'Mew!' -- Celebrating the birth of leopards

Monday, November 10, 2003

The four newest additions to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center play on the floor in owner Joe Taft's new living room. The cubs were born to leopards rescued from a raided California "sanctuary" in April.

Joe Taft, owner of the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, has four baby leopards living in his brand new home. Two of the cubs are around seven weeks old while the other two are around nine weeks old.

The Rescue Center acquired six leopards from a sanctuary in California that was raided in April. Two of those leopards were pregnant.

Jean Herrberg, assistant director of the Rescue Center, says that these four are very special, considering the condition of their mothers upon arriving at the Center. While the older two were born in a cage full of leopards to a mother that "had no interest" in taking care of them, according to Taft, the smaller ones stayed with their mother alone for a short time. Due to their frail condition, however, they were all moved into Taft's living room where they use the litter box and sleep on his lap at night.

One of the cubs is still on formula, while the diet of the other three consists of ground turkey and chicken wings. They will be staying in Taft's home until cages are built or until "they start breaking everything." When they get a new cage really depends on how soon they raise the funds to do so.

They are also working on putting together an animal hospital in the downstairs of Taft's new house. Herrberg added that Dr. Fred Froderman "helps a lot" and is "readily available," although the cats are presently taken to the University of Illinois for most of the "big stuff."

His pet leopard, Kiki, who he has had since before he began the Rescue Center, is in a cage with two tigers. The three are allowed entrance into one room of his old house, which is at the opposite end of the Rescue Center from where Taft has built his new house. He says it would "be too hard on her to move."

The leopards will be fully grown in about two years, according to Taft. Males are typically up to 125 pounds, while females are around 90 to 100 pounds.

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