Take a Day Trip to the Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota

Everyone loves a trip to the zoo to see the animals, especially the lions. There’s nothing that compares to the roar of a big cat. The best place to see them is out on the African plains in a game reserve; it’s as close as you can get to live with them in real-time. However, not everyone has the time, money, or tolerance for danger to sit in a Land Rover, mere feet from 500 pounds of awe-inspiring teeth and claws. For most people, something closer to home is required.

That’s where the Big Cat Habitat comes in! Located in Sarasota, Florida, the Big Cat Habitat allows you to be immersed in the habitat of real lions right in the Sunshine state. 

The Big Cat Habitat is top of the list regarding Sarasota things to do. The Habitat is home to many exotic animals, not just lions. It is meant to be a sanctuary for lions and other animals that can no longer live safely in the wilderness. It’s a great place to explore if you’re staying at one of the many rentals Lido Key offers for vacation homes.  


The Big Cat Habitat was founded in 1987 to rescue lions and other big cats. The founder is Kay Rosaire, who is still on the site. In 2005, Habitat became a non-profit organization. It expanded to house other exotic wildlife that can no longer live safely outside the sanctuary due to injury, domestication, or other issues. 

Not only that, but the Habitat aims to be a conservatory and educate visitors on the natural life of the big cats and other wildlife in the compounds. There are three separate habitats within the primary Habitat to separate the predators and prey; otherwise, the number of residents would decrease depending on mealtimes. Each miniature Habitat has a small grove of trees, a swimming pool, and an indoor shelter for the animals to use when the weather is poor. 

The Big Cat Habitat has the goal of all inhabitants living for 20 years, which is twice as long as their average lifespan in the wild. While it may seem too long to keep big cats and other wildlife in relative captivity, remember that the animals are there because they can no longer ensure their safety in the wild. Every lion or other animal living in the Habitat is a rescue; they are there due to injury, domestication, or simply eradication of their natural living environments. Therefore, Habitat is the best compromise for them. Rest assured that every animal here receives the best love and care and that the trainers and handlers are dedicated to the safety and happiness of all.

Photo from Shutterstock


The Big Cat Habitat is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. There are several ticket and season pass options. Children ages 3-12 years old cost $10.00 for admission. Adults, 13 and up cost $25.00 for admission. For the experience and knowledge gained, that’s quite a steal!

Additionally, three season passes (also called membership options) are offered, all for one year only. If you plan to be in the area for a while or you want to plan multiple Lido Key vacations within a year, it might be worth it to consider a membership! 

The first membership costs $85.00 and includes unlimited visits, discounted tickets for special events, and 10% off at the gift shop. The second tier of membership costs $120.00. It includes unlimited visits, discounted tickets for special events, 10% off at the gift shop, and 5% off on venue rentals for parties. As far as Lido Key Rentals and vacation attractions go, this is a good membership for both!

Finally, the third tier of membership costs $200. Although this is the most expensive membership, it does include unlimited events for the member and three guests for the year. The membership includes a 10% discount on venue rentals and gift shop purchases. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, then a $200 membership is probably worth it, as it will pay for itself throughout many visits. As an adult, admission is $25.00, the membership would pay for itself in just eight visits. 

The Big Cat Habitat is open year-round, Wednesday through Sunday. As Florida is borderline tropical, the weather can get hot depending on the season. If you do visit during the hotter months, be sure to pack your sunscreen! 

Big Cat Bistro

The Big Cat Bistro is the on-site café and restaurant, offering delicious food just steps away from the exhibits. It has a permanent professional chef on site, Chef Sam, and offers sandwiches, coffee, fries, cheesesteaks, and more. There are catering options available for birthdays, weddings, and other special celebrations. The kitchen is mobile, so it can move anywhere in the Habitat. It’s worth a visit just for the food. This is as good as it gets while in a wildlife habitat!

Plan Your Visit

Contact Lido Key Vacations today to learn more about our vacation rentals that you can enjoy!

Volunteer Opportunities

The Big Cat Habitat has several opportunities for volunteers. If you want to be a conservationist or work with animals later in life like Jane Goodall, Habitat is a great place to gain some work experience. The Big Cat Habitat offers volunteer opportunities for Tour Guides, Petting Zoo Attendants, Animal Enrichment Feedings, Parking Attendants, Construction Projects, Gardening/Landscaping, Animal Enrichment Projects, Facility Attendants, Arena Ushers, Special Events, and more. However, they do not offer to volunteer for hands-on animal caretaking; special training and certification are required, and having untrained volunteers handling lions is a recipe for uncomfortable meetings with lawyers and the insurance company. 


The Big Cat Habitat features tigers, lions, tigons/ligers (a sort of tiger/lion hybrid), birds, bears, primates (chimpanzees, monkeys), bears, and a small petting zoo with goats, chickens, and a llama. As you can see, there’s plenty more than just lions!

Any one of these attractions is a great form of entertainment for the whole family. The tigers and lions are the main attractions due to their size, strength, and striking appearance. The birds, especially the parrots, are quite the spectacle, with flaming plumage, high-pitched shrieks, and an appetite for mischief.

The bears are quite relaxed, preferring to lounge and eat food in the shade. This is similar to what bears do in the wild, except when hunting. The chimpanzees and monkeys produce a huge racket and are fond of trying to pick people’s pockets if they get too close to the cage! The goats and chickens are quite docile. The llama, however, has a habit of spitting on people if they annoy it, so beware!

Where to Stay

The Big Cat Habitat is exactly what the title advertises: a rescue habitat for big cats and other exotic wildlife. It’s a great place to come for a day visit, and certainly, a great opportunity to learn about lions, tigers, and their various habits and habitats. The Big Cat Habitat is somewhere you want to check out. You can visit one of the many Lido Key vacation rentals dotted throughout Sarasota to secure a great place to stay on your trip. Contact Lido Key Vacations today to learn more!