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I share my home with 11 cats - four cheetahs, five lions and two tigers


By Amy Oliver

Last updated at 12:14 PM on 27th June 2009




Sharing a bed with your furry friend has taken on a whole new meaning for Riana Van Nieuwenhuizen.

The sanctuary worker shares her South African home with not one but FOUR orphaned cheetahs, five lions and two tigers.

Forty-six-year-old Riana said: 'I love them all. But they're a handful.'


article-0-057D7C3E000005DC-710_634x475.jpg Two of Riana Van Nieuwenhuizen big cats fight to be top dog in her South African home

Riana bought her first cheetah, Fielain 2006, after realising the big cats were in trouble and heading for extinction with only 1000 left in Africa.

She left her full time job working for the department of justice - a position she had held for 22 years - and found temporary employment on a game ranch where she could raise her beloved big cat.

But Riana's real dream was fully realised after she set up the not-for-profit Fiela Funds Cheetah Breeding Project in South Africa to ensure the long-term survival of the cheetah and their ecosystem.





article-0-057D7C2F000005DC-666_634x741.jpg Cat burglar? The cheeky cheetah muscles in for a snatch of sarnie



article-0-057D7D95000005DC-966_634x440.jpg No cheetah-ing: One big cat offers some furry advice





article-1195888-057D7DCF000005DC-230_634x434.jpg Happy families: Riana with three of her five white lion cubs Vanilla, Snowball and Snowflake and two tigers

The project spreads over a hectare of land and visitors can meet Fiela and the other cats and even have their pictures taken.


And if you want to outdo your friends in the wedding photo stakes the project also offers newly weds the chance to be snapped cuddling up to a big cat.


The cats in Riana's own home are truly part of the family and are allowed to roam freely.



article-1195888-05817DDF000005DC-380_634x466.jpg Fight like cat and dog? Riana's two dogs snuggle up with one big cat



article-1195888-05817C97000005DC-724_634x788.jpg Say cheeeeetah: For the ultimate wedding snap couples can have their picture taken with a cat at the project


They make it known when they are hungry, even jumping up onto work surfaces in an attempt to snatch a bite of whatever's going.

Luckily Riana's two dogs aren't on the menu but instead romp with the cats and even snuggle down with them for a snooze.

The cheetahs have even been known to sit in on the odd card game but whether they offered any cat-like-cunning or poker faces is unknown.

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