African servals, exotic cats as pets

Serval/Exotic Cat Care
Veterinary Care
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Servals receive the same routine vaccinations as domestic cats; however they can only safely receive the killed virus versions of these vaccines

Do not assume that your veterinarian will be aware of the unique vaccination requirements of servals.

Microchipping provides an indelible "ID tag;" proof of ownership should your cat ever escape or be stolen

As a disclaimer, I would like to make it clear that I am not a veterinarian or an animal nutrition expert. This site is written by a layperson and is not intended to diagnose or provide veterinary advice. Always consult your veterinarian before making a final decision on any health or nutrition matters.

Servals tend to be very healthy, since they are very recently "domesticated" and survival of the fittest still rules. The main problems I hear of are ingesting foreign objects and metabolic bone disease, (which is basically the result of a calcium defeciency and can be avoided through proper nutrition).

Choosing an exotic cat veterinarian

You should choose a trusted veterinarian before you even get a serval. Find a vet before you need one! Not all vets will treat exotic cats, and others may be unwilling to learn and make critical mistakes in treating your pet.

In many cases, a vet with experience treating exotic cats is ideal. However, some people have had more success working with good vets who may not have experience working with exotics but are willing to listen and learn.

I chose a wonderful, experienced vet who runs a clinic catering only to cats and exotic pets like reptiles and rodents. She readily agreed to treat my serval, and while she doesnít have exotic cat experience, the care Sirocco receives at her clinic is second to none.

Vaccinations

Servals receive the same routine vaccinations as domestic cats; however they can only safely receive the killed virus versions of these vaccines. Examples of vaccines that you might use would be Fel-O-Vax (made by Fort Dodge) which protects against panleukopenia (distemper), rhinotracheitis, calcivirus, and clamydia as well as Imrab (made by Pitman-Moore) which protects against rabies. Do not assume that your veterinarian will be aware of the unique vaccination requirements of servals.

Many veterinarians have little or no experience treating these animals, so be sure you respectfully verify what type of vaccine will be used before allowing the injection to be given. If you give your own vaccinations, the Fel-O-Vax can be ordered through your vaccine supplier. It would be a good idea to check with your vet a month or so before you plan on having the Rabies vaccination done in order to see if they have killed virus on hand. This will give them a chance to special order it if neccessary.

Microchipping

I strongly recommend mircochipping your serval. This is something that you will hopefully never need, but it's a great form of insurance. Microchipping provides an indelible "ID tag;" proof of ownership should your cat ever escape or be stolen.

A microchip is a small chip about the size of a grain of rice. They are very safe and relatively inexpensive. Your vet (or in some cases the kittenís breeder) injects the chip under the skin between the catís shoulders. The procedure is identical to a routine vaccination, only with a larger needle.

The microchips are read by passing a scanner over the catís shoulders. The microchip number appears on the screen of the scanner. Each microchip has a unique ID number, which is registered to your name in a national database. Most shelters and veterinarians now have scanners, so if your feline is found, chances are good that he will be scanned.

If your kitten is not already altered and microchipped when you get him, consider having the microchip implanted while heís anesthetized for surgery. Minimizing the number of painful things that happen to a serval at the vetís office will help him develop a positive relationship with the vet.

Blood Work

These pages provide physiological reference ranges for various ages and sexes of serval. They may help if you have blood work done on your serval and your your vet need a way to figure out if the results are normal.

Females under 1 year.

Females over 1 year.

Males under 1 year.

Males over 1 year.

Anesthesia

Unfortunately there has not been a great deal of research done on the safety of different anesthetics in exotic felines. There are two basic types of anesthesia, injectable and inhaled (gas). The injectable anesthetics are used primarily for initial sedation and short duration procedures, whereas inhaled anesthetics are often used for longer procedures.

Two injectible anesthetics that have seen fairly wide use in exotic cats are Ketamine Hydrochloride and Telezol. Ketamine seems to somewhat controversial, with some saying that it is safe and others reporting problems. Telezol appears to be safe for many feline species, but has been implicated in the deaths of servals and tigers.

Isofluraine is a very safe gas anesthetic that has seen wide use in exotics.

Anesthetizing an exotic cat by traditional methods may prove to be difficult or impossible depending on the catís mental state, socialization level, and the skill of the veterinary staff.

Typically, anesthesia is accomplished by giving an initial sedative injection under the skin (subcutaneously) to relax the animal and make him easier to handle. Then, the cat is given an IV injection of anesthetic or a mask is applied so that the pet inhales a gas anesthetic. In some cases, an injectable anesthetic will be given, then the animal will be placed on gas once he is unconscious.

However, placing a needle in the vein of a struggling serval and keeping it there long enough to deliver the drug can be difficult to impossible. Similarly, many cats will not accept the gas mask, and hallucinations can occur as the gas begins to take affect, causing the cat to panic or struggle.

A common technique for anesthetizing exotic cats when conventional methods fail is to put the cat in a travel crate, then place the crate in a plastic garbage bag. Run the anesthetic line into the crate, then seal the bag so that the gas cannot escape. The crate can also be sealed with duct tape if you feel like creating a permanent anesthesia chamber.



 

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