Since so many people have remarked about the kitty in my profile picture, here’s the story:
I took a writing workshop held at Isis Oasis in Geyserville, CA. A uniquely Northern California sort of place, Isis Oasis is a temple to Isis and was called a cat and bird sanctuary. I’m sure “sanctuary” is not the correct term. The operator kept and bred small cats – ocelots, servals, bobcats, jungle cats – in an attempt to save them from extinction by domesticating them over generations. She refers to this as “playing Goddess.”
(Yes, I recognize that this enterprise is ethically problematic. I got the creeps from the practice of surrounding cat enclosures with bird enclosures as a form of “enrichment.” Both species seemed stressed to me. Isis Oasis’ Animal Welfare license was revoked in 2008 for violations that included the sale of endangered species.)
While at the writing retreat, I saw a flyer advertising an upcoming course in exotic cat husbandry. Of course, I signed up. Curiosity enlivens the human. The course covered a lot of details I’ve since forgotten about how to build enclosures for small and great cats, what to feed, what vaccination protocols to use, and so on. I do remember that the instructor said it was irresponsible to keep a lion or tiger in a suburban area if you are unwilling to learn how to shoot! We also had the opportunity to do some clicker training with tame ocelots.
The cat in the photo is a hybrid of serval (that’s where the ears come from) and jungle cat. She was about 12 weeks old at the time, and about 12 pounds – the size of a large-ish domestic cat. She liked to be held and suckled on my neck hard enough to leave hickeys. I have seen her once since she’s grown up, and she can no longer be picked up.