African serval kitten Chili arrived in November of 2019, along with his mother Ava and siblings Bell and Jalapeno (Hal).

We’re relieved we can finally share good news about another international rescue we’ve been working with authorities on for months.

And this is a very special rescue since we’re welcoming a family – a mother and her 3 kittens – something we’ve never done before.

It’s rare kittens in the exotic animal industry are ever allowed to be reared by their mother, as nature intended. But, because of your continued support, that’s exactly what will happen for Ava, her daughter Bell and sons Jalapeno (Hal) and Chili here at The Wildcat Sanctuary.

These servals, along with 9 others, were seized from a breeder who’d been selling serval kittens for years, charging $8,000 or more. They were also using them for photo ops. The website was attractive, making buyers think the kittens were loved and well cared for.

But, that wasn’t the case at all.

The servals were kept in RV trailers. They were exposed to high levels of ammonia from urine, had litter boxes overflowing with feces, didn’t have proper ventilation or access to water. The RVs became very hot and the windows were covered so these poor servals didn’t even have natural light.

Online sales of exotic animals can be deceitful. When transactions are online and cats are shipped or delivered, buyers never visit the breeder’s property to see the true horror these cats endure.

Authorities began an investigation when they received a complaint from a buyer that the kitten she’d purchased had a broken pelvis, two broken legs, and an issue with the sternum, likely from over-breeding and in-breeding. There were reports from others their kittens were dying before even reaching their second birthdays.

As soon as we were contacted about this case, we began helping authorities with placement and the endless paperwork involved with an international rescue. These poor cats had already been through so much. We wanted to assure they’d have a chance to live out their lives wild at heart at good sanctuaries.

Whatever issues Ava’s kittens may have, we know you’ll help us give them the care they need….just as you’ve done with so many other special needs rescues we’ve taken in.

The kittens have been named after peppers since they have such hissy, spicy personalities. Just like servals in the wild. And that’s just the way we like to see exotic cats!

Life at the Sanctuary

We knew Ava and her kittens were seized from a breeder after several reports of cats with broken legs, sternums, and more injuries due to metabolic bone disease. We even found previous fractures in Ava that had been surgically corrected.  But we didn’t expect what happened with Chili so soon after his arrival.

Our caretaker noticed something was off when Chili was walking. Quick observation by our on-site vet team determined there was a fracture. Within minutes, we made calls to orthopedic specialists and Chili was on his way for emergency surgery at the Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota.   It was a late night, all of us were very worried about him.

The news wasn’t good. They found chronic fractures of Chili’s proximal left and right tibias and fibulas.

During surgery, there was concern that even plating both legs would be a challenge due the sponginess of the bones, possibly preventing screws from holding. But thankfully, the surgery was successful and Chili was up walking on his legs within days.

Chili was confined to a smaller space for several weeks. Our staff built him a tiny area near his family so they can be close by, while we ensure he heals.

We’ve been faced with something similar before, when cougar Andre arrived as a kitten with multiple fractures throughout his body.

We were excited that his follow-up radiographs showed the fractures healing nicely. We hope this is the last hurdle little Chili will face and look forward to him having a wonderful life here at the sanctuary with his family.

How You Can Help

Caring for a wild cat for life can be quite expensive. Our sponsorship program helps support the cats’ care costs and allows you to form a special bond with them. Would you consider becoming Bell’s sponsor parent?

Or even a one-time donation toward his care would be so appreciated. It’s easy to do using the buttons at the top of this page.

Thank you for caring about the little wild ones, too!


Surgical Update 10-27-2021

We rescued serval Chili when a notorious breeding operation was shut down in British Columbia. Poor nutrition and inbreeding can cause metabolic bone disease. Chili did indeed suffer from that, meaning his bones were spongy and fragile.

The past two years, Chili healed and grew strong, able to enjoy life just like his siblings and Mom. But now, Chili’s facing more surgery.

In 2019, he had fractures to both his left and right tibias and fibulas that we had repaired surgically with screws and plates.

During a recent exam and after reviewing Chili’s history and new radiographs, our veterinarian discovered Chili’s left rear leg had shifted and the plate there was pulling on his muscles and skin. That’s why we have him scheduled to have that plate removed.

We were up at 4:00 a.m. this morning to get Chili ready and transported for surgery. The offsite surgical center is about an hour and a half away from the sanctuary, so it was an early morning.

Tests there showed Chili didn’t have an ACL tear, as was suspected. Instead, he was diagnosed with an angular limb deformity in his left tibia.

This happened after he had his earlier fracture repaired, as a kitten,  and a plate was put in. Chili’s bone continued to grow on one side of the plate but not the other.

To correct this issue, he’s having a surgical procedure where a wedge piece is taken out of his bone so it can be returned to a normal angle.

The plate in Chili’s right leg was removed today.  His right patella does not sit in a normal location, it’s much higher above the joint.  Once he heals from this surgery, he may need surgery to pull his patella down.

Recovery for Chili is expected to be about 8 weeks.  He got injectable medications today and will begin oral medication tomorrow. Caretakers have already modified his indoor area so he can be safely confined to heal, yet have the company of his family, too.

We posted a live video from the surgical center you can watch at:

You, more than most, understand the huge financial commitment we make when we rescue young wild cats who’ve come from terrible conditions. Our sponsorship program helps in so many ways.

Surgical Update 11-12-2021

Though Chili’s surgery went well, during his recovery, the plates did not hold.  His legs were just too damaged from the disease.

So, the orthopedic surgeons performed another surgery, this time putting locking pins and plates into his legs to give him the best chance of success.

So far Chili is doing well.  He’s eating all of his meals and most of his meds, though he can be a little picky at times. We’re hoping for a full recovery, but we’re still taking it day by day with him.

He will have follow-up radiographs in a few weeks and then we’ll know more about any issues he may have in the future.

He’s such a strong and resilient serval who’s been through so much in his short life already. These recent surgeries have cost us over $6,000!

We don’t know what we’d do without your continued support for Chili.

Thank goodness Chili ended up at our sanctuary where his life is valued so much. You know we’ll go to any lengths possible to give him the life he deserves.


4 exotic cats rescued from ‘extreme cruelty,’ relocated to Sandstone Wildcat Sanctuary

SANDSTONE, MN — Rescue officials say a mother African serval and her three kittens are now safe after they were seized from an extreme cruelty case in Canada.

According to officials with the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, the sanctuary will be the final home to four of the 13 cats involved in the case.

The British Columbia SPCA helped seize the animals from a Canadian breeder, and many of the servals were living in RVs on the breeder’s property, lacking veterinary care, proper diets, and access to clean water.

Shown: Bell, the only daughter of Ava, is one of four African servals rescued from Canada and is currently at the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone.

In addition, officials say the cats didn’t have sunlight since the windows had been covered, and when inspectors arrived, they had difficulty breathing due to the smell of ammonia from feces and urine in the RVs.

The family of servals, whose journey started days ago as they were driven across the border from British Columbia to Seattle, were driven to the sanctuary after arriving in Minneapolis. They will have their intake exams on Thursday.

Officials add the case is extremely special due to the rarity of serval kittens from a breeder having the chance to stay with their mothers.

Servals are often taken from their mothers at a young age and sold between $7,000 -$10,000 each.

Pictured: The two sons of Ava, Jalapeno (nicknamed Hal), above, and Chili, below.

The wildcat family is made up of the mother, named Ava, and her two sons, Chili and Jalapeno (nicknamed Hal), as well as her daughter, Bell.

If you would like to become a sponsor parent of the latest sanctuary additions, you can do so by clicking here.

Wildlife Sanctuary officials say the cats will be released into a free-roaming habitat and will live out their lives at the sanctuary.

Below: The mother of the three kittens shown above, Ava. 

Krystal Frasier

Krystal Frasier

Social Media and Digital Content Manager