Missing exotic cat stops by for tuna
Mount Paran family feeds elusive escapee
By MARY MacDONALD
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/26/06
Stephen Smith and his family did what anyone else would do if a lost, hungry cat ambled into the backyard. After making nice and shoving the dog inside, they cracked open a can of tuna and fed the creature.
The stray in this case is exotic: an African serval that escaped from its pen at a Buckhead home about a week ago. The wildcat weighs about 30 pounds and belongs to a licensed breeder, who has taped "lost serval cat" fliers to mailboxes in the area.
The cat, named Webbie, is declawed, according to fliers posted by her owner, Fred Boyajian, around the Mount Paran neighborhood. Boyajian is the same breeder who last year had a lynx escape from his Buckhead property. That wildcat was recaptured after a two-week period.
The serval, a native of sub-Saharan Africa, has big ears and long limbs and typically dines on rodents. As the Smiths have discovered, the hand-raised Webbie takes to canned tuna.
"She’s been lost for a week," reasoned 8-year-old Emma Smith. "She probably hasn’t had that much to eat."
Lea Smith first caught sight of the cat Saturday afternoon, when she saw the long-limbed feline taking a drink out of a goldfish pond.
Her husband, Stephen, later approached the cat when it reappeared in the backyard. He left outside a family-sized can of tuna, which the serval eventually accepted.
Like others who have seen the wild cat, the Smiths were enchanted more than frightened. Before ambling off, the African serval played with their dog Lu Lu’s yard toys.
Stephen Smith likened its appearance to a miniature cheetah. "It’s very cute," he said. "It’s very tame."
A few days ago, their neighbor Annette Hines happened on the cat when she arrived home. The cat was in her driveway when she drove in. "I was just awestruck by her," Hines said.
So far, the serval has eluded capture.
A man who answered the door at the owner’s house declined to comment, other than to say the cat was still missing, and that the owners were concerned about her survival.
According to the fliers, Webbie is 3 years old and about the size of a beagle. It’s tawny and has large, tufted ears and black spots. It may be hiding under bushes or decks.
The fliers advise people who see the cat not to approach it, as it may be disoriented and hungry.
Although the flier advises it is not dangerous, the cat can be frightened by "noises, chasing and barking," so the owner has advised people to restrain small children or dogs if they see the cat.
Fliers advise people who see the cat to call Boyajian or Susan Staley at 404-364-0220 or 404-863-6949.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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