It wasn’t your average choice for a household pet.
But when Kelly Jones’ husband Seb, 29, announced that he wanted to adopt a serval – a wild African cat – she wasn’t surprised.
The couple, who have two young children, Sienna, four, and Brandon, 10, have never owned a ‘normal’ domestic animal.
In fact, Seb owned a range of rare snakes and lizards during his childhood and after meeting Kelly, now 28, she began sharing his passion for bizarre pets.
‘There’s Morticia, a hairless Sphynx cat, and Sobec, the Cuvier’s dwarf caiman, which is a small crocodile, and then the latest edition, Anubis, a serval cat,’ Kelly, from the UK, tells New Idea proudly.
Born on March 4 this year, Anubis was adopted by Kelly and Seb at 11 weeks old and has since grown to more than five times the size of a domestic cat.
Now nine months old and boasting a spotty coat, it’s little wonder he’s attracted a lot of attention in his short life.
‘Anubis is already three-feet tall and although he’s considered dangerous due to his two-inch fangs and long claws, we let him sleep with the kids,’ Kelly says.
‘We don’t think he poses a threat to our family at all. He’s harmless and would only attack if he felt threatened.’
‘He’ll snuggle up onto our laps at night and loves nothing more than being stroked gently,’ she adds.
The long-limbed wildcat is typically found in the African Sahara desert and Anubis is the first known purebred serval to be born in the UK.
After adding him to their dangerous animal licence – which allows Anubis to legally live alongside their family – Kelly and Seb built a wooden enclosure in the garden of their two-bedroom home for their new family member.
Unlike a domestic cat Anubis doesn’t eat anything other than raw meat such as mice, birds, chicks and rabbits and he is fed every three hours.
‘Anubis eats the bones and skin off any animal and it’s no surprise he’s classified as dangerous,’ Kelly says.
‘If threatened he’d attack anyone that came into our home and there’s no doubt that his bite could be fatal.
‘At home I’m definitely his favourite and we’re not scared of him,’ she insists. ‘Even the children aren’t fazed. They’re used to us introducing them to strange pets.’
However, the mum-of-two admits the family has installed CCTV in his enclosure and has taken out public liability insurance in case their pet happened to escape.
And while he’s a beloved pet, the family are already planning on breeding from Anubis.
Servals can cost anything from $1300 to $21,000 depending on the particular specimen, and keeping one as a pet comes with responsibilities.
Anubis needs a lot of attention and has to be given daily exercise on his lead,’ Kelly explains. ‘He lets us know what he wants by hissing at us and we now know which hisses mean he’s happy, angry or hungry.’
When Anubis isn’t feeling sociable, he will go into his enclosure, which is built off the back of their living room, to spend time on his own.
But many evenings, he’ll come into the house to say hello.
‘Anubis is tired in the evenings and will often come indoors after spending the day on his own,’ Kelly says.
‘We wouldn’t leave him alone with the children during the day but at night he’s a completely different cat. Once we trust him enough we’ll build a cat flap in the door so he can come in and out as he pleases.’
Despite Anubis being hand reared in the UK, he hasn’t lost all his natural hunting abilities.
‘We’ve all been really shocked by how wild Anubis actually is. He climbs up the fences and loves having fresh raw meat to chew on,’ explains Kelly.
Anubis is still growing.
‘He’s already taller than our four-year-old daughter – it’s crazy,’ Kelly says.
Anubis is allowed to be out in public places as long as he’s kept securely on his lead at all times and he even enjoys a car ride to the local shops.
‘We get people pointing and staring at him whenever we are out and about,’ Kelly says.
‘He’s so popular that it’s almost impossible to enjoy a family day out without people flocking around us.
‘Seb loves posing with him on social media and he has almost 10,000 Instagram followers.’
Kelly has a word of warning for anyone else thinking of adopting a serval.
‘I’d advise anyone thinking of having a serval as a pet to do their research first. They’re a huge responsibility and need a lot of care,’ she says.