Do Serval Cats Make Good Pets? What you need to know!

Usually, it’s the big ears that catch your eye first. They make you stop in the middle of a scroll when you come across photos of young exotic cats, covered in freckles, with giant ears perched on top of their cute faces. What is this adorable creature, you might think, and can I keep it as a pet?

The ears and face belong to the serval cat, a species of wildcat native to Africa. Thanks to the world’s obsession with finding newer and more exotic animals to keep as pets, many servals are bred and sold in the pet trade. But can a serval cat make a good pet? No matter how domesticated they are, service cats will always be wild animals at heart and not make good pets.

We do not recommend keeping a serval cat as a pet for several reasons which will be discussed in this article.

cat-dividerServal Cats: An Introduction

The Serval is a medium-sized wild cat found throughout most of the African continent. Their long legs make them fast, athletic, and the best hunters of all wild cat species. The serval cat is a long-distance solitary animal. They eat a wide variety of different prey including rodents, birds, and fish.

The serval cat can grow to 40 pounds and live as long as 20 years. They are not endangered in the wild and there is a strong captive population.

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Why Serval Cats Don’t Make Good Pets

The reason serval cats don’t make good pets boils down to one basic concept: they are wild animals. Domesticated cats have had thousands of years to adapt their behavior to live with humans while serval cats have not.

Serval cats can be tamed up to a point, especially when raised with people from the time of the kittens, but they will always keep their wild instincts. It’s that wild instinct that makes keeping a pet serval cat complicated and often risky.

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Serval Cats Are Runaway Artists

Properly and safely housing a serval cat is a monumental task. They are used to freely roaming the plains of Africa and are strong athletic animals, capable of jumping high and digging deep. The pet serval cat needs a spacious outdoor habitat, fully enclosed with a solid fence, including the top, with several feet of buried fence to prevent any tunnels leading to freedom.

Cages need a water source and plenty of trees, grass, and other habitat enhancers. The serval cat does not tolerate cold temperatures and requires a warm environment all year round.

The serval cat is most active at night, and keeping a serval cat in an inadequate cage can lead to nocturnal escapes with dangerous consequences. Escaped serval cats pose a danger to domestic pets and themselves are in danger of being hit by a car or being shot and killed.

  • Also Read: 12 Domesticated Animals As Pets (Pictured)

Serval_Pixabay Cat side view

Serval Cats Are Bad House Guests

No problem, you might think, I’ll let my service cats stay at home and not have to worry about them running away. Well, not so fast. Serval cats are also not easy to keep inside.

An adult serval cat may be as large as 40 pounds. And that’s not 40 pounds of couch potatoes either. These cats are fast, active, athletic, and can be very destructive in the home environment. Serval cats prefer to play rather than intentionally damage, but they play hard and your home and belongings will pay the price.

If you’re trying to keep a serval cat at home, you’ll want to be diligent about keeping their environment safe. Curious service cats often injure themselves by swallowing household items or tearing power lines.

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Even if you make everything in your home safe, there is one other glaring problem to address when trying to keep a serval cat indoors, and that is sand training.

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Serval Cats Can’t Be Trained With Trash Trust

The instinct of the wild serval cat is to mark its territory. No matter how hard you work to train pet servals, their wild instincts will prevail in the end. Yes, they may use the litter box, but that won’t stop them from urinating elsewhere either.

Serval cats mark not only their territory but anything they want to claim, including their owners! One of the number one reasons people end up getting rid of their pet cat is because they pee all over the place, which is understandably not a desirable quality in a house pet.

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Serval Cats Can Be Dangerous

While service cats can bond with humans, they will generally only be one-person animals. They are capable of being affectionate and usually not aggressive towards humans but keeping them as pets is still risky.

As we already mentioned, serval cats play loud and rough. Even if they only bite or scratch as play behavior, service cats can do painful damage to their human playmates.

Serval cats should not be kept with other pets or with children. These cats are the most skilled hunters of all wild cat species. That hunting instinct was never lost even in servals raised with humans. Small animals and little people look and act like prey so it can’t be safe with a service cat in the house.

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Other Complications of Having a Pet Serval Cat

As a wild animal, the serval cat cannot legally be kept as a pet in every area, in fact, only a third of the states in the US are legal to keep one of these animals. Different states and cities have different rules, and even if you can legally defend them, you may need a permit. Getting a permit can be expensive and complicated and will often require you to allow inspection of your serval cat’s cage to make sure it’s safe.

Keeping a serval cat healthy can also be tricky. Trying to imitate their wild diet is difficult because it is so varied, and many domesticated cats are malnourished because of this. Also, finding a veterinarian who specializes in treating serval cats can be difficult.

The serval cat has a longer life span than your average dog or cat. Twenty years is a long time to commit to any pet, especially one that might get you used to peeing! And if you feel like you can no longer keep your pet serval cat, you can’t really drop him off at your local animal shelter. You may need to seek a dedicated big cat rescue or sanctuary.


Wild animals belong in the wild, not in your backyard or living room. If you’re tempted by cute baby serval cat pictures, remember that all babies grow up, and adult serval cats are not good pets. Thousands of homeless domestic cats need forever families in shelters and rescues around the world. Instead of a serval cat, consider bringing one of these cats into your home and leaving the serval to the wild and your social media feeds!

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Do Serval Cats Make Good Pets? What you need to know!
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