Heart of Louisiana: Big cats find home in Frierson, La. - WNEM TV 5

Heart of Louisiana: Big cats find home in Frierson, La.

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FOX 8 photo FOX 8 photo
FOX 8 photo FOX 8 photo
FRIERSON, LA (WVUE) -

Of all the animals you might expect to find in the forests of Louisiana, lions and tigers should not be on that list. 

However, you will hear some unusual wild animal sounds coming from the woods near the town of Frierson, La.

A gravel lane in rural north Louisiana is usually quiet, until the neighbor's cats start to growl.

Jenny Senier is taking care of fourteen big cats. The lions, tigers, panthers, cougars and servals never had a chance to grow up in the wild. They will now live out their lives in an exotic cat sanctuary called 'Yogie and Friends.'

"They were all captive born animals. Once they've been imprinted with a human, there is no way that you can ever put them into the wild," said Senier.

Some of the big cats were house pets or a sideshow.

"They're pulled away from their mother when they are born and they're dragged around to do photo-ops with people that will pay to have their picture taken with them - which is really very stressful on them," said Senier. 

The wild animals were the victims of people who wanted them as pets and then realized that a cute lion or tiger cub quickly grows into something they cannot handle.

"I hear people talk a lot," said Senier. "[They] say 'I'd love to have a pet tiger or I would love to have a pet lion. I just want to cuddle with them.' They're not cuddly. When they are looking and saying ‘I want to get a pet, I can do it, I have 10 acres, I have the money, I can build for it.' - But you can't. Finally it is illegal in Louisiana."

Beautiful African servals ended up here when their owners divorced.

"They can jump straight up from a standstill more than 10-feet straight up," said Senier.

Senier has had as many as 21 big cats at Yogie and Friends. Now, they are down to just 14. The individuals who run the sanctuary hope that the need for this kind of facility will eventually go away.

Once a week, the gates are open to the public so people can learn more about the big cats and understand why a place like this shouldn't be needed.

"Why do you need all of these exotic animals when there are plenty of domestic animals that are used to humans and want to be around humans? These animals were not meant to be in this kind of environment," said Senier.

She said that zoos have their own breeding programs and do not want these large stray cats.  So this sanctuary will tend to their needs, keeping the animals as stress free as possible and providing a peaceful home until the number of resident cats eventually drops to zero.

For more information on the exotic cat sanctuary, click here. 

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