African servals, exotic cats as pets

Serval/Exotic Cat Care
Diets and Supplements, by Tracy Wilson
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Many thanks to Tracy Wilson of WildTrax Supply for allowing the use of this article on AfricanServal.com.



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.

You also 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.




 

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© Jessi Clark-White, 2004
Diets for Servals, Caracals, and other Small Exotic Cats