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Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection officers recently rescued an African serval cat that was living in a Bethel, Conn., cellar.

The DEP found out about the wild cat when a local resident called the agency saying that his neighbor, Frank Monda, had a “tiger” in his basement.

Two DEP officers then went to Monda’s home. One of them looked over a chain link fence that separated Monda’s home from a neighbor’s and saw “the head of a feline, which he stated did not look like a domestic cat,” according to a DEPreport. “The head and ears resembled a serval or savannah cat.”

Servals, like other wild cats, are illegal to possess in Connecticut.

Officers asked to search the property, where they say they found a 15-year-old African serval cat in an enclosure with a door leading to thebasement.

Monda helped the DEP agents put the cat, which he said was named Mia, into a transport cage.

Mia was taken to the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Conn., where a veterinarian examined her and gave her the required vaccines to transport her out ofstate.

Monda contacted the DEP on June 14 to say he had found a facility in Fort Pierce, Fla., owned by Roger Newson, to take care of thecat. Monda paid the $262 fee to transport the cat to Florida.

Newson has been caring for the serval since July 2.

“She hasn’t completely warmed up to me,” Newson said. “I have to be careful because if I turn around she’ll bite or scratch me. But at least she is living with otherservals.”

Newson is licensed in Florida to possess African serval cats. Licensing for wild cat ownership in Florida requires 1,000 hours of training and one year of experience per exotic species to get a license to own that species. Heowns two panthers and seven Africanservals.

“When a wild animal accepts you, it is a wonderful pet,” Newson said. “But it’s not for everyone. It requires training andcommitment.”

Servals are common house pets, Newson said, but they tend to spray as they get older and need tiled living spaces that can be easily hoseddown.

Monda was arrested on a charge of illegal possession of exotic species for having the serval. He pleaded guilty and paid an unspecified fine.

The wild cat is “doing great” in her new Florida home, Newson reported Thursday.

[Source: the News Times, Danbury, Connecticut]