Have you ever looked at one of our African servals and thought they’re not that much bigger than your house cat? That maybe you could have one of those in your house? African servals are predators, not pets. Let’s talk about it.
First, servals can jump up 10-12 feet straight up. Standard ceilings in modern houses are 8-9 feet tall. Right off the bat, a serval can jump higher than most ceilings. They are incredibly active cats at dusk, dawn, and throughout the night. A serval can travel 1.25-2.5 miles every night. They are capable climbers and swimmers. Living in a house restricts their activity levels and movement, as does living with people on the opposite activity cycle.
Servals are solitary and territorial. Servals are rarely found together, outside of a mother and her kittens, or during mating. They establish territories that can range in size from 4 to 12 square miles that they guard fiercely. The average American house is about 2,261 square feet, which is about 0.00008 square miles. An apartment or house is not big enough for a serval. In addition, servals mark their territory primarily through spraying and scent marking. A serval can spray, or pee, anywhere from 20 to 40 times an hour.
Servals are wild animals, which means they eat wild prey. More specifically, they eat wild prey from Africa. Servals have a diverse diet that includes native birds, rodents, snakes, lizards, fish, and insects. Replication of this diet is not feasible in captivity. They can’t just be fed cat food, as it lacks the nutrients and diversity they would get naturally. When served an improper diet, many servals eat things that they shouldn’t, like plastic, cloth towels, and collars and leashes.
Servals are incredible hunters as well. They can spend up to 6 hours a day traveling and hunting. They have a 50% hunting success rate, meaning they’ll catch about one out of every two prey they hunt. Their sensitive ears, strong legs, and sharp claws aid them. Servals will pounce or smack prey to knock it out and then bite off its head to kill it. A serval can kill an average of 15-16 prey items in a 24-hour period.
Servals often communicate through hissing. For cats, hissing generally means anger or discomfort. A serval may say many different things with their body language and vocalizations that can mean anger or happiness. If you don’t understand a serval’s vocalization and body language, they can become aggressive and irritable. Irritating a serval, even unintentionally, can lead to them attacking owners, children, or other pets in the house. Attacks can lead to people choosing to declaw their servals. The serval ultimately pays the price for not being treated like a wild animal.
Many of the TCWR servals are rehomed to us by pet owners who realize a serval isn’t for them. They’re the lucky ones. Often, servals are abandoned. Many unwanted servals are tossed out into the streets, where they are hit by cars, attacked by native wildlife or pets, or suffer from starvation or exposure to the elements. We’ve seen many cases where a serval that escapes a house is no longer content to stay in the house and they continue to escape. There are people in the US illegally breeding, selling, and trading servals. There are people buying them and using them for internet fame, trying to convince people they are a safe animal to own. Hopefully we’ve convinced you otherwise. Be careful of what you consume on the internet and always remember: no matter what size, predators, not pets.