Police in Merrimack, N.H., are asking residents to be on the lookout for a 40-pound exotic cat that wandered away from its home.
Spartacus is a 4-year-old African serval that is legally owned and permitted through the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, according to police.
Police said the feline went missing from his home in the area of Peaslee Road on Sept. 9, and as of Friday morning, he had not returned.
Photos of Spartacus have been posted on the Merrimack Police Department’s Facebook page.
“He may come when called but tends to be skittish around strangers,” police wrote.
The cat’s owner, Dean King, told the Associated Press that his family adopted Spartacus from a Florida zoo. Spartacus usually spends his time in an enclosure during the day and stays inside their house at night. But the other night he managed to slip away.
“The dog didn’t want to come in last night. So my wife opened the front door. The dog and the cat spooked each other and off he went,” King said. “He’s gone.”
The family has been searching for Spartacus in the woods near their home. “We’re devastated,” he said. “Hopefully, he comes back.”
According to the Animal Diversity Web, an online database at the University of Michigan, African servals are solitary animals. Originally found throughout Africa, they are slender and agile with long ears and legs. They can leap distances of up to 13 feet. Their coats have a copper hue with black spots and stripes, and some of their facial features are white.
In the wild, African servals typically live to be 10 years old, but in captivity they can live much longer (22.4 years, on average). Their diet consists mostly of small mammals such as rats, mice, and shrews, and occasionally birds, insects, frogs, and lizards. They have, on rare occasions, been known to prey on dogs and poultry.
Mike DeFina, a spokesman for the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said servals are “fierce predators and very fast animals.”
“They are also legal to own if the owner goes through the proper channels; I know in this case the cat is legal and licensed through NH Fish and Game,” he said. “An animal like this, I would think, would be a hazard for domestic cats, dogs, small animals, and livestock like chickens, but from what I’ve seen this cat lives with and is able to coexist with other domestic animals, so while I wouldn’t say for certain it couldn’t be dangerous, it seems like this one is more or less ‘domesticated.’ ”
DeFina said if you see an African serval wandering around, do not approach it on your own. You should call the police or an animal control officer.
“Again, given they are natural predators and at the end of the day [it] is a wild animal, you cannot ever be 100 percent sure,” DeFina said.
Anyone who may have seen Spartacus or knows of his whereabouts is urged to call the Merrimack Police Department at 603-424-3774.