The ability to train is an essential skill for a serval owner.
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Modern animal training methods make the process fun for both the animal and the trainer.
Positive reinforcement based methods developed by dolphin trainers get great results on servals and other exotic pets.
Litterbox Training your Serval
Litter box training a serval is a process similar to housebreaking a dog, but it can be more difficult. Some people seem to find it an easy process, while others never completely train their servals.
Start off on the right paw by designing the perfect litter box for your serval. Find a location that is somewhat sheltered yet allows him to keep an eye on his surroundings. He shouldn’t have to go out of his way to find the box. If your kitten has “accidents” when you first get him, note their location. Does he have a favorite spot you could put a box in? Avoid putting the box near appliances that could turn on and frighten an impressionable serval kitty. Make sure the box is big enough, but that the sides aren’t so high that they make it inconvenient to enter the box.
Find a type of litter your kitten likes. Ask what the breeder has been using and start with that. If he seems to like it and seems comfortable in the box, your best bet is to keep using it. If he seems less than content or seeks out softer places to go, try switching to a softer, sandier litter. Suggestions can be found below under “Litterbox Problems.”
When you see your kitten using the box, praise him sincerely until he finishes, then reward him with a treat, some scratches, or the chance to play with a toy. Experiment until you find what he seems to enjoy the most.
If you catch your kitten in the act of eliminating outside the box, you may correct him with a sharp “No!” and perhaps a squirt of water. However, such punishment should be used very cautiously.
- Do not punish your kitten if you aren’t also rewarding him on a regular basis for using his box. If you use punishment without lots of positive reinforcement for doing the right thing, he may get the impression that it is simply dangerous to go to the bathroom in your presence. He’ll start eliminating in corners and behind couches to hide from you. Then you’re in trouble!
- Do not punish your kitten if he is at all frightened of you or is not strongly bonded to you. You have to earn the right to correct your cat without it damaging your relationship.
- Do not punish your kitten by forcing him into the litter box after a “mistake.” You will only create scary associations with the box and make him less likely to want anything to do with it.
- Never punish after the fact.
Crate training involves keeping the animal confined whenever nobody is around to supervise him, thus preventing him from finding out that he can get away with soiling the house. The kitten should be kept under constant supervision when loose in the house so that he can be prevented from making mistakes. Other components of crate training involve showing him the litterbox at regular intervals, and rewarding him when he uses it
Dogs are easily crate trained because they have a natural inclination to avoid soiling their surroundings. When confined to a crate, they will "hold it" rather than soil their crate. I don't know if it's just an individual thing, but Sirocco didn't seem to mind eliminating in his crate. This means that you need to supply a crate large enough to hold the serval with room to spare as his litterbox. That way when he does go to the bathroom, he has a good chance of picking the litterbox. I used a large-dog sized airline crate with a litterbox in it.
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