By Tina Chandler of HT Circle Exotics
My name is Tina Chandler. I've had my Servals for about 6 years now and raise the babies in the house. I just wanted to offer my two cents on Serval ownership for those of you who are researching them. I hope my comments don't sound too negative. I do breed servals after all, and absolutely love them. But I do think you should be aware of all the aspects before you make a committment.
They truly are wonderful cats. I agree that you should get a young kitten and raise it yourself as opposed to getting an adult. The younger the better for bonding purposes. Of course the younger they are the more care they require and the more risks there are of illness and injury. Each kitten will grow and progress and his own rate, but generally by about 4-5 weeks they'll be pretty sturdy and starting to really run around and play. But they're still not so wound up that they won't snuggle with you. The first 8 weeks or so are the best time for bonding because they truly depend on you like mamma. Once they are weaned they are high energy for the next several months and don't slow down much. If you are the person or family they bond with, there's just nothing else like it. They can be the most amazing and affectionate animals!
A few things you need to be aware of though. Servals are 100% exotic and are not legal everywhere. You need to check with your State, County, City, Township, etc to make sure there are no restrictions where you live. Even if they are legal, you may be required to have a permit. This is absolutely the first thing you need to do before you get a kitten. Some states will just euthenize a confiscated cat. Others will try to find it a legal home, but as was discussed earlier an older cat will have trouble adjusting to a new home. I get people asking me all the time to sell them a kitten under the table, and I'm sure there are breeders out there who will do it, but please, please don't go that route! If you cannot leagally own one, please look at alternatives.
Also, servals will spray - males and females alike. You will have to spay or neuter early enough to stop the spraying. Even that will not work 100% of the time. Be prepared for all of the possibilites. If you live in an apartment and your servals sprays no matter what you do, what will you do with the cat? These are not animals that you can take to the pound if they don't work out. Do you have a place in your home, or outside where you you could build an enclosure if you had to? This doesn't happen to everyone, and most servals won't spray if they are altered, but you should still be aware that it can happen.
Servals are hunters and will try to eat another pet that looks like prey. They have one of the highest kill ratios in the wild and will most likely succeed in catching your bird, hampster, snake etc if they ever get a chance. When I was raising my breeders in the house my male was the best mouser we've ever had. Also, they may not be accepting of a new pet once they're older. If a serval kitten is raised with other pets they'll usually do pretty well with them, but if you introduce a new pet later in your serval's life you can't expect them accept it. They may even try to kill it.
If you do decide to go with a serval the rewards far outweigh the rest of it. Everyone else on the servals chat list has mentioned all the benefits and I highly agree with all of them. I love spending time with my cats. Take your time and do your research. Another good resource on exotic ownership is www.lioc.org. They have a great web site that includes a summary on the state laws. There is a membership required to join the email list and get the newsletter, but it's worth it.
Article copyright 2003 by Tina Chandler