General information

The serval is a medium sized cat, 23 to 36 inches in head-body length, with a relatively short, 7.9 to 15 in tail, and a shoulder height of about 21 to 26 in. Weight ranges from about 15 to 26 lb in females, and from 20 to 40 lb in males although this is just the average and there have been a few servals who are up to 50+lbs.

It is a strong yet slender animal, with long legs and a fairly short tail. The head is small in relation to the body, and the tall, oval ears are set close together. The pattern of the fur is variable. Usually, the serval is boldly spotted black on tawny, with 2 or 4 stripes from the top of the head down the neck and back, transitioning into spots. The backs of the ears are black with a distinctive white bar.

Servals have the longest legs of any cat, relative to their body size. Most of this increase in length is due to the greatly elongated metatarsal bones in the feet. The toes are also elongated, and unusually mobile, helping the animal to capture partially concealed prey. Another distinctive feature of the serval is the presence of large ears and auditory bullae in the skull, indicating a particularly acute sense of hearing.

Natural distribution: The serval is native to Africa, where it is widely distributed south of the Sahara. It was once also found in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, but may have been extirpated from Algeria and only remains in Tunisia because of a reintroduction programme.

Its main habitat is the savannah. The serval needs watercourses within its territory, so it does not live in semi-deserts or dry steppes. Servals also avoid dense equatorial jungles, although they may be found along forest fringes. They are able to climb and swim, but seldom do so.

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What to expect from an African Serval

African servals in captivity can range so vastly it's difficult to say exactly how yours will turn out if you plan on purchasing one. There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing a serval however and I will get into those in detail with you here. Always hope for the best but BE PREPARED FOR THE WORST! This is not an animal to buy on impulse, it will take a lot of time attention and money to care for a Serval so make sure you're prepared for every possible scenario before you bring one into your home. 

When selecting a serval make sure you find a good breeder, preferably one where you can go and pick out your kitten in person when it's still on a couple bottle feedings a day so that it will imprint on you, although that is not always nessesary if the breeder your purchasing from puts in ample amounts of time with their babies before they're sold. Like purchasing any other exotic animal make sure you know the source it is comming from. Don't be affraid to ask for references and do research on the breeder you're interested in purchasing from. NEVER EVER send money to someone for an animal over the internet unless you know 100% that people have had good feed back with that preticular breeder. There are so many scams online it's very easy to get roped in for unsuspecting buyers. Do your research! It is just as importent to research where your animal is coming from as it is to research the care of your animal. Try and find a breeder that bottle feeds and socializes their babies from a young age. If you can find a breeder that offers harness training that is a definate plus, so that you can safely restrain your serval once you bring it home. Make sure the parents of your kittens are being fed a well balanced carnivorous diet with calicium and vitamin supplement or whole pray.   

I urge people that are renting a house to wait on purchasing a serval until you own your own home. Servals can be very destructive on a house and I can almost guarantee there will be some house hold damage done if you bring one of these animals into your home.

Servals both male and female will spray to mark their territory, sometimes this can be avoided my spaying or neutering at a young enough age but other times it really doesn't make a difference and you just never know how it's going to be so it's something to prepare yourself for. Serval spray alone can ruin a house, big cat spray is VERY smelly and they tend to spray in some very odd places. You just never know what they are going to decide to mark, it may be that they like to spray in your heater vents (this is common) or on your clothes and even in some cases they will spray their owners a little bit (also pretty common.) In my opinion it is best to have an outdoor enclosure for your serval once it reaches maturity and even when it's a kitten just so it can go outdoors to play, chase bugs, watch birds, bask in the sun and do all those other outdoor things that cats like to do! Keep in mind that a serval can jump 8+ feet straight into the air so nothing in your home is safe from prying paws. Most people who have servals that live in their home also have very empty homes with not much in the way of decoration on the walls or nick nacks or anything else that can be knocked down or broken. Servals and other small exotic cats do like to chew cloth and other things that have scents on them. So make sure to keep your dirty clothes picked up, as string and cloth can get wound in their digestive track and cause blockage. 

Servals are high strung cats, as kittens they are like a regular kitten amplified 100% in size and destructive behavior. They're like little tornados that will romp around your house running sideways along your carpets and bouncing off the walls (litterally) as well as climbing the curtains. They're adorable and can be extremely sweet when socialized properly but when they get wound up..... nothing is safe! They will jump and scratch and play rough. Never play with a serval kitten using your hands, even though it may be cute when they're little they don't fully mature until around 2yrs old and you don't want a 30+lb cat grabbing your hands with it's claws and biting, even if it's just playing this can and WILL HURT! It is your responsibility to teach your kitten boundries and to destract them if they try and use any part of your body as a chew toy. Punishing your cat for acting badly will NOT GET YOU ANYWHERE! With these cats it is all about destraction and putting their attention onto something else as well as praise and treats when they've done something good. Make sure to buy lots of safe toys that they can't choke on or brake and use these when ever playing with your serval kitten. If your kitten trys to bite or claw you give it a firm "NO" and put the toy between you and your kitten so it can bite or claw that instead. 

As far as what to expect from an adult serval, it's hard to say as each one is different. Best case scenario you will have raised a well adujusted socialized member of the family who uses the litter box more often than not and can be handled by most everyone without posing a risk, this scenario is not as common though so keep that in mind.

Likely as your serval reaches adult hood it will be a bit more stand offish with everyone, will spray and will only except being petted or cuddled on it's terms.

And worse case scenario you will wind up with a large cat that doesn't like to be touched or handled, can not be housed inside due to behavior issues and doesn't use the litter box.

I don't want to scare anyone away from owning a serval if it's something they're very committed to but I do want people to be rightfully informed about the reality of owning one.

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Dietary requirements

Servals need to be fed either a whole pray diet (whole rabbits, rats, mice etc with hair and bone still intact) or can be fed a raw meat diet of chicken, turkey, rabbit, deer, fish etc with vitamin and calcium supplements added. You can look in my helpful sites pages to access a link to the exotic catz forum, you will find lots of information there about dietary supplements, vitamins and calcium as well as where to buy whole pray. Eventually I will put some links on this page for places that sell dietary supplements. Servals also seem to like a little bit of vegitation in their diet and will often eat green beans, squash, kale, grass and occasionally a bit of fruit. Their main diet however must consist of meat and they should only be giving the other stuff as treats, not part of their every meal. 

I personally reccomend feeding your serval a small portion twice a day but how you feed it is a choice you will have to decide on. Some people feed a small bit twice a day, others feed a large amount once a day some even give a day out of the week as a "starve day" and do not feed them, as in the wild they would not get to have huge full bellies every single day. 

I personally feed my serval a smaller portion twice a day, this keeps him from getting grouchy!

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Caging

The way you house your serval is ultimately your choice but I would highly reccomend making sure you will be able to provide an outdoor enclosure for it when and if it needs one. I think it is important for the mental health of your serval to be able to step foot outdoors and put it's feet to the ground. With that being said if you are going to do an outdoor enclosure you want to make sure it is fully enclosed and secure. I would reccomend either a large outdoor dog kennel (no smaller than 10ft by 10ft) or even better, a large stick build frame wire covered habitat with logs, fresh drinking water, basking stones, shelves and places to hide - like giant nest houses. If the enclosure has a natural dirt floor to it you will want to keep it stocked with clean hay as the serval will work the dirt into mud in no time from pacing, this is especially important if you live in a weter climate, in a very dry climate it is not nessesary. Make sure your serval has a clean cage! They will typically pick one side of their cage to use the bathroom in so it needs to be cleaned out often or you can put a secondary litter box in your serval's outdoor enclosure.

I can not express how much easier life will be for you and your cat if you build your enclosure before you bring your cat home but I know that's not always an option. Them being able to have their own space in which they can be left alone in just makes life so much simpler.

My suggestion for outdoor caging is either a large chain link kennel or a stick built frame no smaller than 10ft by 10ft by 8ft, that gives atleast 100 sq ft. Remember that servals can jump and climb so you HAVE TO BUILD A ROOF on your cat's enclosure. You can build small ponds in your serval's outdoor enclosure that circulate fresh water, you can even keep these small ponds stocked with gold fish (great enrichment for your cat!) You can put in large slabs of rock so your cats can bask in the sun on warm days and put in shelves and other things for your cat to climb on.

If you decide you want to keep your serval in the house with you there will be a few things you will need to do first. You will have to remove any breakable items from the walls, shelves counters etc. You will need to child proof lock any cubboards that have items that could be dangerous to your cat or that contain items you do not want to get damaged. Most servals will learn how to open up cupboard easily, especially when there's naughty things in them that they're not supposed to have!

You will want to keep atleast 2 litter boxes in your house preferably one on each side of you house so your serval is never too far away from a litter box. Always keep your cats litter boxes as clean as possible, cats are clean animals and will stop using their litter box if it gets too full so clean early and clean often! You will want a good pet stain deodorizer on hand for when your cat does have accidents, make sure to clean it up immediately if you can. Sanatize the area and hit it with deodorizer so that your cat is less likely to keep marking that spot.

Keep any smelly laundry off the floor (socks, undies, shirts etc) for some reason cats seem to be attracted to body odors and will chew on dirty clothes if they're stinky. My geoffroys cat got a couple of my husbands shirts and ate the arm pits out of them, thankfully they were 100% cotton and she was able to digest them. Some people have not been so lucky and this chewing behavior has caused intestinal blockage, in worse case scenarios this means death.

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Our Serval

Our serval Sevrign was given to us by a friend who could no longer care for him due to a number of reasons. Sevrign was already close to 6yrs old when we recieved him and is not by any means a "pet" but he is a beautiful animal with a personality to match. Sevrign will occasionally let me pet him, he will let me feed him by hand and he always comes out of his indoor space to greet me when ever I go outside. We love him dearly even though he's a bit more stand offish he was obviously been cared for and loved during his life because he gives a lot back. Sevrign has an indoor/outdoor enclosure his outdoor space is 9ft by 14ft and his indoor space is 8ft by 10ft by 10ft. We are working on expanding his outdoor habitat to give him more room and to accomodate a girl friend for Sevrign. Sevrign did have a mate but she got ill and passed away before Sevrign came to live with us and we are working on finding another mate for him so he has companionship of his own kind. Sevrign is fed a whole pray diet consisting of rabbits, chickens, rats, wild caught fish, wild caught quail, wild caught pheasent, deer and elk (all wild game when in season.) Sevrign is very healthy and seems content but he sure does need a mate so we are working hard to reach that goal.

   

   

    

 

 

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