Serval bites firefighter as he battles a blaze in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON, USA-NEWS AND VIEWS: a firefighter was bitten by a serval while battling a blaze inside a Washington home. The serval is an exotic pet for some people. It is a large cat. They are the size of a large dog. They are a wild animal and although exotic in appearance they make unsuitable companion animals in my honest opinion. This is borne out by the fact that many servals are abandoned to shelters or they escape their homes and our not infrequently killed outside the home.

Serval playing with a white rabbit at A1 Savannahs in Ponca City, OK, USA. Photo: Kathryn Stucki.

Around 2:40 PM last Sunday a fire crew from Clark County Fire District 6 together with the Vancouver Fire Department attended a house fire. As usual, they worked to extinguish the flames which spread, it is reported by The News Tribune, to the attic.

Some of the firefighters went through the home looking for any companion animals or people to make sure that all was clear.

One firefighter encountered the serval. He was bitten on his hand by the cat. The bite went through his glove and injured his finger. Comment: it appears that the firefighter was trying to rescue the cat from the building. In other words the firefighter probably tried to pick up or lead the cat out of the home. That was never going to work without a struggle but the firefighter perhaps would not be aware of that difficulty.

Accordingly, they called animal control who were able to effectively take charge and take the cat to a suitable facility. The cat was unharmed. The serval is not listed as prohibited under local legal provisions. It is not listed as a potentially dangerous wild animal under state law. You may know that the male serval is the parent of the F1 Savannah cat.

The firefighter was treated at a local hospital for his bite and returned to work today. The serval has been returned to its owner. It is reported that the owner agreed to make arrangements to make sure that it can't bite anyone else! Comment: if another fire occurs or some other emergency then there is no guaranteeing that the serval won't bite somebody. It's impractical to state anything else. The cat will become fearful and aggressively defensive under these sorts of circumstances. That is entirely normal and to be expected.

The story highlights, in my view, the unsuitability of keeping servals as pets in America. There are some people in the UK, as well, to keep them as pets. But once you have been near one of these cats, as I have, you quickly realise that they are quite intimidating especially the males who are bigger than the females. 

You would not want one in your home unless you are in enamoured with the concept of living with an exotic wild creature. In which case you might put to one side the downsides such as being injured or having to deal with urine scent marking within the home. In addition there is always the possibility that they might escape.

Being confined to a typical home is highly unsuitable for a serval who needs around 10 km² or more as their home range in the wild. There will be an endless desire for this animal to seek more space. That's going to be a constant worry for a concerned owner.

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