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Exotic serval cat that escaped from N.H. home is back with family

Spartacus, a 40-pound pet serval, was successfully caught by its owners Saturday, days after it had escaped their New Hampshire home.
Spartacus, a 40-pound pet serval, was successfully caught by its owners Saturday, days after it had escaped their New Hampshire home.Photos courtesy of the Merrimack Police Department

A pet serval that went missing in New Hampshire Wednesday, drawing widespread attention, has been found, according to Merrimack, N.H. police Saturday.

The 4-year-old, 40-pound exotic cat named Spartacus was trapped by its owner near his home Saturday morning and is in good health, said Captain Matthew Tarleton in an e-mail.

Its owner, Dean King, said his family had been chasing the cat around Merrimack Friday night and Saturday morning. Eventually, Spartacus probably followed the family home and settled into a trap in the backyard set “with his blanket and some irresistible rats," King said in a text Saturday morning.

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He sent a photo showing the serval nestled beneath the blanket, a patch of its distinct spotted fur peeking out.

Spartacus, a pet serval that had escaped a New Hampshire home and led its owners on an all-night chase, settled under his blanket after being caught Saturday, lured by the blanket and "irresistible rats."
Spartacus, a pet serval that had escaped a New Hampshire home and led its owners on an all-night chase, settled under his blanket after being caught Saturday, lured by the blanket and "irresistible rats."Dean King

The serval, a wild cat native to Africa, had been legally adopted from a Florida zoo, the Associated Press reported. Spartacus is legally owned and permitted through the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, according to police.

The day after the escape, King told the Associated Press that the cat, which usually spends time in an enclosure during the day and in the house at night, slipped out as the family let another pet inside.

“The dog didn’t want to come in [Wednesday] 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.”

Mike DeFina, a spokesman for the Animal Rescue League of Boston, told the Globe Friday that servals are “fierce predators and very fast animals,” but said that Spartacus probably would not pose a risk to the community, since “it seems like this one is more or less ‘domesticated.’ ”

The escaped serval had drawn local media attention and generated over a thousand comments on the Merrimack police Facebook page. Photos of Spartacus released by police include one that became popular, showing the feline stretching up on its hind legs apparently to look at a coffee maker on a kitchen counter.

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One commentator reacted with relief to a post on the police Facebook page that Spartacus had been found.

“Yay!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t believe how invested I was in this cat,” the commentator posted. “He’s not even mine and I feel like my own pet made it home! So happy for his owners!”

Thanks to the attention, King said he would be posting updates on an Instagram page set up for the cat. But that would be a project for another time.

“We are all going to get some sleep now,” he said.

Back at home, Spartacus reclined in his cage at Dean King's home.
Back at home, Spartacus reclined in his cage at Dean King's home.Dean King/Associated Press

Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.