GRANTS PASS, Ore. — When a starving kitten wandered into a grizzly bear's pen, it looked like the feline would be lunch.
Instead, the bear pulled a little piece of chicken out of its food bucket and offered it to the stray. The two have been best buddies ever since.
"I've never seen anything like this before," said Dave Siddon, founder of Wildlife Images, a wildlife rehabilitation center.
The 560-pound grizzly, named Griz, has been in a pen by himself since coming to Wildlife Images in 1990 from Montana, where his mother and sister were hit by a train and killed.
Siddon said there are plenty of examples of domestic and wild animals becoming friends, but they usually occur when they are introduced by people.
The cat, named Cat, initiated this friendship.
He was one of four kittens dumped at Wildlife Images last July when they were about 6 weeks old. Volunteers trapped and adopted the other three, but this one eluded them.
One day last summer, Cat squeezed through a hole in the fence that corrals Griz and approached him as he was eating from a 5-gallon bucket.
"He was so hungry he walked up and begged for food," Siddon said. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, it's going to kill it.' "
Instead, the bear "pulled a little piece of chicken out and dropped it beside his forepaw, and the cat walked up and ate it."
Now, the cat and the bear eat, sleep and romp around the pen together. Cat won't let humans near him unless Griz is close by.
"The darn cat will dash out and smack him on the nose," Siddon said.