Servals are African wild cats – smaller than lions or cheetahs, but far from tame. Nevertheless, a few private individuals keep servals as pets. This often serves to breed so-called Savannah cats by crossing them with Siamese cats. Keeping a serval in a species-appropriate manner is a highly demanding task that the average cat lover can hardly fulfill. In addition, the attitude is notifiable and subject to conditions.
Servals are loners. Only in the mating season do they travel in pairs. The animals are active at dusk, always alert and skilled hunters. Servals always retain their wild animal character and are considered non-domesticable. Accordingly, they are shy, reserved, more dominant, and more aggressive than house cats, although in individual cases a certain familiarity with known people can come about, for example when hand-rearing. A serval can show itself to be cuddly and playful towards such reference persons. When the wild cat gets the urge to play, it preferably happens at night and with the appropriate temperament.
Keeping and caring for the serval
First of all: A serval is not suitable as a house cat, even if you do without cuddling and playing units. Like a big cat, he can only be housebroken in exceptional situations when he is a kitten. The animal needs a large, escape-proof outdoor enclosure (at least 50 to 100 square meters) with a heated indoor area, trees to climb, and a large water hole. Apart from these purely spatial (and financial) requirements, keeping servals requires a permit in Germany and is even completely forbidden in Bavaria and Hesse. The keeping conditions correspond more to those of a zoo animal than a house cat.
The diet of servals requires special attention: The animals absolutely need fresh meat, so you have to provide servals with raw food (barf). Without extensive expertise, you cannot meet the nutritional needs of the serval.
Servals are by no means suitable playmates for children and pets. The wildcat can seriously injure even a larger domestic cat while playing. In addition, servals mark their territory and, if necessary, their human owner.
If, despite everything, you do not want to be dissuaded from buying such an animal, please attach great importance to a traceable certificate of origin – all too often wild cats are traded illegally. Important: Inform yourself in advance about the official requirements in your region.
Colors of the serval
The basic tone of the serval is always ocher or sand. Black spots, which vary greatly in size, are distributed over the body. There are specimens with a spotted pattern, but the dark areas can also be so large and merge that such servals appear striped or even black from a distance. There are white spots on the back of the ears, so-called wild spots.
The history of the serval
Servals were once common throughout Africa except for the desert areas; today the populations in the northern countries of the continent have disappeared. Servals are typical savannah dwellers who prefer tall grassy areas and waterholes for hunting small animals, fish, and birds. Servals in the wild are not considered to be acutely threatened, but the loss of their natural habitat is causing them problems.
Peculiarities of the serval
Servals have an almost unbelievable jumping ability: In order to grab birds from the air, they can jump up to three meters vertically, reaching a distance of 3.60 meters. For this reason, a serval enclosure must be fenced very high and escape-proof. In proportion to the rest of the body, the serval has the longest legs of any cat, but a rather short tail.