Serengeti the Serval at Big Cat Rescue



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Female Serval

DOB 9/16/96 – 4/10/2015

Serengeti and Kalahari became unwanted pets after their owners divorced. Even people with the best intentions are not usually prepared for the life time commitment involved in owning an exotic cat. Serengeti is distinctively larger than her sister Kalahari. Serengeti is very quite and keeps to herself.

Serengetti was euthanized in April 2015 after discovering that her liver was full of cancerous tumors that could not be removed due to their entanglement with the blood supply, organs and surrounding tissue.  Her sister, Kalahari, has the same issue, but her cancer was limited to her reproductive tract, so we were able to remove it and hope to give her a few more years.


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 Serengeti


Kalahari and Serengeti 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 Serengeti 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 Serengeti 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 Serengetti Serval

Sharon Dower
Apr 28, 2015
Pretty girl. I always had to look hard for you because you hid yourself so well and kept so still. I felt honored when I could finally talk to you and you would look at me and not hiss. You will be missed. That corner of “serval land” seems empty without you. You are free at last.

More Memorials at

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