Male Serval Morpheus and Partner Penelope

by Michael
(Ponca City, OK)

Well, yesterday, I spent the early hours of the morning, while the hot sun was coming up in a warm glow, with two gorgeous serval cats, Morpheus, a large male serval cat and his serval partner, Penelope.

The best light is at dawn or dusk. The light is softer and warmer. It is also lower in the sky. It grazes the ground creating texture.

I went to their enclosure at about 6 am; the sun was just at the horizon.

Male serval Morpheus
Morpheus looking inquisitive

When I stood outside the enclosure about to go in they were both there just at the door looking a bit uncertain of my presence and certainly not showing signs of welcoming me in, which is to be expected.

I gingerly opened the door and slithered in as gently and unobtrusively as possible. They hissed at me.

The serval hisses quite a bit to strangers it seems. Sometimes the hiss can be a sign of excitement, I think, and sometimes it can change to an explosive hiss/shout, which means “clear off…”

Male serval Morpheus hissing
Serval Morpheus hissing at me

It looks like that all Morpheus did was hiss at me. That is not true. The best photographs are of him hissing! He often just ignored me.

The hiss might be accompanied by a flashing foreleg and claws out to give you a slap.

All that said, Morpheus and Penelope were civil enough to let me in and share their enclosure.

I had brought a cat tease with me and I settled down on a wooden table and waited to allow them acclimatise to me. I then approached Morpheus, a large male serval. He immediately sprayed me! I was too slow to get out of the way. As it happened, over the course of the 45 minute session in the enclosure, I was sprayed two more times and it was entirely normal for him and my fault.

I tried to get him to interact with me and so present poses and activity that was photogenic. I have to say that it is hard work and I found it a bit unnerving. After all, Morpheus is the size of a large dog. In fact on one occasion when I was using the tease he caught me on the finger with his claw and that hurt! My fault again for being too pushy.

Here is Morpheus hissing at me with real purpose:

Serval Morpheus Hissing
Serval Morpheus hissing at me, again!

One thing about wild cats is their speed. They attack a cat tease (a stick with feathers on) very quickly – it is a kind of strike and pounce. Servals in the wild listen for prey in the long grass with their large ears and then leap up and pounced on the prey hitting them with the paws of their forelegs. This is what they tend to do with a tease if it is near the ground.

Here is Morpheus stalking the cat tease with great intensity:

Serval Morpheus looking and sensing
Serval Morpheus looking at cat tease

What about Penelope, his partner? Well she was pretty shy of me and less accepting of my presence. I have no argument with that and completely accept it. She did two things: ran away from me and when I got close she hissed at me:

Here she is hissing at me!…

Female serval cat Penelope
It is Serval Penelope’s turn to have her say

She did not spray me though! Penelope was a little smaller than Morpheus and quite a bit larger than Serena, who I photographed the day before.

I felt privileged to share their enclosure. They let me in and told me to respect their space. If I was not there to take photographs I would have been more respectful but you have to get close in photography. One last point – these photographs present fleeting moments, it all happens rapidly.

Michael Avatar

From Male Serval Morpheus and Partner Penelope to Serval cat

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Male Serval Morpheus and Partner Penelope

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Nov 29, 2010
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This Page
by: Michael

This page seems to be liked by good old Google (it ranks high in a search at Nov. 2010). I decided to add a video and a link to extend the page:

You can read some more about the serval’s description on this page: Serval Description.

The serval in the video is Serena, by the way. Read more about her plus see some close up pictures.

Michael Avatar


Jun 14, 2010
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Hi Joyce
by: Michael

Yes, to someone outside it would have been a scream! To me it was smelly!


May 24, 2010
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Please make a video
by: Joyce Sammons

The next time you decide to join them in their domain, pleasse have someone video it. I need a good laugh. You sound like you’re having a ball there. Oklahoma is farm country. Lose the dress clothes for a tee shirt and jeans.


May 24, 2010
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Hi Maggie
by: Michael

When I was in my 20s (I am now 61!) I was a freelance photographer in London. I photographed celebrities for Woman’s Journal and newspapers. I learned photography in my late teens and twenties.

In those days I used a Nikon F1 and Tri-X. I stopped doing photography for 40 years and now like it again.

Michael Avatar


May 24, 2010
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Photography
by: Maggie Sharp

So you haven’t actually been doing photography with DSLR for very long, wow. Your photos seem to tell a different story, I would have thought you’d been doing photography for quite a while. Keep up the good work!

It took me about a year to upgrade To DSLR, and when I did the lens broke in lens than 2 months!


May 24, 2010
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Photography
by: Maggie Sharp

So you haven’t actually been doing photography with DSLR for very long, wow. Your photos seem to tell a different story, I would have thought you’d been doing photography for quite a while. Keep up the good work!

It took me about a year to upgrade To DSLR, and when I did the lens broke in lens than 2 months!


May 24, 2010
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Canon 7D
by: Michael

I bought the Canon 7D about a month or so ago. I felt is was time to do some serious photography, if I could. The only real way to do that is with DSLR I think although there are some nice pro-compact cameras out there these days.

Michael Avatar


May 23, 2010
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Servals
by: Maggie Sharp

Usually a wash in the washing machine does work, but in my case I had to take my blazer to the dry cleaner, mainly because you can’t wash a blazer in a machine… All the other clothes that he peed on were fine when they came out of the wash though…. So your clothes should be okay.

Ah, so you’ve got digital SLR? I personally do prefer them to point and shoot cameras, despite how large they are. How long have you had yours for?


May 23, 2010
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Servals
by: Michael

I forgot to say that they are a breeding pair as you suggested.

Michael Avatar


May 23, 2010
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Hi Maggie
by: Michael

Well, yes, I stank to high heaven with three sets of sprays on me! When I finished I took everything off and the clothes are outside in the utility area for cleaning. I am not sure if a standard washing machine wash will get the urine out as I know how difficult it can be to remove cat urine! Good bye clothes maybe..

The camera I use is a fantastic instrument. It is a Canon 7D with a EF-S 15-85 mm ultrasonic image stabilising zoom lens. I use a high quality UV filter. The sensor is very nice and the controls very intuitive. It is heavy and pro-like. It can shoot at 8 fps although I nearly always use single shot.

Getting these pics was hard as you can imagine. These are very fleeting moments which are hard to capture. It looks like the cat posed but the moment goes in a blink.

Thanks for the compliment particularly as I know you are good with a camera.

Michael Avatar


May 23, 2010
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Morpheus and Penelope
by: Maggie Sharp

I have to admit, I’m in love with your Serval photos, they’re fantastic! May I ask, what camera do you use? You’re very skilled with the camera, Michael.

They’re both such beautiful cats, meeting them would definitely be something that would stay with you for life. It’s clear that you have limitless respect for these animals, which is necessary in order for them to keep the status of ‘wild cat’ not ‘pet cat’ as they are not pets.

Are Morpheus and Penelope breeding partners?

Not to be rude, but you would have smelt horrible after Morpheus sprayed on you, I remember when Chilli peed on my blazer last year, it was horrible! Cat urine is a very horrible smell, but it’s amazing that the sent of a cat’s urine is like its identity card.



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Male Serval Morpheus and Partner Penelope — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Five Servals Kept in Basement for Twelve Years | Pictures of Cats

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