Betty Morris, a 100-year-old cat lover, was invited to a carefully planned, one-time personal meeting with serval cat Nwela at Drusillas Park — an experience she had long desired.
Betty was invited to visit the Zoo before it opened to the public on September 1, 2021, and was escorted into the serval enclosure by Keepers for a once-in-a-lifetime encounter. Head Keeper Gemma escorted Nwela to Betty’s wheelchair, using a training stick, food, and a clicker to direct her through a practiced routine.
Betty has supported the Zoo’s serval cats for many years through adoption and has become a valued member of the Drusillas family with her appealing charm and indisputable devotion to animals — notably the serval cats, whom she first became aware of at Drusillas.
“Everyone at Drusillas loves Betty, it’s impossible not to!” said Head Keeper Gemma Romanis. “When she comes to visit, we love giving her updates on her favorite large cats, and she’s spent so much time over the years getting to know each serval we’ve had.”
“It didn’t take long for the concept of a Betty encounter to come up after Nwela joined us and I was able to continue her training, and everyone was on board without hesitation.” How often do you get the chance to fulfill someone’s life goal?”
Nwela, a serval cat, was gently introduced to a wheelchair in the cage in preparation for her meeting with Betty.
“This has long been on my bucket list!” Betty said about the event. It had been fantastic… It was such a pleasure to have Nwela come up to the side of the wheelchair. Since Drusillas acquired them, I’ve had a soft place for servals… this means a lot to me.”
A beautiful serval Nwela, who arrived at Drusillas from Banham Zoo in April 2021, was raised by humans and hence has a wealth of human experience. Once Nwela settled in and it became evident how much she enjoyed her training, keepers at Drusillas developed the idea of finally bringing Betty’s ambition of meeting servals to fulfillment.
“Knowing how crucial this was going to be for Betty, I wanted to make sure it went as smoothly as possible,” keeper Gemma explained.
Betty choked back tears when the Deputy Managing Director gave her a surprise honorary serval adoption and a personalized certificate following the experience.
Betty’s granddaughter Kirsty, who was with her during the serval encounter, gave her a yearly membership, which she uses whenever she can.