Serval Cat - Complete Information, History, and Care

Close-up of a Serval

The serval cat is a stunning creature that some people keep as a pet. While serval cats can be purchased from a breeder, they are still considered wild cats. To keep a serval cat, you'll need to build a big, safe outside cage and keep it warm all year. They will require veterinary care from an expert exotics vet and will need to be fed complete prey meal items.

It's critical to comprehend the dangers of having a wild animal. Many places make it unlawful to own a serval cat, while others demand licenses, permits, and inspections. To determine which will apply, consult local legislation. Serval cats can also be difficult to re-home if you are unable to care for them.

Breed Overview

Weight: 20 to 40 pounds

Length: 2 feet

Coat: Short

Coat Color:  Golden yellow to buff with black spots and stripes

Eye Color: Brownish to greenish

Life Expectancy: Up to 22 years in captivity


Click Play to Learn More About the Wild Serval

Characteristics of the Serval Cat

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Low
Kid-Friendly Low
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Serval Cat

The serval cat is native to Africa, where dense grass and shrubs may conceal it, allowing it to sneak up on its victim. They resemble cheetahs, although their tails are shorter than those of their bigger cousins. They prefer to hunt in areas where they can hide and are close to water. They are solitary in the wild and have a home territory of around 7 miles. African serval cats are not classified as endangered.

Servals are agile jumpers and expert diggers, with the longest legs of any cat (in relation to their bodies). They have the ability to grab birds that are more than five feet in the air and burrow into the ground to catch their prey.

Servals make a variety of noises or vocalizations: a high-pitched cry to call other servals, growl, a spitting noise, purr, and more.

Since the ancient Egyptians, serval cats have been owned by humans and are featured in their art. They are not, however, domesticated. Breeding stock arrived in the United States more than a century ago, and serval cats may be several generations away from African imports. The possession of wild cats and exotic animals, including domestically raised servals, is restricted.

Serval cats have also been crossed with domestic cats to create hybrids like the Savannah cat. If you enjoy the look of a serval but require a gentler cat that is simpler to care for, a Savannah could be a better choice than a serval.

Serval Cat Care

These very energetic and lonely cats, who wander at least seven kilometers a day in the wild, require large outdoor habitats. They are more active at night since they are nocturnal and have been known to leap out of enclosed areas or dig beneath fences. A basic dog run will not suffice. An outside enclosure should be entirely walled in on all sides with a top and the sides should go down a few feet deep into the earth. A water source is also necessary for drinking, swimming, and maybe allowing your serval cat to catch its own fish.

Serval cats, especially if bottle-fed and hand-fed, may form bonds with people. They are usually one-human cats who connect for life. You'll need to spend time with the cat, engaging in eye-to-eye play. They are loving, but teaching them requires time and a careful touch. While you can try to socialize a serval, they are frequently wary of strangers and are scared of visitors.

During the day, these cats are normally timid, but at night, they become more active. Servals may be highly active while playing, therefore bringing one into the house should be done in a serval-proofed cat area free of breakable things, cables, and other risks.

While servals may be litter-trained, it's important to remember that urinating on items is a natural method for them to identify their territory. Because servals are not constructed like domestic cats, you will require a unique serval harness while walking them.

You will need to have a plan in place for someone to care for your serval cat if you take a vacation, need a break, or develop your own health problems.

Common Health Concerns

Ensure that you have access to a veterinarian who is experienced with exotic animals. Servals, like domestic cats, require yearly vaccines and dewormings.

While many pet servals are declawed to protect people, this is a process that can lead to illness. In a fight with other animals, it also renders the serval susceptible. Swallowing foreign things, which can get trapped in their throats or difficult to pass, is a common veterinary emergency for servals.

Diet and Nutrition

Servals in the wild consume whatever is available, making it impossible to replicate their perfect natural diet. Although you may not have access to all Africa has to offer wild servals, rodents, rabbits, birds, fish, insects, reptiles, and frogs are usually on the menu of the continent's diverse protein sources. Whole prey should be provided, but don't be frightened if your serval eats so quickly that it regurgitates everything because its throat is clogged. If the regurgitated meal hasn't started fermenting in its stomach acid, it may try to consume it again.

Servals hunt for prey with their eyes and ears rather than their sense of smell. Before eating, they frequently play with their food. Servals are extremely clever felines. When feeding children, a game or puzzle that requires them to solve problems can make the meal more enjoyable for them, as well as providing an enrichment activity in their daily routine.

Add a feline supplement, such as one made exclusively for servals, to the diet as well. A designed pelleted food can be added to its diet, but it should not make up the majority of its meals.

  • Serval cats are affectionate and loyal.

  • Servals are a long-lived breed.

  • Servals require a diet of a large variety of whole prey protein items.

  • Due to its wild nature, this breed is not recommended for families with small children or other pets.

  • It requires an large, outdoor, temperature controlled, fully enclosed enclosure.

  • Ownership is restricted in several states.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Serval Cat

Whether caught in the wild or bred in captivity, these animals, by their very nature, are wild and require a skilled, responsible owner who can meet this cat's very exacting needs.

Owning a serval is permitted in 16 states in the United States. In North Carolina, Alabama, Nevada, and Wisconsin, you can own a serval without a license. In Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota, you can get a serval license. Serval ownership is prohibited in any other states.

If it is legal to own a serval where you live, and you are looking for a reputable source to adopt or buy a serval, contact the Feline Conservation Foundation for more information.

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Consult other serval cat owners, trustworthy breeders, and exotic cat rescue groups for further information on the breed. Make sure you're familiar with the local regulations regarding this breed.

If you are interested in similar cats, look into these breeds to compare the pros and cons:

Otherwise, look into the many cat breeds that are available.


"Driscoll, Carlos et al. The taming of the cat. Scientific American. 2009;300(6):68-75.", "Captive Wildlife Safety Act - What Big Cat Owners Need to Know. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. ", "Ingestion of Foreign Bodies in Cats. Veterinary Centers of America.", "Leptailurus serval. Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology." ;