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‘Cat People’ Podcast from Longreads Explores our Obsession with Tigers, Lions, and Other Dangerous Cats

PRESS RELEASE — March 20, 2020

Longreads today announced the launch of a four-part miniseries podcast Cat People examining the strange relationships people have with big cats and the legal loopholes that have made America home to an astonishing number of captive tigers. There are now more tigers in the U.S. than there are left in the wild.

Hosted by award-winning journalist and author Rachel Nuwer and Peter Frick-Wright, one of the producers of Longreads’ two-time National Magazine Award-nominated podcast, Bundyville, the new series features four episodes, available March 16 wherever you get your podcasts. Also beginning March 16, you can find a feature story that accompanies the podcast at The trailer is available now.

“Depending on what state you live in, it can be completely legal to own a tiger, lion, or cougar without having to register it or have a special license,” says Nuwer. In “Cat People” she looks at how big cat owners often become the victims of their own outsized love of animals and scrutinizes the system that has allowed a big-cat industry to thrive in the United States.

The series explores why the danger posed by these animals to public safety and first-responders is finally starting to coalesce bipartisan political support for regulating big-cat ownership. Nuwer also reports on how Joe Exotic, the bad boy of the big cat world who was convicted of murder for hire and numerous wildlife crimes this past April, might have inadvertently contributed to cleaning up the dirty industry he helped grow.

“Cat People” episodes include:

Episode 1: No Law Against It

In 2009, Terry Thompson set loose 18 tigers, 17 lions, three cougars, and numerous other animals on the town of Zanesville, Ohio. Then, he took his own life. Restoring order was a harrowing operation for law enforcement that made national headlines. But what many people don’t realize is that there are thousands of potentially deadly big cats living in American homes, basements, and backyards. Zanesville wasn’t an isolated event, just the worst example of a growing problem.

Episode 2: $10,000 of Meat

Deb Pierce always dreamed of owning a lion and a cougar. Now she does. And they were surprisingly easy to get. But life as a big cat owner isn’t what she thought it would be. In this episode we look at the supply and demand for deadly feline predators, and what happens when those cute, cuddly kittens grow up.

Episode 3: Big Cats, Rescued

If there is a solution to the big cat problem, it’s probably going to come from Big Cat Rescue, in Tampa, Florida. But what started as a facility to house exotic felines is now also an operation where owners Carole Baskin and her husband Howard work to change federal laws around cat ownership. And not everyone is happy about those changes.

Episode 4: The Carole Gun

Joe Exotic, a self-described “gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet,” owned more tigers than anyone in the United States. He said that one of his guns was going to be used to kill Carole Baskin, who had been trying to shut him down for a decade. But instead of killing Carole, he hired a hitman to do it for him. And that decision may prove the undoing of not only the so-called Tiger King, but of the entire big cat industry.

“Cat People” is a production of Longreads. Host Rachel Nuwer reports about science, travel, food and adventure for the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC Future and more. Her multi-award-winning first book, Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking, was published in September 2018 with Da Capo Press.

“Cat People” is produced by Peter Frick-Wright, Rachel Nuwer, and Audrey Quinn, with music and sound design by Robbie Carver. Editing by Longreads’ Mike Dang and Chris Outcalt. Matt Giles of Longreads provided fact-checking for the series.

About Longreads

Longreads, founded in 2009, is dedicated to helping people find and share the best storytelling in the world. Longreads publishes and curates powerful writing, from personal essays to investigative journalism, and features nonfiction and fiction over 1,500 words.

This is a press release which we link to from our daily newsletter about podcasting and on-demand. This is reprinted verbatim; we may rewrite headlines and descriptions. Press releases can be sent to


Cat People
By Longreads

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