Serval Owners in North Carolina Fighting to Keep their Cat

Serval pet in NC, USA

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The owners of a serval cat in North Carolina are fighting local government to keep their cat, which the town government considers an exotic pet.

Jon and Vivian Freed live in the city limits of Morganton. They have a serval cat named Tyra, whom they consider one of their children. Tyra gained attention this summer shortly after the Freed family moved into the area and Tyra escaped from her new home.

Tyra had been declawed (most “pet servals” are) when she was younger so the didn’t pose any threat to people. An escaped serval was enough to make the headlines in the small community. She returned a few days later, but by then she had received celebrity status.

Pet serval NC, USA
The serval in dispute.

After Morganton city officials learned they had a serval living amongst them the letter came. The Freed family have little more than two weeks to move Tyra out of city limits or face civil penalties. In a report by WSOC TV Jon said

“We’re absolutely crushed. We love where we are. We wanted to live in the city. Servals are apparently fine with the county and the state, but there is a city ordinance.”

Here’s a short news video of Tyra at home.

The Freed family is fighting back with an online petition found here. More than 3,100 people have signed the petition already. Listed below are some key points they bring up as to why Tyra needs to stay with her people.

  • We have had Tyra since she was a baby;
  • Servals don’t re-home well (and we DO NOT want to get rid of her);
  • Servals don’t re-bond – so are relegated to a zoo or a love-less adoption;
  • We moved to NC in part because of the state’s acceptance of servals!

Mayor Mel Cohen is also supporting the family. He stopped by last week and fed Tyra cheese and shrimp and verified Tyra is a tame cat and no danger to the community. Cohen says he’ll do everything he can to ensure Tyra stays with her family.

Letter from authorities
Letter from authorities

Tyra’s case could go before the Morganton City Council as early as next week. The Freed family is willing to bring her to the meeting to show city leaders just how wonderful she is. Let’s all wish them luck as they fight to remain in the Morganton community.

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8 thoughts on “Serval Owners in North Carolina Fighting to Keep their Cat”

  1. Local laws unless they violate a state law almost always rule the day it was the onus of the serval cat’s owners to make sure they could legally keep what is indeed an exotic pet in their home.
    Laws regarding exotic pets are in place to protect the human population and the environment as well as other domestic and wild animals.
    There are several states where hedgehogs those little tiny cuties are banned because they could survive in the wild.
    I personally hope an exception with conditions is presented to the owners so they can keep this cat as this is the life it lives and will likely adjust poorly to change. I have zero sympathy for the owners who have a wild animal in their care and created this situation for the cat and everyone around them to feed their own egos.
    The fact that the Serval is declawed makes me sick. I don’t really care about the bleating of the owners and their heartache when they were so selfish as to condemn a wild animal to live like this. I hope for this cat’s sake they are granted a one time exemption for this cat only.

  2. So your saying “real pets” should not be declawed or neutered/spayed, ears pinned, tail nipped , etc? Guess no reptiles, fish, birds or rodents either since they are in a confined space not natural to them. Look don’t touch right. I’ll agree that a zoo is not a good thing but that’s just a wild animal in a cage and undomesticated. Ever heard of Ferrell children/ppl. But that’s wrong right because that doesn’t “fit” society’s definition of civil so they get locked up. Oh! Back where we started…… hmmmmmmmm. Trying to fix something that’s as old as time before ancient Egypt. Maybe humans are the problem! So try fixing that.

    • Your comment is unintelligible. What does this mean: “Ferrell children/ppl” Do you mean ‘feral children’?

      I have published your comment in the interests of free speech but really it is awful and BS.

  3. Sorry, but as soon as I read that Tyra had been declawed I lost any sympathy for the family.

    I don’t agree with keeping wild cats (irrespective of size) as pets. I just don’t think it’s fair to expect a wild animal to be truly happy living in a home environment, but to butcher the anatomy of the cat in order to make it a pet is unforgivable. If they truly loved the animal they would not do this, but instead it’s all about having a wild (unarmed) animal as a status symbol. I wish it were illegal to privately own wild animals as pets.

  4. I don’t believe that servals make good pets and I disagree with them being pets. I have been very close to and interacted with a pet serval who had been abandoned to A1 Savannahs and she was essentially a wild cat. You could sense the wild in her. Totally unsuited to being a pet in my opinion. I suppose some servals are more domesticated than others but we hear of many serval escapes and the serval being killed by the authorities or someone with a rifle. We hear of servals spraying in the home etc.. I just don’t get it. We should be focusing our energies on true conservation in the places where they are native (Africa). So sadly I am with the authorities provided the serval is well looked after for the rest of her life.

    • I always wonder whether it’s love and promotion of the breed or whether these exotic cats are used as a status symbol and topic of discussion so the owner can brag they have a serval. What do you think Michael?

      • Elisa, as you infer it is really all about a status symbol like owning a flashy car. There is no doubt that the owners love their serval but it is really about the desire to own an exotic animal. That is a selfish reason and not a good one in my book.


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