Pet Cougars - a Fatal Attraction?


Animal Planet's show Fatal Attractions is returning this Friday, October 8th about people keeping exotic animals as pets. And to kick off that series, it's time for another guest post, this one by someone with extensive experience working with exotic animals. Annie Greer and ghostwriter Tim Vandehey, co-authored the new book, The Chimp Who Loved Me. Annie is a veterinary chiropractitioner, animal behaviorist, radio host and farmer’s wife whose life of memorable and bizarre experiences with animals (including a cheeky chimp attempting to mate with her while she was in the shower) inspired the book. Tim insisted that Annie’s stories needed to become a book. Both have dedicated the book to raising awareness of how exotic animals are often treated after they stop being cuddly, and will donate 20% of their profits to the ASPCA. To read more of this story, and many others please check out their book! You can join Annie's Facebook page here. So without further adieu...

Caged cougar -Copyright (c) Wendee Holtcamp

Kent and I have a reputation as the “go to” people in our area of Florida when it comes to exotic animals. Case in point: one evening, just as I was looking forward to a glass of my favorite wine, we got a call from a desperate gentleman who had kept a cougar illegally in his backyard garden for the past thirteen years. Now the cat was ill with pneumonia and the man was in a panic.

This is where my “sucker gene” kicks in. I want to be brassy and harsh like Bette Davis in All About Eve and say, “Buckle up because you and the cougar are going to have a bumpy night.”  But I never can. It’s not that I give a damn about nitwits who think they can keep wild creatures like Pomeranians, but I care deeply about the welfare of the animals involved and can’t resist one more opportunity to get close to them. Kent is the same way. Off we went.

You can never be sure about these residential situations.There’s a big difference between a professional enclosure and someone’s backyard, and this place was no exception. The man basically had a large cage with a den up a ramp about eight feet off the ground where the mountain lion spent most of its time. So a gorgeous feline had become a shut-in, when in a zoo he would have had the chance to roam and play with other cats. See why I get worked up about this?

We had to sedate the big cat to examine it. He was so sluggish and sick that we were able to get close enough to fire a stream of medication into his mouth. The cat was in critical condition.  After checking his heart and lungs, the cat quit breathing altogether; we set about our revival efforts. Now, the drug we use has a revival agent that we’re told works quickly. What the manufacturer doesn’t tell you is that on some animals, it works immediately. Once we got the cat breathing again, he awoke instantly in his new guise as, “I Feel So Much Better In My Second Life And By The Way Am I Pissed Off."

At times like this, my true nature comes out, and it’s not flattering. It was every man for himself as I bolted for the cage door. But I was brought to a halt by my husband, who decided that this would be an opportune time to give the cougar fluids! At least we’d managed to get a noose around the animal’s neck while he was out, so he was restrained.

Sedation was too risky, so we had to give him fluids though an IV. My job was to hold the bag of fluids. Now, the average IV line is 72 inches long, but when you are near a snarling predator in a justifiably bad mood, 72 inches is nothing.Kent had the more hazardous job of getting the needle in the cougar’s neck. But every time he got close, the cat snarled and I jumped back, pulling the needle out. Kent swore at me, as though I was doing it just to piss him off.

When I am under stress, I have mantras. On a plane, my mantra goes like this: “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.” That day, it was, “I hate you! I really hate you!” To make a long story short, we got the IV in and the cougar survived.  I’m not so sure about the owner.

Follow fascinating, funny, tragic or otherwise compelling and timely stories about animals, as chosen by our editors and writers, including Daily Treat blogger, Janet McCulley.

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