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Purrrfecting Parenthood Couple Hopes Word Of Newborn Leopard-Panther Kittens Will Rebuild Cat Tales’ Reputation

Sat., May 27, 1995, midnight

They’re too young to do much of anything yet, but they are painfully cute.

The two kittens are new to Cat Tales, a private zoo north of Spokane.

Born Monday, they didn’t fully open their eyes for two days. Like most newborns they spend their days nursing, trembling and sleeping. When they get really excited, they let loose a big yawn, exposing their bright pink tongues to all the world.

Nagila and T’Pau, the offspring of an Asian leopard and a black panther, arrived shortly after midnight Monday. They were at least a week overdue.

The arrival was uplifting to the beleaguered owners and volunteers at Cat Tales, a facility that houses 25 - make that 27 - wild cats.

Last month another kitten, 1-year-old Kona, strangled while on a leash.

Last year, owner Mike Wyche pleaded guilty to two federal charges of falsifying documents and lying to agents about native cats housed on his property.

But this week was a joyous one. Not only did Jasmine, an Asian leopard, give birth to two healthy kittens, she is also taking care of them.

Jasmine proved to be a bad mother with her last two litters, both born within the last year. She abandoned one set of cubs. She was too rough with the second group. They raised those cubs by hand.

But this time Jasmine appears to have figured it out. She stays close to the tiny spotted fur balls, letting them nurse every 30 minutes or so.

When intruders come close to her plexiglass birthing box, she snarls at them, wild-eyed.

Like most new moms, Jasmine is tired. When she can, she sleeps with one giant paw placed gently on one of her babes.

With the help of a closed-circuit monitor, owners Debbie and Mike Wyche are keeping close tabs on the infants. The first 10 days are the most crucial.

The kittens cannot regulate their body temperatures, which must stay at 101.5 degrees. Should Jasmine’s parenting skills diminish, the Wyches have an incubator on standby, the formula mixed and the bottles sterilized.

“I’m really happy she’s doing such a good job, so I don’t have to do it,” Debbie Wyche said.

The father, Ruper, is a black panther. While Asian leopards and black panthers don’t look alike, they are the same sub-species, Debbie Wyche said.

Like most cat dads, Ruper is a deadbeat.

“He was pretty much around for the conception and that’s it,” Debbie Wyche said. “That’s typical for most large cats.”

No one has handled the kittens yet, so no one knows their sex. Mike Wyche wanted to look Tuesday when Jasmine went out for a drink. His wife held him off, fearing the mother would not return if humans touched her babies.

The Wyches are hoping publicity about the fuzzy creatures will strengthen Cat Tales’ reputation.

The criminal case, in which the organization was accused of illegally keeping large cats native to the Northwest, was bad for business.

While the couple is working on building larger areas for their cats, they tout clean cages and healthy animals.

For now, all the kittens do is stumble around blindly, nurse and sleep.

By the time the pair is 5 weeks old, they will venture out of their den, possibly in view of the public.

When they are 8 weeks old, the Wyches will wean them and take them away from Jasmine, so they grow up accustomed to humans handling them.

Tags: animal

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