Officials in Georgia are searching for a serval, an exotic wild cat native to Africa, after a woman claimed it appeared in her house and jumped onto her bed while she was sleeping.
The search is concentrated in the Brookhaven area near Atlanta’s Buckhead community.
On Wednesday evening, a resident called Fulton County Animal Services reporting that a large wild cat entered her bedroom. No one was hurt and her husband snapped a photo of the serval and shared it with state authorities, according to local Georgia ABC affiliate WSB-TV.
It’s illegal to have servals, which physically appear similar to cheetahs and leopards, as pets in Georgia, the state’s Department of Natural Resources told ABC News.
Lieutenant Wayne Hubbard, the Special Permit Unit Program Manager of DNR, told ABC News the cat was sighted on Tuesday, June 29, again on Wednesday, June 30, when officials were first notified, and once more on Thursday.
When officials arrived to the area of the Thursday spotting, the cat had disappeared and a trap was set up at that location.
“We are currently plotting the serval’s movements through reports of sightings from the public. In total we have had six sightings which are all the same general area. The location of our trap is still centrally located within the cat’s movement area so it will remain there until it drastically changes location,” Hubbard said.
He said so far an owner of the cat has not been positively identified but “we do have some information that we are following up on.”
If an owner can be identified they face the possibility of being charged with the illegal possession of the cat as well as for allowing it to escape captivity.
Officials say that they believe the serval has been raised as a pet and doesn’t pose any danger to the public as long as a person does not try to physically capture it. They’re warning the public to keep their distance.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has offered to place the cat in an animal sanctuary in North Carolina once captured.
The serval is described as a “slender, medium-sized cat; it stands 21-24 inches at the shoulder and weighs up to 40 pounds. Prominent characteristics include the small head, large ears, spotted and striped coat, long legs and a black-tipped tail that is around 12 inches long. The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size.”
Anyone who spots the cat is asked to call DNR at 1-800-241-4113.