. Its volunteers care for lions, tigers, leopards, other big cats, and other wildlife, rescued from zoos which go out of business, exotic animal dealers operating illegally, individual owners who can no longer care for their animals, and the like.

A mountain lion eating at Catty Shack Ranch.

A mountain lion eating at Catty Shack Ranch. (Photo Credit TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

Their mission “is to provide a safe, loving, forever home for endangered big cats, and to educate the public about their plight in the wild and captivity.”

They do fantastic work with their limited resources. This is not a big zoo or research institute. It’s caregivers doing what they can around their own busy lives to make the lives of these animals better.

While Catty Shack Ranch offers a variety of visitor experiences, our favorite is the nighttime feedings.

At night, big cats come to life. As they anticipate their feedings, watch them play, hear them growl; listen to staff members talk about the animals in their care as they feed them, and watch 500lb lions and tigers tear into chicken carcasses – so close you can hear the bones crack.

Catty Shack Ranch along with the much more exclusive White Oak Conservation Center, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, and St. Augustine’s best-of-its-kind-in-the-world Alligator Farm constitute a foursome of destinations to keep animal lovers in northeast Florida and beyond awestruck for many years.

Catty Shack Ranch tiger and white tiger.

Catty Shack Ranch tiger and white tiger. (Photo credit TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

Staff member feeding a lion at Catty Shack Ranch.

Staff member feeding a lion at Catty Shack Ranch. (Photo Credit TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)

Tiger feeding at Catty Shack Ranch.

Tiger feeding at Catty Shack Ranch. (Photo credit TRAVELING WITHOUT KIDS)