The Wildheart Trust has launched a campaign to ban the breeding of wild cat hybrids. I’m referring to the cross-breeding of wild cats with domestic cats to create a hybrid which at the first generation is half wild cat and half domestic cat (first filial). At subsequent generations there is less wild cat blood in the animal but they are still described as wild cat hybrids. They are popular with people who want to live with an exotic pet. They bring the wild into their homes and they are status symbols.
The best-known wild cat hybrids are the Bengal and the Savannah. They have grown in popularity at least partly because of social media influencers and celebrities who have bought these cats such as Justin Bieber who has a couple of F1 Savannah cats.
The Wildheart Trust has over 40 years’ experience of caring for exotic wildcats and they say that they have seen at first hand the “physical and psychological harm suffered by animals at the hands of humans”. They have called the campaign SERVIVAL. This is a deliberate misspelling of the word “survival” to include a reference to the serval which is medium-sized, lanky African wildcat with the longest legs in relation to body size of any cat.
And perhaps they’ve been prompted to commence this campaign by a recent rescue operation that they helped to organise. A couple of servals have been transported from a sanctuary in Holland to the Isle of Wight where The Wildheart Trust is located. Their names are: Tafkap and Xirus.
Tafkap and Xirus both come from a house in France I’m told by The Times newspaper. They both suffered from deformed and broken legs. The Wildheart Trust have x-rays of these cats on their Facebook page accompanying their description in which they state:
“Please look at the harrowing image of Xirus, discovered by French authorities isolated in a tiny room having been smuggled out of the Czech Repulic. The x-rays were taken by @stichtingaap showing malformed and broken bones because they had not received enough calcium in their diet. So while we cannot wait to welcome Tafkap and Xirus to the sanctuary we believe this is an escalating problem that needs urgent legislative action to make this hybridisation illegal.”
Note: it is particularly distressing to know that the legs of these servals have been deformed through maltreatment because servals are known for their beautifully long legs; allowing them to jump very high. Their jumping ability is used to catch small prey animals.
More than 20 servals and other wild cats have been rescued in Europe in the last year according to this animal charity.
THERE ARE MORE PAGES ON WILD CAT HYBRIDS AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE.
Thoughts on the campaign
That’s the story. My thought on their commendable campaign is this: they’re going to struggle to stop the breeding of wildcat hybrids. It is a strong market. There are many consumers out there who love these hybrids. They were large domestic cats with an exotic appearance. Buyers are often unconcerned about the conservation implications and how they are created. They are unconcerned about the potential difficulties that they might encounter in caring for them properly and adequately. They just see a product which they want to possess. This doesn’t apply to everybody who wants to purchase a Savannah cat but it does to quite a few.
Even in the best breeding establishments of the Savannah cat, you will see servals in enclosures about 20′ x 40′. They spend their entire lives in these enclosures. There will be a female and a male and they will procreate, as they wish, to create more servals. Some people want to buy servals and some of these servals will be used to create wild cat hybrids when they are mated with a domestic cat, probably another Savannah cat. The domestic cat in these wildcat hybrids is probably going to be a tabby cat. The tabby coat is the original wild coat.
It is instructive to understand how the serval lives in the wild. For example, in the high-elevation grasslands of Natal an adult male serval might have a home range of 31.5 km². And one female might have a home range of 15.8 km². This is the size of their home. To put that in perspective this is an area of 6 km x 5 km. It is not an area of 20′ x 40′ as mentioned. And that is a good enclosure. I’m sure that in some breeding facilities they live in smaller areas than that. To me it is just not right.
And, of course, the original servals have got to have come from somewhere. Ultimately, they come from Africa where sometimes kittens are taken from their mothers. I support the campaign to ban the breeding of these hybrids.
In the UK, under The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (Modification) (No.2) Order 2007, the British can keep servals and first filial wildcat hybrids provided they have a licence. I have a page on this on this website which you can read by clicking on this link if you wish. You don’t need a licence for second filial wild cat hybrids and lower filials.