Jakarta. Imagine having large, athletic and exotically patterned mini-cheetahs to pet on your couch while you watch TV. Sounds feral? Not for Mikaila Patritz.
The 22-year-old actress, model and cat-lover has seven wild and hybrid cats roaming around her home.
Mikaila has been living around cats since she was a kid, thanks to her grandmother who often brings stray cats home to feed.
"My grandmother is a cat lady. We've been taking care of cats for over 10 years and she now has 58 cats at home," Mikaila said.
Three years ago, Mikaila saw hybrid cats on the internet and decided she wanted one.
"I read that Servals [African wild cats] can be domesticated to become house pets. I told my husband it would be cool if we have a mini cheetah as a pet," she said.
In three years, Mikaila has expanded her collection of wild and hybrid cats to seven: three hybrids – a Savannah and two Chausies, and four wild ones – two Caracals and two Servals.
"I just fell in love with them," Mikaila said.
Adopting hybrid and wild cats comes with huge responsibilities, since these exotic pets have to follow a strict diet, get special vaccines, be taken for walks just like a dog and be given enough space at home to lounge around.
Buying them in Indonesia is not easy since right now you still have to import them from the Ukraine, Russia or the U.S.
Mikaila said Russian breeders mostly sell Caracals, U.S. breeders Savannah and Ukrainians Servals.
Is It Legal?
Mikaila said this is the question she gets asked the most.
According to her, "In Indonesia we are allowed to import and own hybrid cats as house pets but we are not allowed to export or transport them to other countries, which explains why they're so expensive."
Mikaila said one hybrid cat can cost up to Rp 180 million.
"The certificates for them cost an arm and a leg, and then you still have to pay for the import fees," she said.
Mikaila spent Rp 50 million to import her Serval cat from the Ukraine and then another Rp 130 million to get all the papers sorted.
Though hybrid and wild cats look fierce and strong, they're often moody and have complicated hereditary health problems.
They include irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal parasite infection, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (heart disease), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and other serious diseases that can easily become fatal.
"Even their liver is not as strong as the liver of domestic cats," Mikaila said.
Hybrid and wild cats have to be given special "dead" vaccines to protect them from diseases.
"Dead vaccines are vaccines in which all the bacterias are dead. If they [hybrid and wild cats] get a live vaccine, they'll be dead within a few days," Mikaila said.
These exotic felines can also be picky eaters. Mikaila’s Chausies, for example, are fine with normal cat food but the others won’t even touch it.
"It all depends on their personalities. Some prefer meat with blood on it," Mikaila said.
The actress, famous for her starring role as the beautiful Viola in the TV series "Ganteng Ganteng Serigala" ("Handsome Devil"), has to order 20 kilograms of packed fresh chicken meat for their Servals, Caracals and Savannah every month.
The meat has to be served in a special way: frozen for 48 hours to kill all the bacteria, then left overnight to defrost before it is given to the starving cats.
Unlike domestic cats, hybrid and wild cats have to fast once a week to mimic their eating habits in the wild. Mikaila said she lets her cats fast every Sunday.
"Wild cats in the wild have to hunt for food. Obviously, they can’t get food every single day so their body adjusts to this, they can only accept a certain amount of food every week," Mikaila said.
The 24-hour fast gives the cats time to burn all the fat and kill all the bacteria inside their stomach.
"Yes, wild cats can detox themselves," Mikaila said.
"They are much more fragile physically than domestic cats and we have to be extra strict with their care," she said.
Only one thing is easier: hybrid and wild cats don't need a bath.
"We don’t bathe our cats, they'll clean themselves, it's in their nature," Mikaila said.
Mikaila said wild and hybrid cats are easy to train and can adapt to human environment very well. However, she said she doesn’t train her cats.
"Our cats have already been trained by their breeders since they were kittens, so when they arrived they already knew where to poo or pee," Mikaila said.
Mikaila suggested people should adopt hybrid cats when they're around three to four years old.
"It's easier to bond with younger cats. Old cats are set in their ways and are often scared to travel, which can make them go wild," she said.
Different Strokes, Different Pets
Out of the many types of hybrid cats, Savannah tops the list as the most sought after and the most expensive, since it's so difficult to breed.
The beautiful dotty cat is a cross between the exotic African Serval and domestic house cat.
"Breeding exotic wild animals with domestic cats takes a lot of careful work. It's quite difficult to make a wild cat mate with a domestic cat," Mikaila said.
The Serval is a wild cat, and a very active and playful one at that.
"Servals love to jump around, explore and hunt. Physically, they need a large area to roam, more like a conservation," Mikaila said.
They also need to be hand-fed to tame their hunting instinct.
"You have to walk them four to five times a week because they love nature. Just don’t leave your leash at home," Mikaela said.
If you're looking for a wild cat to chill or lie down with on the sofa while watching TV, Caracals would be your best bet.
Mikaila said Caracals are so lazy due to their bigger body.
Chausies, another hybrid cat breed, are very active and intelligent. They are also known to develop strong bonds with their keepers and even love dogs, especially when they are raised together.
Because of their restlessness, Mikaila said Chausies should always be kept busy.
Mikaila and her husband are now working to be the first hybrid cat breeders in Indonesia. They have a company called Hybriddco, "an ethical breeder" of hybrid cats.
"We are not only breeding them but we are committed to give them an appropriate living space," Mikaila said.
Eventually, Mikaila said she wants to become a hybrid cat conservationist.
"Hybrid cats are killed for sport in Africa. I want to raise awareness against this kind of trophy hunting," she said.
For more information about wild and hybrid cats visit Hybriddco's Instagram account.