Scared Cougar Cubs Had No One — So They Made Their Own Family

Four cougar kittens who lost everything - including their mothers and their freedom to roam in the wild - are now recovering from their various traumas, together, as a solid family unit.

Snow and Storm were the first two cougar kittens to arrive at Minnesota's Wildcat Sanctuary.

"They were seen eating a carcass near a road and a homeowner was concerned," Tammy Thies, founder and executive director of the sanctuary, told The Dodo. "So they started trying to trap the cats and they were able to catch Storm right away, but Snow escaped capture for a couple of days."

Snow and Storm | Wildcat Sanctuary

Storm eventually had to be darted from a distance. She managed to climb into a tree before the effects of the tranquilizer kicked in. She fell asleep and landed straight into a freezing cold river, catching hypothermia. Thankfully, she was pulled out, warmed up and taken into custody.

"They had not seen a mom in days, so they believe the mother was shot, but they didn't have proof of that," Thies said, adding that since the state of Washington doesn't allow for rehabilitation and release, the only other alternative the cats had was to find a forever home at a sanctuary - and that's how they ended up at Wildcat Sanctuary.

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"The other two [cougars] came in a few months later," Thies said. Aspen and Blaze, who also hail from Washington, lost their mother after she was shot down for attacking a goat on a homeowner's property. Thies said the sanctuary decided to take the orphans in, with a plan to merge them with Snow and Storm.

Aspen and Blaze | Wildcat Sanctuary

"We've been able to do this with five other cougars at our facility, but it wasn't as quick because they came in at such different ages," Thies said. Snow, Storm, Aspen and Blaze are all roughly 6 months old.

Adult cougars at the sanctuary who were merged into a family unit years ago. | Wildcat Sanctuary

Over the course of many weeks, the cougars were given time to get used to one another in adjacent habitats with a shared wall between them. Then, an opening was provided, allowing the cougars to enter and interact in each other's habitats with the ability to retreat back to what was familiar for them, if needed.

"They are amazingly attached to each other," Thies said. "It's like a cougar pile every time you see them in their den, they just lay on top of each other, cuddled with each other ... they're still very timid of humans, so to have the security blanket of each other is really nice for them in captivity."

Thies said that Blaze is the most dominant cat by far, followed by Storm. Snow is adored by all of her brothers while Aspen remains the shyest of the pack. Plans are now underway to move the cougars to an even bigger habitat, where they'll have more space to perch and more toys to play with.

From left to right: Aspen, Storm, Snow and Blaze | Wildcat Sanctuary

"They've been spayed and neutered to ensure that they won't breed together, that they'll stay a family unit," Thies said. "We don't want anymore cats in captivity than we already have."

Wildcat Sanctuary

"Our hearts wished they could have remained wild; that's what we wanted for them," Thies continued. "But knowing that they couldn't, we definitely wanted to give them a safe and good place to grow up."

Want to help the Wildcat Sanctuary continue doing good work? Here are all the ways you can help support the sanctuary.