Catty Shack Ranch expanding facilities

  • Hercules, a resident at Catty Shack Ranch, has been diagnosed with two different types of cancers. He will receive treatment at the expanding veterinary facilities. (photo by Catty Shack)
    Hercules, a resident at Catty Shack Ranch, has been diagnosed with two different types of cancers. He will receive treatment at the expanding veterinary facilities. (photo by Catty Shack)

The Catty Shack Ranch is expanding. The expansion will add new veterinary facilities and an education center with an observation deck that looks over the park.
The Catty Shack Ranch is a nonprofit organization and wildlife sanctuary in Jacksonville. It houses lions, tigers, cougars, leopards and other exotic animals.  
The nonprofit began when the founder and executive director, Curt LoGiudice, started work as a dog trainer, and then began working with exotic animals in 1982. His work with exotic animals led to a job with the Florida Panther Project, an organization which works with The Catty Shack Ranch.
“I was intrigued when I first met the felines,” LoGiudice said. “I wanted to make it so someone could see all the animals, and then the park came together.”
The Catty Shack Ranch started with five acres and now has more than 200. It currently houses 40 animals, including the big cats – lions, tigers, cougars, leopards and bobcats – along with the “honorary cats,” foxes, coatimundis and horses. Most of the big cats were rescued from zoos that shut down due to loss of revenue.   
A majority of the “honorary cats” were rescued from homes after owners purchased them as house pets. One of the coatimundis, Squeakers, came from Las Vegas.
“The folks got him as a personal pet, and then moved. Their new HOA didn’t allow them to be kept as pets,” LoGiudice said.
The Catty Shack holds educational events open to the public. These events include night feedings. During the night feedings, visitors first watch an informative introduction about the animals. They are then taken inside the park to watch the big cats be fed more than 500 pounds of meat. The cats are fed at night due to the animals being nocturnal.
Visitors are also able to adopt one of the Catty Shack’s residents starting at $40. The money helps with food, vitamins, veterinary care and housing costs. A picture of the animal of their choice and a decal are included with adoption. There are additional benefits to adoption depending on the level of adoption chosen.
“People come from all over the world to see the animals,” said LoGiudice. “The adoptions are ways to get the families involved.”
The Catty Shack Ranch opened to the public in 2004. LoGiudice recalls the first day of building the Catty Shack Ranch.
“The U-Haul truck got stuck and I went, ‘Let’s build here.’ Now, we’re going to change where it all started.”
The new veterinary facilities will be beneficial to all the animals, but especially beneficial to one of the white tigers, Hercules, who was diagnosed with two different types of cancer.
Hercules is currently undergoing treatment, where he is injected with a vaccine for melanoma every six months. Usually, the vaccine is $2,400 per dose.
“I went, if it’s going to help him, let’s do it. When the bill came it was only $1,600,” LoGiudice said. “We’re doubling their life here.”
For LoGiudice, he not only has a mission to help the animals, but wants to provide an opportunity for the visitors that come to the Catty Shack Ranch.
“We’re giving someone the opportunity to see these animals, and knowing we could spark someone’s interest in them is special,” he said. “We’re preserving something that will be everlasting in someone’s future.”
The Catty Shack Ranch is located at 1860 Starratt Road in Jacksonville. More information can be found at cattyshack.org or  by calling 904-757-3603.

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