Woman 'Heartbroken' She Can't Keep Exotic Cat After 'Pet' Entered Home, Jumped on Person's Bed

A woman in Atlanta said she is "heartbroken" to learn that authorities will not allow her to keep her exotic African cat, after the large animal escaped and entered another person's home.

Anna Fyfe, the owner of the African serval named Nala, said the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) took the cat into custody on Thursday after the animal managed to escape her home more than a week ago, 11Alive News reported. The large spotted wild cat is native to sub-Saharan Africa, and is illegal to own as a pet in the state of Georgia.

"I am heartbroken," Fyfe told the news outlet. "She really helped me get through a lot."

Fyfe told 11Alive News that her family found Nala near her home in South Carolina. When Fyfe moved to Atlanta to attend the University of Georgia, she decided to bring the 2-year-old cat with her, according to the news outlet.

Nala first came to the attention of the DNR after she escaped from Fyfe and was found inside another person's home on June 30. Kristie Frank, who lives in the Brookhaven neighborhood of Atlanta, told news outlets that she was frightened after the large cat entered her house and jumped on top of her bed.

"I'm laying in bed and I hear a thump on my bed," Frank said, according to local news outlets. She opened her eyes to find a serval just 6 inches from her face. "It was big. It was scary."

Frank said she recalled thinking the animal, which was roughly two-and a-half feet tall, could have been a bobcat or a baby leopard. She immediately called animal control, which told her to contact the DNR.

'That's not a normal house cat. I don't know what that is, but I am terrified right now,'" she told CNN. The serval was on the loose in Atlanta for nearly a week before authorities managed to locate her.

African Serval
A woman in Georgia said she is "heartbroken" after authorities told her she cannot keep her exotic African serval cat. Here, an African serval cat is seen at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 31, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Though servals are illegal to own, Lt. Wayne Hubbard of the DNR told news outlets that the African cat remains popular within the pet trade. But now that Nala has been found, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) said they hope she will be placed in an accredited sanctuary where she can live in a more natural habitat.

The cat is currently in the custody of the DNR, where she is undergoing evaluations, 11Alive reported.

"Serval cats are not the same as domesticated house cats; they are wild animals who do not belong in private homes. In their natural environments, they have vast territories in which they climb, run, jump, and hunt on a daily basis. In private homes, they will inherently be denied opportunities to exhibit these natural behaviors – thus impacting their physical and psychological needs and result in diminished welfare," Animal Legal Defense Fund Senior Legislative Affairs Manager Alicia Prygoski told Newsweek.

"Accredited sanctuaries offer safe and secure environments, so there is a significantly decreased risk of escape versus a keeping a serval cat in a private home. Sending this serval cat to an accredited sanctuary will keep both the cat and the community safe from another escape," she added.

But Fyfe disagrees with the authorities and fears Nala will be scared to be taken from her home. She said Nala was declawed, slept safely in her bed every night, and was fed raw chicken and steaks.

"Yes, she is illegal in Georgia, but her home is in South Carolina," Fyfe told 11Alive. "I think she should be taken back there. She's probably scared and confused right now."

Fyfe added that she is going to try to visit the cat and attempt to fight for her custody again.

"I will try to fight this the best I can," she told the news outlet. "I don't think it is fair for her to go to a sanctuary. It is not a good life for her considering her life she had before."