msnbc.com news services
updated 2/9/2011 8:10:40 PM ET 2011-02-10T01:10:40

A Southern California family is trying to get over the shock of a would-be weekend dinner guest: a mountain lion that broke through the back door of their rural home apparently in pursuit of a cat.

David Robarts of Palomar Mountain, about 60 miles northeast of San Diego, told the North County Times that the mountain lion briefly scared him and his wife, Nancy, and son, Nathan, before escaping.

No one was injured during the brief encounter, said the recently retired state park maintenance worker.

The cougar burst through an unlatched glass patio door at around 10:40 p.m. Sunday, Robarts told the Times.

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He and his wife were in the living room and his son was upstairs, he said.

"I just jumped off the couch and started yelling at the top of my lungs," he told the Times.

His wife, a fifth-grade teacher who was sitting a few feet away grading papers, also started screaming, he said.

The lion got within 2 feet of Robarts but swiftly ran out of the house, apparently startled by the screaming, the Times reported.

"This has never happened ... and I've lived here for close to 30 years," Robarts told the Times.

Robarts told the Times he did not call authorities because the seconds-long encounter did not threaten the family's safety.

"I think (the mountain lion) was more surprised than I was," he told the Times. "It saw the cat as prey and went after it as food. And as soon as it realized it was in a house, it left immediately."

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Kevin Brennan, a state Fish and Game wildlife biologist, told the Times mountain lions reportedly entered Southern California homes twice during the past 19 years.

No one was hurt in either of those incidents, he said.

Robarts and his wife both told the Times they recognized their intruder was a mountain lion. David Robarts served for 32 years as a park maintenance worker for California State Parks before retiring in December 2010. Nancy Robarts has taught an outdoor education camp for sixth-graders in Palomar Mountain for 25 years.

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