African servals, exotic cats as pets

Caracals and Servals
Sharing Territories, by Elizabeth Hatton
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My home is more or less owned by a serval and a caracal. They share territory with each other and are kind enough to allow the humans in the family share it as well.

Coda, our male serval, came to us almost two years ago. (Much thanks to Lynn and Bart Culver.) He arrived healthy, full of energy and willing to accept humans as part of his environment. He quickly became friendly with the male domestic cat I was fostering for a friend. In his first year of life Coda learned to walk on a lead, come when we called his name, sit on command and play fetch. He chose my oldest child, Heather as his favorite human, tolerating being picked up by her, even when he indicated to me he was not in the mood. When my three human children would gather to play a game or watch TV, there he was, part of the gang. He would hop into the tub when they bathed, steal their water toys and hide them in my bed. He would take turns grooming them as they slept, at the end of the night he would find his place at my feet to sleep.

We had him neutered and de-clawed all around. He was intended to be a house pet and I wanted to make sure we took as many precautions possible to ensure his success. (Back up plan for outdoor caging was made in the event of any unforeseen problems socializing the cat.) I would call Lynn on a regular basis to keep her posted on his progress. Not too long before his first birthday she informed me there would be a litter of caracals available.

Shadow came to us just before Coda turned a year old. When I peeked into his travel crate for the first time, I was greeted with a hiss. We decided that unlike Coda, (who rode in my lap the whole way home when I picked him up as a kitten) we would wait until we were home to take Shadow out of the crate. Once home, I opened the crate, he hissed. I talked softly to him as I reached to the back of the crate to scoop him out. I pulled him in towards me with a gentle but firm hold. As he settled into my arms, he began to purr. I pet him in my lap as I fed him his bottle and the bonding began.

Coda handled the new arrival much the same way human children handle a new sibling. He sulked..... a lot. He refused to be pet, come when called or even play fetch. "Who was this fuzzy critter taking up '"Mommy's' time?" Even worse, " Why was she allowing it? After two days of full-blown displays of resentment by Coda, I decided to be drastic in my persistence to make everyone play nice. I kept the kitten in a cage in my bedroom, and had Coda and the male domestic shut into the same room, with of course me.From time to time I would have one of the kids pop into the room as well.

I remembered reading the primary reason most non-domestics are solitary, is to ensure they have adequate territory to sustain their dietary needs. Also some domestics will sometimes resent newcomers because they feel not only their food source threatened, but fear they will loose the affection of their humans. Addressing these concerns (and hoping to God those really were the reasons for the non acceptance of the new baby) I had decided we would all stay in the room together. Everyone would get fed together, and I would give affection in abundance to all in the presence of each other.

I also took into account the "scent factor." I would rotate toys and blankies from inside the cage to out and back again, allowing all to contribute their scent to the collective whole. The domestic, having already accepted Coda, came around quickly and began to groom the kitten when I held him on my lap. I would hold Shadow in my arms and talk sweetly to Coda inviting him to come say hello.... although it would be a week before he honored my request.

Within 48 hours of Shadows arrival, Coda was himself again, except of course when Shadow was being held. Between the second and sixth day, all the humans in the family went out of their way to pay special attention to Coda. Extra games, extra petting, extra bathtub time was allotted.

On the seventh day, God rested, and decided to give me a break too. I was sitting on my bed feeding Shadow a bottle; Coda sat not more than two feet away from me. With his back towards me, he put in extra effort to actively ignore me. It was then, I heard him make a sound I had never heard him make before or since. (Or hopefully ever again, since the very thought tears at my heart.) It sounded like a child whimpering. I felt a lump in my throat as I requested once again for Coda to come see the baby.

Shadow was in my lap, drinking with his eyes closed. My arm sheltered most of his body. Coda made his way over. By the time the kitten opened his eyes, Coda was heavily involved in the process of grooming him. Unfortunately all Shadow had known of Coda was a very big cat who hissed at Him through bars. Now they were nose to nose and Shadow hissed at Coda. I can only imagine Coda was offended by this, he promptly bopped Shadow on the head and removed himself from the immediate area.

The fostered domestic has since left. My two boys quickly became friends, and remain so as of present. Where one goes, the other is seconds behind. I have watched them hide on each other, waiting for the other to come looking. They play tag together taking turns being "predator" and "prey." (I have given up hope of ever taking the Lennox back out of the boxes to place on my shelves.) At the end of the night they will take turns grooming the humans and each other, but ultimately seek to cuddle up with one another for the purpose of sleeping. The loss of my nightly foot warmer was the trade off for peace in a home with multiple cats, three human children, and now, two adults, sharing territories.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Hatton for allowing the use of this article on in cooperation with the Feline Conservation Federation. This article is copyrighted 2004 by Elizabeth Hatton, and originally appeared in the FCF Newsletter. All rights are reserved. FCF members receive a bi-monthly newsletter containing a wealth of articles like this one, and I highly recommend becoming an FCF member to learn more about exotic felines.


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© Jessi Clark-White, 2005
Caracal - Caracals as Pets - Caracals vs Servals