Photo by 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.

Photo by 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.

Greenbank man has big cats on view

Greenbank resident John Lussmyer’s fridge is stocked with pounds upon pounds of pork, beef and chicken bought from the grocery store.

This food isn’t all for Lussmyer’s own consumption. Much of it is for two of his best pals: his pet cougar, Talina, and Bob, his aptly named pet bobcat who also nibbles on dog food.

Lussmyer knows his exotic cats capture people’s imaginations, so he invites curious guests over to his house to see the felines, free of cost. All it takes is setting up an appointment.

“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. During an interview with The Record, he spent about five minutes petting and cuddling with his “baby girl.” Talina, 13, didn’t appear to be uncomfortable around new guests, either. On the other hand, Bob was less adept at human interaction, electing to sit in a corner of his large outdoor cage. The 6-year-old bobcat lets Lussmyer pet him, rather than full-on cuddle.

Despite being large and potentially dangerous beasts at the top of their respective food chains, their behavior mimics most domesticated animals. This is particularly the case for the 110-pound Talina, who frequently sits on Lussmyer’s lap and rubs her head against him like a typical house cat. Lussmyer raised Talina from when she was a kitten, while he took in Bob after his previous owner moved into assisted living after growing old. Bob is about 35 pounds.

Those interested in setting up appointments to see the big cats can contact cougar@casadelgato.com to get a hold of Lussmyer. He regularly shows them “once or twice a week.” Lussmyer possesses the proper license from the United States Department of Agriculture required to show the exotic animals. The rules don’t allow non-owners to get in a cage with them.

It’s legal in Washington to own cougars and bobcats, which are classified as class II animals. Animals illegal to possess include bears, other large cats, crocodiles and primates, classified as class I animals.

“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.”

Lussmyer has collected big cats for “some 20 years.” His interest in the felines kickstarted in his previous home of Michigan upon visiting a big cat facility. He says he fell in love on his first visit, and decided to initially house any that needed homes due to abandonment or situations that required their owners to give them up. He eventually housed numerous, at one point owning five cougars.

These days, his house 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 8-feet-by-6-feet, and has a door that lets her come and go to the house as she pleases. Due to her more docile nature, Talina has more freedom in the house as Lussmyer on occasion lets her freely roam his 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.”

Suffice to say Lussmyer loves his kitties. Knowing others will be fascinated, he’s eager to show them off and illustrate cougars’ potential as personable house pets. Bobcats are a slightly different story, with a more aggressive nature, although “they love attention.”

He hopes others see cougars aren’t so different from house cats in nature.

“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.”

John Lussmyer photo — Talina sits on Lussmyer’s lap as if a common house cat would.

John Lussmyer photo — Talina sits on Lussmyer’s lap as if a common house cat would.

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

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

More in Life

Turkey talk

Thanksgiving according to kindergartners

Seeing the Kenyan countryside on horseback

Realizing the childhood dream of an African safari is what Connie Lloyd… Continue reading

South Whidbey Jazz Ensemble shines at UW invitational

The South Whidbey High School Jazz Ensemble had great success at the… Continue reading

Slow and steady wins the race

Sloth Army teaches that anyone can become active

Orca Network will be listening in on killer whales

Most of the time, it sounds like the white noise soundtrack of… Continue reading

Recalling a year of service 74 years ago

Erma Aldous still remembers startling a patient awake when she covered him… Continue reading

Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times. Lynn Hyde stands inside the Haller House, a historic home that her nonprofit group recently purchased in order to preserve it.
Nonprofit buys historic Whidbey house

It doesn’t have central heating, barely has any plumbing and raccoons live… Continue reading

Traveling the world one string at a time

Guitarists combine music, history in novel concert

‘Tear Jerkers’ camp on South Whidbey

After a summer of tow and go, they gather for ‘last bash’

Pink belts battle cancer

Martial arts school fundraiser helps South Whidbey resident

Pumpkin pie is elementary

Plant the pumpkin, bake the pumpkin, eat the pie

Rotary fights against global scourge

‘In our lifetime, polio will be eradicated’ — Nick Wildeman