Owning A Serval As A Pet

Not a pet for the faint of heart...

Servals are unique and beautiful creatures, however owning a Serval is not for the faint of heart and owning such a special and exotic cat should never be taken lightly. A Serval should be and are considered an exotic animal species and it doesn't necessarily make an ideal pet for everyone. They have needs that may not be the same as animals a person has cared for in the past.

Anyone who thinks they desire to own one as a lifetime companion needs to take the time to learn all they can before making the decision to acquire one. If you are materialistic and particular about your home being maintained extremely pristine then a Serval may not be a good choice for you. Some things that simply have to be considered before purchasing a Serval are #1 are they legal for you to own in your city, county, state and #2 is your lifestyle able to accommodate an exotic cat not the other way around; it's nutrition, housing, and permits among other things. Servals require a life time of dedication and care and they need owners that are willing to go that extra mile to ensure that they are healthy, stimulated, safe, secure and happy.

Let's take a look at the "wild" side of the picture...

The African Serval can be a wonderful addition to any responsible family, and with proper training and socialzing they can make a very affectionate pet in the right kind of situation.

Any potential owner must first get their head "around" the fact that the African Serval is not domestic cat, never will be, can not be trained to be, nor should be treated as such. As the owner of a Serval an owner must remember that a Serval will always be a tamed "wild animal." Now this does not mean that they will be aggressive or vicious towards humans, rather they are "instinctively" born wild animals that have certain characteristics that they have developed in order to survive and thrive in the wild. In spite of being a wild, exotic animal these incredible animals with proper socialization and training from a very young age they can live in harmony with humans. What an owner must remember is that when they are treated properly, they can and will bond with their caregivers like no other animal they have ever owned. They think of you as "their" pet and they will treat you like no other cat does, HOWEVER with this incredible loyalty comes hard work on an owner's part to ensure they have thought through what it takes to own and properly care for a Serval.

When the ancestors of today's domestic cats were first tamed and began to live around humans they did not have the same personality that you see in domestic cats today. The first domestic cats were shy of humans but realized that mice and rats lived near humans because humans stored food. So they had a ready supply of mice & rats for food. The humans wanted the cats around to keep their food from being eaten by the rodents. The cats that were the least afraid of humans and the friendliest were the ones that were kept in the homes and food storage areas. The cats no longer had to be "smart" to survive. The cats that survived with humans were the ones that were not afraid. Domestic cats are a branch of the cat family that evolved without having to be particularly intelligent because they were protected by humans.

In the wild, cats had to be smart to survive. By natural selection, the cats which were smartest were the ones who lived to reproduce and each generation became smarter. This is why the serval and other wild cats are very smart and do things that most people would never believe that they have the intelligence for but nature is smarter than all of us and it drives us to adapt instints needed to maintain a species.

Let's take a look at the "bigger" picture...

Every Serval is different and an individual in it's own right, however it can be safely assumed that most Servals will have a quirk or two, and will demand regular attention if you want them to remain manageable and "domesticated". Servals are solitary by nature so you simply can’t leave them in the back yard in a kennel for long periods of time, and expect them to remain tame and obedient. As with any animal that lacks attention from humans they will revert back to the animals they were born to be in the wild.

The Serval needs outside/inside facilities with a large enough exercise area to run, and exercise, a pond or pool in which to swim, explore and dive, and an area with lots of climbing possibilities. Servals are notorious escape artists and they will escape from anything that is not totally secure and are unlikely to return once having escaped.

It has been documented that Servals have lived to be over 20 years old in captivity, and they require a life long commitment of time and love years after the novelty of that cute spotted kitten wears off. Because they bond so deeply with their initial care givers Servals do not re-home easily so the decision to purchase and own a Serval as a pet must be taken seriously and with the thought of the lifetime of cat in mind.

Re-homing may make it hard for the serval if you decide that you cannot care for it anymore and your decision could lead to years of distrust, heartache, and frustration for the cat and new owner. A serval kitten may bond with you but as an adult may never bond with another person for the rest of its life so while some servals may be able to bond with a new owner as adults that is not always the case or guaranteed and at best, bonding with a new owner takes time.

It can easily be assumed that not many people want to spend decades caring for an animal that they can’t have a relationship with so please bear this in mind and realize that a Serval may live two decades and the serval will depend on you for that length of time.

So when you accept the responsibility of caring for any animal like a Serval, an owner must realize that this beautiful animal depends on you not just for food, shelter and medical care, but it also depends on you for companionship and nurturing. The Serval will literally depend on you for it's lifetime and you need to be ready to dedicate whatever length of time that is to properly caring for and nurturing it and like the vows of a strong and faithful marriage your commitment to your Serval should be "until death do us part".

©Vickie Ehrlekrona ~ BeSpotted
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