Watch this then go hug your cat (or friend)!

The 2:28 annotated video of Christian the Lion’s reunion with his former caretakers, c.1970.

I was reading today’s Today when I heard of this. Christian’s Wikipedia entry and links therein will reveal more.

“Lion hearted video charms millions.” Today, 25 Jul 2008. Thanks to the Internet,clip of pet lion embracing his former owners has been immortalised:

LONDON — The “Christian the lion” video, which shows a full-grown lion hugging and kissing his former caretakers in a heartwarming reunion, has become an Internet sensation, logging more than 4 million views on YouTube by Thursday afternoon.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the video has all the right ingredients of a smash hit: The lion’s menacing slink towards the camera, then the look of recognition on its face as it lunges towards the young men to embrace them, with Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You playing in the background for full sentimental effect.

But the video is attracting even more attention because of its back story, which first appeared in the Daily Mail last year.

The two men in the clip are Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall who lived in London in 1969. They bought the lion, then a 16-kilogramme cub, from Harrod’s which then sold exotic animals. The department store had acquired the cub from a zoo but wanted to get rid of it after it broke out of its cage one night and wreaked havoc on a display of imported goatskin rugs.

The men named the cub Christian and kept it in their living room. They became local celebrities of sorts, the Daily Mail said, parading the cub around London, taking it to restaurants and even playing football with it.

But Christian soon grew to 84 kg and his food bills became exorbitant, so they were forced to move him to a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. After visiting him periodically for several years, they found out that he had already adapted to his new environment and wanted to return for a last good-bye.

The men were told the lion would probably not recognise his old caretakers. But as the video shows, Christian not only recognised them, but ran to them and hugged them.

“Christian stared at us in a very intense way,” Mr Rendall was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying. “Then, as if he became convinced it was us, he ran towards us, threw himself on to us, knocked us over, knocked George over and hugged us, like he used to, with his paws on our shoulders.

The next day, Christian walked back into the bush, where his lionesses and cubs were waiting. He was never seen again — but the power of the Internet guarantees that he will never be forgotten.