Saturday 20 February 2021

Serval cats as pets

Do servals make good pets? They can be very attractive. Look at this photograph below of a young serval in someone's home sitting on the bed looking blissfully happy. What's wrong with that? It looks as though it worked out very well. But we don't know the back story. And I don't want to paint an incorrect or too negative a picture because it can work out quite well (rarely).

Pet serval looking happy
Pet serval looking happy. Photo: Cats of Instagram

But in my opinion having a serval as a pet is likely not to work out that well for various reasons. Firstly, they are a wild cat species. If they are raised from a new-born kitten by humans they might fit in quite well. But if they are adopted as a young animal then they will never be a true domestic cat. They might spray in the home to mark territory which is incredibly upsetting to the owner but very reassuring to the cat!

This is a tamed serval at A1 Savannahs many years ago. I made the video. He was a quite small serval. Probably a subadult.

They might want to escape the home but you've got to keep them inside because they can't be allowed to wander around outside unsupervised. There have been countless numbers of servals who have escaped homes and ended up being killed on the roads or shot by some policeman in America because they terrify the neighbours. 

The fact that they want to escape the confinement of their tiny space (from their point of view) is indicative of a stressed unhappiness. The problem is that people regard them as exotic pets like domestic cats when they are not. 

And sometimes owners declaw servals which is cruel and immoral. If you want to adopt a serval then at least adopt the entire animal and accept them. But they are quite big; the size of a good size dog but much slenderer. They're bigger than greyhound dogs for example. I'm referring to full-sized adults servals. They will vary in size and the female serval might be about the size of greyhound. But they won't be as placid as a greyhound. Not normally anyway. It does depend upon circumstances and I don't want to generalise.

Martin Stucki formerly A1 Savannahs owner and tame serval
Martin Stucki formerly A1 Savannahs owner and tame serval. Photo: MikeB.

I can see why owners of servals declaw them because I was slapped by a male serval once because I must've upset him as I was inside his enclosure. He slapped me on the hand and it hurt because their claws are about the size of a good-sized dog. And they hiss and make demands on their owners. You've got to be a dedicated cat lover with plenty of time on your hands. I don't think you can go to work and own serval. You have to be there all the time.


I would not like to go to work knowing I had a serval in my living room. You would not know what you would come back to. I just don't think it works out but exceptionally it might, as mentioned, because you may live in a big house in the country with plenty of space around the house and a big garden together with an enclosure outside. You can make compromises and make adjustments to your lifestyle so that your serval lives as contentedly as possible.

Sienna Jones, four, towers over Anubis now but the serval will eventually weigh up to 50lb LAURA DALE/CATERS NEWS AGENCY

Sienna Jones, four, towers over Anubis now but the serval will eventually weigh up to 50lb. Photo: LAURA DALE/CATERS NEWS AGENCY

Click this link if you want to read the story of the serval and the child in the photo above.

But you have to remember that servals need about 10 km² or more to live in normally. If they are confined to a standard home it is going to feel like prison to them. And I believe that this feeling will be there whether they were raised from a new-born kitten in a home or not. I believe that this emotion is in their DNA. They need to roam over 10 km² to hunt. That's their territory. That's their home range. They inherit that trait just to stress the point! It is why they want to escape and they are sneaky 😏.

That is another reason why I don't think it works to have a serval as a pet. But they are popular in America because people consider them to be exotic and people like to possess beautiful things. And don't forget the conservation aspects of it. To keep a serval as a pet I believe undermines conservation of the serval and all wild cats. We should leave them alone, give them space to live, not take their space from them or destroy their habitat. Let them thrive away from people. 

Servals come from Africa.


  1. I really don't think serval cats should be kept as pets, especially if there are young children about. After all they are wild cats and look much better in the wild than in someone's garden who wants to show off!

    1. Completely agree. Many serval owners declaw them to add insult to injury. It is self-indulgent nonsense to buy a serval as a pet. Many escape homes and are shot dead by law enforcement of hit by traffic.

  2. Servals can be kept as pets, they've actually been domesticated since ancient times, but should only be kept by an owner that REALLY knows what they're doing and is committed to taking care of them. Most domestically owned servals and caracals you see online are neglected into either dangerous obesity or unchecked aggression, because most people get them to be trendy but have no idea of their needs or behaviour, and just treat them like a regular housecat, feeding them scraps of chicken and letting them laze around all day. They need a whole live prey diet (which can be about USD 2000 a month from a good supplier), hours of outdoor exercise (on a leash) each day, and constant attention- it's an expensive 24/7 job for at least 20 years. I'd recommend following @kaida.the.serval on Instagram- her owner really knows how to take care of servals and frequently talks about abusive practices in the exotic pet trade and community. It CAN be done, but certainly NOT by the average person.

    1. Totally agree but you have missed one point. Is it morally right to have a wild cat as a pet? Answer: No. For a million reasons one of which is that you have to keep the serval in the home or an enclose when their home range in the wild is perhaps 20 square miles. Cruel I say.

  3. Suuzen Anderson16 May 2023 at 20:08

    My brother has two Savannahs - cats that are each hybrids of 3/4 serval and 1/4 house cat. The Savannahs, like servals, cannot be vaccinated for distemper, Felv, and other cat diseases, which means they cannot safely be kept overnight at a vet’s for dental surgery or other ailments. They are extremely expensive to feed - they require a diet of raw chicken thighs (about 4 per day per cat) plus several supplements. They also require a zoological veterinarian because they need a vet that knows how to feed, care for, and do any needed surgery on wild cats. They are also very destructive- they’ve torn up towels, bedspreads, and rugs, chewed the rubber off of all the doorstops, and shredded cardboard storage boxes. ‘Not exactly easy-care pets.

    1. Well thank for your input Suuzen. Interesting about the vaccinations. I'll look into that. I don't like the idea of wild cats as pets. The F1 Savannahs and F2s need specialist care. There have been many disasters with escaping servals locked inside homes which is wholly unacceptable from the cat's standpoint. And the high filial Savannahs need someone who really has the time and commitment. Not many have.

    2. Suuzen, my immediate research on the vaccination point you made is that you are wrong I am afraid to say. You can vaccinate Savannah cats as you would any other cat it seems to me based on my research. You can even vaccinate servals against FeLV and I believe other diseases although I have not fully researched that yet.


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