In the last few days, concern over the whereabouts and welfare of Michael Jackson’s personal menagerie — Bubbles the chimp and the erstwhile exotic denizens of the Nerverland Ranch zoo — has been a concern. And now, another animal lover who prefers to keep her “pets” at home has surfaced in the news (well, tabloids).

South Africa’s Riana Van Nieuwenhuizen, 46, shares her home with five lions, four cheetahs, and two tigers. In the past, I’ve dispensed advice on eco-friendly cat-keeping but my knowledge of litter boxes and scratching posts are useless here. She really gives the title “crazy cat lady” new meaning.

Nieuwenhuizen actually runs a nonprofit that helps ensure the survival of the big cats, all orphaned, so she’s not completely insane. But here’s the thing: she lets them in her home … they prowl around her kitchen, sleep in her bed, take catnaps with her dogs. The animals are provided with ample outdoor space, of course, but they also have the luxury of being treated like a domesticated household pet. As you'll see in the pictures and video clip, it's all too weird ... think National Geographic meets Sunset magazine. 

Personally, I’m a traditional pet kind of guy. Dogs, cats, certain birds, reptiles in well-secured cages, rodents, are all acceptable animals to share a home with. Lions and cheetas? Absolutely not.

What instantly comes to my mind is the horrific case of Travis the chimp, a 14 year-old primate that lived in Stamford, Connecticut, with his owner, Sandra Herold. Travis had full-run of Herold’s home; he bathed and dressed himself, ate at the dining room table, and used a computer. One day last February, Travis was on edge so Herold slipped him a Xanax. Later in the evening, Travis mauled and ate the hands off of a female friend visiting Herold’s home. The police arrived and Travis was killed. 

The cases of Jackson, Nieuwenhuizen, and Herold are all extreme, yes, but what are your thoughts on keeping non-domesticated animals, endangered or not, in one’s home? Have you or do you currently provide shelter to critters normally found in the wild (and zoos)? Do you know anyone that does? If so, does going over for a game of poker or afternoon tea put you on edge? Or are you chill with a lion sprawled out on a chaise in the living room? 

Via [The Daily Mail]

Photos: ZUMA Press Inc. 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

The queen of crazy cat ladies
Did you find MJ's 'friendship' with Bubbles unsettling? Meet a South African woman whose pet-keeping habits aren't for the faint of heart.