Anyone that has perused YouTube in search of Savannah videos has surely come across Zeus, a pure African Serval. The amount of views his videos have and continue to receive is mind blowing. Zeus is an incredible specimen and people’s attraction to his beauty, athleticism and intelligence is understandable. Morgan, Zeus’ owner, is a very lucky individual to have such an incredible relationship with one of this planet’s most magnificent creatures.
As a professional with years of experience with many different Servals, I cannot help but feel concern that these videos are giving the audience a false impression of what it means to share your home with this pure wild cat. I believe Zeus to be an exception to a rule. I give Morgan much credit for Zeus’ demeanor and sociability and by no means am I trying to take away from the excitement and joy that she has shared with her viewers.
Challenges of Owning a Serval
From a practical insight, I would like to take a minute to enlighten those considering owning a Serval about some of the challenges that you may face. As kittens they are extremely social, interactive creatures that thrive on the attention they are given. Most will be outgoing enough even to interact with visitors to the home and will eagerly go out on a harness to explore the outside world. However, as most of them mature you will see them pull inward to where they are only comfortable interacting with one or two adults and can become quite uncomfortable and agitated by visitors to the home. In addition, they get very set in their ways as to how things are done within their world. Any deviation from this comes at a price – usually destructive behavior or elimination outside the litter box. Going out of town for a week will put most on the edge of a mental breakdown, but even something like rearranging the furniture can be enough to put them in a tailspin.
Challenges of Owning a Serval: Litter Box Habits
Litter box habits are usually another issue Serval owners have to contend with. Most will have sporadic good box use. Retraining is possible but will usually be something that needs to be done a couple times a year. Spraying is an even bigger issue. Even after being spayed or neutered, BOTH male and female Servals will likely spray as the instinct to do so is strong.
Diet is another concern with the Servals. Feeding a diet with the correct calcium-phosphorus ratio is crucial to bone strength. Being the longest-legged cat (in proportion to body size) and extreme jumpers, it is important that they are fed a balanced diet to prevent brittle bone development. It is not abnormal to hear of a pet Serval that broke its leg jumping off something. This is usually due to an incomplete diet and weakened bone strength. There are diets available that are balanced, yet the issue with them is palatability. Many Servals will not eat these balanced diets, so owners will end up feeding a raw diet and attempt to supplement with the necessary vitamins and minerals. The ideal diet would be to feed a whole food diet, such as they would eat in the wild-whole mice, chicks, pheasants, etc. This can be a cost prohibitive option, however.
One last consideration is the legality of owning a Serval. Many places will have ordinances against the ownership of wild animals or at least have permit requirements for doing so. I am a strong believer in our constitutional rights and quickly get my back up when I feel our rights are being infringed upon. It is not my place to say who can and cannot possess such things or who is or is not able to care for them. Again, I think Morgan and Zeus the serval have a beautiful relationship and I have enjoyed being a spectator of that relationship via their YouTube videos.
The Savannah is a Safe Alternative to the Serval
The point of this topic is to bring to light that the Serval is not a suitable companion animal in most cases, while the Savannah is a manageable option for bringing a piece of the wild into your home. I used to receive calls on a regular basis from people that had bought a Serval and at 6-10 months of age, come to the realization that this wild cat was too much for them to handle. As the popularity of the Savannah rises, I find that I get fewer and fewer of these calls. I attribute this to more people choosing to purchase a Savannah rather than a Serval. With the Savannah you will enjoy the wild look, size, extreme intelligence and awe-inspiring athleticism of the Serval, but in a cat that can be treated mostly like a typical house cat. We recommend a high quality dry food diet, litter box habits are much more predictable and their ability to adapt to varying social conditions make them the forever pet you are seeking. I hope this article proves beneficial to those reading and I welcome any questions.