If I were making a list of do’s and don’ts, this is what I would recommend:
Start with ceramic tile floors with dark grout — those big paws can be like sponges and will ruin anything else. The dark grout will give you less frustration cleaning.
Bring them in daily starting as babies (unless they’re staying in full-time already, as ours were) so that they are familiar with the surroundings. They will investigate anything new. Remove your lamps.
Start with a minimum of two cougars so they can bounce off each other instead of you. There is no other way to have cougars for us. As a baby, Tazmir was a biter — the backs of my legs were polka dotted from the bruises where he tried to play. Then we got Teela. Once he had Teela, I never got another bruise from him.
Provide a wide open exercise area for them to go to freely. They will poop outside by preference, if they know they will be able to. They train themselves. Pee is a shocker though. They pee where they lie. I believe it is something they need for skin or fur maintenance and this cannot be trained out of them. We put waterproof mattress pads under their sleeping area and wash the pads regularly. Even so, they pee freely where they stand and that has to be mopped regularly. You can see why you MUST have ceramic tile.
Be patient because kittens will do all those kitten things and at 100 pounds they make a lot more noise and do more damage. We went through dozens of Rubbermaid trashcans before finally buying a chrome one. We won but the noise is much louder at one o’clock in the morning when Teela decides she’s ready to whack it around the great room a while.
They will get used to regular things like the coffee pot on the counter, the trash can, the phone, and dish drainer. Life can get pretty close to normal except forget any type of furniture with cushions on it. We use indoor/outdoor log furniture and can put cushions on when people come to visit. Otherwise, the cats will chew up the cushions and pee in the scraps of cloth they leave in shreds on the floor. They seem to have an innate need to tear with their teeth that seems best satisfied with pillows and cushions.
For us, males and females have been two different types of cat entirely. Our male is laid back, even a little timid. Since there was no other cougar around, he bonded with us and is uncertain of everything until he sees how we react. The female was alert right out of the box to every shadow or movement. She was willing to jump across any divide and even learned to open closed doors by using her mouth, a hair-raiser. She bonded to Tazmir despite every effort by us to win her over. They can’t all be like Tazmir but we love Teela just as much. After six years we’ve now learned to anticipate her mischief and keep it to a minimum. Her mischievousness, we now see, is her most endearing quality. She’s truly all cougar.
My brother summed up what most people think. “If you didn’t put all your money into the cats, you could go places and wouldn’t have to be fixing things all the time,” he said. There is nowhere we want to go that gives us more pleasure than going home to these guys. No things like velvety furniture and plush carpet ever gave me the joy that cougar kisses before work gives me. If you love these animals, that is the reward for the sacrifices you make and the love they give back.
There are still things to work out as our lives change and new things become a problem. I still want to have both worlds and I still try to take a quick overnight vacation now and then. They are a challenge every day and the time may come (seven years now and counting) when they have to stay in their compound full-time. But we are as familiar with each other as any family and the joys of growing with them for seven years has been immense. I hope for another wonderful seven years ... and another—except a little calmer.
Many thanks to Julie Roper for allowing the use of this article on ExoticCatz.com.com in cooperation with the Feline Conservation Federation. This article is copyrighted 2004 by Julie Roper, and originally appeared in the FCF Newsletter. All rights are reserved. FCF members receive a bi-monthly newsletter containing a wealth of articles like this one, and I highly recommend becoming an FCF member to learn more about exotic felines.