Many people love wildcats and wonder if they could get one as a pet rather than a typical domestic cat. There are also hybrids between wild and domestic cats. One type of wildcat that people sometimes consider is the serval, a species of African cat that weighs up to 40 pounds, about twice the size of a large housecat but small compared to bigger cats found in the wild.
The African Wildlife Federation has an informative page about servals.
Is It Legal to Own a Serval?
If you’re wondering if it’s legal to own a serval, the answer is that it depends where you live. In the United States, for example, it’s legal to own one without a license in 18 states, including Nevada, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Idaho. Other countries have their own laws and you may be required to have a license to own one.
Do Servals Make Good Pets?
The short answer is “no.” They are wild animals that require a great deal of space and exercise. Being larger than domestic cats, they can also be dangerous, especially to families with children or other pets. Servals are also difficult to feed and require a diet consisting of whole prey, which isn’t what you’d find in the pet section of the grocery store.
On the other hand, servals that are raised in captivity or tamed are quite affectionate. The same, however, is true for larger cats such as lions, cheetahs, and even, in some cases, tigers. The latter, however, are generally recognized as being poor choices as pets.
Why It’s Best to Leave Servals in the Wild
The best reason not to get a serval as a pet is for the sake of the species. They are not endangered as some large cats, such as tigers are. They are, however, often hunted in Africa and their habitats are threatened. Aside from being hunted for their beautiful fur, wildlife traffickers will capture them to bring to other countries as pets. When you purchase such an animal, you’re encouraging the practice of trafficking which is ultimately not in animals’ best interest.
If you really love the appearance and disposition of wildcats, you could compromise and get a breed such as a Bengal, which is a hybrid between domestic cats and Asian leopard cats. Another choice is the Savannah cat, which is actually a cross between domestics and servals. While these (as well as a few other breeds) are hybrids, the cross-breeding has already been done so you’re at least not directly supporting trafficking if you buy this type of cat.
Personality-wise, even “ordinary” domestic cats have many of the characteristics of their larger wild ancestors. So it’s best to admire servals and other big cats in their natural habitats.