Serval with Pica

This is the story of a serval with a mental health problem called pica, which is made all the more strange because the story comes from the magazine of the Feline Conservation Federation (FCF). FCF is a group of wild cat species experts and the articles in the magazine are often quite technical and written by wild cat specialists. They know a lot about wild cat species, or should do.

However, in this instance, the story is about a person adopting a serval kitten from a breeder that makes no attempt to analyze what went wrong, and it did go wrong.

Male serval Morpheus hissing

Male serval Morpheus hissing. Photo by Michael

Let’s make it clear from the outset, adopting and caring for a seval is a massive undertaking and nearly always more onerous and challenging that expected by the person who has been smitten by this species of wild cat. The general advice is; don’t do it. Don’t think you can treat a serval as a domestic cat in your home. It is not like that. The adult serval can be quite large, the size of a large dog, and is a genuine wild cat. They behave like a wild cat. They can actually be quite intimidating and can frighten people.

Weaned Too Early

This is the story of the adoption by Cheri Foster of a serval that was a few days old.

“This tiny serval kitten was only a few days old when it came home with her.”

She named the serval, Akai. It was love at first sight, we are told. This love was obviously one-sided and blind because no one should adopt a kitten, wild or domestic, that is a few days old and take her home. This is far too early. A kitten a few days old has not been weaned.  There are countless articles on the internet of cats suckling on people’s arms and ear lobes etc. Worse than that, cats that have been weaned too early sometimes progress from continually suckling inappropriately to eating non-food and non-digestable items such as wool and blankets. This disorder is referred to as pica….

“Akai developed behaviors that could be dangerous to her health, like eating blankets, pillows and furniture inside the foster home.”


Also Cheri had her serval declawed but had difficulty finding a suitably experienced vet. Not all vets have the experience to treat servals. Declawing is bad enough but it is commonplace with people who keep servals because, as stated, the serval is a medium sized, strong, wild cat with large paws and claws.

The vet who declawed her did not administer pain killers for almost two days. The reason? The vet was fearful of the cat. Shocking!

Litter Training

Litter training Akai took almost 12 months and the carpet was ruined. Surprised? No, servals spray urine all over the place and it is done with great efficiency just as one would expect of a wild cat.

You can imagine the stresses in both serval and human in this relationship. The sweet serval kitten had become a bit of a monster to her human owner. The mental health problem, pica, was so bad it broke up the relationship. Cheri rehomed her serval for the sake of them both, I suspect. Akai went to a place called the Conservator’s Center. When Akai was with Cheri she was a full-time indoor cat. She now appears to be in an outside enclosure with a covered den.


For me, this is a failure. Declawed and mentally damaged this serval ends up in an enclosure. To be honest I am surprised the FCF published this sad story in their magazine. It cannot be a good advertisement for the concept of captive wild cat conservation. Not that this experience has anything to do with conservation. It is all about human self-indulgence.

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Serval with Pica — 6 Comments

  1. Poor little Akai, that is so very sad, taken from her mother so young and declawed too, Cheri should have been prosecuted for cruelty along with that cowardly vet who mutilated the cat.
    Some people just have to ‘own’ wild creatures, they don’t even bother to learn how to care for them either.
    It makes me very angry that anyone can have any cat they choose, domestic or wild, in their power for their own benefit and not the cats, it’s all wrong!

  2. This just turns my stomach. Cats are living creatures that deserve to be treated as so. To selfishly adopted one is bad enough. I would LOVE any number of wildcats, but I don’t get them. They are dangerous. They require special knowledge and skill to take care of their needs. The rule is that after 3 months, no wildcat is safe (or most other predators) to be around. Making them so for your own purposes is just selfish.

  3. It is difficult maintaining a non-castrated normal male cat in a normal house let alone a large wild cat like a Serval.Male cats have a habit of “Yowling” in the night disturbing the sleep of its human inhabitants and this would be amplified in the case of a wild cat species like the Serval.Pet owners should be educated before buying a pet cat or dog.remember, among cats, the male of the species is difficult to maintain in a normal house if not castrated as they tend to behave in their normal wild cat behaviour including spraying urine in various parts of the house which this wild Serval does.Luckily my male non-castrated Persian cat “Matata” doesn’t spray his urine all over the house but is toilet trained. He only “Yowls” everyday in the morning at around 0400 hrs waking the house.Non-castrated male cats are only fir t to be owned by cat breeders in a cattery or as out-door cats. This story of taming a Serval made me compare an ordinary domesticated cat to a domesticated wild cat. The difference in habits of the wild and domestic cat are bare minimum compared to other species of animals.

    • Agreed, there is not much difference between unneutered domestic cats and wild cats but as you say the serval is large – up to 40 pounds – and truly undomesticated. I have read a number of stories of servals and how much they spray urine. When I took the photograph on this page of Morpheus, he had sprayed me twice. Each time it happened extremely quickly and it was impossible to avoid being soaked in serval urine. I remember it will. I received a mass of hisses too.

  4. What a sad story because of the I must have mentality Akai suffered by her ignorant declawing owner Cheri who after that still couldn’t cope with a cat who should be out in the wild,living free,not owned.
    You are so right Micheal human self indulgance is at the root of this and other cruelty to cats large and small happening.

  5. …at the airport, no time to comment really – just to say this is a horrible thing which happened and it makes me sick to think about it. What a horrible experience for the poor cat. It’s incredibly sad and unfair – what is wrong with people. 🙁

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