Little Ryan's playmate is a big pussycat

By Yvonne Tahana

Ryan Sanders, 3, loves to give lion cub Chase, who weighs 18kg, belly rubs. Photo / Alan Gibson
Ryan Sanders, 3, loves to give lion cub Chase, who weighs 18kg, belly rubs. Photo / Alan Gibson

Lion cub Chase, also known as Cubby to his 3-year-old mate Ryan Sanders, has a bit of taste for crocs.

The 4-month-old was rejected by his mother Luca and had to be removed from the pride because of the risk of her killing her offspring. He is the first cub from Rotorua's Paradise Valley Springs to spend half his time up at the home of Hayden Sanders, the park's senior lion handler.

Mr Sanders said from the beginning Chase had a big case of puppy-love for his son Ryan.

"They play like little mates. Cubby's real gentle, he doesn't bite and he's not aggressive. But he's like an overeager puppy and they feel with their mouths so he's always mouthing him.

"He really bonded with Ryan. He'd just sit there and watch Ryan play with his trucks and follow him around the house. He's got a real fasciation with shoes, he goes for kids' Crocs."

In turn, Ryan loves giving Chase belly rubs and cuddles.

The pair are never unsupervised and Mr Sanders said the family wasn't taking a "extreme risk" having Chase at home.

"He really loves kids and he's really gentle."

At night, the 18kg cat goes back to the den where he's separated from the seven-strong pride but can still sniff them and touch them through mesh.

"The other lions lick his nose and clean him up."

The plan is for Chase to rejoin the group once his weight is up to 90kg, which will be sometime next year.

- NZ Herald

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