Nothing Helped This Sick Lioness, Then She Got A New Neighbor


Sheila The Lioness

Sheila the lioness was once a performer for private parties. She worked for many years entertaining people until her health started going downhill. It looked like she was in trouble.

Sheila had endured a tough life and her owner couldn’t even afford the veterinary attention she desperately needed. She was rescued by animal rights activists but sadly it looked like nothing would improve her decline in health. The new caretakers were preparing for the worst – that they’d have to put her down.

Finding Sheila

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Sheila was taken from her previous caretaker in 2009 by the Department of Agriculture. Lions rescued every year are found in bad shape and Sheila wasn’t an exception.

She weighed way less than a healthy lioness should and looked frail. They weren’t expecting her to pull through but they still tried their best to help her. They knew it was a long shot but they couldn’t leave her to die. She deserved a chance.

Her Condition

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Sheila was found in Texas at an entertainment center. Her caretaker made money off of her entertaining crowds at private events. Sheila may not have been the only lion in situations like this, but she was one of the ones worse off.

founder of In-Sync Keahey said: “when they are no longer useful to him, he throws them aside and stops taking care of them.”

Captive Life

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Sheila had spent almost her entire life doing these events in Texas. Ever since she was a cub she had been working for her caretaker. This is heartbreaking since lions shouldn’t be treated like this.

She was a “pet” and did photoshoots for her owner. No lion should have to live as a domestic pet. You could see it was affecting her health badly and it would only get worse if no one stepped in.

Caring Environment

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Sheila’s coordination was affected by a condition she developed and after a while, she couldn’t even walk properly. The people who rescued her noticed the shape her muscles were in and understood that she’d have problems moving around.

She was almost too weak to lift her head to eat and drink. She stopped eating entirely and it seemed that she had given up on life.

Not Uncommon

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Sadly Sheila isn’t the only lion that this happened to. Animals are captured to perform shows for entertainment more frequently than you’d think. The documentary Blackfish showed that places like Sea World will buy whale young from fishermen who captured them.

These animals aren’t cared for like they should which means they generally end up having a short and miserable life. Sheila’s new caretakers were praying she wouldn’t meet this fate.


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Sheila wasn’t in great shape so the Department of Agriculture took her to In-Sync Exotics Wildlife and Education Center – an animal welfare organization that would try their best to save Sheila.

In-Sync take animals and gives them a safe haven where they can regain their strength and health. When the Department of Agriculture handed over Sheila they said if her prospects didn’t improve then they should consider euthanization – Sheila shouldn’t have to suffer.

She Couldn’t Eat On Her Own

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Sheila was settled into her enclosure at In-Sync. At first, treatments didn’t seem to be helping her at all. That wouldn’t stop her caretakers from trying their best to keep her alive.

Sheila wouldn’t eat so they had to feed her by hand. Keahey said: “For two weeks, I had to go in with Sheila and hand-feed her.” She added, “I’d take meatballs balls and literally stuff them down her throat.”

Not Improving

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Her caretakers were doing everything they could think of to see if they could bring Sheila back from the state she was in. She hadn’t improved since she had arrived at the shelter.

An In-Sync team member said: “She had very little muscle coordination, and thus when she walked, her legs would slip out from under her.” It was going to be a very slow road to recovery.

Nothing Was Working

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The In-Sync team was used to helping sick animals and rearing them back to health. But Sheila was the worst case they’d ever seen. No animal had ever not responded to treatment the way Sheila was. After a few days of Sheila’s shambling around the shelter lethargically, she stopped moving at all.

Sheila couldn’t even hold in her food anymore and she’d start throwing up whenever she ate. Her health was declining again and this meant that In-Sync had to make a difficult decision. No matter what they had to think of Sheila’s best interests.

Hard Decision

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They didn’t know what to do. After trying everything they could Sheila was only getting worse. After weeks passed they considered the option that the Department of Agriculture had suggested. Euthanasia may be the best option.

Sheila was clearly in pain and wasn’t enjoying the life she was living. The team didn’t want to acknowledge euthanasia just yet but they couldn’t deny it would put her at peace.

Sheila Was Unique

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The team really didn’t want to lose Sheila. She was a beautiful animal who had spent her whole life in captivity. They wanted to give her a chance to enjoy the life she had left. Sheila wasn’t like other lions. Her fur was very blonde, which made her stand out from other big cats.

Her blonde fur was probably the reason that she was worth so much to her previous owner. Lionesses of this color are only found in Timbavati and South Africa. In-Sync was actually prepared to euthanize Sheila when some new information came to light…

Finally, A Diagnosis

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The In-Sync team had a revelation about this beautiful lion. They figured out that Sheila was suffering from a disease called toxoplasmosis, as well as a lack of vitamin A.

This meant that there were parasites in Sheila’s blood. The disease can be fatal for members of the feline family. Now that her caretakers knew what was wrong with Sheila, they just had to get her to take her medicine.

A Whole Bunch Of Symptoms

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Toxoplasmosis is an infection usually found in cats. An animal develops this infection when their immune system is not strong enough to fight off infections.

Years of improper care caused Sheila’s immune system to weaken, which is how she developed the disease. Symptoms of toxoplasmosis include reduced coordination, disorientation, anorexia, lethargy, breathing difficulties, enlarged lymph nodes, and apparent blindness. If not properly and promptly treated, this disease can be fatal.

Getting Her To Take Antibiotics Was Tough

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Sheila’s caretakers immediately started treating her with antibiotics. It had taken a while to arrive at a diagnosis, and Sheila was starting her antibiotic regimen quite late into her condition, but this was Sheila’s only hope.

It’s no easy task to get a stubborn lion to take a whole bunch of antibiotics. Sheila was difficult and sometimes it would take an hour for the In-Sync team to get her to take her medicine.

Getting Better

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Immediately after Sheila started taking her antibiotics, she started feeling better. Pretty soon she was able to walk and eat on her own.

Naturally, all of Sheila’s caretakers thought that the improvement in her health was due to the medicine she was taking, but in reality, she was getting better so quickly because of a completely different reason— one that nobody had noticed before. Sheila had a different kind of medicine.

A Drastic Improvement

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In a Facebook post, In-Sync stated, “Sheila has made a remarkable improvement. She has regained muscle control, swallows easily, and runs and hops like a bunny.” But even the handlers and caretakers who worked with Sheila every day weren’t sure why this lion who was previously so sickly was able to make such a quick recovery.

Antibiotics are wonderful, but they couldn’t have restored Sheila’s will to live all on their own.

A Friend In Need

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The enclosure Sheila was living in at the In-Sync facility had another enclosure attached to it. There was someone in the enclosure next to Sheila’s that helped the lioness feel happier and healthier.

When the employees at In-Sync discovered what was happening between the two enclosures, they were completely shocked. Keep reading to find out who Sheila’s helpful neighbor was, and why she bounced back so quickly.

Meet Kahn

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It was a lion! A very handsome male lion, to be exact. It seems like Sheila had developed a crush on her neighbor. From the very beginning, these two had formed a very close bond.

Sheila’s love for Kahn was the reason she was able to progress so quickly. Now that she had a relationship with another lion, she had found the will to live. Also, Kahn had a similar backstory to Sheila.

Birds Of A Feather (Or Lions Of A… Mane?)

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Kahn is a six-year-old lion who was rescued by In-Sync just a few months before Sheila’s rescue. Like Sheila, Kahn was a lion who used to work in the entertainment industry in Texas. He was also mistreated by his handlers and when he arrived at the rescue facility, he was in very poor health just like Sheila was.

Maybe these two were able to bond so quickly because they had lived through similar circumstances.

Kahn The Magnificent

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Just like Sheila, Kahn was a show animal. He used to entertain audiences in private parties by showing off his roar or balancing on his two back legs. His handlers took him to different events around the city, and sometimes he performed at multiple events or parties in a single day.

All of that traveling and hard work made him sick, but he was still forced to perform despite his illness.

Kahn Was In A Bad Place

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When Kahn was finally rescued by the In-Sync team, he was in horrible condition. He was malnourished and weighed about 100 pounds less than the average lion his age. He had been beaten and overworked by his owner. He was forced to live in a tiny cage that stunted his growth and compromised his bones.

He became so frustrated with his living conditions that he did something totally unexpected.

The Extent Of His Frustration

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Because of the way he was treated and how he was forced to live, Kahn lion chewed his own tail off out of boredom and frustration. The tip of his tail had become completely raw and swollen. Had he not been rescued in time, he would have developed an infection and died.

Keahey explained, “When Kahn came, the end of his tail was completely chewed off and [he] was very thin.” Kahn also suffered from bone problems that made it difficult for him to walk.

An Aggressive Lion

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Kahn was very aggressive when he first came to the rescue center. It was very difficult for the In-Sync team to interact with him and to help him. Because he hadn’t been given enough food when he was living with his previous owner, he was very aggressive when it came to feeding time.

In many ways, Kahn was a very dangerous lion. Workers had to use extreme care when feeding him or treating him.

A Part Of The Family

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Kahn was a fighter, and unlike Sheila, he never lost his will to live. He was able to recover quickly and soon this aggressive beast turned into a calm and relaxed animal.

Kahn fit right in with the other lions at the rescue center, and he seemed to really enjoy his new life in retirement. His aggression was mostly an effect of his health issues, and now that his health issues are resolved, he is much less aggressive.

A New Home

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Kahn felt right at home at the In-Sync rescue center. He became so good-natured that the workers at the center were able to build him some cinder-block stairs so that he could get into the den in his enclosure more easily. Now he had a lot more room to stretch out and relax.

This place was a lot different from the small cage that Kahn was used to living in.

Ready-Made Friends

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Now Kahn just needed a friend to play with. Lions are very social creatures who tend to live in packs (called prides), which is why it’s especially upsetting that both Kahn and Sheila were isolated from other lions for so long.

As soon as Kahn and Sheila were placed next to each other they immediately developed a friendship. This friendship was the key to Sheila’s recovery. Kahn’s fighting spirit was starting to rub off on her.

Different Responses To Similar Trauma

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Both of these wild cats had gone through the same kind of tragedy, however, the situations of both were a little different.

The in-sync founder explained ‘It was easy to treat him and get him comfortable with his new surroundings. Sheila, on the other hand, was in very bad shape … Sheila was almost dead.” Even though these lions had both been through a lot of trauma, their different personalities caused them to respond to that trauma differently.

Moving In Together

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Keahey opened up about the improving condition of both the lions: “As time went by they both healed and grew into beautifully grown lions.” She continued, “In the meanwhile, we had finished our new lion enclosure. The way it was designed would have Kahn and Sheila living next door to each other.”

These two were taking the next step in their relationship. Who knows where this pairing could go?

A Love Relationship

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Kahn and Sheila’s friendship developed into something more than a friendship. The two would spend a lot of time playing with each other. Keahey said, “Sheila spent the next few months showing off for Kahn, and Kahn strutted his stuff for her.”

These two lions clearly had some kind of love for each other, that is if you believe that lions can fall in love. Have you seen The Lion King? They definitely can.