It seems more and more common, or possibly a return to our roots, that large animals are living in homes. Many stories about wild animals becoming household pets are popping up from all around the world. In this story, a woman has adopted a dangerous predator and shares her bed with it each night. How this all came to be, and the journey they shared, it something unexpected. While the story is intriguing, it is important to understand that most wild animals are not safe to keep as pets, and these are rare cases.

The Woman in Question

Miekie Van Tonder lives in South Africa and became the center of attention when she discovered Elsa. Trained in game preservation, she had the unique skills to travel this road with her soon to be feline friend. The story of how they met, the issues they faced, and the ending results have spread like wildfire.

A New Mother

After becoming separated from her mother, Elsa, the lioness cub, was adopted by Miekie and taken in as an adopted child. Here, Mieke raised the cub by hand to ensure her safety, sleeping with her each night to keep an eye on her.

Adjusting to a Less-Wild Life

A lion is inherently a wild animal and is likely to fire off at any moment. It is instinct. But due to the way in which Elsa was raised, she was more of a house cat than a wild predator. At first glance, you would have likely thought the cub was just a big kitten, out to play. Though, this kitten would get much larger soon.

All Play?

Miekie, through her training, knew that even though Elsa was just a cub, she was still a predator at heart. Her body would be built for that task, and the claws and teeth were going to become something of a danger. Else, fortunately, stayed a gentle cub and Miekie made sure to enjoy their time, while also being aware of the dangers.

Growing Up Civil

One issue, discovered at around eight months old was that Elsa had never played with other lions. The plan, all along, was to move her into a larger enclosure with two male lion cubs, that had a bit of a size advantage over Elsa. The meeting would start a chain of heart-wrenching events.

Light-Hearted Rough Housing

It is natural for lion cubs to rough house in the wild. It is a way for them to learn how to fight and protect themselves while also learning valuable hunting skills. This is perfectly normal as part of the development of a lion with other cubs around, but Elsa had not had that experience before.

A Little Too Rough

Unfortunately, Elsa was not prepared for the common rough housing and had when the two male cubs came to play, things got a little out of hand, ending in a broken vertebrae which would require surgery.

Uncommon Problems

Miekie, like any adoptive mother had serious concerns about the surgery on Elsa’s neck. This was a lion she raised since she was a cub and one that would be going in for serious surgery. Her fears were not unfounded.

Paying for the Surgery

Since Else was adopted by Miekie, the surgery would have to be paid for out of pocket. Unlike a zoo, or rescue, where the company would pay for the surgery, or have staff on hand to handle these things, Miekie had to turn to fundraising to cover the costs of the operation.

A Relevant Solution

It wasn’t easy raising the money for the surgery and Miekie had to look for ways to bring in as much as possible, as fast as possible. She started dressing like a lioness and heading to the streets to ask for donations to help cover the medical bills.


Fortunately, Miekie’s plan worked and she was able to afford the surgery for Elsa. This was in no small part due to the kindness of strangers and their generosity towards her cause. The next step would be the surgery itself, which, as mentioned earlier, would be a terrifying waiting game.

The Waiting Game

With the medical bills covered, Miekie could do nothing but wait as the surgeons worked to fix the broken vertebrae Elsa had suffered. The wait must have been excruciating, and something easily understood by parents that have had to wait while their child was in surgery.

The Crucial Mistake

The reason Elsa was injured was not because of a lack of power or size, but because most of her life was spent playing with a dog. The difference in rough housing with a dog and two big lion cubs is significant and something that Miekie and Elsa likely did not account for. Elsa had the strength to fight back but was likely used to holding off as not to hurt the puppy she spent her time with.

A Successful Surgery

After a long wait, Miekie was given the news that the surgery was a success and Elsa would be okay after some rest and rehab. A little healing on her own would finish off what the surgery started, and from there, Elsa could adventure more into her life as a full grown lion.

A Careful Eye

This is when the two shared a bed most frequently. Elsa needed to be watched carefully and Miekie wasn’t going to let her out of her sight. Miekie made a comfortable area for the big cat to sleep so she could lay next to her and ensure she was recovering well.

Back on Her Feet

Over time, Elsa was back up on her feet and able to act normally again. This allowed her to get out and start seeing the world with Miekie as future plans started to come together.

Preparing for a New Journey

Miekie never intended to keep Elsa in her home for the cat’s entire life. The goal was to help her integrate into a safe place of her own kind. This was more nerve wracking know after the initial attempt, but Elsa and Miekie would not give up.

A Lion’s Retreat

After much preparation, Elsa was ready to attempt to live on a refuge for lions that needed a safe place to live. While the original interaction with other lions ended up in a broken neck, this time would be different.


Not the timid cub she used to be, Elsa was prepared for her journey to meet new lions and stand up for herself. She learned the hard way that she wouldn’t need to hold back when it came to play fighting and she was more than ready to get out in the open fields and start becoming part of a pride.

On Her Own

Though Elsa is now living on her own on the refuge, she has not forgotten the mother that raised her. She enjoys the life of a safe, yet open area for her to roam and be a lion, but she will never forget the journey, and the woman that was with her the entire way.