Kiara the serval and her pet cat, Chuck
VALLEY RESIDENT Lynette Lyon is testing out a new theory that her African serval, Kiara, can learn people skills from a domesticated tabby cat named Chuck.
Perhaps it’s not the most unusual of friendships, as they are, in fact, both feline. But the relationship between Kiara, a young African serval, and Charlie, a domesticated, California cat, is not something you’re likely to find in nature. This partnership could only come to fruition at Lyon Ranch, where dozens of species happily coexist.
Kiara is the newest exotic addition to the menagerie of Lynette Lyon, who also keeps fennec foxes, a Geoffroy’s cat, a fully-grown serval, an alligator and more, at her parent’s 12-acre ranch in Sonoma. While she grew up amongst therapy camels, exotic birds and Watusi cows at her parent’s nonprofit Lyon Ranch, Lyon has launched her own business as an animal educator. From classrooms to birthday parties, Lyon’s growing collection of exotic creatures offers the general public an up close encounter with the wild.
Like any good “mother,” she says all her animals are special, but with Kiara, she knows she found something truly unique. Born at Safari West in Santa Rosa, Kiara came to Lyon’s care when she was just days old. The small cat with oversized ears – which help it hear a mouse’s heartbeat up to a foot below the ground – was unusually social at a young age. While all the animals Lyon hand-raises easily imprint on her, Kiara was quick to approach guests and genuinely seems to bask in any attention showered upon her.
“She’s a total ham,” Lynette said. To prove that point, in January, at only a few months old, Kiara appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” where Leno was so smitten with the young cat, he put her in his shirt and joked about stealing her from the set.
This degree of sociability is ideal for Kiara’s work as an ambassador animal – she is effortless in her approach to new people and places. Having worked with exotic cats for years, Lyon had an idea to further enhance Kiara’s affable nature. She decided to get the young serval her own domestic kitten – something the wildcat could grow up alongside that just might teach her some tips on being a house cat.
Lyon brought in a variety of different kittens, searching for one that could match Kiara’s high energy nature. Enter Charlie, a.k.a. Chuck, an orange tabby who proved to be just rambunctious enough to handle Kiara’s wild ways.
“They pretty much do everything together now,” Lyon said. “They sleep together, they play together. They’re almost always together.”
Currently, the two are evenly matched in size, although Kiara is rapidly outgrowing Chuck. The African wildcat could grow as tall as 3-feet and weigh as much as 25 pounds, but Lyon said she’s not concerned about the eventual size difference.
“She never hurts him when they play, she usually just jumps on him and runs away,” Lyon said, just as Kiara pounced onto an unsuspecting Chuck, who didn’t seem too bothered by the impromptu attack as he absently flipped his tail while the wildcat purred on his back.