UPDATE, July 17: A new lead has narrowed the search for Aquila down to the Burma Road area in Fernie, where owner Alex Hanson found her tracks today. Anyone along Burma Road is encouraged to keep a close lookout for the Serval cat, and to call the police if spotted.
It’s been four days since the disappearance of a Fernie resident’s beloved cat, and there are no leads yet as to where it went.
Aquila, an African Serval, disappeared from Alex Hanson’s backyard sometime on Friday, July 13. Hanson inspected the area on Friday night to find a large hole deliberately cut through the deer fence which lined his one-acre enclosure.
Hanson says that he and his partner believe it was a targeted attempt to either steal the cat, or set it free. At this point it is unclear whether the individual/s responsible were successful in capturing the animal, or whether their failed attempt left a means for the cat to get out.
Every night, Hanson takes his cat inside. He and his partner believe that the individual(s) responsible may have tried to steal it during the night on Thursday, to find that the cat wasn’t around, and then left with the fence broken.
The enclosure where Aquila spends most of her time is mostly surrounded by forest. Hanson admitted that most people in their neighbourhood, Alpine Trails, were not even aware that they had a Serval. This heavily forested area could also explain why he and his partner might not have noticed the broken fence until it was too late.
“We think it’s very targeted,” he said. “Somebody knows something, from somewhere. And we don’t have a lot of people over.
“You look back, how many people completely hate your guts? There’s some people that don’t like me around here, but a lot of it just doesn’t make sense.”
Hanson said that if someone was successful in stealing the 35-pound cat, it would have taken a team of at least two or three people. He says Servals are smart, quick, nervous animals, and do not come to the beckoning of a stranger.
Hanson has several theories as to why someone might have wanted to steal his cat:
First of all, someone may have wanted a Serval cat for themselves, and successfully captured it. In this case they’ll have to give it up soon as Aquila will not trust a new family. The other theory is that somebody thought they wanted it, attempted to capture it, and couldn’t, leaving the fence agape. In this case Hanson hopes she’s wandering around the base of Mt. Fernie and will return home soon. In the possibility that neither of these scenarios are true, then Hanson believes someone deliberately tried to set the cat free. He says this isn’t right; if someone loves animals, and doesn’t want to see them get hurt, then he says they should recognize that their Serval is domesticated and would not survive in the wild.
Serval cats are very expensive to purchase, with some costing over $10,000. But Hanson said that there isn’t a black market for them, as anyone who knows anything about the big cats knows that they don’t bond well with strangers. So he doesn’t believe that someone would try and capture her to sell later.
Hanson and his partner purchased the cat from a legal breeder in the lower mainland seven years ago. Hanson said that once a Serval has bonded with a human family, they will not bond with anyone else. Additionally, he said that Servals are very high maintenance animals, and likened it to having a child.
“It’s not an animal you just leave in your house and look it. They’re a lot of work. They have special feeding requirements, they’re not going to bond to anybody new, they’re not going to adjust to a new home and a new family,” he said.
Hanson and his partner do not have any children, and say that Aquila was a part of their family. He said that Aquila is incredibly smart, and acts like a trained dog.
“Leash trained, likes to go on walks, likes water,” he said.
He stressed that Servals are harmless to humans, and Fernie locals should not be concerned.
“The main thing is, she is not dangerous,” said Hanson. “She’s not going to hurt children. Servals are avoidance creatures. They don’t hunt people, they don’t attack humans.
“They go after birds, mice and snakes.”
Hanson’s post on social media about Aquila going missing quickly garnered attention and much response. As of Monday, July 16, the Facebook post had received 3.6K reactions, 2.9K comments and 22K shares.
In response to some people who say that they shouldn’t own a Serval in the first place, Hanson said that this breed of cat has been domesticated for thousands of years.
If you spot Aquila, Hanson asks that you do not try to approach her. Instead, call the police and report the location. He says that people make mistakes, and if the cat is returned he’s willing to leave it at that.
“She’s harmless, but if you chase her, she’ll just keep running. If you spot her the best thing to do is to just call the police,” he said.