You can’t exactly grab a tiger by the tail, but you can get pretty darn close to the big furry creatures at Cat Tales, a private zoological park north of Spokane.
Cat Tales opened in the summer of 1991 with four big cats – those who haven’t been there since will have a hard time recognizing the place today.
On average, between 40 and 50 felines such as tigers, lions, cougars and bobcats live at Cat Tales, where they consume 28,000 pounds of raw meat every month.
Many of the cats are rescued from private owners, such as people who fall in love with a baby cougar only to realize they can’t keep it when it’s big enough to bat around the chandelier.
“We get calls every day,” said Mike Wyche, the general curator who runs the zoo on donations and admission fees. “We can’t take all the cats as much as we’d want to. And we don’t take monkeys or any of the many other exotic animals people call about.”
Currently there are four big-pawed and totally cuddly Siberian tiger babies ready to steal your heart.
“We walk them every day on a leash out in the park when the weather is good,” said Wyche, as the fluffy, striped animals took turns licking his hand through the fence.
“At the end of the walk, people can see them get their bottle.”
Cat Tales is not a petting zoo – there’ll be no scratching the lion behind the ears – but it’s a more intimate setting than most wildlife parks.
“Some of the grown tigers walk on a leash, too,” said Wyche. “No, they are not really tame. It’s better to say that they are trained to be around people.”
Two black bears, a python, a parrot and a handful of domestic cats also live at Cat Tales.
“One of the domestic cats sits outside the tigers’ enclosure,” said Wyche.
“They kind of talk to each other. We joke and say the cat is telling the tiger what’s going on inside the house and the tiger tells him what’s going on in the park.”