Wealthy individuals living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who collect exotic, large, wild cat species are often feeding their illegally acquired trophy cats such as cheetahs and lions a wholly inadequate diet of chicken meat and nothing else leading to serious ill-health such as neurological disorders resulting, ultimately, in an early and unnecessary death by euthanasia.
A long-term study over 12 years carried out by Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) in Dubai tested animals in various private collections within the UAE. The cats were between 11 months and 12-years-of-age.
Out of the 76 animals 23 (30%) had a neurological disorder. Twenty of the cats with these disorders came from a group of 26 cheetahs and nine lions who had been fed on whole chicken or simply chicken muscle meat only with no supplements to balance the diet.
It is widely known that there are some essential nutrients that cats must have to sustain health. Chicken meat alone is obviously inadequate. Why didn’t these people realise this simple fact?
It is shame that wealthy individuals with no knowledge of cat diet requirements are able, by dint of their wealth and influence, to acquire endangered species of large wild cat and then slowly reduce them to severe ill-health. This is a grave wrong which needs to stop.
The better informed private zoo owners fed their cats with fresh quail and pieces of carcass from herbivores as well as supplements. All these cats were in reasonable health.
This dietary problem is not confined to UAE. Any exotic cat owner can mess up through negligence by feeding their cats an inadequate diet. There really needs to be more controls in place to (a) stop illegal importations of cheetahs and other big cats from their natural habitat and (b) ensure that fewer private zoos look after their animals properly and (c) all ‘owners’ of exotic cats know what they are doing.
Dr Ulrich Wernery, the scientific director at CVRL said:
“We have seen this problem since many years in felines – mainly in lions, cheetahs, tigers and leopards,”
Why then is it taking so long to do something about it?