A Big Cat Native To Africa Was Just Captured In Ohio — With Cocaine In Its System

Published March 8, 2023

The African serval named Amorie has been taken in by the Cincinnati Zoo after being treated for a broken leg.

African Serval In A Cage

Fox19/TwitterThe exotic cat is illegal to own in Ohio, but legal in nearby Kentucky and Indiana.

After police in Cincinnati, Ohio were tasked with getting a large cat out of a tree in late January, they were surprised to learn that it was an illegal, exotic animal. They were doubly surprised to learn that the cat, an African serval named Amorie, had illegal drugs in its system.

“Toxicology came back the animal was positive for narcotics in its system,” Chief Troy Taylor with the Hamilton County Dog Warden’s Office said, according to Local 12. “And DNA came back positive illegal serval.”

As Fox 19 reports, police in Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood were attempting to arrest a man on Jan. 28 when the exotic cat jumped out of his car and scrambled up a tree. Police initially thought it was a leopard and called Cincinnati Animal CARE for help. Taylor, meanwhile, thought it might be an F1 Savannah house cat.

African Serval In A Tree

Cincinnati Animal CARE Police originally thought that the African serval was an F1 Savannah house cat, a legal cat to own.

“[They weren’t] sure what they were dealing with,” Cincinnati Animal CARE’s Ray Anderson recounted to Fox 19. “Hindsight being 20/20, it probably would have involved a whole lot more people.”

The cat, Anderson added, was “not excited” to be pulled out of the tree. This resulted in a prolonged struggle between the serval and the officers, which left the serval with a broken leg.

“In the process of getting the cat out of the tree… obviously, the cat didn’t want to get out of the tree… and our officers were working really hard to make sure they didn’t lose the cat in the process… Yeah, the leg was broken in the process,” Anderson told Fox 19.

The cat was brought to Cincinnati Animal CARE for treatment, where veterinarians made two shocking discoveries. The cat was not an F1 Savannah house cat, but an African serval. And it had cocaine in its system. According to Newsweek the drug can make cats hyperactive, then lethargic, and can cause seizures in large amounts.

“Now, we can’t say how the animal got the cocaine in the system,” Anderson told Fox 19. “I don’t know if it was environmental or experimental.”

He and the police were also shocked to learn that the 35-pound cat was an illegal exotic animal. One expert told them that they’d rather “deal with a tiger” than the serval, which is capable of jumping seven feet into the air.

“It was sure a sight to see,” Taylor told Local 12. “And after talking to the cat expert, he said we did a great job and also pretty lucky because this cat could’ve shredded us apart and killed us.”

African Serval At The Vet

Fox19/TwitterThe African serval was treated for a broken leg sustained during its rescue from the tree.

Fortunately, the African serval’s story seems to have a happy ending. Named Amorie, the cat has been taken in by the Cincinnati Zoo, where he’ll be cared for from now on.

“The serval has been receiving veterinary care in our Animal Health Center since he was brought here,” the zoo explained in a statement. “He’s doing well, and the next step will be for our Cat Ambassador Program team to work with him and determine if he’s a good fit to be an ambassador animal. He will likely be behind the scenes for a while.”

As for the African serval’s owner? Several news outlets reported that he has cooperated with police, and is not expected to face any charges. While it is illegal to own African servals in Ohio, it is permitted in the neighboring states of Kentucky and Indiana.

After reading about the African serval discovered in Ohio with cocaine in its system, discover the story of the bear who ingested 70 pounds of cocaine. Or, learn the true story of Joe Exotic, the big cat handler from Netflix’s “Tiger King.”

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "A Big Cat Native To Africa Was Just Captured In Ohio — With Cocaine In Its System." AllThatsInteresting.com, March 8, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/african-serval-ohio. Accessed June 19, 2024.