The serval and caracal are the two best feline jumpers in the world. On my reckoning the caracal just beats the serval on the highest jump. However, as you can see in the video below the serval is incredibly impressive as well. The reason why this medium-sized African wildcat is such an impressive jumper is because of great limb leverage combined with fast-twitch muscles. The serval has the longest legs in comparison to body size of all the wild cat species which means they have great leverage from their hind legs which propels them upwards. Also, cats have a lot more fast-twitch muscles then dogs for instance. This means that they are great sprinters but they have less stamina than the dog. Cats stalk prey and make a final rush to capture prey animals through speed whereas dogs wear down their prey over a long distance such as occurs with the African wild dog when hunting.
The serval has always been known as a great jumper together with the caracal. That’s why you see a lot of videos, a bit like this one which is on TikTok. There’s actually a bit of a craze going on, on TikTok at the moment.
Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.
Exotic pets have become the stars of TikTok and they do look amazing, you have to admit. But it’s one thing to show a short video of a serval jumping like this and an entirely different kettle of fish to live with one as if she/he is a pet cat. A lot of people do treat them as pet cats but in all honesty they’re not really domestic cats. They are tamed wild cats. They have that intense behaviour such as sharp movements backed up by a constantly switched-on brain which would frankly unnerve me if I lived with one. It’s like they are felines on crack. It’s not for me but some people put away the difficulties of living with an exotic pet such as a serval because they love exotic creatures.
But you really need an enclosure and several acres on your own ‘estate’ if you want to do a great job of looking after a serval because when you simply put them in your home and keep them confined, they become incredibly frustrated and want to escape and frequently do! That’s why there are plenty of stories on the Internet of servals being shot after escaping or they are run over by a vehicle on the road. Because once they escape, they terrify the neighbours and then all hell breaks loose.
It’s said that TikTok videos of exotic pets are encouraging people to follow suit. Unfortunately, they often don’t realise the practicalities and responsibilities. And there’s always the expense. You have to consider the budgetary requirements. Servals are quite big as you can tell from the video. And they hiss and bare their teeth at you. If they slap you with their claws, they bloody well hurt you.
As one sensible person said about these videos, you never see the problems encountered by the owners. You don’t see the urine spraying onto walls to mark territory because the cat is frustrated and energised. You don’t see the bites and the scratches from large claws. Or the difficult moments when the serval becomes fractious and unpredictable.
The videos give the impression that it’s a wonderful enduring relationship of love, full of cuddles and emotional warmth. People often abandon them! I don’t want to denigrate these situations but I would bet my bottom dollar that there are lots of difficulties. And I have been inside enclosures with servals where they’ve hissed at me and slapped me. I know how intimidating they can be close-up.
Another problem is that sometimes people purchase a young serval or perhaps a young caracal and they look awfully cute. And then when they grow up, they look awfully big! It’s like having a feline version of a Labrador in your home that’s been slimmed down and which can jump 10 feet into the air on a whim.
One TikTok user, Felicity Wilson, amusingly states that when visitors see her two servals, Juno and Asha, they run a mile. And here’s another thing: she rescued them both from neglectful owners. That tells the story. She had to rescue them from two people who were unable to cope. How many times does that happen?
When I was at a Savannah cat breeder in Oklahoma, where they were also breeding servals, there was a female serval there who have been abandoned which is why she was being looked after by this breeder. She had been declawed. Yes, quite a lot of people who own servals declawed them. That is a double whammy of cruelty in my book because they are keeping this exotic cat in their home which is uncomfortable for the cat firstly and secondly, they mutilate the cat at their convenience because they’re frightened of being scratched. This is not a successful form of cat ownership. It reeks of irresponsibility and failure.
Felicity Wilson has 1 million followers on TikTok and she wants to tell her followers about the “ugly truth” of owning an exotic animal like a serval. Great, she’s providing a useful service. And don’t forget you normally have to feed servals raw home-made cat food which requires expertise. And you’ve got to clean up after them which means, I would guess, a decent amount of what is euphemistically termed ‘inappropriate elimination’.
And, please don’t forget the legal aspect of serval and exotic pet ownership. You have to make sure that it is legal to own one of these cats in the state or country where you live. It might not be and it frequently isn’t. You have to do your research with care. If it’s allowed it might be under a licence which contains conditions such as ensuring you have the right facilities and expertise.
Look, it’s a great leap to 9 or 10 feet from a static start. Let’s admire that and I don’t want a rabbit on too much about serval ownership but I think the points that I have made are worthwhile digesting. One last point, the best outcome for servals is to make sure that they are properly protected and left alone in the wild where they belong. All serval private ownership in terms of conservation as a failure.
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