Do Serval Cats Make Good Pets?

If you want a cat that’s a bit on the wild side you may be asking “do serval cats make good pets?” Keep reading as you’ll discover all about this exotic breed of cat and if they’re safe to keep as pets.

Whether you’ve already heard about the Serval cat and want to know a bit more, or if you’re serious about adopting one I hope to provide you with the answers you’re looking for.

The Serval is actually an African wild cat and commonly found in sub saharan countries. However, this doesn’t include North African regions though.

If you’ve heard of the Savannah cat you may know they’re closely related to Serval cats and often kept as pets. Some are classed as dangerous whereas others are much more like a domestic cat.

What does a Serval cat look like

what does a serval cat look like

Despite their wild streak, Serval cats are not much bigger than a medium size dog. Don’t be fooled into thinking their small size makes them less dangerous though as they’re expert hunters.

Serval cats have a beautiful fawn colored coat with black lines and spots. This helps create a camouflage against grasslands, forests, and wetlands.

If you look closely at a Serval you’ll notice a long neck and small head. Despite having a small head the ears are large in proportion. In addition, Serval cats have long slender legs allowing them to jump up to 9 feet in the air. They’re also second fastest cat to the Cheetah and can reach speeds up to 80 kilometers an hour!

Can Serval cats purr

While big cats including lions and tigers don’t purr with contentment, smaller wildcats including Servals can. In addition, they can also meow, hiss, and chirp, just like a regular moggy.

However, don’t think for a minute this is your average moggy! If you want a cuddly lap cat don’t even think about adopting a Serval!

In fact, though I just mentioned Serval cats can purr, this is only if they’re domesticated. Cats never purr with each other as it’s only reserved for humans!

Is it legal to keep a Serval cat?

This seems to depend where you live. For example, here in the UK it’s illegal to keep a Serval or first generation Savannah cat.

I don’t know how the law stands on this in other countries so you’d have to do some research. If you live in America you may find laws on keeping exotic or dangerous pets vary from state to state.

It’s possible you may find Serval cats that are generations removed from their African ancestors, but you’d need to look into this very carefully.

How safe is it to keep a Serval cat?

If you’ve discovered you can legally keep a Serval in your area, you may be wondering is it safe? The answer to this question isn’t straightforward as it depends on the environment.

For example, if you have other pets or young children then no, don’t even consider the idea. No matter how cute they look, Serval cats are wild animals.

They have a very strong hunting instinct and could easily attack a smaller domestic cat or dog. In addition, a small child would be at very great risk.

A baby or toddler trying to hug a Serval cat could have devastating and tragic consequences. Even if you’re around to supervise you never know what could happen.

On the other hand if you don’t have kids and live in an area with plenty of open land you may be ok. Also, bear in mind that Serval cats are great escape artists! Not only can they jump very high, but are talented at digging their way underneath fences!

So even if you have a high cat proof fence, there’s no guarantee your Serval kitty will happily stay in her enclosure. Finding a wild cat roaming the neighbored and terrorising pets isn’t something you want to happen.

Though Serval cats are rarely aggressive towards humans, they could hunt and kill local wildlife, eat your neighbors chickens, and badly hurt other pets.

By what I understand, if you live in America, some states will require you to buy a licence. Therefore always do your research first.

Keeping your Serval cat safe

Keeping a Serval in an environment that’s not only safe but stimulating requires careful planning. These cats have tons of energy and need to be able to burn it off. This means providing enough space for running, jumping and climbing.

You need to be mindful of any breakables and keep them safely out of reach. Bear in mind, Servals have no problem jumping great heights, so either place as close to the ceiling as possible or store them in a cupboard.

You’d also need to provide a heavy duty cat tree as well as plenty of toys. In addition, an extra large litter box would be an essential item.

Remember, this breed of cat is quite large and the average Serval weighs around 29 pounds. This makes them heavier than a Maine Coon, or other large breed domestic cat.

This is why a regular litter box wouldn’t be suitable. Also, while we’re on the subject of litter boxes, Servals won’t use one once it’s soiled. This means extra work for you as you’d need to clean it daily.

Training your Serval kitty

You’ll need to train a Serval kitten to use a litter box as unlike domestic cats it doesn’t come naturally. With a bit of patience and love though there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work out.

Never scold a Serval or any other breed of cat. Instead, reward for good behavior. As I’ve mentioned before in other posts, cats aren’t motivated by praise in the same way as dogs. Instead, they tend to respond to what’s in it for them.

As Servals are natural retrievers you’ll find your cat fetching toys and household items. Bear in mind, this breed have very strong jaws and would destroy anything small.

In fact, small cat toys could even choke your Serval if swallowed. The best idea would be to buy toys designed for large dogs. Young kittens though would be fine with small chew toys.

Can Serval cats make loving pets?

Although Servals are wild cats it doesn’t mean they can’t be domesticated. In fact many owners find they form strong bonds with them.

Treating a Serval with respect and kindness is the best way to bond and form a strong friendship. There are a few points to bear in mind though.

Firstly, if you’re rehoming a Serval you’ll be seen as a predator for quite a while. Kittens are different as you’ll be all they’ve known.

I can’t emphasise enough the amount of time needed to gain trust with one of these cats. Expecting to bond with your Serval in a few hours will lead to disappointment.

A good tip is to sit quietly in the same room and get on with whatever you’re doing. Whether reading a book, watching tv, or working on your laptop.

Let your inquisitive Serval come to you. Don’t try and force her to do anything she doesn’t want to. NEVER raise your voice or hit your cat.

This would be the worst thing you could do, and completely destroy any trust you may have already gained. This rule applies to any cat, but much more so with Servals.

Expect months rather than weeks for complete gain of trust. Just like anything else in life, perseverance always pays off.

Another well known tip for gaining trust with a Serval is hand feeding. Offering a Serval cat pieces of food directly from your hand helps install trust.

Servals are highly intelligent and quick to learn. Once you’ve shown reaching your hand towards your cat means reward, your Serval will start to trust you.

What do Serval cats eat?

Feeding an adult Serval can work out expensive as you’ll need to provide your hungry kitty with a mix of high quality wet cat food such as Iams, and whole prey.

You’ll be glad to hear though that Servals aren’t fussy eaters. In the wild they’ll eat anything from small rodents to snakes, and even frogs.

Their powerful legs and amazing ability to jump up to 9 feet in the air makes catching prey a breeze. Whole prey can mean raw chicken or beef, but NEVER feed cooked meat

In addition it’s often recommended to supplement the diet as well, but you’d need to consult your vet. Kittens up to six months old should be fed minced raw meat. This is because they’re not able to chew large bones.

Serval kittens need four or five small meals each day, whereas adults can be fed a bit less frequently. Cats are opportunist hunters and do most of their hunting at night.

In contrast to big cats who only have successful hunts ten percent of the time, Servals are far more successful. This means they can eat multiple times a day.

However, it’s considered normal for Servals to eat more food some days and hardly any other days. This can often apply to domestic cats as well and shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Are Serval cats the right breed for you?

Many people who decide to buy a Serval kitten end up rehoming it. This is because a fully grown Serval cat is not only expensive to keep, but has a lot of strength in it’s powerful body.

Lack of research and full understanding of what’s involved in keeping one of these cats can lead to heartbreak. You’ll need plenty of savings to fall back on and a decent income to afford upkeep.

Expect to pay around $1700 for a Serval kitten, but only ever buy from a reputable breeder. If you’re unsure check them out first.

Insuring an exotic pet can also work out expensive, and you may have to buy a licence as well. In addition, you’ll also need to get your cat vaccinated.

If you’ve enjoyed this post about Serval cats please share. Feel free to share this pin on your “pets board”

If you have any questions or want to share experiences please leave your comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)


8 thoughts on “Do Serval Cats Make Good Pets?”

  1. I have never wanted to own a larger cat especially a wild one. Any cat is a very dangerous animal when it attacks but when you add to the physical size and it has a wild side still in it. I would not want to be around it.

    To be honest I have never heard of a Serval Cat and can’t imagine why anyone would want that kind of danger around them. Do you know if they would be a protector like a dog? One time our daughter brought over their dog with them, it was a full-size dog standing 2.5 ft high. Our little cat attacked it and by did he yelp. I am sure the dog could of turned around a eat it in one bite but thank goodness it does not harm anything.
    If a Serval Cat can be trained to protect it I think it would make a great protector.

    Very interesting article I really enjoyed it thank you.

    • Hi Rick, thanks for your comment: Yes, you’re so right that cats can be dangerous with their sharp claws. I’ve been attacked by my playful kitty many times with scratches on my arm to show for it lol! However, getting on the wrong side of a big 28 pound Serval would be an entirely different thing. As for being a protector I’m not sure if that would work. Dogs are different as they instinctively protect their owners and property, but cats aren’t wired in the same way. They’re not pack animals and highly unlikely to attack an intruder unless they knew treats would be involved! Serval cats aren’t known for being a danger to humans, only wildlife:) Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed this post:)

  2. Wow. I have not expected so much information about Serval cats. Thanks! Awesome post as always, Kathy. I watched a show about these cats a few months ago and wanted to see if it’s legal to have them as pets. I’m in the EU so I’m 99.99% sure that it’s illegal to keep Serval cats as pets, but there are that 0.01% chances that maybe there’s some law in my country that allows keeping these cats as pets. They look awesome! Thanks again for sharing this post and keep up the good work!

    • Hi Ivan, thanks for your comment:) Interesting that you saw a tv program about Serval cats. I also love watching documentaries about big cats. You’re right as it may be illegal to keep them as pets in EU countries. It’s definitely forbidden here in the UK. They are indeed beautiful animals, but could pose a risk to other pets. Glad you enjoyed this post:)

  3. Kathy,

    Serval cats sound like a very interesting breed of cat. I’ve never heard of them until this article. I have to admit, I probably wouldn’t do good with this breed. Even my male cats, before they both passed were treated more like dogs than cats. Of course, they acted more like dogs. But they would get scolded for jumping on counters or doing things they knew they weren’t supposed to do. I have to admit, they were pretty cool cats though after all the training. They knew when they were getting into trouble, cause they would just stare at me, waiting for me to jump up and chase them.

    Thanks for sharing this breed with us!


    • Hi Katrina, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment:) I don’t think I’d do well with a Serval either. I live in the UK, so it would be illegal to keep one anyway. Your cats sounded great fun! My cat is the same and gives me that look when he knows he’s done something wrong lol! Glad you enjoyed this post:)

  4. I have never heard of Serval cats before. I have seen them in wild documentaries but didn’t know their specific name. So, I am more than surprised to see that people can buy or adopt them as house pets.
    I believe that you can bond with serval cats, definitely, but they are a huge responsability since their prey drive is higher than other domesticated cats, and they can be a danger to smaller pets and even children … I am not sure if I would adopt an animal that would be better off in the wild …
    They are gorgeous and it’s incredible that they can jump 9 ft! Wow! They could literally just snatch a bird midair …
    The wildest animals I have adopted were feral cats and it took me a year to domesticate one of them, since he had a hard time to stop seeing me as a threat (due to other humans who he perceived as threats when he was feral), and it had never taken me this long before. After he finally started trusting me, he turned into mommy’s boy 😉 and he loves me, but he doesn’t trust other humans, only me.

    • Hi Christine, thank you for your comment:) Yes, you’re right, it’s certainly possible to bond with a Serval cat, and indeed many owners do. In fact, if treated in the right way they can be as loving as any domestic cat. Despite the huge responsibility of owning one of these wild cats, many seem happy to adopt though. You’re right as there would always be the danger of other pets or children getting hurt. Yes, isn’t it amazing how high Serval cats can leap in the air. A bird in flight wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s wonderful that you adopted and tamed a feral cat. Patience is certainly needed, and so glad it turned out well:)


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