I’m not sure when I became aware that we had a rare cat conservatory nearby, but it wasn’t all too long ago. I started seeing photos posted online by a friend of mine, who was volunteering at “Cat Haven” but I wasn’t all to sure where it was, or what it was. As time went on, I followed her posts closely and enjoyed seeing close and personal shots of cheetahs, tigers and leopards. I was completely intrigued and had to know more. I messaged her and found out that the Cat Haven is a conservancy for rare cats from around the world, and the public can take guided tours and learn about each species. When I asked my friend for info, she recommended we wait for pleasant weather (it was the dead middle of summer when I first asked her) and we finally had a weekend where we could go and the weather was cool, so off we headed this past Saturday for what would turn out to be one of the most memorable family outings we’ve taken so far.
The drive to the Cat Haven took about 55 minutes from our home in NW Fresno, and with the expansion of 180 East, it was pretty easy going. You essentially just take 180 East for 45 miles, and look for the Cat Haven signs. Along the way, you’ll get to enjoy some beautiful scenery, passing over the Kings River and looking down at Shannon Valley.
Upon arriving, we entered the gift shop and paid for our tour. (The cost is $10 for adults and $7 for children. You can also become a member and all entries for a year are included! For details on season tour hours and tips, please visit the Cat Haven’s Visitor Information Page.)
Our guide began by teaching us about the different conservation and preservation projects that the Cat Haven is involved in funding and showed us pictures from the various efforts. We then began touring the grounds, stopping at each enclosure and learning about each species of cat. Though it was thrilling to see the big cats like jaguars, snow leopards and a white tiger, it was also eye opening to learn that there are more than 30 species of smaller wild cats that are lesser known out there (and a few can be seen at the Cat Haven, like the Pallas Cat and the Serval).
I don’t want to tell you too much detail, as I don’t want to spoil the tour or take anything away from your experience, but I will say this: our Chaffee Zoo is amazing, absolutely so, but the Cat Haven allows you the opportunity to view big cats far more closely than you can at the Zoo and the experience is just amazing. We learned so much and were in such awe of these amazing animals and the people who work with them, I highly recommend you hop in the car and head up the hill very soon. This is a place every Valley family should visit.
Here are a few additional shots from our visit, in case you need even more encouragement to go. (For better photos than my own, check out the Cat Haven’s online gallery – hover over the word photo to see choices of which species you’d like to see photos of.)