The Pursuit of the Mythical Lap Leopard

Even the Smallest Wild Cats are #PredatorsNotPets

June 17, 2021

Tigger (left) may be smaller than Giselle (right), but he keeps his bigger counterparts in check! It takes only a single yowl or hiss to make his African Serval friends retreat. Not only is Tigger the Savannah Cat at-risk for a lifetime of health issues, but his breeding encourages the illegal trade of African Servals.

 The term “lap leopard” is very seductive. It paints a picture of an exotic feline that is not only small enough to cuddle but docile and affectionate enough to find such human attention appealing. That picture, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. It is in fact, pure fantasy!

Unfortunately, the propaganda surrounding these creatures is as pervasive as it is persuasive, and has enticed many a cat lover to put up large sums of money (in the thousands!) to own one of these ethereally portrayed animals. Sadly, when the true temperament of these unnaturally cross-bred animals comes to light, it is too late. The burden of the mistake doesn’t just fall on the expectant owner; it falls heaviest on the innocent creature.

Unlike the owner, (who is disappointed to find his new “pet” unaffectionate, destructive, untrainable, and frequently downright dangerous) the innocent animal, who didn’t have any choice in the matter, will suffer far greater! Not only is the animal most likely to find himself repeatedly re-homed or completely homeless, and unable to provide for himself, he is destined for a lifetime of health issues, dietary insufficiency, thwarted primal instincts, lack of appropriate care, and more!  

Because hybrid animals are not supposed to exist, they are subject to many issues that Mother Nature would have never allowed to occur. For example, a  Savannah cat is created when disreputable breeders (motivated by greed) cross a house cat (that has been acclimated to eating formulated cat food over the course of multiple generations of domestication) with that of an African Serval,  whose digestive system is designed to subsist on a diet of nothing but pure fresh meat. When these two animals are interbred, nothing good comes out of the mix.

While the domesticated side of the resultant hybrid cannot tolerate a diet solely of raw meat, neither can the wild side tolerate the formulated foods. The result: chronic and painful digestive issues ranging from constant diarrhea, to full-blown irritable bowel disease! Such afflictions can result in nutritional insufficiency that can lead to a host of additional conditions including cardiovascular issues, retinal atrophy, peritonitis, gingivitis, and chronic mouth sores, just to name a few!  

Domestic house cats are crossed with various wild breeds in order to create the mythical lap leopard. The four most common hybrid crosses with a domestic  house cat are: 

  • Asian Leopard cats, resulting in a Bengal 
  • Servals, resulting in a Savannah  
  • Jungle cats, resulting in a Chausies 
  • Geoffroy’s cats, resulting in a Safari 

Our sanctuary is currently home to eight African Servals and two ‘lap leopards’. Tigger is a male F-1 Savannah Cat (pictured left in the photo across from African Serval Giselle), and Sabina is a late-generation Bengal, (not pictured) who is forced to reside indoors as a result of the severity of her medical issues. As you can see from the photo, Tigger is considerably smaller than his wild counterpart. However, don’t be fooled by his small stature! Tigger has a purely wild heart and can hold his own in any situation. He is also very vocal, expressing himself in a broad spectrum of chirps and yowls, in addition to a routine meow! Although lap leopards Tigger &  Sabina have found a loving and receptive forever home at our sanctuary, they are still destined to suffer the consequences of unethical breeding in the various forms that their afflictions take, which is the greatest tragedy of all when it comes to unethical breeding!