You don’t often hear about public memorials for cats, let alone thousands of people participating in them, but the fact that tickets were gone for P-22’s “Celebration of Life” within three hours speaks to the special place the mountain lion had in the hearts of Californians.
The famous puma, who was euthanized in December after he was suffering from an infection and was hit by a car, called Los Angeles’ Griffith Park home, and that’s where the celebration will be held at noon Pacific (3 pm Eastern) on Feb. 4. It’ll be held at The Greek, the outdoor amphitheater more commonly associated with rock stars, although one could argue P-22 was a rock star in his own right.
P-22 was the subject of books, movies and music festivals during his 12-year life, and his face adorned t-shirts, murals and street signs asking people to be careful while driving around the Griffith Park area, where the big guy ranged. He was the most famous mountain lion in an ongoing study of his species, and was easily identified by the radio collar around his neck.
P-22’s “origin story” was equally fascinating. Born in southern California in 2010 or 2011, the fearless puma migrated north, crossing several of the busiest and most dangerous highways in the world before he settled in Los Angeles. His nine-mile home range was the smallest ever recorded for a member of his species.
Bookmark this link or this alternate to livestream the event, which is set to include music, performances and remembrances from Los Angelinos and celebrities who loved the “Hollywood Lion.”
Separately, there’s an effort to honor the late puma with postage stamps featuring his famously derpy visage.
Top image credit Miguel Ordeñana/Natural History Museum. Bottom image credit Steve Winter.
When the puma known as P-22 made headlines a month ago for snatching a pet Chihuahua off his leash on a post-sundown walk, a lot of people were concerned the mountain lion would be put down or hunted in retaliation.
The dog’s owner admitted he was distraught, but also pleaded with the public not to harm the puma, who after all was just being a cat. P-22 didn’t know pet dogs are off-limits, and he showed no aggression toward the other dog or the man walking the pooches. He was hunting after dark, like pumas do.
Sadly, P-22 is now dead, although there does not appear to be a connection to the Chihuahua incident.
Late on Monday morning, Sarah Picchi of Los Feliz opened her door to find fish and wildlife officers on her property. She knew why they were there, as she’d spotted the cougar in her backyard.
“Of course, I knew it was P-22 because I’ve been following the story,” she told the Associated Press.
P-22, who was described by the National Park Service as “a remarkably old cat in the wild” at 12 years old, was showing signs of distress. Veterinarians who have been tracking and protecting California cougars for 20 years tranquilized P-22 and gave him a veterinary examination after receiving reports that he may have been hit by a car on Sunday night.
Unfortunately it looks like he was indeed hit. The beloved mountain lion, who had famously crossed his state’s busiest highways in his younger days to find a range of his own, suffered a skull fracture, an unnamed skin condition and signs of kidney and liver disease.
Veterinarians said the only option, at his advanced age and in his condition, was to place him in a sanctuary where he could be constantly monitored and cared for, but that’s a dicey proposition for a proud animal who spent his entire life fending for himself, hunting and going where he pleased. P-22 would not have recovered, they said, and would have had poor quality of life even if he lived out his remaining days in captivity.
Ultimately they made the difficult decision to euthanize him this week.
Again, there’s no indication any of the misfortune to befall P-22 had anything to do with the Chihuahua incident, although the driver who hit him without reporting the injury made a selfish choice. It’s not clear if earlier treatment could have saved P-22, but it may have saved him significant suffering.
The famous cat, who called some of Los Angeles’ most well-known neighborhoods home, leaves behind a legacy that includes books and documentaries on his incredible life and journey from southern California to his eventual home in LA. Rest in peace, big guy.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post for more photos and a link to the National Park Service’s tribute to P-22.
Wetumpka will pay the price for petty politics
Reader Leah of Catwoods fame brought our attention to this excellent analysis of the situation in Wetumpka, a town in her home state of Alabama that is now best known for extremely aggressive police officers arresting two women for the “crime” of managing a cat colony.
The women, Beverly Roberts and Mary Alston, were found guilty of two misdemeanors each earlier this week in Wetumpka municipal court. (They also spoke to PITB on Friday, discussing their plans to appeal and their worries about the health and safety of the colony cats.)
The column, by Alabama Political Reporter’s Josh Moon, echoes our own thoughts on the scandal, pointing out the petty nature of the arrests and prosecution:
It’s so utterly absurd. And to be quite honest, it reeks of small town politics. It smells suspiciously like some thin-skinned city official got peeved because some ladies had the gall to question him, and he decided to flex a little muscle, show those little gals where the power lies.
And, lo and behold, in court on Tuesday, one major line of questioning revolved around whether Mayor Jerry Willis had told Wetumpka PD to arrest one of the cat ladies, because she had been continuously critical of the city’s animal control policies and practices. Willis, under oath, denied ordering her arrest. Testimony from a lieutenant from Wetumpka PD sure seemed to indicate that some sort of directive had come from the mayor’s office.
Regardless, bodycam footage of the cops’ interactions with Roberts and Alston show an impressive response – three cop cars and four officers – to a call about a lady possibly feeding cats. On a roadside. With no businesses nearby. Near a wooded area. With plenty of space off to the side so traffic wasn’t impeded. On public property.
As we did, Moon noted Alston and Roberts weren’t breaking any laws by being on public property, and there are no laws in Wetumpka prohibiting feeding stray cats.
And it’s not about feeding stray cats, as Willis claimed in his court testimony. Alston and Roberts were providing a service to Wetumpka, at their own expense, because they love animals. Trap, neuter, return is a proven process that limits and ultimately reduces stray cat populations, and does so in a humane way. Prohibiting the women from managing the cat colony will only make the problem worse as the felines mate and stray further afield looking for food, a fact that Willis and town officials don’t seem to appreciate.
A city with a decent government would have worked with Alston and Roberts. It would have given them awards for spending their days performing this public service for free. It would have explored ways to expand the very good thing they were doing.
He quoted attorney Terry Luck, who represented the women, saying “Wetumpka is a laughingstock” for arresting Alston and Roberts, blatantly lying about the reasons and the sequence of events leading up to the arrests, and doubling down on prosecuting them even as the story spread nationally and people understandably shook their heads in disbelief at the insanity of it all.
The small-town trial, Moon noted, was covered by reporters from across the state and from national media outlets. Body camera footage of the arrests fueled public outrage, as officers treated Alston and Roberts like hardened criminals and even laughed at the idea that they were “a bunch of cops beatin’ up on some old ladies.” That’s not what you want your town to be known for.
“The city will pay a hefty price for the bad PR,” Moon wrote. “And the whole time, doing the right thing was free.”
Tribute to P-22
We leave you now with some photos and images that can only hint at how much P-22, the lion of Hollywood, was beloved by the people of LA. He was the subject of at least four books, two documentary movies, various festivals and fundraisers for protecting his kind, and his face graces innumerable posters, t-shirts and pins. Here’s how the National Park Service described the big guy:
Likely born in the Santa Monica Mountains as the son of adult male P-1, he somehow found his way to his tiny, nine-square-mile home in Griffith Park, separated from the Santa Monicas by the 101 and 405, two of the busiest freeways in the world. Defying expectations, he persisted for more than 10 years in the smallest home range that has ever been recorded for an adult male mountain lion.
Although he made frequent appearances on the streets of the Hollywood Hills and even, more recently, of the Silver Lake neighborhood, he was also clearly a wild cat, doing so mostly late at night, and subsisting largely on natural prey such as deer and coyotes.
In the end, he found his way into many Angelenos’ hearts and home surveillance camera footage.
P-22, as he’s known to the scientists who study him, is the star of two documentary movies, four books and innumerable photos captured by trail cameras, surveillance stills and the few people lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him.
The 12-year-old mountain lion is instantly recognizable by his radio collar and his derpy, wide-eyed look.
But he’s also a predator, as the National Park Service reminded the public on Monday when it confirmed P-22 was indeed the puma who stalked a dog walker accompanying two pooches on Nov. 9. P-22 struck in full darkness about 90 minutes after sundown, snatched one of the unfortunate pet dogs and was bolting away before the walker even had time to react.
The incident was captured by a security camera in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, and grainy video shows P-22 leaping out of a bush and pouncing on a chihuahua named Piper. After consulting GPS data from the radio collar and reviewing the surveillance footage, the National Park Service confirmed it was the famous wild cat.
“They are stealth predators,” the National Wildlife Federation’s Beth Pratt told the LA Times. “They’re called ‘ghost cats’ for a reason. This is how they get their prey. It’s not like the vision of lions in Africa that chase down their prey on the plains.”
While noting people are “more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion,” Pratt warned that small pets can resemble the large feline’s natural prey. While P-22 usually hunts deer and foxes near Griffith Park in Hollywood Hills, pumas are also known to take down smaller prey and are opportunistic predators like their house cat and big cat cousins. (Despite their size, pumas — known as mountain lions, cougars and catamounts among many other names — are not considered true “big cats.”)
“It’s sad that P-22 killed a beloved pet,” Pratt told the Times. “But he doesn’t know that. He was just being a mountain lion.”
Daniel Jiminez, Piper’s owner, told Los Angeles’ KTLA that he and his wife are “devastated at the loss of our little dog.”
He said he thought his dog walker was joking when, while out celebrating his daughter’s birthday, he received a text from the walker saying Piper had been taken by a mountain lion. The Jiminez family adopted Piper in 2014.
Jiminez says he wants people to know what happened so they’re vigilant when walking their dogs in the area.
“I don’t want anything bad to happen to P-22,” said Jimenez. “I just want people to be safe out there so that nothing like this happens again.”
Call me cheesy, but despite the polarization in our country, despite our disgusting political system and despite the fact that we’ve got plenty of flaws, America is still a good place to live and most Americans are good people.
I’m reminded of it in a much more hopeful way when I read stories like this one about 10-year-old Ukrainian Agnessa Bezhenar, whose family fled their war-torn country, spent time in Romania as refugees and eventually ended up in California.
Not only did Agnessa have to leave the only country she’d ever known and adjust to two foreign countries, and not only does she have to learn a new language and adjust to a new school, but her heart’s been broken since she had to leave behind her cat, Arsenii.
Thanks to the efforts of two kind flight attendants, a volunteer at an animal rescue and her supportive new community in Cloverdale, Cali., Agnessa was finally reunited with Arsenii, a silver tabby with decidedly Buddesian looks. (No wonder Agnessa loves him so much!)
Geoffry Peters, the Californian who provided his second home to the Bezhenar family, also helped arrange to have Arsenii brought to the US.
“Can you imagine your life being turned upside down and you have to leave a country you’ve never left before, ride on an airplane you’ve never done before? Arrive in a new country, learn a language,” Peters told CBS News. “I mean, it’s like starting from scratch, only it’s on steroids. It’s like everything moving 100 miles an hour.”
Peters connected with the family through a program that helps Ukrainian refugees find homes in the US.
“Maria [Bezhenar] sent an email saying we’ve been matched and we have a family of six,” Peters said. “And so I went to my son and I said instead of renting this house, which he was planning on doing, would you be willing to donate it for two years?”
A flight attendant the Bezhenars met en route to the US connected the family with a fellow flight attendant who does animal rescue and recommended a local animal non-profit. When the staff at that rescue were told about Agnessa’s predicament, they contacted a colleague who was vacationing in Greece. That colleague agreed to travel to Bucharest, where Agnessa’s uncle had stayed behind and was caring for Arsenii. (A Ukrainian version of the Greek name Arsenios.)
The colleague brought Arsenii to California, a trip that took human and cat from Bucharest to Greece to Montreal, then Seattle and finally to Cloverdale. In all, Arsenii traveled more than 7,000 miles to be reunited with Agnessa.
Much like the Bezhenar family had arrived in the US to find Cloverdale locals holding up signs welcoming them to the US, the Bezhenars greeted Arsenii with their own signs — and lots of tears — when his long journey was finally over.
It’s been a rough year filled with trauma for the Bezhenar family, but they’ve found a new community, new friends like Peters, and have the support of people in Cloverdale, who worked together to make sure the Bezhenar’s new home was furnished when they moved in. They even got a piano for the home after hearing the kids liked to play.
I spent a weekend dog-sitting for the first time ever in the spring of 2 B.B. (Before Buddy), rising early to walk my brother’s Chihuahua-terrier before work.
The Manhattan of 7 am is a different world: Everywhere I looked, bleary-eyed New Yorkers clutched leads, yawning as dogs of all shapes and sizes pulled them along. I never knew there were so many dog-friendly apartments, let alone so many people willing to share cramped spaces with dogs of all sizes. Seven-pound Cosmo was one thing, Greate Danes and Dobermans quite another.
You’d think New York City, with its sky-high population density, would be a cat town. It isn’t. Neither is New York State as a whole.
Sadly, Buddy and I live in a state dominated by dog-lovers, one of 25 including California, Texas, Florida, Virginia and both Carolinas. Although cats are the most popular pets in 25 states as well, feline strongholds tend to be in places with lower population density, from Oregon and Washington in the west to Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi in the south, to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine in the east.
The information was compiled by market research firm Time2Play, which surveyed more than 3,000 Americans. The team also asked respondents whether they posted photos and videos of their pets online. Even though cats remain the undisputed masters of digital space, almost 57 percent of dog people showed off their pooches online, while only 43 percent of cat servants did.
Bud and I have been thinking about moving someplace warmer for years, but of course the king’s needs come first. Maybe we’ll settle in Louisiana or Nevada, where Buddy can establish a new realm for himself.
Do you live in a cat or dog state?
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.