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.

PAGE ON THE SERVAL

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.

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