While rich and famous people most settle for a designer dog as a pet, The Birds actress Tippi Hedren went in a different direction. Her exotic choice of pet actually lived with her and her children in their Sherman Oaks, California, home during the 1970s.
When you see how massively unique her pet truly was, your jaw might just hit the floor…
It’s certainly no secret that Hollywood celebrities like to surround themselves with the most extravagant items imaginable. Whether it’s a multi-million dollar mansion or the latest luxury vehicle, practically nothing is off-limits. This lavish lifestyle obviously doesn’t end with fancy homes and cars…
Not only do the rich and famous like to be surrounded by luxurious items at all times, but some have an affinity for raising exotic animals as pets, too. For the family of Tippi Hedren, this meant welcoming the king of the jungle into their home.
While the actress was best-known for her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, not many people realize another fact about the Hollywood starlet. During the 1970s, she actually owned a 400-pound pet lion named Neil!
Yes, that’s right! When Tippi encountered the mammoth feline on a film shoot in Africa, she knew that she had to own the large cat. Not long after, the exotic animal took up residence in the starlet’s Sherman Oaks, California, home.
In her book, Tippi: A Memoir, Tippi recalled that, after she adopted the big cat to live with her and her family in their California luxury home, she would often find the animal snuggling up in bed with her young daughter, actress Melanie Griffith.
“One night I went down to find them both asleep, side by side,” Tippi wrote of the shock at finding her unusual pet and her daughter sleeping in bed together as if Neil was a regular house cat. “It was a sight some mothers might not relish.”
Thankfully, Tippi didn’t have to worry too much about Neil’s behavior around her and her family, because the exotic animal had been trained to behave around humans on movie sets. Additionally, she employed an animal trainer named Ron Oxley to continue the animal’s training.
Like many other celebrities—including famous heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson, who owned several exotic animals himself—Tippi wanted to acquire even more atypical pets. So, not long after adopting Neil, she began a quest to find others.
Before long, Tippi, who had become an animal activist in her own right, had adopted six lion cubs that all lived in her home with her and her family. It wasn’t long before her neighbors took note and began to fear for their safety…
As a result of her neighbors’ growing fear, Tippi decided it would be best to move the six lion cubs to live at a nearby lion sanctuary. Despite the sadness caused by the move, it was likely for the best!
Over the years, Tippi and her family would endure several small attacks by Neil. Shockingly, one of the lions clawed at her daughter’s face during filming of the 1981 film Roar. While Melanie survived the ordeal, she was, not surprisingly, hurt.
After Melanie had to undergo emergency surgery to repair the damages done by Neil’s sharp claws to her face, Tippi finally understood the grave danger that her family was in with Neil in the house. To say that she was regretful was an understatement.
“We’re dealing with animals who are psychopaths,” Tippi once said in an interview about her uninformed decision to raise lions in her home with her children. “They have no conscience or remorse genes, and they will kill you for their dinner.” Hopefully, she later realized that it’s not the animals fault!
While no one in Tippi’s family was fatally wounded by Neil, all it took was her daughter’s brush with death to remind her that owning exotic animals might not have been the wisest of decisions. Of course, this goes for everyone. It’s best to let them live their lives in the wild!
It should go without saying, but allowing large, exotic animals to live in your home with your family probably isn’t the best idea. Tippi is just lucky that she relocated Neil out of the house before it was too late!