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December 6, 2012

FFAWC Bids Farewell to Sheba the Cougar

Big cat's passing leaves heavy hearts

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals

  • "When she wasn't basking in the sun or laying in the cool shade under her pine tree, she enjoyed stalking the local peacock," recalls FFAWC's senior animal caretaker Christine Barton. Ray Eubanks

  • "Sheba was a mellow cat. She was a lover. She was a classic female, pretty and petite," says Barton. Ray Eubanks

  • Sheba's spirit inspires us to continuing advocating on behalf of big cats. Ray Eubanks

by Ali Crumpacker

With a heavy heart, the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center said farewell this week to 15-year-old Sheba, one of its three resident mountain lions. 

Like many of FFWAC's residents, the 110-pound lioness had been rescued from the exotic pet industry before arriving at the sanctuary.

Exotic pet industry pawn

Sheba came to FFAWC as a cub in 1998, after a police officer discovered her in the backseat of an automobile alongside the family dog during a routine traffic stop.

At the time, the nine-month-old cub weighed 40 pounds.

Fish and Game officials quickly took Sheba into custody from her owner, who admitted to having her illegally declawed so that she could be trained to ride a horse for show business.

Help stop the private ownership of lions, tigers, and cougars. Support The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act »

Puma princess

"Sheba was our puma princess," says FFAWC's senior animal caretaker Christine Barton. "She enjoyed the company of people, always happy to come over and say hello. She was very vocal, chirping and purring. For most of her earlier years, she was the first animal visitors would see and she left a lasting impression on everyone."

As a cub and well into her golden years, Sheba enjoyed playing with toys, lounging on her hammock, and climbing around on her catwalks. Her favorite toy? A big rubber "jolly ball" on a rope.

"She was supposed to jump and bat at it, but Sheba took pride in catching the ball and holding onto it tightly (even without claws!) while you sat patiently waiting for control of the rope back," recalls Barton.

When Sheba was diagnosed with renal disease two years ago, we began giving her daily medications to help support her kidney function. When she recently began slowing down and losing weight, further diagnostics confirmed that Sheba was in chronic kidney failure. 

In her final weeks, sanctuary caretakers showered Sheba with all her favorite toys and treats and, of course, extra loving attention.

Help big cats like Sheba

Although owning cougars and other big cats is illegal in many states (including California), many people willingly flout the law.

As a result, big cats like Sheba suffer alone locked up in basements or tiny cages, with no ability to exercise their natural behaviors.

Federal legislation (H.R. 4122), introduced by Reps. Buck McKeon and Loretta Sanchez, would prohibit the private ownership and breeding of dangerous big cats in every state. Please contact your Congressional leaders and ask them to support The Big Cats and Public Safety Act.

See more photos and read more about Sheba on Facebook »

The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, operated by The Humane Society of the United States in partnership with the Fund For Animals, provides care for more than 400 wild animals annually. Ali Crumpacker is director of the FFAWC.

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