servals kalahari


hear big catsKalahari

Female Serval

9/16/96 – 9/2/2016

Kalahari and Serengeti were pets that became unwanted after a divorce. Even people with the best intentions are not usually prepared for the life time commitment involved in owning an exotic cat. Kalahari is smaller than her sister Serengeti, and she has a chronic heart condition for which she must be given medication every day. Several of the cats at Big Cat Rescue have chronic conditions that require medications on an ongoing basis. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to get a wild cat to eat their medication. Kalahari’s keepers have found that she really likes whole prey like the day old chicks that are purchased frozen from a wholesaler. The chick is thawed out and then keepers put Kalahari’s pill down the chick’s throat. Kalahari gets really excited when she gets her special chick each day and quickly devours the treat unaware that she has just been medicated.

9/2/2016: Kalahari Serval would have been 20 in a couple of weeks, but during Hurricane Hermine (9/1/2016) she was found to be down in her cage, with labored breathing, and refusing to eat or stand. Kalahari has been on heart medications all of her adult life and no one ever expected her to even live half as long as she has. Dr Justin Boorstein came and did diagnostics and the X-ray showed a lot of fluid in her chest cavity around her heart and lungs, making it hard for her to breathe. He administered drugs to help dispel some of the fluids and we watched her through the night and most of the following day, but it was clear that she is not going to recover and we made the sad decision to euthanize her this evening.

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



More about Kalahari

Kalahari and Serengetti are two sister servals who were born here back in 1996 and are now part of the reason that we no longer breed exotic cats.  At the time they were born we had two volunteers who were married to each other and who were a couple of the most dedicated volunteers we had at the time.  Their names were John and Penny and they were people we could always depend on for cleaning cages, feeding the cats, giving tours and doing outreach.  There didn’t want children and were wholly committed to helping protect exotic cats in any way they knew how.  I could not have asked for a more dynamic team.

When Kalahari and Serengetti were born, John and Penny made their pitch for why they would be be the best home possible for the two youngsters.  Their intention was to raise them with the kind of doting love and attention that two full time parents could give.  They would be so confidant and socialized that they would be comfortable going out to schools and civic events as “ambassadors” to teach people about why we need to protect wild cats and wild places.  Back then we didn’t realise that such “ambassadors” only cause people to want them as pets and are thus counter productive to the mission.

John would rave to us about all of the new tricks he had taught “their girls” and the rest of us kind of lived vicariously through his stories because he never actually brought “the girls” out for us to visit any more.  They never did, to my recollection, take “the girls” out into the public as intended, but I believed they were loved and cherished and that was good enough for me.  The two servals were raised until they were two or three years old;  about the time that they became mature and were no longer fun and handleable as pets.

Then John and Penny divorced.  They quit volunteering.  Neither felt the other was an appropriate parent to “the girls” so they asked if I would take them back.  Of course we did, but the only family they had ever known was John and Penny so they were not friendly to our keepers initially and didn’t enjoy visitors.  That is why they aren’t on the tour path and why a lot of you have probably never even met them.

Serval Sisters
Serval Sisters

Kalahari has a heart problem and has to be given two types of meds every day and has had to be tended to by our current vet care staff for the past 10-11 years.  The people who had vowed to be there for her and Serengetti aren’t there any more, but current Big Cat Rescuers are.  Their story is just one of hundreds that we tell about why even the smaller exotic cats never work out as pets.

No one had more time invested in caring for servals that John and Penny did at the time of their adoption.  They had seen lots of other servals go from being cute and cuddly kittens who grew up into spitting, hissing servals.  They thought they were different.  They thought they could do it better and I believed it too. I really thought the love and attention they would give these two would be far above what I could offer here, with volunteers who come and go, and I thought that they would have a forever home.

There were a lot of cats here, mostly those who were rescued from fur farms, some who were born here, that I put into what I thought were loving and forever homes, but almost all of those cats have come home to us.  It is the family that makes up Big Cat Rescue who turn out to be the safety net for these cats and for those we rescue.  As I watch huge sanctuaries get in over their heads and fail, I am ever reminded that we have to be smarter, more diligent and more accountable to each other than ever before if we are to be able to provide the forever home that is Big Cat Rescue.

Tributes to Kalahari

Sharon Dower
9:33 PM Sep 7
Such a sweet quiet girl. i will miss you.

More Memorials at

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