(CNN) – An Atlanta woman woke up to a surprise when a cat, not her own, jumped onto her bed Wednesday morning. He was even more surprised to discover that the cat was a serval, an exotic feline native to Africa.
Kristine Frank, who lives in the Brookhaven neighborhood, told CNN that the feline entered the home shortly after her husband took their dog out, leaving a door open.
The cat was only 6 inches from his face, Frank said. She scared him off the bed.
“I said, ‘That’s not a normal house cat. I don’t know what it is, but I’m terrified right now, ‘”she said.
Frank said that she slowly left the room and her husband opened a door that led to the outside, allowing the cat to exit the house.
“Then I thought, ‘Was it a lynx? Was it a leopard? It was a baby? Was she a mom? ‘”Frank said.
He called the animal control service, which told him to contact the Department of Natural Resources, which is now investigating.
“It still terrifies me a bit because that cat is illegal and there is a reason why it is illegal. So I really don’t know what he’s capable of.
The cat is still on the loose. Frank thinks the serval, which he estimates to be 76 centimeters tall, is someone’s pet.
Owning a feral cat is illegal in Georgia, but there are no federal laws against it, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
ALDF’s senior manager of legislative affairs, Alicia Prygoski, told CNN that this case demonstrates the importance of banning the ownership of a feral cat, because it puts other members of the community at risk.
“Wild cats are not for private possession,” said Prygoski. “The wild cat trade in this country is really not well regulated, resulting in many species of wild cats, including servals, living their lives in private homes that are not suitable environments for the natural behaviors they exhibit.
The Department of Natural Resources has been working to install traps in Frank’s neighborhood, Prygoski said.
“When law enforcement can catch her, we hope they will place her in an accredited sanctuary where she can live the rest of her life in a suitable habitat,” said Prygoski.
Prygoski says that anyone who sees the serval should stay away from the feline and contact the animal control service or the Department of Natural Resources.