Melanie Griffith, Lion, Unusual Pets

Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Celebrity Pet, Theme Week

Some people choose dogs as their pet of choice, others choose lions.

While Melanie Griffith was in high school in the 1970s, she and her family owned a pet lion (seriously). Griffith's mother Tippi Hendren and stepfather Noel Marshall decided to make a film about big cats after a trip to Africa, and an animal trainer encouraged them to welcome a lion into their home in order to gain a better knowledge of what they're actually like.

The result was a male lion named Neil who resided with Griffith's family. Their life with Neil was well documented by Life magazine, which revealed the family's everyday life.

Tippi Hedren, Lion, Unusual Pets

Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

There are photos of Hendren resting on Neil's back while reading. There are photos of Neil getting under the blankets of Griffith's bed. Basically, Neil became an extension of the family—only he was a lion and not a sibling.

Fortunately, Neil didn't injure anyone.

"It was stupid beyond belief," Griffith later admitted.

At one point, Neil did attack Ron Oxley, his owner, during a dinner party at his home. After Neil, Griffith's family went on to adopt numerous big cats which resulted in a series of serious injuries.

Now 59 years old, Griffith learned from her experiences with big cats and now runs California's Shambala Preserve, which was started by Hendren's Roar Foundation. Both Hendren and her daughter became outspoken critics of keeping big cats as pets, which is still legal in parts of the U.S.

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