Zoul Serval


Male Serval

3/1/1997- 10/29/2011

Arrived at Big Cat Rescue 4/29/2011

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.

Tributes to Zoul Serval


Unknown Nov 1, 2011
Zoul, I hardly had a chance to get to know you as an individual! I have just developed a love for our “5” which I will always cherish. I agree with Linda, the first time feeding you and your little family was thrilling! 🙂 I am sorry you suffered but you are free now and watching over your family and the rest of us. I hope you and all the others in Big Cat Heaven are at peace and having fun being free from pain, suffering and living in a cage! Bless you little one.

Lynda Licht Oct 30, 2011
Zoul, my most vivid memory of you has to be the first time I was observing feeding. The five of you all running in and out of lockout – what a change from your lounging personalities. The feeder handed me a bucket and asked me to walk away to create a distraction and WOW! Zimba and you came running after me. And all this time, you were most likely in pain…but you were a brave boy and didn’t let it show. Thanks for sharing your final few months with us – we are all better for it.

Unknown Oct 30, 2011
Dear Zoul I was just getting to tell all of you apart. I know Marie, Meredith, and all you keepers will take very good care of the rest of the family here. I will miss you and it was so hard today at tour time when I saw your name sign and knew you were not there anymore. Know you were very loved in the short time you had with us.

Marie Schoubert Oct 30, 2011
Giving meds (and treats…) to Zoul a few months ago made me get very close to him and his friends. It is amazing how fast we get attached to all of them. He was such a good boy! Like Meredith says, we will continue to take very good care of the rest of his family. Say hello to all our friends up there Zoul!

Meredith Pennino Oct 30, 2011
Zoul, I’m very saddened to hear of your passing.
So sudden, so soon. I feel we didn’t have enough time with you, allowing you the large space of open air, and green grass.
You had quite the cattitue Zoul. Full of hisses and growls for me.
I will miss you, but know it was your time.
You’ve been called to Big Cat Heaven, and I’m sure Esmerelda and friends were waiting for you to welcome you home.
Do not fear, we will continue to take excellent care of your friends Doodles, Santino, Zouletta, and Zimba

More Memorials at https://bigcatrescue.org/category/memorials/

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