Jagger the African serval cat allowed to stay with Regina family

Jagger, the African serval cat, came to Regina from a breeder in British Columbia.
A Regina family is being allowed to keep its African serval cat until authorities review Saskatchewan's wildlife laws.

Kim Shaheen is fighting to hang on to Jagger after getting a letter from the provincial Environment Ministry saying the serval cat is classed as a wild animal and the family had until the end of November to get rid of him.

Serval cats, which can grow as tall as 66 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh up to 18 kilograms, seem to fall in a grey area when it comes to keeping exotic animals as pets.

The Regina Leader-Post reported most provinces allow them to be owned. The Shaheens obtained Jagger from a breeder in British Columbia.

But Saskatchewan wildlife officials told the Shaheens that Jagger would be removed because servals care considered potentially dangerous wild animals.

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Kim Shaheen told CBC News that Jagger is far from wild and has been declawed and neutered. He's even registered with the City of Regina. He said the family's prepared to move to B.C. if necessary to keep Jagger.

But on Wednesday, the Shaheens learned officials will review their case.

"There's going to be a review about our specific circumstance," Shaheen told CBC News.

"And I'm hoping the legislation in general [is reviewed] because I think the ministry was terribly surprised to find out how many servals and savannahs [a domestic-serval hybrid] are already in Saskatchewan."

Serval cats are widely distributed in Africa. They're long-legged nocturnal predators who eat a wide range of animals from insects and rodents to birds, fish and sometimes even larger prey such as deer. Their large ears give them exceptional hearing and their leopard-like spots make them almost invisible in tall grass.

One Arizona serval cat breeder warns potential owners that bringing home a serval is not like adopting a tabby from the animal shelter. While they can be as loving as any domestic cat, their size and wild heritage create special problems.

"They love to grab something from you and run with it hoping you will chase them for it." the breeder notes.  "Also, you may be in for a surprise if the cat goes on a hunting expedition in your bedroom at 3:00 am in the morning!  These cats are great jumpers and can you imagine an unexpected 40 pound cat landing on you."

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The breeder also warns parents of young children not to buy a serval cat because it might consider crawling infants as prey. And servals should be kept indoors, the breeder says, because unlike domestic cats, once they get outside they're unlikely to return home.

Kim Shaheen told the Leader-Post he and his wife Pam researched the serval cat carefully before acquiring Jagger. The family has received calls of support from across Western Canada since their situation was publicized, he said.

And how's Jagger handling all the drama?

"He just yawned and rolled over," Shaheen laughed. "He's upstairs sleeping on the bed now."