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.
Purchase this Jumanji Black Leopard pendant to help with his care
It’s Valentine’s Day and my heart is restless with worry. Tomorrow Jumanji, a 20 year old black leopard and Bongo, a nearly 25 year old serval, will have to be sedated for treatment. Since a lot of our cats are over the age of 20, and these species usually don’t live past 10-12 elsewhere, there is always this low level tension tugging at our hearts. We are always watchful for any sign that one of our precious cats is on the decline.
Nature demands survival of the fittest, so cats don’t show their illness, unless they are so sick they just can’t hide it any more. In the wild they would become prey if they didn’t maintain the facade of being the biggest, baddest element in the brush. Even in captivity, they are stoic in their pain and masters of illusion. It usually is something they can’t hide that first gives them away.
Jumanji has had a growth on his face for a while that has concerned us, but sedation is such a dangerous thing for exotic cats, that we have just watched it closely for changes and figured we will get a biopsy of it, or remove it, if he ever had anything else going on that would call for sedation.
Yesterday, (Feb. 13) he left a broken tooth on his feeding platter. My first thought was that he was expecting the tooth fairy, but realized that he must have broken it off while chewing on a bone. He’s always had great teeth, so this was un expected and worrisome enough, considering the exposed root, that we decided to sedate him Monday, Feb. 15.
Purchase this cute serval kitten plushy toy to help provide care to Bongo
No sooner had we made arrangements with the vet, Dr. Justin Boorstein, who is seeing his dentist that same morning, that a radio call came in that Bongo had a swelling on his face, and didn’t want to eat. In more than 20 years of caring for Bongo Serval, I don’t remember anyone ever reporting that he didn’t want to eat.
Jamie Veronica went to take a look at him, and all indications are that he’s got a bad tooth too. “Dr Boorstein; could you make that two patients for dental work, Monday?”
I kid you not, it wasn’t 15 minutes later before there was a radio call saying that Zouletta Serval was doing that weird-serval-neck-arching-thing. We are baffled at this odd phenomenon that only affects servals and seems to be related to a change in the weather. When it’s cold outside one day and then really nice the next day, the arching seems to happen on the nice day. We’ve discussed the condition with experts in serval care across the country and have tried just about everything imaginable, but can’t tell that anything, other than continued warm weather, fixes it.
“Dr Boorstein; could you make that three patients for Monday?”
If you picture those horses that are trained to step high and arch their necks, that is what it looks like. There are variations on it where the cat’s forehead seems to be glued to the ground. Those cases get brought inside immediately. The cats are usually very wobbly in their gait and will fall over. It doesn’t usually affect their appetite though.
We were trying to decide if Zouletta should go into the West Boensch Cat Hospital for a few days, but by the afternoon she was feeling a lot better and thankfully, today, shows no sign of affliction. I’m crossing my fingers that it stays that way for her. Thor Bobcat really doesn’t want neighbors in the hospital and two cats in surgery are about all I can stand.
I don’t know what time Jumanji and Bongo will be coming into surgery, but you can watch it LIVE at http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-windsong-memorial-cat-hospital There is a discussion board at the bottom of that page where we can do Q and A with you, but the microphones are great, so you will be able to hear the vets and they often will speak directly to the camera to keep you informed.
As always, your gifts are tax deductible and much appreciated.
A man called on Dec. 13 and I called him back the same day and told him we would take his father’s serval if he would contract to never own another exotic cat.
On the first call he said that his dad was in the hospital and not expected to survive. I told him all of the rules for us taking the cat and he agreed, but then I didn’t hear from him for 20 days.
Meanwhile, on Dec 18 we were asked by USDA to take 2 bobcats from a Donna White, but I never have been able to connect with her. Also, on Jan 1, one of our supporters asked us to rescue a rehab bobcat in CA. We contacted the rehabber there and offered to assist, but they had been misquoted in the press and the bobcat was doing fine.
On Jan 2 he called and said his dad had died and that he wanted us to take Nala. I told he we would need a health certificate and would have to ask the FWC for an import permit, which can take 2 weeks.
On Jan 3 his vet called and asked what we needed him to do as far as a health certificate because no one could handle her. I told him that the vet only has to look at the cat and say it is breathing for the purpose of the certificate. He said his wife was a vet who had worked at Jeff Kozlowski’s big cat place in WI and that he had done some exotic cat work, but that he was very happy he didn’t have to handle her. He said that he knew her vaccines were not up to date; that he thought she was declawed and thought she might have been spayed. Jason faxed me the health certificate that night and the next morning I applied to the FWC for the import permit.
On Jan 4 the son called and asked me, again, what airline to try and I told him Delta might do it, but that it was hit or miss with them. He asked if they would come get her and I assured him they would not and that he would have to catch her, put her in a dog kennel and then at the airport he’d have to show the health certificate and even then they might not take her. I told him a couple hours in the air would be a lot less stress for her than riding all day in the back of a van, but that if the airline wouldn’t accept her, we would come get her. Much to my surprise the FWC issued the import permit the same day and faxed it to me.
I emailed the son and told him the import permit had arrived. He called me late that night and said that Nala had cost him a lot more already than he thought she would to send and that he was going to ask his brother to help pay her 360.00 airfare.
On Jan 5 the son sent an email saying Nala was “paradise bound”, was in the air and would be here by 3PM. We picked her and released her into her newly renovated Cat-a-tat and video will follow soon.
** January 2013 Advocat Newsletter – Nala Arrives – Nala arrived on Sunday, January 5th at Tampa International Airport. She was met at the cargo warehouse by BCR CEO Carole Baskin, President Jamie Veronica, and volunteer veterinarian Dr. Justin Boorstein. After a short car ride she was exploring her 2,000 square foot enclosure; her new home at Big Cat Rescue. http://bigcatrescue.org/advocat-2013-01/
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.
Male White Footed Serval
DOB 1/1/95 Frosty is the father of the only two white servals in the world, which were born here at the sanctuary. Big Cat Rescue stopped breeding in the mid 1990’s because there is no reason to breed an exotic cat for a life in a cage. Frosty loves when you toss him a snack and will jump as high in the air as he can to catch it before it falls. Frosty is quite acrobatic and if a keeper tosses him a treat, he will jump high into the air to try to catch it before it hits the ground. Frosty is much more stocky then the other servals and looks quite different with his pale coat and snow white socks. He loves enrichment and will get worked up into such a frenzy rubbing on a cardboard tube scented with spices that he will soon sports two thick strands of drool hanging from the corners of his mouth. Frosty also loves to mark his territory, including his keepers. He has quite a range and can spray more than three feet with exceptional accuracy. Several keepers have been “claimed” by Frosty!
Because white footed servals and white servals are rare, people will pay to see them, so breeders will inbreed to get the defective genes that produce the un natural coat color. They cannot survive in the wild because they could not hide from predators and cannot sneak up on prey even if they did manage to survive to adulthood. They do not live where it snows. There are only a handful of white footed servals in the world and only two white servals that are known to exist.
These are not albinos as they have pale blue to green eyes and some golden patches. They are born and mature approximately 20% larger than the normal colored servals. For the first year, their health is much more delicate and we have never known of white serval females to survive more than two weeks. We will not sell (although we’ve been offered $75,000.00 each) nor allow others to breed to our white servals because we do not want them to be exploited and the only way we can control that is to control their offspring. The demand for white tigers causes many of the normal colored cubs, born to these litters, to be destroyed. We will not be a part of anything that could cause the same to happen to golden colored servals. We do not
breed cats, nor sell cats at Big Cat Rescue.
Most of our servals were rescued from people who got them as pets and were not prepared for the fact that male or female, altered or not, they all spray buckets of urine when they become adults. Some were being sold at auction where taxidermists would buy them and club them to death in the parking lot, but a few were born here in the early days when we were ignorant of the truth and were being told by the breeders and dealers that these cats should be bred for “conservation.” Once we learned that there are NO captive breeding programs that actually contribute to conservation in the wild we began neutering and spaying our cats in the mid 1990’s. Knowing what we do about the intelligence and magnificence of these creatures we do not believe that exotic cats should be bred for lives in cages. Read more about our Evolution of Thought HERE