Appx. DOB 1/1/2009
Rescued on 5/5/2013
Ginger is approximately four years old and was bottle raised from a kitten. She did not have a name, so in keeping with the Gilligan’s Island theme she was named Ginger. Ginger was kept in a cage about 9′ x 12′. On one side of her two cougars were housed and on the other was an empty cage about half the size of hers.
That empty cage housed another serval who died a few months before the rescue. Sadly the serval had become wedged in between the door panels and died. It is unknown how the serval died. The dead serval was left in the cage for weeks before it was removed and dumped in an open pit just a few feet from the cage.
Ginger was the first cat at the Kansas property to be captured. She was netted by Big Cat Rescuers so volunteer veterinarian Dr. Justin and the Kansas City Zoo veterinarian could examine her. Despite living next door to two large intimidating cats, witnessing the death of her serval neighbor, and living in complete filth, Ginger was surprisingly calm during her capture and exam, and quickly adapted to her new found comforts at Big Cat Rescue.
A woman in NY was battling cancer, her sister had run off leaving her with her three children ages 6-17 and her home was in foreclosure…. She also had five servals living in her basement!
She would never be able to rent an apartment to keep her five servals and was left no choice but to try and find them a new home. After careful consideration we decided that we were able to rescue the 5 servals and immediately went into action. All the servals currently at the sanctuary live alone which they prefer as they’re solitary by nature, so in order to house 5 servals in one enclosure we had to get creative. We joined two existing enclosures together which made one huge 3000 sq ft space that the servals could roam around in and enjoy.
On top of joining the enclosures together, we added platforms, den boxes, hideaway areas and we were told they had a waterfall as kittens and loved it, so we also added a pool! We received the import permits, loaded the van with carriers and equipment then started on the long drive to New York while others finished preparing the enclosure.
We arrived in Cohoes New York, just north of Albany to a typical residential neighborhood, the 5 servals had been kept in the basement of the house which had been converted into a living room and except for a few escapes over the years including an incident where one of the owners was bit and in hospital for a week, they’d never spent any time outside. There were 4 males, Santino, Doodles, Zoul and Zimba and 1 female Zouletta, all 5 had been declawed and were between the ages of 12 and 14 years.
All the servals except for Doodles are related and had been purchased from a pet store in Latham NY, Doodles was added to the serval pack at a later date and ironically belonged to a man in Florida who’s wife told him to choose between her and the cat!
It was a kind of a bizarre and an uneasy experience to walk into the basement area and see the 5 servals hanging out in front of the fire, by the TV and on top of the hot tub! It is hard to imagine that these cats spent much time out of their concrete floored cell because the furniture and hot tub cover were not chewed and these five love to chew! But most of all it was just sad to see these 5 wild cats in such cramped unnatural conditions. The owners obviously loved the cats and had planned on them being a part of their life, they’d constructed a caged area with a drain in the floor so they could clean more easily and shut them off into the area when they had company or weren’t in the house. The cats weren’t living in filthy conditions, it was obvious they’d been fed as they all looked overweight, the owners recounted stories of them playing on pool tables and with their air hockey game, but it didn’t change the fact that their ignorance had led to the cats living on concrete in these dungeon like settings for over a decade….
Of course life has lots of surprises and circumstances change and the owners are now unable to afford or house the servals any longer…
So the rescue began…
With the help of the owners we managed to get four of the five servals into the carriers quite easily, but Doodles wasn’t impressed with these strangers invading his territory and wouldn’t go into the carrier even after we tried using food to lure him in, so he had to be netted.
Sedating cats is always the last resort, certain cats can react badly to the drugs, so we never do this unless it’s absolutely necessary…
With all 5 servals safely loaded into the BCR van and the last tearful goodbyes said, we began our long drive back to Tampa, we drove straight through the night and over 20 hours later arrived back at the sanctuary!
More staff members were waiting to help unload the cats, we weighed all the servals on the way to their new enclosure, they weighed between 31 and 42lbs, ideally they should have weighed between 20 and 30lbs.
We lined the carriers up and prepared them so we could simply unlatch the doors when we were out of the enclosure. Santino, easily recognizable with his old injury of a broken ear was the first to emerge from the carriers and explore. One by one the other servals finally began to follow his lead and introduced themselves to the outside world and their new home.
The only way we can continue to rescue cats in need like Santino, Doodles, Zimba, Zoul and Zouletta is through your support. Stay tuned for future updates on all 6 servals and how they’re adapting to life at Big Cat Rescue. You can help us change the way people treat big cats by donating at the top right of the page.
These are a few of the photos from the rescue of five servals who had been kept in a NY basement for more than 12 years.
Doodles enjoyed 5 years of living outdoors in the shade of oak trees with lots of ferns and butterflies to entertain his hunter spirit. Doodles the Serval survived emergency surgery 7/13/16 to remove a mass that had left him unable to move. He had shown no signs of being ill, and then last night he laid down and just would not move, no matter how much he didn’t want us near him. Dr. Justin Boorstein removed the mass, but it was attached to an artery, so his prognosis was not good. Doodles is 17, which is the average age our servals live to be, and is 5 years older than they usually live elsewhere. We had to see if removing the mass would give him a few more years, but unfortunately this is the end. He passed on this morning. Thanks for all the kind thoughts and prayers.
Nairobi was the mascot in a pet store window until she came to live at Big Cat Rescue July 7, 1994. The pet store owner was afraid that she would bite the small children who were always taunting her and she was right.
Nairobi spends her days lounging in her huge natural Cat.a.tat and can often be found draped over her favorite log without a care in the world.
On July 6, 2016 Nairobi was on the observation chart for being a little possessive of her food at breakfast. In the afternoon she was found to be breathing hard, so we brought her into the on site Windsong Memorial and Dr. Justin Boorstein rushed in to do diagnostics. Her Xrays showed that her lungs were completely encased in cancer and he found other masses in the abdomen. At 23 years of age there was nothing we could do, but give her a peaceful transition over the rainbow bridge.
DOB 6/16/93 5/24/16
Fluffy came to Big Cat Rescue from Oregon as a result of the pet trade in July of 1993. Fluffy was always been extremely affectionate until she became an adult.
Servals are great hunters and fishers and she found much more happiness in a natural enclosure filled with trees, palmetto bushes and logs to investigate.
She is quite shy and will usually retreat to the cover of foliage when her enclosure is approached by keepers. However, she is a cat and curiosity always gets the better of her causing her to come out into the open to observe nearby activity.
Fluffy Serval was found down (barely responsive) in her enclosure 5/23/16. The vet came and removed 3 bad teeth. We were ready to euthanize her, but felt like we had to at least try removing the bad teeth and see if she rebounds.
Today she is having an extremely hard time waking up, even though she was very lightly sedated yesterday. She will get her fluids and injections this morning and if she doesn’t turn the corner by this afternoon we will probably have to let her go.
She’s 22 years old, which is twice as long as servals usually live. This photo is one of my favorites of Fluffy back in the 90s down by the lake.
October 2011 –Bongo the serval loves special treats and when he refused them one night his keepers became worried. His behavior had also taken a sudden shift. Big Cat Rescuers made an appointment for him to visit the vet for an exam. Wild cats have a natural instinct to hide their injuries or illnesses so they give very few clues as to when they are not feeling well. Bongo was taken to the vet where he was examined, had xrays taken and blood drawn. Bongo looked great for a 20-year-old cat! His coat was full and sleek, his teeth were in perfect condition, his initial blood work indicated his kidney values were within range and his x-rays showed only mild arthritis. Internal parasites were found in his fecal results for which he was prescribed medication and then he was sent home.
All of the cats at the sanctuary are treated monthly as well as quarterly with specific de-wormers to combat internal parasites, however every now and again some of the cats catch a meal of their own that is not on the Big Cat Rescue menu. We have seen heavy rains during the last few months after which the lizards and frogs thrive. Bongo being the cat that he is must have eaten one of these slimy visitors that visited his enclosure. While Bongo was at the vet, volunteers and interns took the opportunity to do some landscaping in his enclosure. They trimmed up the palmetto bushes, gathered up sticks and raked the leaves. Bongo has completed his course of medication and is doing just fine now, loving his special treats and all.
In 2003 John Babb of Berea, Kentucky shipped an 8 week old serval kitten to a woman in Ohio, who named her Sheena. (The breeder’s website boasts that he is still selling serval kittens to pet owners in the U.S. for $6,000 and abroad for $9,000.)
Fast forward 11 years…
After Terry Thompson released 56 lions, tigers and bears in OH the state decided to ban the private possession of big cats, but grandfathered in the existing animals as long as the owners would build a safe cage, register the animal and provide insurance or a bond, in case their animal escaped and hurt someone.
Sheena’s owner was willing to register her, and apparently kept her in a dog run, but was unwilling to provide insurance. She decided instead to turn Sheena over to the state of OH.
To our knowledge she is the first exotic cat to be surrendered to the Ohio authorities. The ban became law in 2012 and the exotic pet exploiters predicted that hundreds or thousands of big cats would be dumped on the state, but that hasn’t happened.
People who really love their animals will do the minimal things asked of them by law to keep them. Sheena wasn’t that lucky…
Or maybe she was even luckier because when the state of OH called and asked if we would provide a permanent home for her we knew that YOU would help us do that. Please let Sheena know that she is loved and welcome at Big Cat Rescue by donating to her care.
Sheena Serval arrives at the airport.
Sheena Serval arrives with attitude intact. (Thanks for that observation Kiz)
She’s late so it is the middle of the night, but Big Cat Rescuers won’t leave until she is safely loaded and on her way to her forever home at Big Cat Rescue.
Since it is midnight, Sheena will spend the night in the Cat Hospital and be released as soon as it is daylight.
We weigh her in the carrier and then will weigh the carrier after her release into her new Cat-a-Tat to get a good weight on her.
Big Cat Rescuers, including the vet, are all happy to have Sheena Serval arrive. Photos by Jamie Veronica.