Servals are African wild cats and are also known as Leptailurus Serval. Its most distinctive features are the tall oval ears which are placed very closely to each other. It is mostly found in African countries such as Ethiopia, Benin, Tanzania, Mozambique, Congo, Angola, Togo, Uganda, Transvaal, and Algeria. Spread all over Africa, they are found where water can be found.
The average length of the body of a serval is about thirty-four inches and the tail is about sixteen inches long. It can live from twelve years to twenty years. Its weight can range from twenty to forty four pounds. It tawny fur has a pattern of round black spots. Some even have freckled spots. Servals have melanin in their skin which sometimes gives them the appearance of a black panther. A kind of serval is known to exist with white fur and grayish silver spots.
Servals which have high melanin content can be found in the mountains, while the rest belong to the savannas, bush lands, marshlands, grasslands, reed beds marsh, bamboo forests and open woodlands. It is not habituated to live in desert, semi-desert areas and its habitat should have a water body. Since its environment should have water and trees around, it also has the ability to swim and climb trees, when required. The servals have the longest legs among the cats, when the body and leg ratio is considered. Apart from having long ears, it also has long neck which helps it to see its prey when it is hiding in tall grass. The ears are so sharp that they can track rodents which are moving underground. It increases concentration while listening, by closing its eyes.
Before pursing its prey, it pauses for few minutes and listens to the animal’s movements. Serval relies on its hearing rather than its visuals. It has a characteristic hop which makes it easier to catch birds. They have terrific leaping and pouncing abilities. They can jump as high as ten feet and can make a precise jump from even as far as three to twelve feet. They can even dig burrows and look for rodents deep in the ground. With all these qualities, serval is a very good hunter. It feeds mainly on rodents apart from eating bird, fish, frog, insects, hare, reptiles and hyraxes. Servals eat their catch really fast and sometimes when the prey is big, it throws out the food as it gets stuck in its throat and chokes it. They hunt at mid-night and early morning.
When kept in captivity, everyday they need to be served with one to three pounds of raw meat with bones. Care should be taken that the meat shouldn’t be cooked. Apart from that, they can also be given premium natural cat food, beef, turkey, chicken, canned tuna, and canned salmon. No exotic pets can be trained to use the letterbox properly, but this habit can vary from animal to animal. Owners who don’t have time to devote to train a serval, shouldn’t go for one. Even after thorough training, the pet does develop undesirable bathroom habits. Pet servals have a fascination for water, so its better if the toilet lid is closed at all times.
The pregnancy period of female serval lasts for nearly three months. At a time, the female can give birth to two or three cubs. Very rarely, even five cubs are born at a time. They are brought up behind shrubs or even in abandoned burrows.
Because of the human interference with the natural habitats of servals, they are decreasing in number. They are diminishing in numbers because of large scale hunting for their fur. That is the reason why they have been given the endangered species tag and are being protected in many nations. They are classified as exotic pets which are not threatened with extinction but will be, if their hunting is brought to an end. They have now become rare in the Sahara and almost extinct in the South African Cape.