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African serval Ava arrived in November of 2019, along with her kittens Bell, Chili and Jalapeno (Hal). She was six years old at the time.

We’re relieved we can finally share good news about this 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 face, 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’d been contacted by someone privately who knew of Ava in the past. She said Ava had metabolic bone disease and previous fractures.

As soon as we did Ava’s radiographs, her leg fracture was obvious. It appears she’d had surgical repair, with plates and screws stabilizing the broken leg.

We’d heard that many of the servals bred there suffered from fractured legs, sternums, etc. We’ll never know how Ava’s leg was fractured but we’re thankful it had been repaired.

Metabolic bone disease is very common in wild cats bred by the “pet” market. When cats are fed a calcium-deficient diet without appropriate supplements, it results in weak bones.

Mama Ava definitely rules the roost. You can tell she loves her family. It’s always nice to see her joining in cuddle puddles with them.

Ava’s a busy serval. She’s always doing something, whether it’s with her head in the grass searching for things, or sniffing out all around her habitat for her favorite tuna treats her caretakers leave for her.

Thankfully, Ava and her family have been able to live out their lives safe, well taken care of, and loved.

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!



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