Some sources seem to indicate that living with a serval is no more challenging than feeding your pet goldfish. At the other end of the spectrum, many sanctuaries and animal rights activists paint serval cats and other exotic cats as unmanageable creatures that no ordinary mortal could successfully deal with. As is often the case, the truth lies in a rational world between the two extremes.
Servals are much more challenging and require much more time to breed than a domestic cat. In order to end up with a docile, safe and loving servant that can live in your house, you will have to spend a lot of time socializing, training and training it. These things don’t happen automatically with a serval.
There will be problems to overcome. To do so, you’ll need a solid understanding of how animals learn and how to humanely modify their behavior. This is not an animal for an inexperienced pet owner, or even an experienced pet owner who has only had “easy” animals!
A Serval kitten is like a house kitten in speed! If you’ve ever raised a kitten, you know how playful (and sometimes destructive) they are. Then imagine kittens the size of an adult house cat, with a lot more energy! Prepare to be tackled, bitten, scratched, climbed, and playfully wrestled by a huge kitty, and make sure you have the training experience to teach your little fireball to be kind to humans and their home.
However, if you have the knowledge to train and put in the time, you will be rewarded with a wonderful, loving companion who is fun to live with and easy and safe to handle. A well-bred serval is truly incredibly sweet and amazing. For me it is worth every bit of time and effort.
Sirocco has an incredibly loud purr, and when he’s feeling cuddly he looks at me with complete adoration written all over his face, purrs and licks me. When I get home from work, he greets me with purrs and ankle rubs, and you can tell he’s very attached to me. I have had very affectionate house cats, but Sirocco makes his love known more intensely than any house cat he has ever owned. However, he spends much less time overall purring and cuddling than a house cat (that high-energy thing). This may change as I notice that he becomes more affectionate as he gets older. I have to say that he seems very happy as a pet cat. He has a lot of energy and spends a lot of time on the go.
As a result of much early socialization, he is very tame and allows even large groups of people to pet him. However, I have seen it purr only once for a stranger; he seems to reserve true affection for his family.
Living with a serval means your sandal is stolen from under your foot and brought to the compound in the rain at 11:00pm… Then you are forced to go out and get it so you don’t ingest parts of it.
Sirocco had been playing in his enclosure one night, uninterested in being petted. When I got to bed I found myself sobbing from a harrowing day at work. As I lay there, I felt a soft nose in my ear, followed by a thunderous purr. When I didn’t respond, he gently smacked my face over and over again until I greeted him. When I spoke, he licked my cheek and then started rubbing his forehead against my face. He kept licking away my tears and “stroking” me until I stopped crying. Satisfied that he was okay, he lay down next to me, pressing his body tightly against mine as we drifted off to sleep.
I was sitting on the edge of my bed putting on my socks one morning, after I had finished petting Sirocco…or so I thought! Coming up behind me, he rested his head on my shoulder and began to purr loudly in my ear, paws kneading the bed beside me. Needless to say, I ditched my socks.
Shoes and sandals have been banned from serval-occupied areas of the house since he ate part of one and nearly had to have it surgically removed. In response, Sirocco has developed military powers to detect sandals. Sometimes my mom will be naive enough to sneak into my room at night to watch a movie using precious contraband. Relaxing in her chair, she thoughtlessly kicks off her sandals as Sirocco stands near her with feigned nonchalance. He casually passes, then grabs the prize in his teeth and sprints like a cheetah over the dresser and out the door of his lair, having learned long ago that thieving humans cannot follow him. Even if one of us is lucky enough to cut off his escape route, he won’t give up. Jaws locked, he closes his eyes in satisfaction and groans as we make futile attempts to force, yank, twist, and pry the now tooth-marked sandal out of his grasp.
Pouncing on the faces of sleeping humans and nibbling (to put it nicely) on their toes are also favorite nightly activities.
I have a deliciously lazy habit of throwing myself into bed for dinner. This has a lot to do with the fact that the bed is one of the few comfortable places in the house, and it’s within Sirocco’s domain, so I enjoy his company. One afternoon I forgot to prepare a serving (tomatoes, cheese and refried beans) for Sirocco before crashing into a plate of Mexican food. She walked up to me and poked her nose at the plate a couple of times. When I blocked him out, he lay down next to me purring, drooling a little and stretched out his head close to my elbow, his chin resting on the bed. I relented and shared a couple of tomato wedges. That wasn’t good enough, so he got up again only to be blocked by my hand. He did what any sensible servant would do: he stuck out his paw and hit my tortillas!
One night, Sirocco had been waking me up with a karate chop every half hour. I finally picked up my rambunctious serval and started taking it to the crate in my living room: the one now reserved for servals who don’t let their humans fall asleep. The problem arose when my mother’s Rottweiler mistook me for an intruder when I came out of my bedroom door and came out of the darkness with a growl. Exit the service. He was out of my arms, over my head, and back in the bedroom before the dog could take two steps. Enter bandages. He had a nice bloody welt on his jaw, and the cut on his neck had people at work asking me the next day what I had done to provoke Louie the Knife.
Before Sirocco arrived, I had been adamant: no litter boxes in my bedroom. Now, I’m glad when he actually uses the giant box that gracefully adorns the floor of my entertainment center instead of peeing on my bed.
One night I came home from work to find the blankets dragged from my bed, one of them lying neatly by the entrance to the litter box. As a thoughtful decorative touch, she also removed a German Shepherd figurine from my shelf and placed it in the litter box with one ear sticking out.
I think I’m going to recommend servals to interior designers. They can sell or rent them to customers, on the condition that the designer is called each time the serval “redecorates” the house. What a way to build repeat business!
One thing I’m very proud of is the fact that Sirocco isn’t very destructive indoors with his claws. For example, he doesn’t scratch the curtains. He simply pulls the curtain rod free from the wall and drags the curtains under the bed. Good service.
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