In the 1970s, the Birds star and activist brought a full-grown male lion into her house and let it play with her kids. It is all very charming and cool and makes for some wonderful photos–which you should definitely click here to see over at The Daily Mail, because they are utterly mad–but it is just not a good idea to let your children play with adult lions.
Really, you need to see the pictures. Hedren’s 13-year-old daughter, Melanie Griffith, plays by the pool with Neil, the pet lion. In one photo, the lion is grabbing for her leg as she jumps into the pool. In another, Hedren is playfully spitting some water into the face of the lion, who would not even need to move to knock her out with a paw.
In one photo, the 13-year-old Griffith is cuddled up in her bed with Neil, who is under a blanket and–again–is a full-grown male lion. Neil reportedly regularly napped in Griffith’s room. Hedren says she went in one day and they were snuggled up together, both asleep, with the lion’s mouth not two feet from Griffith’s head.
“It was a sight some mothers might not relish,” she says in retrospect.
There must be a line between helicopter parenting and “let a lion sleep in your daughter’s bed” parenting.
Neil was apparently a darling, but even Hedren now says keeping a lion around the house was a terrible idea. After Neil, Hedren’s family adopted other big cats, and those experiences did not go as well. Hedren said she was once bitten on the head, and Griffith had to have plastic surgery after a lion clawed her in the face.
“I cringe when I see those pictures now,” she said. “I have to tell you we were stupid beyond belief. We should never have taken those risks. These animals are so fast, and if they decide to go after you, nothing but a bullet to the brain will stop them.”
Hedren has since done a 180 on the process of keeping big cats as pets, and now she runs a sanctuary for big cats and campaigns to ban the practice of keeping them as pets.
“The breeders will tell you lions are wonderful pets – and it’s an absolute lie,” said Hedren.
God, I would hope most of us would just know that. Lions are beautiful and majestic, but they are also enormously dangerous. Because they are lions.
If you are ever tempted to get a lion as a pet, maybe consider a goldfish. Or a decorative plant.