Strange Case of the Saskatchewan Serval

I think this cat story tells us something about ourselves. I hope so anyway. I find it rather bizarre. As the title indicates it concerns a serval. The serval is a species of wild cat. It is a medium sized cat with long legs and a spotted coat on a tawny-yellow background, a small head and large ears. This cat can be domesticated and in North America often are. Although, to be frank, they don’t make good pets because they are wild cats! They spray urine and have long claws and are basically too wild, too strong and too large for people who want a pet.

A couple in Saskatchewan, a Province (self governing area such as a state in the USA) in Canada, adopted a serval from a breeder. A newspaper picked up on this and wrote about it on the internet.

The author is Emma Graney and the website is She made a video. Here is a still photo from the video (I can’t embed the video here):

Pet Serval

Pet Serval

Emma obviously interviewed the couple, the Shaheens, and made the video with their consent. I presume also that the Shaheens have read Emma’s article in the Leader-Post.

On that basis, I conclude that some fundamental mistakes have been made on a number of levels. Firstly, it seems that the Shaheens don’t know what sort of cat they have. If that is the case did the breeder deceive them?

Emma describes what appears to be a young serval that is probably not yet fully grown as “a rare exotic breed”. The serval is not a “breed”. The word “breed” applies to a purebred domestic cat. A serval is a “species” of wild cat. Emma then says that this cat is

“essentially a cross between an African wild cat and a domestic cat”.

It is not. She is describing a Savannah cat. A wild cat hybrid. The Shaheens and Emma don’t know what the cat is. There is a world of difference between a wild cat species and a wild cat hybrid in character, behavior and size (in respect of the serval).

Not knowing what the cat actually is, is very strange and indicates that the breeder has not been clear about this. Although I am not sure. It has also caused legal complications under what is allowed as a pet in Saskatchewan. It may be the case too that the authorities are also confused about what the cat is. The whole situation is confused.

As I understand it, The Rural Municipality Act 1989 allows local government to make their own regulations in Saskatchewan about what animals can and can’t be kept as pets. They can also declare whether an animal is dangerous or not and make regulations etc.

The local authority have said that the Shaheens can’t keep their cat. The Ministry of Environment have old them that their cat has to go. The Shaheens are appealing. The Ministry consider the serval “captive wildlife” and they are correct. But do they realise the cat is a serval and not a Savannah?


This is a mess made by people at the expense of a cat.

The laws concerning the keeping of exotic cats is fragmented across North America. Different states or Provinces have different rules. This causes confusion. Then there is more confusion, as in this example, over what is wild and what is not.

Then we have to address the highly questionable idea of keeping a medium sized wild cat in a home. This is not right. Servals need masses of space and are wild animals. It is bad for the cat. Then we have the fear of escape. The Shaheens are fearful of their cat escaping. There are a number of cases of servals escaping in North America. What happens? Often the serval gets killed for various reasons. Mostly because the public is scared of the animal.

Then, finally, we have the ultimate wrong perpetrated on a beautiful wild cat – Jagger was declawed to make him safer for the Shaheens. It is shoehorning a wild cat into the human domestic environment and it is wrong. The breeder is wrong too in bringing this cat into the world – a world that is unsuitable for this animal. If this cat escapes, which is quite possible, he will have no defense with his claws.

One can only observe that the whole episode is a kind of madness and none of the players realise it.

Link: original news story – update March 2013 – the link is broken so removed. Note: the article may be changed and amended after I publish this post.

Facebook Discussion


Strange Case of the Saskatchewan Serval — 8 Comments

  1. I would guess that you have an opinion which we are all entitled to. Servals make the most wonderful pets and I would not trade Jagger for anything. Yes, he is a bit of a klutz around the house and likes heights but it is all worthwhile. He gets along with the other animals in our home and is very friendly to guests that show up.

    As far as having his claws removed, there is an ongoing debate about this issue. The breeder had this done using the latest techniques prior to Jagger’s arrival. Our vets have assured us that there is very little pain involved. It is amazing how Jagger has adapted and uses his “toes” as fingers to grab things!


  2. I came across your comments and would like to clarify a few things. We knew what a serval was and what we were getting when we got Jagger. In the time since the story, he has become quite the ambassador cat visiting schools and long term care residences. He is also a regular visitor at a growing list of local businesses.
    He is going to his first wedding soon and travels very well.
    If anyone is interested in having a serval as a pet I would encourage them to really look into it. Having a serval as a member of your household is a big commitment and they take up lot of time on a daily basis (two hours walks in the park to start with)!
    My wife and I are both from farm backgrounds and have never been around another animal this unique. Playful, loving and loyal.


    • Thank you very much for visiting and commenting. I am pleased Jagger is doing OK. As far as I am aware he was declawed. This is wrong. Pure and simple.

      I guess you have realised that servals don’t make good “pets”. They are large wild animals and whatever you do they retain the wild. I would suggest that most people who adopt a serval as a pet find out that it isn’t what they thought it would be like.

      They adopt them because they fancy a large, flashy domestic cat without realising that they are getting a wild cat! Then they declaw the cat.

      This is a page about declawed wild cats.

      I have been in enclosures with tame servals, “pets” and they just don’t fit in with normal family life.

  3. So very sad, deprived of his rightful freedom and crippled by declawing, what a terrible thing to do to a beautiful animal.
    Why on earth do people feel the need to ‘own’ wild creatures!

  4. Tragic, indeed !
    We might take an animal out of the wild but we’re absolutely unable to take the wild out of the animal, sad but true. Leave wild animals where they belong.Do not try to domesticate them.
    southeast arizona (USA)

  5. This is very sad indeed – I wonder what will happen to him. I shudder to think what will happen to him actually. Very sad indeed. And so frustrating.

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