Author Julie Roper shares her life with her cougars, Teela and Taz.
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I came home one day to find our angelic little boy cougar looking through the front door at us with peanut brittle stuck to the top of his head, whistling guilelessly at our return. My stomach jerked at the thought of where the rest of that gallon container of candy might be. As we came through the door, Teela paraded past us with much of it stuck to her head, her belly, and even her tail.
We had left the bucket on top of the TV and Teela, being all cat, decided to whack it good — and the game began. She had chased pieces as they scattered over the tile until losing interest, whereupon she lay down in the middle of the pieces. Getting it off the floor and baseboards was a task even with a razor-knife and I occasionally still find bits of it to this day. We laughed at the wads of melted brittle stuck all through their fur. But there was no way to get that out!
Slowly, though, I was wising up. I no longer left things out for her to get into. My smugness didn’t last long. The next thing I knew, Teela was about 90 pounds of cougar and I came in one day to find her standing upright on my kitchen table batting my chandelier like a rope toy. When she finished her play, the chandelier dangled from the ceiling like a dehydrated spider — and I was a beaten down onlooker.
“This ain’t gonna work,” I thought, depressed that the day was quickly approaching where our inside closeness would have to be replaced with visiting the cats outside, if we were going to have a semi-normal life.
When I recovered my strength, I replaced the chandelier with a more practical fixture and raised it out of cougar reach. To add security, we turned the table on its side. I was determined to give it one last college try. The adjustment was successful. We had won. But, it turned out, not for long.
When Teela discovered she couldn’t get to that new light, she turned her attention elsewhere, looking for the next temptation. Recessed light fixtures next caught her eye. She began to yank them out of the ceiling at such a rate that I gave up replacing them and totally confused her by covering the vacant holes with white poster board, to at least hide the useless holes the lights once occupied.
Our house took on a barren air. Every decoration I had put up, she destroyed by swatting it with her powerful, talented paws. And her curiosity was endless. We started luring her out into the compound before leaving the house. As gluttonous as she was, that turned out to be easier than expected. But the added calories meant added weight. Teela got fat and things changed.
A fat cougar can’t easily get to high places and has less energy to play. Though a welcome relief, we knew we couldn’t let her stay fat just because she was manageable that way.
We all suffered when she went on a diet. She would pace back and forth in front of the refrigerator and if she couldn’t get our attention, she would come over and give us a fish-bite on the butt, hard enough to leave a bruise and bold enough to get attention. It seemed to take forever to get her back to an acceptable weight, but when we did, we were delighted to discover that she had finally grown up and was now much calmer.
Turns out we had grown up together. I had learned that I had to give up on some things, like a kitchen table that was upright like normal people’s. And Teela had become almost as civilized as her big brother, as long as temptation wasn’t too close. Gradually she sweetened and became as lovable as Tazmir. The grumpy, growling purr she gives when she gets kisses have become as endearing as the sweet purrs and whistles we get from Tazmir.
Through trial and error, we worked out most of the kinks. Recently we even removed the poster board and put back the recessed lights. We put the table back upright, and can even leave place-settings out without Teela seeming to care.
Mellow Taz is still okay to leave inside for a long time but Teela still makes us nervous. But the things I learned may apply to other cougars — and friends may have better luck because of each mistake we made.
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.