Animal lover raises wild pumas in her mum and dad’s house in Devon

Pumpkin the puma when he was young (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

Laura Thompson is a major cat lady – but nothing like the one you’re picturing.

The 22-year-old from Plymouth raises wild pumas in her mum and dad’s house in Devon.

Lauren started taking in orphaned wild cats when she volunteered at The Cornwall Nature Conservancy, and kept seeing kittens being rejected by their mothers.

To date, she has fostered five big cats at home, including fishing cats, servals and jaguarundi.

Her most recent addition to the squad is puma Pumpkin, who she says was just like any other pet, playing with the family’s border collie, Bowie, going for walks on a lead and stealing snacks.

Lauren adopted Pumpkin when he was just a few hours old after he was deserted by his mum.

Lauren adopted and hand-reared Pumpkin after he was rejected by his mother (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

Only child Lauren said her parents’ house guests couldn’t believe their eyes when they first met Pumpkin, while mum Lisa, 48, and dad Bruce, 49, mechanic, ‘learned to live with him’.

Last month Pumpkin became too big to be kept at home and is now enjoying life in an enclosure beside his parents at the nature reserve in Launceston, Cornwall.

So the bond between Lauren and Pumpkin was fleeting, but still pretty special.

Lauren said: ‘As he got bigger, he became quite protective over me on walks.

‘I don’t think he would ever have hurt me – but what if something scared him?

He’s now too old to live in the house (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

‘Pumpkin just acted like a big cat, he liked cuddly toys and was just so cute.

‘He would sit on my lap and have cuddle and start purring as soon as he saw me.

‘He would come sniffing over when I was eating and try anything.

‘He didn’t like Wotsits though – he spat them straight back out.’

Lauren has plenty of experience taking care of exotic animals due to her role as head keeper at Cornwall Nature Conservancy.

‘I knew Pumpkin wouldn’t be able to stay with me forever, he was getting bigger and turning into more of a puma, I miss him,’ she explained.

‘He was never aggressive, he was lovely but he got stronger and needed his own space.

‘Pumas can’t be truly domesticated.

Lauren taking an orphaned wild cat for a walk (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

‘One day they will be alright and the next they could kill you.

‘You’ve got to be able to read them and have understanding of what you’re doing.’

Pumpkin now lives at the conservancy where Lauren works, and there’s a special window in his enclosure so they can cuddle.

Lauren said: “He doesn’t know how strong he is, he could just knock me over.

‘It comes to a point that you have got to let them go and find themselves

‘When you feed them, you have to leave them alone, you have got to respect them.’

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