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Servals are Awesome!

Sunday, 23 November 2008 0:58

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One of my favorite's of the "Big Cats" is the African Serval.  The Serval is a mid sized (about 40lbs) wild cat.  I always thought it would be cool to be able to walk a cat, similar to the way that dog owners walk their dogs.  I know that I could always use a cat stroller or leash, but it’s not the same with a smaller house cat.


Servals boast long legs (the longest of all cats, relative to body size) and large ears. The long legs and neck allow the Serval to see over tall grasses, while its ears are used to detect prey, even those burrowing underground. While hunting, the Serval will pause for up to 15 minutes at a time to listen with eyes closed. The Serval's pounce is a distinctive vertical 'hop', which may be an adaptation for catching flushed birds. The Serval is a highly efficient hunter, catching prey on as many as 50% of attempts, compared to around one of ten for most species of cat. The Serval has been known to dig into burrows in search of underground prey.  Source and Image Credit Wikipedia


So do servals make good pets?  According to Dr. ZooLittle Ranch in Texas:


“We have found that the Servals have been such a joy to raise and care for. The Servals are very responsive to their name. They play fetch and love to interact with gusto. However, they are not like raising a large domestic cats. Servals require special care, supervision, attention, dedication, and a life long commitment. Having one of these cats is serious and must not be purchased on a whim, or because you were caught up in the moment with awe.    Servals are incredibly beautiful, graceful, and loving. They require, and deserve special attention to details.”


How Many People Own African Serval Cats In The U.S.?


There are no true stats to this question because in some States it's illegal to own these cats and they can be considered dangerous. Serval cats can be 40 lbs., or more. While they are loving pets to their owners, they are dangerous to children (even if they don't mean too because they are so large and powerful) and do not like domesticated cats. When one leaves their home they must put the cat in a large cage and not leave the cat loose in their home. These cats need meat to eat, and many untrained owners that just like the thought of owning an African Serval Cat find they are troublesome to look after and expensive to feed. There is a problem with Serval Cats roaming free and some owners simply feel if they can't support the habit of feeding their Serval Cat they can simply give it to a zoo. Zoos do not want anymore large cats! The ASPCA (U.S.) or SPCA (in Canada) are tired of seeing African Serval Cats dropped on their doorstep. Owning an African Serval Cat is a big responsibility and one should study the history of these cats before deciding to own one.  Source


So is it wrong to own a serval?  Many states have rules against owing “wild animals”, the rules typically mention cats, but are not specific to the serval?


Exoticcatz.com says:   With regard to statements and bills portraying  portraying servals and other small wild felines as unpredictable and dangerous creatures. This is a clear case of "what you don't know you will fear." First of all, I would like to clarify for everyone that we are talking about tame, hand-raised pets bred in the United States. It's not like you take a trip to Africa, rope yourself a serval, and drag it home hissing and spitting! 

By saying that tame wild cats are "extremely unpredictable and dangerous creatures," people show their lack of understanding of animal behavior. These statements are wild exaggerations of the reality. Even wild animals in-situ (i.e. roaming untamed in the wilderness) do not behave in a dangerous, unpredictable fashion. Every animal has species-specific behavior patterns. These behaviors can be learned and understood by the owners of such animals in captivity, especially since they are very similar to the behaviors of a domestic cat.

These behaviors are not greatly different from domesticated animals. For example, the pattern of naturally occurring behaviors in wolves and domestic dogs is virtually identical. A poorly socialized domestic dog with a careless or un-informed owner can be far more "dangerous" than a serval or a caracal.

Unfortunately, it seems as though owning a Serval can probably be more dangerous to the cat than it is to the pet owner.  Just recently in Kansas Police shot and killed a serval that they believe to have been a pet that somehow got loose.  An officer used a patrol rifle to put the animal down. Police said they had to kill the cat for the safety of the neighborhood.  Source

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