JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - The owner of a 10-month-old African Serval cat is offering a $1,000 reward to whoever can return her pet.
The cat, named, "Cheeto," has been missing since Feb. 24 when it escaped its leash and harness during a walk after being startled by a dog near Bassett Court.
Officials with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office say the serval is described as the size of a small puppy, having yellowish orange type fur with black spots similar to that of a Cheetah, and weighs 35 pounds.
A press release by the sheriff's office states that the serval is declawed in the front only.
According to the owner, the serval is not aggressive, has a microchip implanted in it and is domesticated.
"They're not going to come attack a person out of the blue," said Dr. Brian King, an area veterinarian."There is no reason for them to do that, and they're more scared. They stay hidden."
Cheeto's owner said she searched for her pet Tuesday night since the serval is nocturnal, but came up empty handed.
Jenny Harris said she was on Riverland Drive Sunday night between 11:30 p.m. and midnight when she took a photograph of an animal resembling the missing serval.
"I came around a turn, and the first thing I saw was its tail," Harris said."It ringed, like a raccoon. I slowed, he was right along the white line, and as I approached, he stopped and turned towards me."
Harris said that's when she realized it wasn't a raccoon, but a large cat.
"I know bobcats live in the area, but this was not one," Harris said."He had solid spots, big ears, real sleek. I thought it was a magnificent creature."
Harris said the animal did not seem to be afraid of the car, which she said concerned her.
"That's when I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures," Harris said. "I really wanted to get out, but I had no idea if this was a wild animal or not."
Bailli Taylor at Live Oak Little School on James Island said she and another teacher might have spotted the missing serval on Monday.
"I saw it and we thought it was just a crazy looking cat," Taylor said."It went under the fence to a neighborhood behind the school."
"Most people that end up getting a cat like this have done research," Dr. King said. "They're spending money. They're having to travel a lot of time to get it."
King stressed that African servals, by nature, are not aggressive and usually belong to responsible owners.
If anyone sees the serval they are asked to call Consolidated Dispatch at (843) 743-7200 or Home Again Pet Finders at 1-888-466-3242.