KANSAS CITY, Mo. --
The middle of a Midwestern suburb is not the typical area to spot a wild cat native to the mountains of the Northwestern U.S., but a sergeant with the 9th Marine Corps District calls one such exotic feline her pet.
Sgt. Ashley M. Lorenc, 25, an administration clerk with the district headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., is a happy guardian of a Canadian lynx, a species of North American wild cat that resembles a bobcat, only much larger.
“I get a lot of attention from it,” said Lorenc, who is from Derby, Kan. “People will see this big cat sitting in my car and they’ll start pointing and waving.”
Lorenc had wanted a lynx since seeing one at a petting zoo as a child. As she got older and moved into her own home, she figured if she was going to have a cat, she might as well have a big one. She adopted her lynx, named Kisa, from a breeder in Washington when the cat was only five weeks old and weighed less than a pound.
Adopting a kitten at such a young age forms the initial bond between cat and owner, Lorenc said.
Raising a lynx can resemble raising a child in some respects.
“I have to childproof the house,” she said. “I have to shut the toilet lid so she doesn’t play in it.”
Only those who have tried to bathe an ordinary house cat could even remotely imagine the difficulty in bathing a 21-pound wild one. On her own, Kisa enjoys playing in the tub or outside in the pool, “but the second I try to put her in the bathtub and put soap on her, she starts screaming and growling,” Lorenc said.
Despite the fierce protests, Kisa is anything but a vicious creature.
“She’s a mama’s baby,” Lorenc said. “She’s a snuggle bug.”
Feeding Kisa can also be a finicky process. According to the Central Pets Education Foundation, out of Tuscon, Ariz., a female lynx can grow to be 30 pounds, and gains most of that weight in the early years of growth. Although Lorenc said Kisa tends to gorge herself some days and abstain on others, the 21-pound, 16-month-old Lynx can consume up to five percent of her body weight on the average day, which is roughly one pound of food. At the price of $30 per pound for a ground mixture of alfalfa and the bones, organs and skin of cows, fish, hens, and smaller game that replicates Kisa’s wild diet, the bill isn’t a small one.
In many other respects, Kisa acts just like any normal pet and enjoys playing. She loves to hide, chew up socks and slap around Lorenc’s dog, Tango.
“They act like brother and sister, competing for mommy’s attention,” Lorenc said. “Tango tries to sit on her or bite her, and she likes to slap him in the face. They fight all the time.”
Of course, the dog’s no match for a cat that, according to her owner, “can jump eight feet straight in the air, and has feet like a monkey that can grab onto anything.”
Keeping Kisa in a joyful mood and far from feeling threatened is key to keeping her domesticated, Lorenc said.
“I’ve made it a point never to tease her,” she said. “It’s been nothing but love; nothing but kisses and hugs and talking sweet.”
According to CPEF, if Kisa maintains constant social interaction and can avoid any and all animosities toward humans and other animals, it is less likely she will revert to wild cat behavior.
Kisa does have moments, however, that bring out her wild instincts. She gets angry when her food is messed with, and she gets especially protective of plastic food containers. Give Kisa a plastic dish and she becomes aggressive when someone tries to take it away.
“We don’t know why,” Lorenc said. “It may be something she’s attached to, like a stuffed toy or t-shirt. Or it’s just fun to smack it around and make noise.”
According to Lorenc, the best way to keep Kisa tame is to never let her feel confined. The entire house is Kisa’s stomping ground, and she is free to play outside in Lorenc’s fenced backyard anytime she wants. In order to keep Kisa from the rare attempt to jump outside the yard, she is harnessed on a long leash. However, when she does manage to get out of the yard, she always gets scared and comes right back.
“The world is too big for her,” Lorenc said. “It’s not her territory.”
Lorenc added that she has Kisa registered with the county and her neighbors are fully aware they live next to a wild cat.
After a long day of playing, teasing the dog, and wrestling with her owner, Kisa is more than ready to settle down and go to bed. She knows exactly when to sleep, around nine o’clock every night, and will take herself upstairs and put herself in bed, according to Lorenc. She is then at her calmest and most lovable.
“She’s all about purring really loud; laying by your face and licking on you or kissing on you,” she said.
However, at about 4 or 5 a.m., Kisa is awake and ready to play again.
“She’ll jump on the door, be noisy and tear the covers off you,” Lorenc said. “So, on the weekends, I lock her out of the room.”
Despite the difficulty of caring for a lynx, or however annoying Kisa is on the weekends, there is a strong, nurturing bond between this sergeant and her lynx.
“She’s definitely my baby,” Lorenc said.