I have a confession to make: I want a cougar. I want a cougar very badly, and that is an informed statement as the author of this website, not just the fanciful and unrealistic dream one might imagine it to be.
But after reviewing the realities of my situation, I know that I will not be getting a cougar in the forseeable future. I thought it might be useful to others considering cougar (or other big cat) ownership to read the thought process behind my decision as they decide if owning one of these big cats is right for them.
The main barrier for me is a financial one; I simply do not have the money to properly house and care for a cougar, or pay lawyers to protect me and my cat when ignorant people try to attack my right to have such an unusual companion.
To begin with, I cannot see keeping such a large and athletic animal in a minimally-sized cage, knowing it was going to live it's entire life in that structure. The enclosure I provide will have to far exceed any regulatory requirement in size and scope for exploration and play. Building such an enclosure with sturdy and secure construction, plus erecting the peremeter pence required to prevent unwary visitors from any contact with my large pet predator would cost many thousands of dollars, and I can expect ongoing expenses to maintain it.
I know I would raise my (hopefully) sweet, cuddly cougar cub in the house with all the comforts of home. As the owner of a pet serval, I know that a cat raised in such a manner grows to love the comfort and security of being in a house. Sirocco, (while he spends a great deal of time in his outdoor enclosure) is most relaxed and content when sprawled out on my bed, or at the very least curled up on his fleece bed in the indoor encloure area of my bedroom.
I am enough of a realist to know that as he grows, my adorable little cougar cub will become a creature incompatible with household life; I wonder which will come first, the gallons of urine on my bed, or the couch torn to shreds? I can't feel that it's ethical to raise a cat with the comforts of home, accustoming him to a certain lifestyle, then banish him to an outdoor enclosure.
My solution to this dilemma would be to build a "cougar room" in my house which connects to the outdoor enclosure and provides the comforts of home in an indestructable room which could be easily cleaned and disinfected. Rack up thousands more to the bill right there.
I realize that many could argue that such measures are unnesessary; that cougars evolved to live outdoors and that an outdoor shelter would be sufficient. I agree, in cases where the cat was raised in such an environment. But I know my Sirocco would be distinctly unhappy if forced to live outdoors alone after bonding with me and being raised as a housepet, and I wouldn't want to do that to one of his larger cousins either.
What about not raising him in the house at all? I feel that raising my cub in the house would be very helpful to the bonding and training process. You are going to develop a much closer connection to an animal you live with than one you visit in a cage. I for one want as good a relationship as possible when you're talking about a 100+ pound predator I hope to treat as a pet!
Then there's the small matter of the feed bill. To tell you the truth, I don't know how many pounds of meat a cougar eats each day, but the fact that they eat deer in the wild gives me an inkling. My tiny little serval eats 1-2 pounds a day, which at current meat prices is no laughing matter. Better throw in a dedicated freezer to store all that stuff, too.
Hmm, transportation. Cougar kitty will need to go to the vet, and I drive a sub-compact car. Some of you might not have this concern, but I would have to buy an additional vehicle for this purpose. Then, let's assume he reaches a ballpark weight of 110 pounds. If I keep the crate in the vehicle, I can't just lead him out to it and have him jump in like a dog (he's a cat, and you know how good cats are at being led around on leashes)...or even if I teach him to do this under the best of circumstances, I won't be able to count on it when he's sick, injured, scared, or during an emergency evacuation.
If I put him in his crate and wheel him out to the vehicle, I now face the fact that I am not strong enough to just lift the crate in...so I will need to buy a sturdy portable ramp system to get the crate loaded.
What about when I get to the vet? I'm guessing I wouldn't receive the "low cost spay and neuter" rates when I trot in my cougar for surgery!
These are just some of the financial considerations. Thesre's also the matter of getting some hands-on experience so that I know what I'm doing. I'm lucky that there is a good sanctuary with a collection of cougars only about 140 miles from me. At that rate, I should be able to drive up there and volunteer every few weeks. I'll be all trained up in.........how long???????
Alas, my cougar will have to wait for now.
A public thank-you
Thank you to all the Oregon legislators who opposed HB 3437 and all of you who took the time to write your legislators in opposition on this FAILED ban bill!
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