African servals, exotic cats as pets

Serval/Exotic Cat Care
Diet and Feeding
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The first step when designing the diet for a serval is to research what they eat in the wild

The diet most commonly recommended is one consisting of raw, bone-in poultry and meat, supplemented with vitamins made for wild felines.

Servals eat between one and three pounds of meat a day.



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As a disclaimer, I would like to make it clear that I am not a veterinarian or an animal nutrition expert. It is not my intention to provide veterianary advice. Always consult your veterinarian before making a final decision on any health or nutrition matters.

The first step when designing the diet for a serval is to research what they eat in the wild, and try to incorporate as many elements of that as possible into what you feed. There is no one accepted standard for diet, but a fresh meat based diet is generally considered to be preferable to a commercial diet. Servals are obligate carnivores, which means that they must get virtually all of their nutrients from meat. Under no circumstances should an exotic feline be fed a vegetarian diet.

Stomach contents of wild servals have included rats and mice of various types, shrews, moles, hares, birds, reptiles, amphibians (particularly frogs), crabs, and other creatures identified only as “unidentified small mammal.”

A scat study in the Kamberg Nature Reserve showed that the diet of servals in the area consisted of 80% rodents, 13.5% shrews, 5% birds, 0.9% reptiles, and 0.7% insects. One wild serval was seen catching and eating at least 28 frogs in a 3-hour period. While they sometimes raid chicken and duck pens, they are not known for hunting larger livestock. They do not normally prey on animals larger than themselves, although on rare occasions they have killed flamingos, duiker, and young antelope.

The diet most commonly recommended is one consisting of raw, bone-in poultry and meat, supplemented with vitamins made for wild felines. I feed a variety of foods, with raw meat, fish, and poultry forming the base of the diet. I supplement this with the Oasis wild feline vitamins and the Oasis calcium supplement, although I have heard very good things about Wild Trax vitamins as well. Some of the foods I give my serval include:

  • Chicken; quarters, necks, thighs, wings, and ground
  • Turkey necks and ground turkey
  • Beef, any cuts as well as ground beef
  • Rabbit (recently found someone to sell them to me at a reasonable price!)
  • Fresh fish filets, smelt, tilapia, squid, and mixed seafood
  • Cooked chicken quarters, with bones removed
  • Super-premium natural canned cat food
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned salmon
  • Canned Jack mackerel

Snacks and Treats

  • Cheese
  • Beef jerky
  • Cottage cheese
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • "Serval tacos;" refried beads, cheese, tomatoes, guacmole, and lettuce
  • Macaroni and cheese

Servals eat between one and three pounds of meat a day. It is generally regarded as safe to feed raw meat with bones included to servals. While this may go against what many people suggest for domestic animals, consider what these servals eat in the wild. Nobody removes the bones for them! However, it would be dangerous for you to feed cooked meat or poultry with bones in it to your serval (or any animal). When bones are cooked, they become more brittle and can splinter.

The distant second choice of breeders seems to be Mazuri and Zupreem brands of commercially prepared diets (developed specifically for exotic cats). If your local store does not carry Mazuri or Zupreem, it can often be special ordered through a pet shop. Before choosing a commercial diet, I would suggest looking at the ingredients and researching them on the Internet. Mass-produced pet food ingredients are notoriously poor quality, and I feel more comfortable feeding raw a diet so I can verify what my cat is eating.

A very small number of people have said that premium natural brands of domestic cat foods can be fed as well. Many breeders advise against feeding domestic cat diets. I would feel uncomfortable feeding domestic cat food as the primary diet, because servals have a much faster growth rate and different body structure than the domestic cats these foods were formulated for.

I do occasionally feed super-premium canned domestic cat food, but never as the primary diet.

There are two frozen horsemeat based diets available through Central Nebraska Packing (308-532-1250) and Dallas Crown. From what I have heard, large minimum orders and shipping difficulties make this an impractical option for most small feline owners.

Eileen, a serval owner who has researched their nutrition and diets says "Commercial diets such as Mazuri are NOT sufficient to keep your serval healthy in the long run. First off, although it is considered a complete diet for exotics, that is ONLY because the ratio of protein etc, etc. is what is considered to be accurate for this animal. One can take shoe leather and mix it with other odds and ends and create the same nutrient levels. Try reading the ingredients one by one. Each ingredient you read, look up what it is."

"If you really read the ingredients in Mazuri, you will also find it has nasty preservatives which are seriously questioned as a carcinogen. It is actually also used for preserving rubber tires. I opt for natural and watch the expiration date. Also look up what the difference is between chicken meat versus, meal, and by products."

She also advises "It is very important that they get 54mgs of Calcium per animal pound while growing. At about 3 years this can be tapered off to about 45-49mgs per pound. So if at 9 months your serval is about 20 pounds, he should be getting roughly 1080mgs daily. Giving a little more will not hurt, but giving to little will! You will know if you are giving more than he needs if his stool takes on a grayish color."




 

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