Categories: Serval

Would you want this cat in your home?

I am asking the question about a forty pound serval. The cat that you see in the photograph on this page. His name is Spartacus and he’s been in the news. He is four-years-of-age and he went missing for 48 hours in New Hampshire, USA. He was caught fairly quickly and is now back at home but it must have been very anxious moments for Spartacus’ owners while he was missing.

Serval in the home. Photo: Merrimack Police Department.

The point that struck me, however, when I saw the photograph taken by the Merrimack Police Department is that I wouldn’t want to live in a home with a cat that big on a day-to-day basis. I wouldn’t feel particularly relaxed and reassured that my serval would behave suitably in my home such as not spray the walls or the furniture with pungent urine or hiss at me because I made a stupid mistake. Serval’s can be domesticated but can they be domesticated to the same degree as a typical domestic cat? They are strong and have large claws. An accidental slap could hurt which is why some serval owners do the unthinkable and have them declawed. This is so self-indulgent and cruel and a sign of the failure of living with servals.

Another problem is that there have been many examples of servals escaping from their home. This is a big problem for people who like to adopt an exotic pet such as the serval. These are not really pets. They are tamed wild animals and the serval is quite a big animal. You can never let a serval wander around outside like a freeroaming domestic cat in the UK. You have to keep the cat confined to the home which is a mightily difficult thing to do. Servals are intelligent and they need hundreds of square kilometres of range to call their own. Stick them in a house and they are bound to try and get out and when they get out they enter a very dangerous world for an African medium-sized wild cat species. The cat shouldn’t be outside on the street in suburbia in the USA or the UK or anywhere else. It is too dangerous for the cat and here we see a desire to live with and look after an exotic cat without, I would argue, a true realisation of the complexities of it and the special demands that are placed upon the owner.


I have been in a small enclosure with two servals (see pic above). They were breeding pair. The male was a big serval. They were both semi-domesticated. I had to sign a disclaimer for the breeder. I was okay in the enclosure with them and I got as close as few feet from them but I didn’t feel comfortable and I was slightly intimidated. There was always the possibility that I could be hurt. On one occasion the male (Morpheus) slapped me on the hand and the size of his claws became evident to me. It hurt a bit. I was there to take photographs and got some decent ones such as the one above. I could never envisage myself having a cat that size in my home with me. Although I know many people are besotted with “exotic creatures”. They have to be around them but they should ask some realistic and pragmatic questions before they adopt.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in 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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  • Honestly and not as a braggadocio my 11 year old Traditional Persian cat "Matata" could give a authentic pedigreed Serval like "Spartacus" a run for his money in the rights to "FEROCITY".Till today although "Matata" was born in my house, the first of a litter of 6 kittens by late 13 year old Queen cat "Matahari" i have yet to tame him as a domestic pet cat. Strangely he is friendly with my lady house-keeper who feeds him but not with me. He allows me to pet him but after some time utters a loud purr and if i continue he would pay me visciously.I have never ever been scratched by a cat but by my own domestic pet cat "Matata" ! A freak of nature of the normal docile Persian breed.His 13 year old Dam late "Matahari" who expired recently on Saturday(22/8/2020) was the epitome of the pet aristocratic Traditional Persian cat . I have posted a recent photo of Tomcat "Matata" resting on the sofa couch all alone after the death of his companion since birth.

    • Interesting story. Thank you for commenting Rudolph. I hope that you are well by the way and your cats too.

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