The very best diet you can give will best mimic their diet in the
wild: whole prey. That means the whole animal, innards, fur, everything. If
you can find a supplier of feeder rats, or chicks over 3 days old (because
they have more nutritional value than younger chicks), that would be the
best diet you can feed you serval. You don't need to add supplements because
everything is there in a whole prey diet that they need.
Most people don't
go this route though; some are squeamish about feeding whole animals,
but the biggest reason is probably that it is more expensive. I would love
to feed a whole prey diet to my cats, but with 17 exotics amongst many other
animals I cannot afford it at around $1 per rat. So I get game meat from
hunters to spice up their lives when I can. Whole squirrels are an
absolutely favorite here.
That's another diet possibility, feeding chicken
leg quarters with vitamins on a daily basis, and once or twice a week giving
some form of whole prey as a treat. I try to give mine some game meat
about once a week, but I don't always have it available year round to do it
that often for so many cats.
The rule of thumb for the amount to feed a healthy adult serval would be 3%
of his body weight. For a growing kitten it can be as much as 5% of his body
weight. The 3% pertains to real meat weight. Commercial diets like Zupreme
and Mazuri are condensed/concentrated and therefore fed in lesser amounts.
If you have your serval on a zupreme diet only, and give him a chicken bone
once or twice a week for his teeth, you'll find that he will start to refuse
the zupreme entirely and prefer the raw meat. Zumpreme is a balanced diet as
is, but it is not great for their teeth over the long term, and the cats
don't truly enjoy it as much as a meat diet. I mean, can you blame them,
that stuff is stinky and makes for some stinky poops!
Another diet would be some commercial meat feeds such as Nebraska or Dallas
Crown. Nebraska is a prepared meat diet made from horse meat with various
fat ratios for different needs. The Nebraska Feline and Canine diets that
most people use for their exotic cats do not have any bones in it, so you
would need to add a calcium supplement to it. The down side to these
companies is that they sell in large bulk, so it makes it hard for people
with very few cats to order. You can however contact Nebraska and piggy back
your order onto other customers orders in your area.
Probably the most common diet fed to exotic cats is raw chicken leg quarters
with a vitamin supplement. A chicken leg quarter (w/the bone) is pretty well
balanced in CA:Ph by itself, but it is not really a "whole" diet and needs a
multivitamin with taurine supplement added. You can use any number of
vitamins made for domestic cats, and there are only a few vitamins out there
made specifically for wild felines.
I am the producer of Wild Trax
supplements, and can tell you that we designed it specifically to enhance
the chicken w/ bone diet because it is such a common diet. We use Brewer's
yeast as the base of the vitamin because of it's nutritional values instead
of a useless filler or base. But the main thing is that you feed some kind
of multivitamin to your cat if you feed chicken legs or quarters to keep
them as healthy as possible.
What it comes down to in choosing the right
vitamin is which one your cat likes to eat or refuses to eat, they are all
pretty similar when you get right down to it, any vitamin designed for
felines. You can buy the most expensive top of the line vitamin for your
cat, but if your cat refuses to eat it, then it is worthless. Make sure
whatever vitamin you pick includes taurine in it, or add taurine to it
yourself. Other brands of vitamins I have used in the past and really liked
were Mazuri vitamins, K-Zyme for felines, and Vionate (need to add taurine
to that one).
Note: I really encourage people with young servals to give them an extra
calcium supplement every day until they are at least 2 years old, because
they grow so fast during that time, they need the extra calcium for their
long bones. Think about what you have probably learned already as a vet
student about big dog breed puppy nutrition and apply it to a serval kitten
as far as vitamin needs. They are growing their bones through at least 18
months of age, and NEED extra calcium to have strong bones during that time.
I keep my servals on a bottle of milk formula through 18 months to 2 years
old in order to make sure they get extra calcium. But if you don't wish to
give a bottle, just add a calcium powder to their food. I have used
OsteoForm calcium powder and have had great results with it.
Some people are concerned about cats eating raw bones possibly developing digestive problems. That
might be the case with domestic animals, whose digestive systems have
evolved over hundreds of years of domestication. But we are talking about a
wild feline in it's unchanged form as nature created it. They eat whole
critters in the wild, bones and all.
It's not impossible that a bone
fragment might cause a laceration internally in a wild feline, but most
people will tell you they have fed raw meat and bone diets to their cats for
years and years and have never experienced such a thing happening. I have
some cats up to 18 years old that have been on raw meat and bone diets their
entire lives without any complications. Rule of thumb--don't pick your cat
up around the belly right after they eat! At any rate, I just do not think
the risk is as high of this happening as it might be for a domestic dog or
cat. Besides, this is your cats' natural source of calcium, the most well
absorbed form of calcium they can get.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of good diets and vitamins
out there, but you need to choose what works for your lifestyle and what
makes your cat happiest. If he is not happy on one diet, he will not thrive
overall as well as being on a diet he enjoys more. Just don't let him talk
you into feeding him a bad diet. Let him try some different balanced diets
and see what he enjoys the most.
You also need to feed a diet that you will
be consistent with in your lifestyle--meaning if you choose a diet that
requires you to add a vitamin to it every day, make sure that you will do
that every day. If you have a busy crazy lifestyle and you are prone to get
lazy when feeding and often forget the vitamin because you are tired or in a
hurry, then this is a not a good diet for you to feed your cat.
have to consider what you can afford to feed long term. Such as, if you
decide to feed whole prey diets right now, and you are buying nice fat whole
feeder rats for your cat now--if later on you cannot financially afford to
continue feeding whole rats, your cat might not switch over to a chicken leg
quarter diet very easily or happily.
Many thanks to Tracy Wilson of WildTrax Supply for allowing the use of this article on AfricanServal.com. WildTrax Supply sells WildTrax vitamins as well as other exotic cat equipment. This article is copyrighted 2005 by Tracy Wilson. All rights are reserved.