Florida on a Tankful: Big cats up close and personal

By Bailey Myers, Spectrum News Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, December 22, 2017, 10:13 AM EST

They're packed up and moved in ... lions, tigers, and more big cats who now call St. Cloud home.  In the outskirts of this Osceola County city, you might find yourself it the middle of cat country.

Recently, the Central Florida Animal Reserve made the decision to move from their former Brevard County location to a more spacious spot in the woods in St. Cloud. That bigger space for the cats meant that the reserve could open their doors for scheduled tours on the weekends.

During one of these tours, we found out just how unique each animal's personality really is.

"Getting to see a big cat up close is not like a zoo experience at all," said Phyllis Parks, the coordinator of the Central Florida Animal Reserve said.  "You want to see them, but they want to see you, too.  They are very much curious about what you're doing.  Honestly, I think they think we are here for their entertainment."

Parks started working with the cats almost twenty years ago. While we were on our tour, Parks got close to the cage and made a noise by buzzing her lips that was directed at the tigers.

“The noise that tigers make to communicate is called chuffing.” Parks explained. 

This low vibrating sound is a greeting for tigers, and on your tour, if you’re lucky enough, the tigers may just say ‘Hi’ back to you.  One thing is for sure... whether you catch them feasting, frisky, or just being a bit lazy, these cats are sure to impress.

Contact the Central Florida Animal Reserve in St. Cloud if you would like to schedule a weekend visit.