‘Gunsmoke’: ‘Miss Kitty’ Actress Amanda Blake Raised Cheetahs on a Ranch

by Charles Craighill
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While most people know Amanda Blake for her role on the classic western, Gunsmoke, she led a much more interesting life off of the screen. The “Miss Kitty” actress had many facets to her life that did not find their way onto the screen. However, perhaps the most interesting fact about Blake’s life comes with her love for wild animals.

After leaving Gunsmoke leading up to the show’s final season, Amanda Blake shifted her focus away from acting. She had dedicated almost all of her time in her early life to the stage and to the screen. However, after her major role in the classic western show, Amanda Blake decided to give all of her attention to her love of wild animals.

While still filming the show, however, Amanda Blake did bring some of her love for wild animals to work. For instance, she had a pet lion named Kemo that she would often bring onto the Gunsmoke set. After her retirement, she kept Kemo in the wild animal compound she kept on the grounds of her Pheonix Arizona home.

Amanda Blake: One of First to Breed Cheetahs in Captivity

Kemo was not the only big cat that Amanda Blake kept on her wild animal compound, however. Along with her second husband, Frank Gilbert, Blake did a lot of work with Cheetahs. The speedy African cats had proven nearly impossible to breed before Blake and her husband gave it a whirl. For instance, the females do not show signs when they are ready to reproduce. Therefore, they must mate with several males before producing offspring.

Amanda Blake, however, figured out the secret and went on to breed seven generations of cheetahs at her wildlife compound. She gave several of the youngsters to zoological societies to research the endangered species. Her work with breeding wild animals made major strides in helping repopulate the species. Because of this, California opened the Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge for African wildlife. While her role in Gunsmoke may have given her fame, she gave back even more with her work with threatened wildlife.

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