Cat fight brewing over African serval pets

Cat fight brewing over African serval pets

Cat fight brewing over African serval pets

Rick White and his one-year-old domestic serval cat Ramsey at his Vancouver, BC home Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. White received a ticket from city animal control officers in November and was told to get rid of Ramsey. White wants to fight this in court.

VANCOUVER — Rick White wants to let his cat Ramsey out of the legal bag in which it’s trapped.

The problem is that Ramsey isn’t just any pussycat.

The one-year-old is a serval, a small, cheetah-like creature, and they are not supposed to be kept in Vancouver under the city’s current animal control bylaw.

White is hopeful Vancouver councillor Adriane Carr, a Green Party member, can get the rules changed.

Carr said Wednesday she intends to follow up with city staff shortly to see if there is any easy way to amend the bylaw to allow servals to be kept in Vancouver.

“I think they are pets in other jurisdictions,” said Carr. “I’ve never heard of a problem.”

She even got a visit in her office from White and some servals.


“They were very passive in my office,” said Carr. “They are pretty.”

And Ramsey is pretty special to White, who has collected about 1,200 names on a petition supporting servals as pets.

“I love this cat,” said White, 41. “He is super adorable. I walk him on a leash. He’s like a dog.”

But the 11-kilogram Ramsey is not like a dog, or even a regular cat, according to groups like the B.C. SPCA and the Vancouver Humane Society that both oppose keeping servals as pets.

Servals, which originate in the savannahs of Africa, are not banned in B.C. under provincial legislation.

The province has an extensive list of controlled alien species that includes other members of the cat family such as cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, Eurasian and Iberian lynx and tigers — but not servals.


Weighing between nine and 22 kilograms and standing just 0.6 metres tall at the shoulder, servals don’t represent the same risk to human safety as a lion or a tiger.

They are even bred here in B.C., as was Ramsey, and can be found for sale online in Nanaimo — at the hefty price of $8,000.

Sara Dubois is the manager of wildlife services for the B.C. SPCA and has actually seen servals in their native habitat in Africa.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Dubois of the long-legged little cats in their own environment.

But she says that doesn’t mean servals should be pets, even if they have been bred domestically for generations.

“It is very difficult to meet their needs,” she said. “They’re a wild animal, genetically.

“We don’t feel wild animals should be pets and this animal is still a wild animal in our minds,” said Dubois.


Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society supports that position.

“Even if they’re bred in captivity, they retain the same behavioural and biological needs as their wild counterparts,” said Fricker.

“They need space, a lot of exercise, they’re a nocturnal, shy animal,” he said.

“We don’t think they make good pets because they’re basically being deprived of the ability to engage in their natural behaviour.”

White, who works for a cable company, takes Ramsey to the park regularly to play “fetch” with a ball that the cat retrieves.

While he keeps Ramsey with him for most of the week, White goes out to Chilliwack on the weekend to visit a friend who has three servals and some dogs.

Ramsey gets to play with the other pets in a large, outdoor enclosure.

The cat is actually White’s second serval. He split the $6,000 cost and shares custody of Stewie, who also happens to be Ramsey’s father.

White said he isn’t planning to use Ramsey to begin breeding servals. Ramsey, who has been declawed, is going to be neutered.


A quick check with several municipalities found regulations differ from place to place.

Nanaimo doesn’t have any bylaw pertaining to servals, while in Richmond, servals — as wild animals — must be properly contained.

In Surrey, servals would fall under Bylaw 15199 — Sale & Purchase of Exotic Animals.

Martin Stucki, who’s been breeding servals in Ponca City, Okla., for decades, says they pose no danger to humans but don’t make ideal pets.

“We’ve been breeding servals for 35 years, and we’ve never had one attack a human,” said Stucki, who works at A1 Savannahs.

“A serval is a shy cat. The worst thing that can happen is it’ll run away and hide.”

Anyone interested in seeing a serval can go to the Pet Lover Show in Abbotsford at the Tradex on Saturday and Sunday, where nine of the cats will be on display.

The petition supporting servals will also be at the show.


Disclaimer connected to this blog…Things said are of my opinion and the opinion of others…Stay tuned and follow this blog  Best  -B


~ by topcatsroar on February 20, 2013.

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