A small-town story about a little boy finding a long-legged cat is getting some big-time coverage. Two years ago Rowdy Stewart, a blonde 6-year-old Nicasio school student with enough energy to match his name, found a rather unusual looking creature wandering around his yard.
“I thought ‘Oh my god, that’s a mountain lion’s child!’” said Rowdy’s mom, Susan Stewart. “We’ve had bobcats sitting out on the fence before, but this looked different.”
Rowdy’s dad, John, went to investigate. With broom in hand he crept toward the animal, but it seemed more affectionate than harmful.
“It came right up to the door like it wanted to be let in,” John said. “He looked really hungry, so Rowdy opened a can of tuna and fed it to him—he just gorged on it.”
The Stewarts then found that this 20-pound beast was actually a rare crossbreed of cat known as a Savannah—a mix of a wild African Serval with a domestic housecat. And as it turned out, “Logan,” as Rowdy called him, had wandered nearly five miles from its home in Sleepy Hollow to get to the Stewarts in Nicasio.
The story of how Rowdy took care of Logan until it was reunited with its owners is soon to be part of the television show on Animal Planet called “Cats 101.” The show, according to associate producer Chris Marchand, provides feline breed information and helps inform families of which type of cat would suit them.
“We try to tell the best possible story we can about each particular breed,” Marchand said. He and his crew decided to run an expose on Rowdy’s story, which they discovered in a local newspaper article.
The cat’s real name turned out to be “Mondo,” and it belonged to the Fruhauf family in San Anselmo. But Rowdy and his family would not find this out until three days later, when their neighbor, Christina Gray, decided to help them find the owner.
“We were the ones who found him and kept him, but she was really the MVP of it all,” John said.
Gray, a cat enthusiast and spokesperson for Worldwise Inc., an environmental pet toy manufacturer in San Rafael, had seen the huge cat wandering the neighborhood before, but was unable to catch it. “My first thought was that it might have been a Bengal cat because of the large spots it had,” she said.
Then she noticed one of the posters the Stewarts had put up around the neighborhood and decided to help them find the owner. Because Susan is allergic to cats, the family had been keeping Mondo outside, so Gray opted to look after it instead.
“It was really an extraordinary night because this cat was like nothing I’d ever seen before,” she said. “But there was a moment of dread where I thought, ‘Oh god, they’re going to find chewed up pieces of me all over the house.’ But the realization that he wasn’t going to harm me took only a minute––he’s really just a wild looking cat that’s not that wild.”
During that first night Gray built a litter box in her bathtub and was able to track down the Fruhaufs online. But just before she returned Mondo the following day, Gray took him into her work, which was “like cat wonderland–––he was like this rock star in the office, everyone came by to see him.” Tina and Chris Fruhauf had spent the week frantically searching for their pet, and were excited to hear that he was found.
“Mondo had got out a couple of times before, but we were out of town when he got out this time,” Chris said. “The house sitter didn’t know what to do to get him back inside so he just wandered off. It’s a known fact with this breed that they’re not good outdoor cats, and with their long legs they can wander off quickly.”
Mondo had a tiny microchip under the skin between his shoulder blades to identify him with, but was without a collar or tags. And although the Fruhaufs put up fliers and called the local agencies, it was not until Gray saw their posting on craigslist that they were reunited.
Because Savannahs are such a rare hybrid breed, getting Mondo back meant financial as well as emotional relief for the Fruhaufs.
According to Bridgette Cowell, a breeder in San Francisco, the value of Savannahs varies based upon their generation, though “they’re all between $5,000 and $1,500.” Each Savannah is classified on a scale that is determined by the percentage of Serval within it. For example, if a full Serval wildcat is bred with a normal housecat, it would be an F1, or a first generation Savannah, which is the most expensive. If this cat were then bred with another standard cat, that offspring would be deemed an F2 and so on. Mondo is technically an F4, but due to some complicated breeding (his grandfather is 86 percent Serval), his owners consider him to be more like an F2.
Regardless of his value, the Fruhaufs were happy just to have their personable pet back, and were thankful that he had wound up in such good hands during his hiatus.
The first episode of Cats 101 is set to run this Saturday at 8 p.m. on Animal Planet, Channel 5. And to check out the show, please visit www.animal.discovery.com/tv/cats-101.