Exotic cat recovering at zoo after police found cocaine in its system

This serval came to the zoo in late January after it escaped his owner’s car during his owner’s arrest. (Source: WXIX)
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 4:39 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX/Gray News) – A serval is recovering at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens after a traumatic experience that left the animal drugged and injured earlier this year.

A serval is an exotic cat breed native to Africa. The serval came to the zoo in late January after it escaped his owner’s car during his owner’s arrest.

As Cincinnati police were arresting the man, the serval jumped out of the man’s car and ran up a tree, according to Ray Anderson with Cincinnati Animal CARE.

“We got called in to get the cat out of the tree,” Anderson said.

Authorities initially described the serval as a leopard. Anderson said the Hamilton County Dog Warden deputies were surprised.

“[They weren’t] sure what they were dealing with,” Anderson said. “Hindsight being 20/20, it probably would have involved a whole lot more people.”

Servals can grow to three times the size of a house cat, weighing in at 20 to 40 pounds. They can also jump seven feet in the air.

Anderson said this particular serval weighs 30 to 35 pounds and was “not excited” to be removed from the tree.

“In the process of getting the cat out of the tree... obviously, the cat didn’t want to get out of the tree... and our officers were working really hard to make sure they didn’t lose the cat in the process... Yeah, the leg was broken in the process,” Anderson said.

The cat was eventually rescued, and officers called in an exotic cat expert to learn what to do next.

The expert told the serval’s rescuers he didn’t know how they managed to capture a serval. Anderson said the expert told them, “‘I’d rather deal with a tiger.’”

The medical staff at Cincinnati Animal CARE tested the serval’s physical health and worked on his leg. They also conducted a toxicology report.

“It did come back positive for cocaine,” Anderson said. “Now, we can’t say how the animal got the cocaine in the system. I don’t know if it was environmental or experimental.”

The Hamilton County Dog Warden conducted an investigation and considered charges.

“But everybody was very cooperative in this case, and we didn’t feel it was necessary,” Anderson said.

The Cincinnati Zoo took in the serval.

In a statement, a zoo spokesperson said, “The serval has been receiving veterinary care in our Animal Health Center since he was brought here. He’s doing well, and the next step will be for our Cat Ambassador Program team to work with him and determine if he’s a good fit to be an ambassador animal. He will likely be behind the scenes for a while.”