Cat Tales debuts new 'touch and learn' exhibit - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Cat Tales debuts new 'touch and learn' exhibit

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

There's an exciting new experience happening in north Spokane. 

You've probably been to Cat Tales before, but there's one group of people who haven't been able to enjoy the zoo to their full potential. Fortunately, that's changing.

Seeing a wild animal up close is one of the most exciting moments you can experience, and zoos bring that moment to life. 

Thousands of people visit Cat Tales every year to come within feet of a lion, tigers, a bear, and plenty of other "oh my" unique creatures. They got a new bobcat about three months ago, and one of the white tigers arrived last year.

But what if you couldn't see those beautiful animals? Suddenly Cat Tales might not be as exciting until now.

Ryan Wyche, Zoo Director & Senior Keeper) "We're celebrating the opening of our new touch and learn exhibits for people to be able to come out and just kind of get a little hands on experience," explained Ryan Wyche, the Zoo Director and Senior Keeper. "We've got a variety of different replica skulls, claws, whiskers, fur samples."

Wyche says he's been wanting to do this for years, and he found the inspiration from the inland northwest lighthouse for the blind.

"We have guests come out from time to time who are visually impaired, and they can be able to hear about the cats and hear the cats make noises," Wyche said. "So it's especially nice to have an opportunity like this that we can present to them to be able to get an idea of what a tiger would look like, in so far as how large it is, or what the fur feels like."

Lighthouse Director of Public Relation and Development Greg Szabo, who's visually impaired, was the first to touch and learn.

Stepping into the new display, Szabo picked up a 2 foot long matted clump of fur.

Wyche explained to him "That is actually a dread from the lion's mane, they don't brush their hair very often, so they'd get mats forming, and that's from one of the lions we had here at the zoo."

Szabo's reply, "awesome."

Through the exhibit, Szabo realized a parallel to his own life. He learned tigers use their whiskers to measure the width of a space, to figure out if they'll be able to fit through it. Szabo says his cane serves the same purpose for him.

Going through the touch and learn center, he says the new exhibit will change the Cat Tales experience for blind people like himself.

"Coming out and getting an idea of tactically what the furs feels like," Szabo explained, "what the skulls are like, that's really a neat and wonderful idea for people to take advantage of that. I think it's an awesome idea."

Even for people who aren't visually impaired, the small zoo is hoping the touch and learn center will help more people connect with what they're doing -- rescuing wild animals from all over the world.

"One of the biggest things people always ask out here," Wyche told us, "is can I touch the cats? Can I pet them? Obviously that's not safe for that to happen, but this is a way for people to be able to get an idea of what that experience might be like."

Cat Tales is actually running a special through the month of February -- admission is just $5 for everyone, so you can go check out the touch and learn exhibit.

If you want to learn more, but you can't make it up there, Cat Tales is also launching a Facebook live zoo chat, every Saturday morning at 9 o'clock. You just have to "like" the Cat Tales Facebook page

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