Reproduction and Development of Serval Cats

For the serval, estrus (the recurring changes brought on by reproductive hormones) lasts about 4 days. During this time a male and female can stay together. Gestation (pregnancy) is about 74 days. The serval usually has two kittens. Servals are polyestrous (go into heat several times a year) and the location in Africa dictates when the young are born1continued below video…

This is 720p video – please click on 720p at the bottom right for the best quality.

….For example in:

  • Botswana – births takes place in the wetter months and in
  • Ngorongoro Crater – they take place near the end of the dry season.

Normally serval births occur one month before the “peak breeding season” of murid rodents (the family of mammals called Muridae that include mice and rats). This ensures a plentiful supply of food.

The shortest interval between births is 184 days or at the very best, two litters per year. The den is located in dense vegetation or perhaps a disused burrow. The time table from birth onwards can be set out as follows:

Age of kitten/cat What Happens1
Birth Blind and weighing about 250 grams (you can see exactly how this looks in the video above). The fur (once cleaned and dry) is soft and woolly and greyer than that of the adult serval.
9-13 days Eyes open – during these earlier days of life the mother’s movements outside the den are limited allowing her to nurse her young. After a while she gradually reverts back to her usual range.
One month Mother brings food back to the den (the still photo of Cameron in the video was taken when he was about 5 weeks of age). Mothers obviously spend more time hunting which occupies most of the day. The mother’s activity levels are dramatically increased as she has to travel over greater distances, 2x normal levels, on a daily basis to catch more prey.
1 month+ Kittens have a desire to accompany mother on hunting trips. Mother doesn’t agree! Hunting starts at 6+ months.
6 months Permanent teeth acquired.
6+ months Kittens begin to hunt.
1 year Adults chase them and drive them away from the natal area. Usually males leave to find their own home range before females who may leave a few months later than males.

Females become sexually active at just over one year of age. Servals live for about a maximum of 20 years in captivity and for half that in the wild. During her lifetime and in the wild a female serval may raise to 16 – 20 offspring1.

Reproduction and Development of Serval Cats – Sources:

1. Wild Cats Of The World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist page 147. ISBN: 0-226-77999-8 Published by The University of Chicago Press. page 147.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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