This week is National Zookeeper Appreciation Week. While TCWR isn’t a zoo, our Animal Care team is similar to that of a zookeeper team. Let’s look at what our Animal Care team does in a day.
The first thing Animal Care does in the morning is gather for our morning meeting. At this meeting, we review our records of anything unusual we noticed from our animals, including injuries or unusual behavior, from the day before. It is also when our Animal Curator gives us updates about the sanctuary, like new rescues, or introduces a big project, like lawn care.
After that, our animal care interns start their day. Our cats are fed in the morning for the Discovery Area and Rescue Ridge. This is also when we lock cats into their night-houses so we can clean their habitats or check the locks for habitats that aren’t being cleaned. For the Tour Loop, our interns check locks and let cats into habitats for the day.
After lock checks, our interns will enter and clean habitats. When in a habitat, we are scooping poop, moving toys, and adding enrichment. In the summer, this includes bailing, cleaning, and refilling pools. When we’re all done in the habitat, we will lock the habitat gate before letting a cat into their clean habitat. We watch for a couple minutes to see their reaction to their new enrichment before moving on.
Once all habitats are done for the day, we clean night-houses. This means scrubbing water dishes, scraping poop, and raking up fur. In the summer, we use the hoses to spray the night-houses clean, but in the winter, we have to go into night-houses. Any cat that had their habitat cleaned must also have their den and night-house mulch checked for pee.
Everyone’s afternoon is different. Each section is responsible for doing an afternoon tour. One section collects compost and takes it to our compost heap. Most of the afternoon is left to work on ongoing projects. This is when we do extra cleaning, weed-eating or tick spraying outside habitats, and spray painting. Sometimes, we can even make enrichment boxes for holidays.
Throughout the day, interns prepare food for our animals. We weigh meat, put it in dishes, add vitamins and supplements, and mix it up. We also create fun dishes for our bears of their non-meat food, and in the summer, make buckets of fruit and vegetables to be tossed into their habitats.
At the end of the day, our cats along the Tour Loop are locked into their night-houses and fed dinner. Interns check the perimeter locks and scrape and wash the empty dishes. We meet once more to report anything unusual we saw that day and fill out our record books. We end the day by sharing one good thing that happened that day and then go home.
Our animal care staff does many things throughout the day, including assisting with cleaning, lawn care, and big projects. They answer every radio call from our interns. They are in charge of preparing and delivering prescribed medications. Many of our staff members have specific jobs, like head of commissary, volunteer coordinator, head of enrichment and animal training, and gardener.
As you can see, it takes a lot of hard work to run a place like TCWR. Everyone who works here takes a lot of pride in what they do. It is a life of dedication toward the well-being of these animals. Our animal care staff and interns work long hours in varying intensities of weather conditions. They work most holidays. But it’s a life of pure compassion and hard work, and our animal care team deserves much appreciation.