Putting an end to the practice of breeding exotic wildcats with domestic cats in the UK

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The Wildheart Trust launched the SERVIVAL campaign to ban the breeding of exotic felids with domestic cats within the UK. Of particular concern is the breeding of Servals, exotic felids native to Africa, with domestic cats to produce the Savannah cat. We are now calling on George Eustice, MP, Secretary of State for Environment, to end this cruel form of hybridisation.

Sign our petition here to help end the abuse of exotic cats and put an end to the abhorrent practice of breeding wild cats with domestic cats.

Read more below about our campaign and watch our video to discover why it is crucial we stop this cruel form of hybridisation which is doing untold harm and long term damage to wild species. Hybrid cats may appear cute and cuddly, but they are derived from a wild species and should certainly not be kept as pets in people’s homes.

Motivated by the ‘designer pet’ trade, fuelled by social media, the breeding of exotic felids and domestic cats (known as F1 hybrids) should have no place in the 21st century. It is no less cruel than breeding a wolf with a poodle.

This practice is also an escalating problem - evidenced by the dramatic rise in rescues of F1 hybrid cats in 2021. We have a moral responsibility to treat animals with dignity and not as commodities to be corrupted for pleasure or commercial gain.

Urgent legislative action to make this form of hybridisation illegal will prevent the suffering of individual animals caught up in this trade and mitigate against future threats to wild populations of exotic felids.

The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary has over 40 years of experience caring for exotic felids. We see first-hand the physical and psychological damage inflicted on animals at the hands of humans.

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Facts and Figures


  • There are 259 small and medium exotic cats or F1 hybrids registered as pets in the UK*. A large number of these cats are used for breeding, producing hybrids such as the Savannah cat.

  • The Savannah cat breed was only recognised in 2001 and since then there has been a surge in its popularity as a trophy pet, with F1 hybrids fetching up to £20,000 per kitten.

  • The popularity of the Savannah cat is booming with unregulated adverts for hybrid kittens appearing across popular selling sites, chat rooms and social media channels including Facebook.
  • The practice of hybridisation often leads to poor welfare and horrendous conditions for the animals involved. This is evidenced by a 2000% increase in rescued exotic felids at our partner organisation Animal Advocacy & Protection (AAP) over the last two years**.
  • The Wildheart Trust is providing a forever home for two rescued Serval kittens from the pet trade that were found locked in tiny rooms suffering from deformed and broken legs.

* data from Born Free

** data from AAP

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In Context: The UK regulatory landscape


The UK is trailing other countries in regard to regulating hybrid exotic felids, with many banning Savannah hybrids as they are deemed a danger to domestic wildlife and the public.

Current UK legislation does not regulate the hybridisation of exotic felids with domestic cats, nor does it sufficiently regulate the advertising or selling of kittens from such breeding. Additionally, there are insufficient laws regarding husbandry for these animals, allowing them to be kept in sub-standard accommodation by unqualified personnel.

Campaigning for change

We met with MP Bob Seely at the animal sanctuary in November. Bob has pledged his support for the campaign and is helping to fight our cause in parliament. The sanctuary is seeking an amendment to the kept animal bill in the first instance to include the banning of breeding exotic felids with domestic cats. In addition he is asking for stricter permits to cover the husbandry requirements for Exotic felids and F1 hybrids kept in private residences.

Following our meeting, Mr Seely commented: “I was pleased to visit the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary last month to discuss the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill and hear more about the excellent work they are doing at the sanctuary.

“I am supportive of their campaign to ban the breeding of exotic felids with domestic cats in the UK and I have written to Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ask that government include greater protections for exotic cats in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.

“In addition, I have also raised this issue with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs through a written parliamentary question asking if his department has, or intend to, make provisions to ban or require licenses for the breeding of Savannah hybrid cats.

“Clearly there needs to be tighter rules around this and I thank the Wildheart Trust for bringing the matter to the attention of the UK government.”

For more information on our campaign please read the Press Release we issued to national media on December 14th 2021.


Pictured:
Wildheart Animal Sanctuary COO - Lawrence Bates
Wildheart Trustee - Charlotte Corney
Isle of Wight MP - Bob Seely


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The Kept Animals Bill


The Legislation

Sponsored by DEFRA, The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill is a secondary piece of legislation which makes provisions regarding the welfare of certain kept animals that are in, imported into, or exported from Great Britain.

The Issues

The five overarching animal welfare issues addressed by the Bill are:

  • Keeping primates as pets
  • Dogs attacking or worrying livestock
  • Export of livestock
  • Importation of dogs, cats and ferrets
  • Zoos

The Measures

Measures on primates aim to prevent these animals being kept as pets. Where primates are kept in captivity, the Bill would introduce new licensing requirements to ensure that their welfare needs are being met.

We ask that the proposed measures also extend to felines.

On Monday, 25th October 2021, the bill had its second reading in the House of Commons.

Our Rescued Servals


We have recently provided a forever home for two male discovered with malformed and broken bones in a house in France.

The servals are called Tafkap and Xirus and were destined to be part of the trade to service the above market having originally been smuggled out of the Czech Republic. They were kept in isolation in a bathroom and bedroom because they fought so much when together.

At only 16 weeks old when discovered, these animals were stripped from their mother and forced into a life of pain and suffering at an early age.

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Tafkap and Xirus are just a small part of the rapidly increasing trade in wild felids to support our desire for trophy pets. Most owners of Savannah cats will be blissfully unaware that the very act of buying and owning this breed is fuelling animal suffering.


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Xirus and Tafkap's Rehabilitation

Find out about Xirus and Tafkap's rehabilitation by the AAP in the short video below.

The Serval


The Serval, an exotic felid native to Africa, is illegal to own in the UK without a Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) license. Licensing requirements are under-regulated.

First-generation or F1 Savannah cats are illegal to own without a DWA license. It is unlikely that the average cat owner can obtain such a license. Pictured below is one of the rescued Servals, to be homed at the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary.

More information


Download our Servival flyer to read more information about our campaign.

Download our Servival Flyer