‘Find a way to keep serval cats’

Cat owners want council to amend animal control bylaw to allow small African feline

Owners want serval cats to be allowed in bylaws.

Owners want serval cats to be allowed in bylaws.

While Maple Ridge is moving ahead with its animal control bylaw that bans wild cats, owners of wild African ones are still hissing about the new rules that could see their felines slapped behind bars, then put to death.

“It may sound dramatic, but we are living in fear,” said Rick White.

Under Maple Ridge’s new animal control bylaw, the SPCA has the right to enter homes and remove wild cats, for possible destruction, he said last week after council gave third reading to the bylaw that bans wild cats.

But cat lovers may have found a way to keep owners and the district happy.

They’re proposing the bylaw be changed to add serval cats as a permitted species providing they’ve been bred in captivity for three generations and they’re registered with The International Cat Association.

“What’s a domestic cat? That’s what we have to decide,” said White, a Maple Ridge resident.

Serval cat owners from around the Lower Mainland gathered at municipal hall on the weekend, demanding a change to the new law. They also collected a 600-name petition for the cause.

Serval cats originate in Africa and are larger than domestic cats, but have been in Canada since the 1960s and have been domesticated for thousands of years, said White.

They’re also smarter than the usual house cat, which doesn’t like to take orders. White says serval cats can be put on a leash and walked.

“They listen. They sit.”

When they hiss, it’s not because they’re about to attack. Instead, hissing is a way of communicating, just like a regular cat meows.

Maple Ridge’s bylaw lists several wild species that are prohibited in Maple Ridge, such as wolves, elephants, armadillos, killer whales and chimpanzees.

It also prohibits any kind of wild cat, but allows domestic cats, including the savannah cat. Savannah cats are cross breeds of serval and house cats and are considered domestic by The International Cat Association.

White said most other cities allow serval cats and that they’re not listed under the controlled alien species regulation, part of the Wildlife Act.