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

moon
Pumpkin pie in the sky

A harvest moon loomed in the sky over Whidbey Island this week.

Peaceful Valley
Learning center takes school to the farm

Peaceful Valley Learning Center held its first day of school Sept. 13.

See caption
Need rises for baking group volunteers

A volunteer coordinator is also being sought for North and Central Whidbey.

memorial
They found a beautiful spot for some good friends to rest

When Jim Sherman and Michael Ferri moved to Coupeville, they brought four old friends with them.

Chewbacca is affectionate, playful and full of energy. He is up for adoption at the Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation after being abandoned in a field off Highway 20 near Coupeville. (Photo provided by Shari Bibich)
‘Chewie’ ready for a home

A very good boy is searching for a forever home after being abandoned in a field off Highway 20.

See caption
Photos: Making a splash

Edmonds resident Janine Harles captured photos of orcas swimming along the Clinton shoreline.

From left, Sarah Gallella, Jill Jackson and Erin Tombaugh take a sip of tea during their bows. (Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times)
Live theater returns to Whidbey Playhouse with three-woman show

The Playhouse’s first show of the long-awaited season will be “Tea for Three.”

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Cadesha Pacquette sets up a pop-up picnic spread similar to one she created for a young girl’s birthday party. Pacquette said her new venture has been popular with military families celebrating a spouse’s return from deployment, anniversaries or just to have fun outdoors.
Pop-up beach picnics are a popular way to celebrate coming home

Navy wife’s new business a big hit for deployments, anniversaries

Season of live entertainment planned for Whidbey Island Center for the Arts

After a year and a half of online events, WICA is planning a season of indoor, in-person events.

Karina Andrew/Whidbey News Group
Oak Harbor's famous chicken dances with the crowds at the Oak Harbor Music Festival Saturday. Ever the trendsetter, it appears a flock of fans have copied his signature pose while he struts about the town during the multi-day music festival.
Free-range fun

Oak Harbor’s famous Chucky Chicken danced with the crowds at the Oak… Continue reading

Photo provided by Ted Mihok
Whidbey Lions clubs provide medical supplies to Mexico

The Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Central Whidbey Lions Clubs’ influence extends far beyond the island.

A virus, a trial, a judgment coming to Whidbey Island Center for the Arts

A one-night reading of “The Trial of Doctor Fuchetti” is coming to the WICA main stage this Saturday.