Cougar Seized at House : Cute Cub Can't Count as Kitty

Times Staff Writer

Animal control officers Duncan Gill and Carl Pagano went to a house in Irvine this week and found a cat sitting in the window.

But they knew immediately that it was no ordinary feline.

It was a 12-week-old mountain lion.

The officers had received an anonymous tip that a resident of the house on Willowbrook in the Woodbridge area had bragged about keeping the female cub--named Sheena--as a pet.

State law, however, makes housing any "species of carnivore other than domestic dogs and cats" a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines, according to Mary Jean Delong, a dispatcher for Irvine Animal Services.

So, Gill and Pagano proceeded to seize the cat.

Soon after the officers arrived, another resident of the house--not the cat's owner--drove up and let them in. The cub was playing in front of the window and making a bird-like chirping sound, which the officers said is typical for cats that age.

"Once we went inside, it took a few minutes to catch the cat," Gill said. "It was loose throughout the house."

The cub, which is believed to have come from Florida, had been declawed and isn't dangerous, Gill said, adding that he didn't know how the cub had been obtained. A mountain lion can grow to weigh about 200 pounds and about 34 inches in height, he said.

State Fish and Game wardens will determine if charges are warranted against the cat's owner, whose name Gill declined to release on Thursday.

He said the house appeared to be shared by four men, all in their 20s. They probably had the mountain lion "for the novelty of it," Gill said.

The cub will stay at the Irvine Animal Care Center until Saturday, Gill said. Then it will be taken to a zoo or wildlife facility in Riverside County.

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