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 extreme spectrum, many sanctuaries and animal rights activists paint servals and other exotic cats as unruly creatures that no ordinary mortal could hope to deal with successfully. As is often the case, the truth lies in a rational world between the two extremes.
Servals are much more challenging and require more time to raise than a house cat. To end up with a docile, confident, and loving serval that can live in your home, you will have to spend a lot of time socializing, training, and adulterating him. These things don’t happen automatically with a serval.
There will be problems to overcome. To do so, you will 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 domestic kitten in speed! If you’ve ever raised a kitten, you know how playful (and sometimes destructive) they are. So imagine kittens the size of an adult house cat, with so much more energy! Prepare to be approached, bitten, scratched, climbed and fought by a huge kitten playfully, and make sure you have the training experience to teach your little fireball to be kind to humans and your house.
However, if you have the training knowledge and put the time into it, you will be rewarded with a wonderful, caring partner who is fun to live with and easy and safe to drive. A well-bred serval is truly incredibly sweet and amazing. For me, it is worth all the time and effort.
Sirocco has an incredibly loud purr, and when he’s feeling affectionate 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 rubs at his ankles, and it is clear that he is very attached to me. I have had very loving house cats, but Sirocco makes his love known more intensely than any house cat he has ever owned. However, it spends much less time 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. He has a lot of energy and spends a lot of time on the go.
As a result of a lot of early socialization, he is very docile and will allow even large groups of people to pet him. However, I have only seen him purr once by a stranger; he seems to reserve true affection for his family.
Living with a serval means having your sandal stolen from under your foot and brought into the enclosure in the rain at 11:00 pm … Then, forced to go out looking for ballast, ingest portions.
Sirocco had been playing in his enclosure one night, with no interest in being petted. When I got to bed, I found myself crying from a heartbreaking 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 tapped my face over and over until I said hi. When I spoke, he licked my cheek and then started rubbing his forehead against my face. He continued licking my tears and “stroking” me until I stopped crying. Once satisfied that I was okay, he lay down next to me, pressing his body tight against mine as we fell asleep.
I was sitting on the edge of my bed putting my socks on one morning, having finished petting Sirocco … Or so I thought! Approaching from behind, she rested her head on my shoulder and began to purr loudly in my ear, her paws massaging the bed next to me. Needless to say, I ditched my socks.
Shoes and sandals have been banned in serval-occupied regions of the house since he ate part of one and almost had to surgically remove it. In response, Sirocco has developed military force sandal detection powers. Sometimes my mother is naive enough to walk into my room at night to watch a movie wearing the precious contraband. Relaxing in his chair, he thoughtlessly removes his sandals while Sirocco stands nearby with feigned nonchalance. He calmly walks past, then grabs the prize in his teeth and screws the dresser like a cheetah and out the door of his lair, having learned long ago that human thieves cannot follow him. Even if one of us is lucky enough to cut off his escape route, he won’t give up. Jaw fixed, he closes his eyes in satisfaction and grunts as we make futile attempts to pry, pull, twist, and rip the now toothy sandal from his hand.
Pouncing on the faces of sleeping humans and nibbling (that’s to say it nicely) on their toes are also favorite nighttime activities.
I have a delicious, lazy habit of lying in 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 is within Sirocco’s domain, so I can enjoy his company. One afternoon I forgot to make a portion (tomatoes, cheese, and refried beans) for Sirocco before bumping into a plate of Mexican food. He walked over to me and poked his nose to the plate a couple of times. When I blocked it, he lay down next to me purring, drooling a little, and tilted his head close to my elbow, 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. It did what any sentient serval would do – it stuck its leg out and slapped my tortillas!
One night Sirocco had been waking me up with a karate jump every half hour. I finally picked up my noisy serval and began to carry it to the box in my living room: the one now reserved for servals who don’t let their humans sleep for an instant. The problem arose when my mother’s Rottweiler mistook me for an intruder when I stepped out of my bedroom door and came out of the darkness with a growl. Exit serval. He was out of my arms, over my head, and back in the bedroom before the dog could take two steps. Insert bandages. I had a nice bloody welt on my jaw, and the cut on my neck made people at work the next day wonder what I’d done to provoke Louie the Knife.
Before Sirocco arrived, I had been adamant: there were no litter boxes in my room. Now, I’m glad when he actually uses the giant box that so gracefully adorns my entertainment center floor instead of peeing on my bed.
One night I came home from work to find the blankets dragged from my bed, one of them draped elegantly by the entrance to the litter box. As a decorative touch, he also removed a German Shepherd figurine from my shelf and placed it in the litter box with one ear poking out.
I think I will recommend servals to interior designers. They can sell or rent them to clients, on the condition that the designer is called in each time the serval “redecores” the house. What a way to generate repeat business!
One thing I’m quite proud of is the fact that Sirocco isn’t very destructive indoors with its claws. For example, do not scratch the curtains. Simply pull the curtain rod to release it from the wall and drag the curtains under the bed. Great service.