Servals as Pets

With their striking spots and moderate size, Servals might seem like a more manageable substitute for a pet cheetah, but they are far from easy animals to keep! If you are interested in learning about what it takes to care for and share your life with a pet Serval then read on because you have come to the right place.

A photo of a serval standing on green grass with the text "Pet Serval Care Guide" over the image

Are pet servals legal in your state? Before you even consider having a pet serval in your life, you need to look into legality.  Not every state will allow you to keep a serval, and even if the state does allow you to keep them, there may be restrictions within your city, county, or even your HOA that prevent you from owning one. 

Enclosures for Pet Servals

If you are considering a pet serval as a companion, a large enclosure is a must as servals do not do well fully indoors. Servals are like bobcats in the regard that while you can litterbox train them, they will likely never stop marking all over your house. It is important to remember that even if it was bred in captivity, a serval is still a wild animal, and the territorial marking is an instinct that has not been bred out over thousands of years. Additionally, servals can be quite destructive indoors. 

 The basics for a pet serval enclosure are:

The enclosure must have a full top and bottom. The top can be either a full roof or welded wire, and the bottom needs to be either buried welded wire, concrete, or wood. 

At an absolute minimum, a serval enclosure should be 600 square feet, however 900+ is more ideal. 

Make sure all wire used is at least 8 gauge, preferably welded wire, and that none of the openings in the wire are larger than 2×4″, preferably 2×3″ to keep your serval from getting their paw through. Any wire that is less than 8 gauge with holes any larger than 2×4″ inches isn’t escape proof or safe.

A double opening, or catch door, is necessary to help keep your pet serval safe.

The bigger, the better. Servals need lots of room, and it’s not fair to keep them in small cages. If you can’t provide an adequate home for a serval, please don’t try to change them to fit into your life. 

Servals are African animals, so they will need temperature controlled area for when it’s cold. This area should allow them to stay warm while still having space to move around freely and be easy to keep clean for them. both the outdoor enclosure area and the indoor temperature controlled area should have lots of levels and climbing structures, scratching areas, and the outdoor area should have natural grasses to stay out of sight as it wants. Additionally, things like a litter/bathroom area, various forms of enrichment, fresh clean water at all times, and shelters to protect itself from the elements are all requirements for a pet serval.

a photo of an outdoor pet bobcat enclosure made of wood and welded wire located in the woods at exotic pet wonderland, an animal sanctuary in tennessee

Pet Red Serval Diets

One aspect of pet serval ownership people often overlook is diet. Servals are not domestic cats and require a strict diet with added vitamins and minerals in order to keep them healthy. They also have great appetites and high metabolism so your serval will need around 2.5-3lbs of food daily.  As obligate carnivores, servals need a full meat diet consisting of 80% muscle meat, 10% raw non weight bearing bone, 5% offal, and 5% liver. Along with that, they also need a variety of vitamins added. Wild Trax Supply has a great vitamin mix that you can add right to their raw diet to fill any gaps. Additionally, Mazuri small exotic feline diet and ZuPreem exotic feline diet are good premade options to ensure your pet serval’s dietary requirements are met. Regarding meat choices for your pet serval’s diet, variety is the key to ensuring your serval gets all the nutrients it needs., Beef, venison, rabbit, duck, chicken, quail, turkey, kangaroo, and even pork in moderation are all considered safe. Alternating what you feed your serval ensures they get all the nutrients they need.

a photo of three tubs filled with meat for a pet red fox lined up with a label reading "my pet carnivore"

Pet Serval Vet Care

Before you get a pet serval it is important that you make sure you have an exotic pet veterinarian on board willing to see one. Servals need specific vet care and can be a lot for a vet to handle. Veterinarians who specialize in domestic dogs and house cats won’t see a serval, nor will most exotic pet vets. Do your research, and find a vet who specializes in zoological medicine and has experience with wild cats. 

Since pet servals are still wild animals, they are experts at hiding their illnesses until it’s too late. Because of this, it is also important to find more than one vet if possible, in case one isn’t reachable when you need them most. If you start young and make the vet visits a positive experience with your pet serval, it will make visits safer and more bearable for everyone involved. 

Spaying or neutering your pet serval is highly recommended, as this cuts down on hormonal aggression and excessive spraying. This can be done at nine months. However, these behaviors will not stop entirely. A spayed serval is still not a suitable house pet and behaviors like territory marking should still be expected. 

Pet serval kittens should be vaccinated at 6-8 weeks with a FVRCP vaccine and receive their boosters as needed. This vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calcivirus, and feline panleukopenia. Servals should be vaccinated for rabies using a killed vaccine. Keeping your serval healthy requires annual vaccines as well. Ensure you keep your pet’s vaccines up to date with yearly rabies and FVCRP vaccines. 

Do not declaw your pet serval. Declawing any kind of cat is the equivalent of cutting your own fingers off to the first knuckle. Declawing servals leads to a lifelong disability, lower quality of life, chronic pain, and an increased risk of obesity due to losing the ability to properly exercise. If you do not want a pet serval with claws, then you do not want a serval at all. 

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