The Africa Series – Special Case #1 – Skylar the Serval Kitten
In the first Africa post, I did a short introduction on special cases, and Skylar the serval kitten! Skylar was estimated to be about 4-6 weeks when he was brought into the clinic as an orphan. When I was at the rehab centre, Skylar was about 3 months old, and was able to interact with the volunteers, instead of just the staff. I was blessed to be the first volunteer allowed to have Skylar as a special case! I want to give a little run-through about what a typical day with Skylar was, for a more in depth explanation on why having a special case is such an honour, and a task!
Skylar was kept in the clinic overnight until it was warm enough for him to be in an enclosure outside through the evening. This meant every morning and evening, he would need to be transported to and from his enclosure. Now I don’t know how many of you have tried, struggled and failed at forcing your domestic cats and kittens into cat carriers, so just IMAGINE trying to get a wild kitten into a box!! It was a task in itself some days! His enclosure needed to be cleaned daily, poop-scooped, water bowls cleaned, raked and occasionally scrubbing his concrete house! The bedding in the house needed to be changed if it was soiled. Just typical animal husbandry, however this was always done outside the normal rounds. Hence the “task” part of my intro!
When I first started caring for Skylar, he was on mainly liquids. By the end of my time, he was eating more solids than liquids. He needed to be fed earlier than our normal rounds, and in between, whilst other volunteers were on their break, and last feeding was after rounds at the end of the day. Preparing his food included heating milk, and thawing and preparing his meat. There was a LOT of handling raw meat, definitely not for the weak stomached. Although he was essentially hand reared from a month old, he retained a lot of his natural behaviours; one of this behaviours being food aggression. You needed to set the food down very quickly when you were feeding him or you would end up with very marked up hands!
Skylar was high-energy, and as a kitten he needed as constant of attention as could be offered. There were “babysitting” shifts scheduled, and someone was with him at all times through the day to make sure he didn’t eat anything he shouldn’t, and had someone to play with him at all times. He was too young and light for quite some time, and could not have flea treatment as they didn’t have a small enough dose for him. All the supplies are donated to Moholoholo, so they do not always have the right sizes or doses for all the animals. Skylar had fleas and ticks picked off him daily, which seemed like a never ending task, but he was always grateful.
As wonderful as it was to be able to “play” with a wild serval kitten all day, it is important to always remember that Skylar is a wild animal, all these animals are wild animals. The attachments we try to form with them are to keep them from having to be confined with no other animals or interaction. the longer they are able to interact with people and not pose a significant threat, the longer they have some amount of freedom. Skylar could never be released, because of how young he was when he was brought in. I love Moholoholo, the staff and all they stand for. I think that all the animals in their care may have had a rough start at life, but are very lucky now. This entire experience was an honour, and caring for such amazing animals will always be the greatest experience of my life!