Serval Owned by Nick Natoli is Loose in St Charles County MO
Man’s pet, an African wild cat, on the loose in St. Charles County
Dispatchers received a curious report this morning of a “cheetah or a cougar” running in a field near Highway 94 and Westwood Drive.
Nick Natoli is sure they saw Cleo, his pet serval, which has been missing for about a month.
“The only problem I’m having with trying to get her back is I need to be able to see her,” Natoli said. “Other people spot her and get out of their cars and try to call her or approach her. All that’s doing is scaring her away.”
Servals are African cats that grow to about 25 or 35 pounds and stand about two feet tall at the shoulder, said Ed Ramsay, professor of zoological medicine at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. They are long-legged and lanky and sport dark spots in their yellowish fur.
“They’re very attractive,” Ramsay said. “People see them and fall in love with them.”
But Ramsay said servals are wild animals. They haven’t been domesticated like cats and dogs.
“It really isn’t a great idea for people to be acquiring these animals as pets,” he said.
Servals probably wouldn’t act aggressively toward humans, Ramsay said. “I think if you were to try to wrestle one, you’d come out on the wrong end, but as far as the public is concerned, I wouldn’t consider it dangerous,” he said.
Ramsay said wild servals probably eat birds, small mammals, rodents and whatever else they can catch.
Theresa Williams, director of the St. Charles County Division of Humane Services, said no special permits are required for owning servals.
Natoli, 27, lives in the Defiance area. He said Cleo weighed about four pounds when he got her. She now weighs about 25 pounds, he said.
“She was sweet as could be,” he said. He said Cleo slept in his bed and was trained to fetch tennis balls, sit and come when called. “She does everything you would want a cat to do,” he said.
Natoli said Cleo stayed outdoors during the day in a wire enclosure attached to a chicken coop. She apparently broke a wire on her cage and escaped about a month ago, he said. Since then, he said, several of his neighbors have spotted her near his home and in the Busch wildlife area.
Anyone who spots Cleo can call Humane Services at 636-949-7387.