The African serval is widely distributed south of the Sahara Desert in the Savannah and into the edges of jungles.
Sporting the longest legs of any cat relative to their body size, the serval is a stealthy hunter. It preys on rodents, birds, frogs, insects, and other small animals.
Servals also occur in a "melanistic" black coat. The black cats are found primarily in higher elevations in Africa. Four "white" servals have also been documented, three born in captivity in the U.S.
African servals have a very long history as "pets". The ancient Egyptians used to worship the lanky cats and kept them in their palaces. In recent years, a cross-breed between a domestic cat and serval called the "Savannah" cat has become popular as a pet in the U.S. Purebred servals are also kept as "pets", however they can be quite aggressive and anti-social. They may share a strong bond with one human, but do not transfer well to another home or new owner. Dozens of servals and Savannah cats now live in non-profit sanctuaries because private owners find them too aggressive to satisfy their hopes for a social pet friend.
"Bushido" (at right), lovingly referred to as Boo Boo, was given permanent refuge in 2010 at Black Pine. His previous owner purchased him from a private breeder and kept him for 11 years in her home. Concerned for the safety of family members, as well as volunteers at her home-based wildlife rehabilitation center, Bushido's owner felt it was in the best interest of the cat to be given permanent, naturalistic refuge with the other animals at Black Pine.
In early 2013, "Josey" (at left) also found refuge at Black Pine. Josey's original owner purchased her from a private breeder and took excellent care of her. Unfortunately, when family needs made it necessary to move across the nation to care for an elderly parent, Josey was not a suitable pet to make the move and live with others. Josey was only 18 months old when she was surrendered.
Servals can cost thousands of dollars to acquire, and hundreds of dollars each month to provide proper diet, veterinary care, enrichment, and housing. Servals are wildcats and may not consistently use a litter box, can be dangerous to people and other animals, and once mature will likely not be as social as they are as juveniles. Black Pine recommends that anyone considering keeping a serval be sure to explore not just what breeders/sellers have to say, but also the advice of those who have owned their own servals for at least five years. Many servals live in sanctuaries, surrendered by unsatisfied and/or overwhelmed private owners.
InfoBox - Serval
Status: "Threatened" species.
Diet in wild: Rodents, birds, frogs, insects, small mammals.
Life span in wild: 8-10 years.
Weight: Males up to 45 pounds; females up to 25 pounds.
Native habitat: Africa, south of the Sahara Desert, typically in the Savannah.