A family in Missouri has seen some strange things roaming their field in the Ozark Mountains, but the discovery of a wild African cat was a first.
The Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, received an email on January 17 from a farmer in Ava, Missouri, that he had caught an African servant in a live trap. He told the sanctuary that the cat had been roaming his property for about 6 months.
“Whenever he was little, I’d come home late one night and he’s running across the street … I thought, ‘wow, that was one crazy cat,'” the farmer’s son said in a video posted by the shelter on Facebook. page.
Shelter president Tanya Smith said the cat either escaped somewhere or was let out near the farm.
“They had taken it to the vet and they tried to find out if it had a microchip in it and it didn’t,” she said. “There was no identity for this little African servant.”
The 30kg cat is estimated to be around 6 years old. African servals are usually found south of the Sahara desert.
“No one knew where this cat had come from”
The captured African maid had been successful in hunting and managed to find birds to eat, which was evident from the feathers scattered in her nest among bales of hay.
“It’s probably what saved it through this last big storm we had,” Smith said.
After traveling about 2 hours north to Ava, Smith and her team were able to transfer the animal from the live trap to a pet carrier. They brought her back to the sanctuary and put her in the quarantine area of their veterinary clinic. It was full of vermin and worms.
“No one knew where this cat had come from,” Smith said. “She was full of fleas and had some other problems with frostbite on her tail.”
On Friday, Smith said she received two calls from people who thought it was their cat.
“How many are out there? Crazy!” he said.
Looking for lifelong love
It can be a difficult life in the wild for African servants. Although they are not completely domesticated, they have not really been taught to hunt as their mother raised them.
“Who knows how long he’s been out there,” Smith said. “If we hadn’t saved her I’m afraid she wouldn’t have lived more than a few more weeks because the infection in her leg was quite significant.”
The African cat species is not common in Ozark winters. Even at the Arkansas sanctuary, keepers provide heated buildings for these animals because they are native to Africa.
Smith said there is a problem with these types of animals being released. This was the third in years to end up at the sanctuary after being released into the wild.
Today, the cat is doing well. As she recovers, the sanctuary is looking for someone to sponsor her care. The not-for-profit organization is looking for anyone who wants to make a commitment for the life of the cat – which can be up to 20 years old.
“This was an emergency rescue. We weren’t really prepared to bring in another African servant,” Smith said. “We already have nine at the shelter, but we decided to keep her here and made room for her.”
African servals make terrific pets
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was founded by Smith’s family in 1992. The nearly 500-acre ranch began when a black market rancher showed up on a woman’s doorstep with 42 lions and tigers in three cattle trailers. The breeder was on the run from the law in Texas and desperately needed to find a home for the cats.
A friend of the woman’s family lived on a ranch in Eureka Springs and offered temporary shelter for the cats. The ranch, now known as Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, has rescued more than 400 big cats and 100 other animals over the past 31 years.
The sanctuary was also instrumental in the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act last year. It was signed by President Joe Biden in December. 20, officially ends the dangerous pet big cat trade. It also helps ensure that no more babies are taken from their mothers at birth to be injured for profit, according to the Animal Welfare Institute.
While the law prevents people from breeding big cats, smaller cats such as African servals, caracals and Savannah cats are not part of the same legislation. Smith said she continues to get calls on these smaller breed exotics from people who think they would make a good pet. However, they soon discover that they cannot train it properly and stop feeding it raw meat.
“It won’t be good in your house,” said Smith. “They’ll eat your other pets or attack your kids or pee in your house because they’re very territorial.”
They are predators, Smith warns, not pets.