Laura Guido / Whidbey News Group — Greenbank resident John Lussmyer cuddles with his 13-year-old pet cougar, Talina. Lussmyer invited curious guests over to his house to see Talina and his pet bobcat, Bob.

Laura Guido / Whidbey News Group — Greenbank resident John Lussmyer cuddles with his 13-year-old pet cougar, Talina. Lussmyer invited curious guests over to his house to see Talina and his pet bobcat, Bob.

Not your typical house cats

Greenbank resident John Lussmyer’s fridge is stocked with pounds upon pounds of pork, beef and chicken.

The food isn’t all for Lussmyer. Much of it is for two of his best pals, his pet cougar, Talina, and Bob, his pet bobcat, who also nibbles on dog food.

“Talina is my little girl,” Lussmyer said. “I cuddle with her all the time. Bob is a bit more aggressive. They’re both loved and well taken care of.”

Lussmyer wasn’t kidding about Talina. While being interviewed by a reporter, he spent about five minutes petting and cuddling with his “baby girl.”

Talina, 13, didn’t appear to be uncomfortable around strangers.

Bob, however, was less interactive, electing to sit in a corner of his large outdoor cage. The 6-year-old bobcat allows Lussmyer to pet him, but eschews a full-on cuddle.

Despite being large and potentially dangerous animals, the cougar and bobcat’s behavior mimics that of domesticated animals. This is particularly the case for the 110-pound Talina, who frequently sits on Lussmyer’s lap and, like a house cat, and rubs her head against him.

Lussmyer raised Talina from a kitten. He took in Bob, now approximately 35 pounds, after the previous owner moved into assisted living.

“These are both animals who were someone’s pet, and they’ve been hand-raised in captivity,” Lussmyer said. “The neighbors generally don’t have a problem with them, several of them have been over here to see the kitties.”

It’s legal in Washington state to own cougars and bobcats, which are classified as class II animals. Lussmyer holds the proper license from the United States Department of Agriculture required to show the exotic animals.

Classified I animals, which are illegal to possess, include bears, other large cats, crocodiles and primates.

Lussmyer said he has collected big cats for “some 20 years.” His interest in the the animals arose while visiting a big cat facility in his previous home state of Michigan.

Lussmyer explained that he fell in love on his first visit, and decided to house any of the animals that needed homes due to abandonment or situations that required their owners to give them up. He eventually housed numerous. At one point he owned five cougars.

These days, his home is perfectly set up to accommodate the cats. His yard has separate caged areas for both; he estimates Talina’s outdoor cage is 40-feet-by-70-feet and Bob’s measures 20-feet-by-40-feet. Talina also has an indoor cage in Lussmyer’s living room. It’s eight-feet-by-6-feet and has a door that lets her come and go to the house as she pleases.

Because of her more docile nature, Talina is occasionally allowed to roam freely in Lussmyer’s home.

“I’m training her to let her back into the living room because she doesn’t tear up the furniture as much anymore since she’s slowing down a bit,” Lussmyer said. “When she was a kitten, she did some damage.”

Knowing that others are fascinated by his pets, Lussmyer is eager to show them off and illustrate cougars’ potential to be personable house pets.

Bobcats are a slightly different story, with a more aggressive nature, even though “they love attention.”

“The cougar has the same kind of personalities you’ll find in any house cat, with the same range as well,” Lussmyer said.

“Some are aggressive and some are total couch potatoes.”

People interested in scheduling a appointment to see Lussmyer’s big cats can email him at cougar@casadelgato.com. He regularly shows them “once or twice a week.” The rules don’t allow non-owners to get in a cage with them.

Laura Guido / Whidbey News Group — Lussmyer’s other big cat, Bob the 6-year-old bobcat, lives in a 20-foot-by-40-foot outdoor cage.

Laura Guido / Whidbey News Group — Lussmyer’s other big cat, Bob the 6-year-old bobcat, lives in a 20-foot-by-40-foot outdoor cage.

Laura Guido / Whidbey News Group — Talina stretches out in her cage. The cougar was raised by Lussmyer from when she was a kitten. She’s comfortable around people, and wasn’t alarmed by guests Thursday afternoon.

Laura Guido / Whidbey News Group — Talina stretches out in her cage. The cougar was raised by Lussmyer from when she was a kitten. She’s comfortable around people, and wasn’t alarmed by guests Thursday afternoon.

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