A “crazy-looking cat” spotted by Missouri farmers in recent months turned out to be an African serval. Thankfully, the wild feline survived the harsh winter and was captured without any problems. Though it’s unknown how the animal ended up where it did, it’s now reportedly safe and sound at a nearby sanctuary.
The bizarre tale was relayed late last month by the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, which focuses on providing care for abused or abandoned big cats.
Over a six-month period, farmers had seen glimpses of the serval on their property—described as a “crazy-looking cat” by one of them, according to the refuge. After they began to regularly find feathers and bones along their hay bales, they decided that the animal couldn’t stay unperturbed. They set up a live trap, designed to humanely catch a wild animal or pest, and 12 hours later, they caught their unexpected guest. The farmers proceeded to take care of their catch, feeding it venison and water. They even took it to a local veterinarian for a brief exam, who determined that it was female, likely three years old, and had no microchip. After consulting with authorities, the farmers called the refuge, which is about two hours away in the neighboring state of Arkansas. Staff soon came to the farm for the emergency rescue.
“You never know what the day will bring around here!” said president Tanya Smith in a statement.
Servals (Leptailurus serval) are wild cats native to the more temperate regions of Africa and are the only surviving members of their genus. Though they’re not considered big cats like tigers or lions, they are larger than the typical domestic feline. As adults, they weigh between 20 and 40 pounds and extend to about 24 inches in length. Domestic cats, meanwhile, usually weigh 10 to 12 pounds and are about 13 to 16 inches long. Just like your local tabby, though, servals are solo hunters and tend to prey on rodents, birds, insects, and reptiles.
While its origins are a mystery, the most likely explanation is that it once belonged to a backyard breeder or Savannah Cat breeder, according to the refuge. The serval might have escaped or been released intentionally, which is sadly an all-too-common fate for exotic pets. The refuge notes that the recently passed Big Cat Public Safety Act—which bans the private ownership of certain wild cats as pets from now on—wouldn’t apply to smaller cat species like the serval.
As for the serval, she’s now making herself cozy at the refuge and is reportedly enjoying a nice mulch bed. The refuge plans to keep updating the public on her status, including what her name will be.