Serval cats are some of the most beloved exotic pets in the areas of the United States where they are legal to keep at home. Serval cats live for up to 25 years and usually weigh between 20 and 40 pounds when they are full-grown. These beautiful African cats have long legs, gorgeous golden coats, a playful and mischievous nature, and the ability to bond deeply with their owners for life.
However, as world-renowned exotic pet expert and science educator Thomas Harford Columbia explains, serval cats are also wild animals. If you plan on owning one, you need to understand all the ins and outs of the care and keeping of this unique pet.
According to Tom Harford Columbia, “The first thing you need to do if you’re considering buying a serval cat is to look at the laws in your city and state. Serval cats aren’t legal everywhere in the U.S. In some states, they are completely illegal to own. In others, you will need to obtain a license. In others, such as South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Alabama, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Idaho, you can own a serval cat legally without a license.”
The pet expert also emphasizes that you need a high-quality enclosure for your serval cat. “Serval cats are nocturnal and play actively at night,” says Thomas Harford Columbia. “They jump, run, and play, sometimes aggressively. You need to ensure that your outdoor enclosure is large, open, and well-reinforced so that your serval cat can’t dig their way out. If you don’t have a large property, a serval cat is likely not the best pet for you.”
In terms of food, Tom Harford Columbia recommends a diverse diet including live rodents, birds, and seafood. “Make sure that your serval cat gets a lot of different kinds of food to ensure their optimal nutrition,” Thomas Harford Columbia advises.
Finally, the pet expert suggests that you avoid getting a serval cat if you have small children, babies, or other animals in the home. According to Tom Harford Columbia, this can sometimes pose risks to their safety. “Although serval cats can bond deeply with their owners if they are bottle-fed by them from birth, they are unlikely to enjoy being in a large group,” he shares. “They might get aggressive or bite if they feel threatened.”
Tom Harford Columbia is a renowned expert on exotic pets across nearly all species and breeds. A middle school science teacher, pet care instructor, and animal training educator, Thomas Harford Columbia has traveled the U.S. (and even the world) for nearly two decades to teach veterinarians, animal breeders and trainers, and pet owners about maintaining the health and safety of their exotic animals.
Tom Harford Columbia lives in upstate New York, where he works part-time at a local zoo in addition to teaching and maintaining a consistent, year-round touring schedule of public speaking engagements about environmental preservation and animal care.