TANZANIA – A domestic house cat has been spotted living among lions in Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park, according to wildlife rangers and locals who have spotted the tiny feline sidling up to its larger brethren.
Eagle-eyed viewers identified the mysterious feline as Buddy the Cat after Dr. Olufemi Ugwemuhwem Osas, director of the Tanzanian Institute for Wildlife Studies, posted photos of the bizarre interactions on Instagram.
“That is DEFINITELY Buddy the Cat,” one reader wrote on Dr. Osas’ Instagram page. “I’d recognize that paste-eater anywhere.”
“Can confirm, that’s Bud,” another reader wrote. “But he doesn’t eat paste! Saw him in person last year and, man, he was RIPPED!”
The domestic shorthair, who was born and raised in New York, made headlines earlier this year after breaking into the tiger exhibit at the Bronx Zoo and infamously failing in his attempts to gain acceptance among the big cats in that enclosure. The 10-pound house cat was mistaken for a cub by one of the tigresses in the enclosure and was subjected to two weeks’ worth of tongue baths before animal rights activists finally persuaded reluctant zookeepers to rescue the tiny tabby from his predicament.
It appears the relentless feline was trying similar tactics on the Maasai Steppe, local rangers confirmed.
“In the beginning he was wandering around aimlessly, soliciting random lions to join his ‘pride’,” said Jean Jacques Remontoire, timekeeper for the Jambo Jambo Wildlife Preserve, which offers tours on the Maasai Steppe. “He was dragging a big sack of cans behind him, offering dozens of them as a ‘signing bonus’ for lions who agreed to join him and follow him as alpha.”
After a luckless streak that lasted more than a week, the gray tabby shifted tactics, approaching existing prides when the male lions weren’t present.
“What has that guy done for you lately?” Buddy asked a pair of lionesses who seemed to tolerate him while grooming their cubs. “I mean, you do all the hunting, then you drag the kill back, and who gets to eat first? He does! It’s not fair to you. But, just so you know, if I was alpha, I’d only eat like an ounce and a half, and you’d get to feast on the rest.”
One pride, whose lionesses said they were frustrated with their pride leader, seemed to conditionally accept Buddy’s offer if he could help them defend their territory against a powerful young interloper with designs on claiming the pride for himself.
“Definitely,” Buddy told the lionesses. “That dude is as good as dead, as soon as I have my nap.”
His run as pride leader was short-lived, however, after he hid behind the legs of one of the younger lions during the confrontation with the interloper, known locally as Leonidas the Earthshaker.
Witnesses reported the dusty house cat returning to civilization on Wednesday when he appeared at the Sustainable Safari Center of the Steppe and asked to use the phone, “So I can call Big Buddy to get me a plane ticket back home.”
“I didn’t ‘fail’ in my attempts to found my own pride,” Buddy later told reporters. “In fact, I was a pride leader for three hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds. It’s just that, as I stared into the cold eyes of Leonidas the Earthshaker, I realized violence isn’t the way. Overall I’d say this expedition was a great success and I learned a lot about my heritage.”