Serval Cats: Do Your Research If You're Considering This Exotic Cat


There's something exciting about having an unusual pet, and if you love cats, you might be tempted to add a special breed of cat to your home. The serval cat is strikingly beautiful, athletic, and highly intelligent. But this African wild cat requires a large commitment from its two-legged parents. You must create a secure outdoor enclosure for this exotic cat. They also need a warm environment year-round, too.

African serval cats are small, slender cats with long legs, a lean body, a short tail, and a small head. Their scientific name is Leptailurus serval. Many are attracted to their adorable, large ears but living with this exotic pet may bring some challenges.

Why Owning a Serval Isn't For Everyone

What's the most important tip from our staff? Ownership requires permits, inspections and a license (some states prohibit ownership altogether). Do your research - these are exotic cats! There are varying points of view on whether or not owning this exotic cat is a good idea. posts a very helpful list of the risks. 

Some people think it would be fun to own a wild or exotic cat. According to The San Diego Zoo, 


"This has led to a serval hybrid called the "savanna cat," a captive-raised serval bred with a domestic cat. Wild animals, even those born in zoos, keep their wild instincts for hundreds, even thousands, of years, so these cats do NOT make good pets." 


Serval Kitten The Small Wild Cats of Africa tells us that,

"The Serval was the symbol of the Italian Tomasi family, princes of the island of Lampedusa. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, wrote the famous Italian novel 'IlGattopardo'. Despite being known as 'The Leopard' in English, the Italian title actually refers to a Serval. The Serval's North African range is near Lampedusa."

What's the conservation status of this exotic animal? Currently, draining of wetlands is the biggest threat to serval conservation.  Unlike most wild cats, servals are not endangered and they are classed as Least Concern (2008).

Curious About Their Characteristics?

Imagine having a 40-pound cat that enjoys hunting in the middle of the night! These wild cats are high energy and curious about their environment.

The coat pattern is variable, but usually pale yellow with uniquely sized black spots, some of which merge into longitudinal stripes down the back and neck.


Servals are similar in body size to Caracals.

The average lifespan for a serval cat is 20 years. This is longer than the typical domestic cat!

And just in case you were curious about breeding, the female serval raises her kittens alone, usually three kittens to a litter. They live in a den made of tall grass or perhaps an abandoned burrow.

What Do They Eat?

These wild cats require special diets and are absolutely carnivorous. The serval has a varied diet, eating birds, reptiles, frogs, crabs, and large insects. Their long neck allows them to grab birds right out of the air.


They are known for leaping high into the air and then landing on their prey with its forepaws, stunning the prey in the process.

The Serval: Not Your Typical Pet

Serval cats are known for being solitary animals and they roam over most of the African continent south of the Sahara desert. They are unique to Southern Africa and known for having very large ears. Make no mistake though - these wild cats are not domestic cats. Their adorable elongated neck, very long legs, and small, delicate skull are very different than the average cat's body type.

With that in mind, they don't make the best pets. It would be similar to living with a wild dog. The good news is their conservation status is not a concern at the moment and they're not endangered. While people are drawn to living with exotic pets many reliable sources don't encourage this given the many risks.

If natural history tells us anything we should leave the care of these wild cats to conservation groups and zoologists. The leptailurus serval should remain an African wild cat, living out their lives in tall grass and dense vegetation rather than a "safe" outdoor enclosure. These wild cats are known to prefer areas of bush, tall grass, and dry reed beds near streams.


Their very long lifespan requires pet parents to consider what to do if living with this exotic pet doesn't work out! As you can see in these Instagram posts, some people are up to the challenge and the large ears won them over! The Botswana travel guide sites that these cats are also known as the African wildcat with the longest legs!

Do you or anyone you know, live with a serval cat? Please comment below! 

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