Untamed Lowcountry

Her lost exotic cat was found. Now Lowcountry owner is working on another rescue

Toby the lost serval cat is back home in Hardeeville and continues to recover

Toby –– Christine Ismail's exotic serval cat that escaped and spent four months in the woods last year before being found -- has recovered from his ordeal and is seen wandering around in his backyard sanctuary recently.
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Toby –– Christine Ismail's exotic serval cat that escaped and spent four months in the woods last year before being found -- has recovered from his ordeal and is seen wandering around in his backyard sanctuary recently.

The search for an Orangeburg woman’s missing African serval cat touched the heart of a Lowcountry resident who understands how it feels.

Christine Ismail of Hardeeville looked for four months last year before her beloved exotic cat, Toby, was found.

“A survivor,” she called the cat.

When Palmetto Bluff Conservancy staffers captured him Dec. 23., 2017, Toby had lost weight and had recently been attacked by a dog. He has recovered since then.

Toby is “amazing” now, Ismail said Thursday. The Hardeeville home they share is now complete with a space for the 40-plus pound cat to run and play with new toys.

“He’s doing awesome,” she said. “He’s got a whole sanctuary built for him.”

Serval cats are a like regular house cats in their need for love and care, but not in their looks.

Golden and spotted like leopards — and much larger than a domestic cat — the animals are definitely special pets — and prohibited in certain states and counties, including Beaufort County.

Like Ismail, Sue Howard of Orangeburg has a love for these eccentric creatures and two of her own: Noah and Khalissi.

Noah, a 38-pound serval, has been missing since early July, according to a social media post by Howard.

“If you see him DO NOT SHOOT HIM! He is harmless,” Howard wrote in a post on July 8.

Ismail said Howard contacted her after Noah went missing. She gave the missing cat’s owner tips on trap setting, social media use and other strategies she used when looking for Toby.

In her experience, word of mouth is the most important part of the search and rescue process, Ismail said Thursday.

“If it wasn’t for the community helping me, (Toby) would never have come home,” she said.

Toby had changed a bit when he first came home, Ismail said. He was tentative and not as social as he normally was. Being in the wild for several months can do that to you.

But months later, after being reconnected with his family and fellow cat, Hildi, Toby is back to normal — or as normal as a 40-pound, exotic cat can be.

“We moved out to South Carolina to rescue these animals,” Ismail said. It’s why her concern lies not just with Toby, but also with Noah and what his owner is going through.

Ismail created a Facebook page, “Toby’s - Lost Paws” when Toby escaped to help get the word out.

She said Thursday that she’s turning access to the page over to Howard to improve Noah’s chances of being found.

The Orangeburg County animal shelter has also helped by setting traps in the area, The State newspaper in Columbia reported.

Howard has three set up outside her home.

“And I have faith (Noah) will come home,” Ismail said.

If you see the missing animal, you can call the shelter at (803) 534-0045.

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