The Social Organisation of Serval Cats

This concise posting on The Social Organisation of Serval Cats to Serval Cats must start by saying that servals are solitary animals although occasionally they are seen together (as a mating pair) or as a family unit (mother and kittens)2.

The best way to present some of this information is in a table: Home ranges, density and scent marking.

Serval – locationBehavior in relation to social organistion
Female in Ngorongoro Crater (near the Serengeti Park)Minimum home range = 9.5 square kilometres (home range: the area in which the cat lives and hunts).
One adult female in high plains of NatalHome range of 19.8 square kilometers
Male in Ngorongoro CraterMinimum home range = 11.6 square kilometres
One adult male in NatalHome range of 31.5 square kilometers
Density of servals generally in optimum habitatYou will find one per 2.4 square kilometers.
Female servalsLoyal to their home range (“site fidelity”)
Distance servals travel daily/nightlyAt least 3 – 4 kilometers per night. In Ngorongoro Crater females estimated to travel 2.5 kilometers daily.
Adult serval serval scent markingOccurs very frequently. One observed to scent mark on average 46 spary marks every hour and 41 per kilometer
Adult female serval scent markingApproximately half the number as males
Young adult and juvenile serval scent marking2 marks per hour

More on scent marking

Scent marking increases markedly under certain social conditions. For example, when the female is in heat (estrus or estrous) a high rate of scent marking took place for both male and female servals in captivity. See Reproduction and Development of Serval Cats.

When a young male traveled through the territory of a “resident male” (a male who has found his own home range and settled there) the young male scent marked much more frequently raising the number of scent markings from 2 per hour to 10 per hour.

Servals also mark by scrapping the ground and leaving feces on the ground. It is unclear if, like some wildcats, servals use areas as toilets to mark territory or whether they defecate randomly.

The Social Organisation of Serval Cats to Serval Cats — Vocalisations

Servals use similar vocalizations to domestic cats and more, including:

See and hear cat sounds generally. Although servals are not recognised as fierce fighters they seem to be very adept at displaying aggressive postures, which are very much inline with those of domestic cats.

During stand offs with other servals, the ears are flattened against the head, almost squeezed against the head to protect them and display the white white bar/spot, which can’t be seen in the photo below (a still from a video).

Here is the video in which a serval displays aggressiveness towards me because I provoked her. The postures, sounds (hiss) and “long-reaching slashes of the forepaws” are typical1:

Here is a page from Johnathan Kingdon’s book on East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa, Volume 3, Part A: Carnivores that describes the aggressive posturing and the special vocalisation referred to above:

The Social Organisation of Serval Cats — Notes:

1. Carnivores By Jonathan Kingdon

2. The source material for this page comes substantially from Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist

From The Social Organisation of Serval Cats to Serval Cats

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