I had to try and get this on the website. This is an old photo from Tippi Hedren’s home. Melanie Griffith is her daughter. At one time in the 1970s this huge male live-in lion was treated as a pet by Hedren’s family.

“I cringe when I see those pictures now…” Tippi Hedren says.


I have to embed the photo from FB because it is copyrighted to Life Magazine. Hedren regrets the carelessness with which she let Neil the lion share her home. There is always a real danger in doing this and she realizes it especially the fact that she jeopardised her daughter’s safety.

She says she was advised by the lion’s trainer to do the following to avoid riling the lion:

  • to respect him (not difficult!)
  • not to scratch the lion’s nose
  • not to rush up and put your arms around him
  • not to turn your back on him
  • to pet his mane or under his chin
  • not to pet his face
  • to ensure the lion did not become possessive about anything. At these times lions can become dangerous

Tippi has a famous sanctuary in California. Shambala Preserve, for some 32 big cats:

Shambala

Tippi Hedren is now 84 and wiser. She advocates against keeping big cats as pets and the trade between US states of big cats. She was instrumental in the enactment of a 2003 law ending this traffic.

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • I found your site very well written. I have read most of the posts and got lot of useful info from here. I am a writer too and write often on internet too.

  • Wild cats should never have been taken from the wild in the first place, but as always humans have the power to ruin animals lives and they do just because they can.

  • Its just terrible Michael. But I Guess as you say Especially People with Lots of Money and Mega Rich. Its Probably the Normal For in America.

    • Kylee, trust me on this: even the "poor people" here in the US have weird pets as status symbols! It's just some kind of colonial thing we got from the Brits, maybe to show "independence".

      Daniel Boone was a man that fought just about every early war we had (The French and Indian war, Revolution against the British, War of 1812, others) and he turned his pet raccoon into a hat that he was famous for!

      The rich don't have weirder pets here, just more expensive ones. One of the most popular pets in the U.S. was the PET ROCK, and made the fellow who boxed the first one up and sold it millions and millions of dollars, so strong is the penchant here for weird pets!

      • Do you have a theory why Americans are famous for their backyard exotic pets such as big cats and all manner of other animals being imported internationally at the expense of those animals in their own habitat? In general, we don't have the same desire in Europe for exotic pets.

        You say Americans inherited it from colonial Brits.

        Perhaps the reason why in Britain and Europe we don't have the same desire is because we killed off all exotic species over 100 years ago and are therefore distanced from these species. We have forgotten them. Whereas in America there is still a better connection with nature despite the fact that a lot of Americans like to hunt which I see as anti-nature.

        There will come a time when Americans will no longer want to keep exotic pets.

  • Well thats abit silly keeping Big Cats as Pets as they are wild Cats arent they?? I love the Photos of Big Cats but really truly they belong in Wildlife Zoos where there is alot of room for them i.e Like in New Zealand We have Orana Park Zoo which is on McClean Island which has heaps of Room for Big Cats etc. It saddens me that rich people have these animals in their own Pets without the Proper Care and Attention.

    • It is very silly but in the USA it is not that rare for people to think that they can turn a big wild cat into a "pet". There are quite a lot of cases like this.

  • Thank you to let us know about this story, Michael.

    I am a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock and stephen KING.

    Phuuuhaa! a LION in home as a pet and OOOhhh 13-14 years old daughter freely interacting with a pet LION.

    LION is a KING of jungle , they say.

    WILD and BIG cats have their places in the wast and big territory but not at home with humans. They are deserved to keep in their natural habitats. I can say only this, I love those photos truly but with fear. Thank you <3

    • Me too. I found the photos interesting, fascinating almost but..it is wrong. I have always liked Tippi Hedren and Hitchcock was obsessed with her. He courted her and was nasty to her as I recall. Great film-maker though.

      • He was nasty to so many women, esp. actresses, wasn't he?
        I had no idea that Melanie Griffith was Ms. Hedren's daughter, let alone that she slept with her mother's "Big Pet." wow. Interesting article, Michael.

        It just doesn't seem right that big cats such as the lion, tiger, cheetah, leopard, ocelot, et. al., should be sleeping in a bed with their "owner," let alone confined to an enclosure. Does it? no.

        • It is completely bonkers. But it is part of the "exotic pet" culture which is especially strong in the US. People like to have exotic pets I guess as a status symbol just like a Mercedes or Rolls Royce. The pet lion is a Rolls Royce ;) . The trouble is there is little regard for the emotional welfare of the lion. It is very self-indulgent.

      • He was Michael however she (understandably) spurned his advances and in response me made sure she never acted in Hollywood again. I saw her in 'The birds' and 'Marnie' both Hitchcock films then after that I only saw after in 1 other film many years later as a much older woman which may have been after his death.

        I don't really know what she was thinking allowing her daughter to sleep with Neil especially after those warnings!!

        I was shocked to also learn that Melanie Griffith was Tippi's daughter! I never knew! Theres an education for me!

        Really great to know that Tippi Hedren is now such a great advocate for big cats but I wonder what Melanies stance is on this? Does she share her mothers values? I've never seen anything to say that she does. Do you know Michael?

Recent Posts

Is it true that cats hate water?

Domestic cats don't universally hate water and some wild cats like water. It depends on…

55 mins ago

Do cats pick up on negative energy?

The wider question is whether cats pick up on human emotions and body language. Cat…

7 hours ago

The beneficial role of companion animals during coronavirus lockdown

You would expect that the presence of companion animals in a household during the coronavirus…

8 hours ago

Picture of black Maine Coon on black background

Maybe the prettiest Maine Coon you’ll see How big are Maine Coons? This picture shows…

21 hours ago

What do Abyssinian cats look like?

The Abyssinian cat is an athletic looking companion animal. People who breed Abyssinian cats i.e.…

22 hours ago

University of Guelph’s one cat meal a day study ignores the size of the stomach

The domestic cat's stomach is too small for a big, one meal a day mild…

1 day ago