The Right to Keep and Enjoy Exotic Felines
The human-cat bond predates history. Since the dawn of civilization, people have enjoyed the companionship and assistance of wild animals. Early on, wild cats being coexisting in all cultures, races, climates and economic situations - by monarchs, monks, nomads, and peasants. There is documentation that early society kept serval, caracal, cheetah, ocelot and margay as pets and for mousers.
Today many exotic kittens and cubs act as good will ambassadors in homes and private facilities across America, allowing members of our society to see and experience firsthand the unique and loving behaviors of each feline species. FCF licensed educators utilize exotic felines in conservation awareness programs, and some are used successfully as therapy animals for persons with special needs and our elder citizens.
The FCF strongly endorses the right to own, keep and breed exotic felines in a responsible and humane manner. The FCF recognizes the special obligation all exotic feline owners must practice towards public and animal safety.
Big Cat Policy
The Feline Conservation Federation (FCF) supports responsible ownership of all 38 currently recognized species of non-domestic feline, in keeping with sound animal husbandry practices and Federal, state and local government regulations.
Successful management of these wild animals and its inherent risk to the public, owners, handlers and cats, necessitates strong motivation and plentiful resources, both financial and emotional. These requirements increase proportionately to the size of the cat.
Accordingly, the FCF neither recommends nor encourages inexperienced individuals' acquisition of species that can achieve or exceed an adult weight of 100 lbs. Felines in this category include cougars, lions, tigers, jaguars, all species of leopard, and resultant offspring from inter-breeding between any of these species (hybrids).
The FCF further encourages all breeders and sellers of such felidae to assure themselves, prior to transfer of ownership, that a potential owner has the experience, training and facilities needed to provide proper housing and care in legal, stable and secure circumstances.
Only informed individuals should undertake non-domestic feline husbandry and they must accept of the responsibility for the potential consequences. Further, the dedication and discipline needed to acquire as much pertinent information as possible before acquiring a big cat is even more imperative.
The FCF is aware that some inexperienced owners are currently in possession of cats that are (or will be) 100 lbs. and urges anyone in this position to take advantage of the assistance, advice and moral encouragement the FCF can provide.
Use of Exotic Felines in Zoos, Circuses, Performances, and Educational Programs
The FCF recognizes that exotic felines are powerful educational tools that FCF member zoos, educators and performers utilize in their presentations because they capture the public's attention and connect them to wildlife and foster an appreciation for nature. Live performances using exotic felines create compelling experiences that motivate audiences to reach and maintain personal connections with nature.
The FCF believes properly conducted training sessions provides exotic felines with much needed enrichment, provided these cats are properly cared for, humanely trained, and not pushed beyond reasonable limits.
The FCF recognizes that those who utilize felines in public presentations must take responsibility to ensure the welfare, health and safety of the felines, fellow handlers, and public.
Captive Breeding for Stable Populations
The conservation community currently recognizes 37 species of wild cats, and nearly all are either threatened or endangered. The FCF realizes that captivity and managed breeding is the best chance to ensure survival for many feline species. The FCF supports responsible breeding programs to provide felines for responsible owners and private facilities so that they may become educational ambassadors that enhance awareness of conservation issues facing exotic cats in the wild and in captivity.
FCF stresses that breeders should strive to keep the size of captive populations in harmony with the carrying capacity of the available legal captive habitat. Breeders must remain vigilant to the population trends to avoid over-production of a feline species that could result in an increased need for refuges and sanctuaries.
The FCF further encourages the exotic feline-buying public to research these species and visit licensed facilities to see first-hand what is involved in exotic cat ownership before they make a purchase. FCF encourages potential owners to check references to insure they're dealing with a responsible breeder before buying their feline. FCF discourages any buying of exotic felines on impulse.
FCF encourages breeders to help new owners address any behavior or environmental issues that could result in the owner relinquishing their exotic feline. FCF understands that unwanted felines are usually a result of owners who failed to properly prepare for this kind of commitment and did not train and socialize their exotic feline.
Another cause for displacement is the ever-increasing ban laws and restrictive regulations that force owners to give up their beloved feline. Often these restrictions are created in over-reaction to the acts of a single irresponsible owner, so it is extremely important that owners address safe and humane confinement and animal care in a comprehensive manner to prevent the precipitation of legislative bans.
Legislation and Regulation of Exotic Felines
The FCF supports reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to allow for private ownership, including possession for business reasons and possession for personal, non-commercial purposes.
The FCF believes that all exotic cat owners should be responsible for their feline. FCF supports laws that allow for the responsible confinement of exotic cats and requirements of barrier and perimeter fencing to protect the felines and prevent public access to the felines. FCF supports appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners that allow their cats to run at large or to injure visitors.
Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act
The federal Animal Welfare Act enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates wholesale breeders, dealers and exhibitors of wild felines. The USDA has regularly strengthened the standards for humane care and treatment of exotic felines by persons regulated under the Act. The FCF supports increasing the number of USDA enforcement personnel dealing with wholesale animal operations. Animal Care inspectors should apply uniform interpretations to the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.
Responsible Breeding Practices
The FCF believes that breeding programs should be undertaken responsibly for the purpose of preserving species and producing healthy, well-socialized kittens and cubs. Responsible breeders are expected to give careful consideration to health issues, temperament, and genetic screening, as well as to the individual care and placement of kittens and cubs in responsible homes. FCF supports and promotes these and other responsible breeding practices through breeders' education programs, and commends those who offer similar guidance.
FCF encourages established licensed owners to assist potential owners by offering their experiences and mentoring of these people so that when they find a feline that is a good match for their lifestyle, at the appropriate time in their lives, they will have an increased likelihood that the feline will stay with the owner for its entire life.
The FCF encourages owners and potential animal owners to join our federation and sign up for the FCF Internet discussion list so they may meet and question other exotic owners and breeders as part of their self-education before acquiring any exotic feline species.
The FCF strongly opposes the breeding of exotic felines by those who do so without regard for the felines' welfare. We support scrupulous enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and state and local regulations governing the humane care of animals. We further believe that USDA and other enforcement agencies should be given appropriate resources to ensure that licensees are meeting regulations.
The FCF opposes the concept of state or local breeding bans or mandatory spay/neuter of exotic felines. Instead, FCF supports reasonable and enforceable laws that protect the public, such as perimeter fence and caging requirements, and laws that insure the welfare and health of exotic felines without infringing on the rights of owners and USDA licensed commercial breeders who take their responsibilities seriously.
The breeding of threatened and endangered species, of which all wild cats are, is an important mission. The FCF actively promotes education of all keepers though our Wild Feline Husbandry Course that is offered around the country and educates students on responsible breeding practices and the responsibilities of exotic feline ownership. FCF also provides education to its members through the members-only Internet chat list, bimonthly newsletter and yearly convention on proper husbandry and breeding and hand rearing of exotic felines.
Proper Care and Humane Treatment of Exotic Felines
Exotic cat owners bear a special responsibility to their feline companions to provide proper care and humane treatment at all times. Proper care and humane treatment include an adequate and nutritious diet, clean water, clean living conditions, regular veterinary care, kind and responsive human companionship, and training in appropriate behavior.
The FCF believes that exotic cats should not be kept in circumstances or numbers where these needs cannot be adequately fulfilled. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty where charges involved an exotic cat will have all FCF privileges suspended.
Responsible Exotic Feline Ownership
The FCF believes that owning an exotic cat is a rewarding experience that brings great joy and happiness to any household. Exotic cat ownership requires long-term emotional and financial commitment and a variety of responsibilities. Accordingly, we encourage potential owners to closely evaluate their lifestyle before deciding to obtain an exotic cat and to give careful consideration to what species they and their lifestyle will best accommodate the needs of the various feline species. They are encouraged to visit the FCF website to do their research and join FCF.
FCF strongly urges kitten and cubs purchasers to seek reputable, ethical breeders as resources for their felines. We further encourage owners to provide proper care, training and socialization to ensure that their pets remain happy members of their family, respectable members of the community and well-mannered feline good citizens. FCF offers a wide range of educational programs and materials on its website to teach exotic cat owners how to reach these goals while enjoying their cats for many years to come.
Protection for Kitten Purchasers
The FCF believes breeders and/or sellers should be responsible for providing certain refunds, replacements or reimbursements should the exotic cat sold become ill or die from a condition contracted prior to the purchase. Such remedies should be conditioned upon the buyer's scrupulous adherence to the care and feeding program prescribed by the breeder and/or seller, as well as a timely examination by a state licensed veterinarian. Breeders and/or sellers should provide buyers with a written bill of sale detailing the responsibilities of both the buyer and seller. This bill of sale should also detail any exclusion to refunds, replacements or reimbursements.
FCF members are animal welfare activists. FCF believes owners must protect all aspects of an animal's well-being and that includes proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.
The FCF is not an animal rights organization. "Animal rights" is a philosophical view endorsed by AR organizations characterized by opposition to use of animals for any purpose including use as companions, food, fiber, entertainment, breeding stock, educational purposes, medical research, without exception and without regard to addressing animal welfare values.