Serval is one of the most mysterious and amazing representatives of the cat family. The spotted predator, who came from Africa, feels quite comfortable at home. This representative of the cat family has amazing beauty and chic fur, which is of great value. In this regard, cats that live in natural conditions are hunted. This is the reason for the rapid decline in their numbers.
Origin of the species and description
Serval refers to predatory mammals, allocated to the genus of servals, a species of bush cats. To date, zoologists distinguish 14 subspecies of this species. Initially, there were much more of them, and they densely populated the African continent. Initially, the inhabitants of the African continent called the graceful handsome men “serval cat”. However, later scientists came to the conclusion that this was not quite the right name and began to call it “serval”.
Many of the currently existing subspecies were exterminated in large quantities, one of them is listed in the Red Book, as critically endangered.
At the end of the last century, these animals attracted the attention of zoologists who decided to try to domesticate incredibly beautiful and graceful wild cats. The attempts turned out to be very successful, as the animal quickly adapts to the changed conditions of detention and feels quite comfortable as a pet. Felinologists even carried out hybridization and bred two breeds of domestic cats – Savannah and Ashera.
Servals were also successfully crossed with caracals. Born kittens are called servicals or caravals. Today, servals are considered very expensive and elite pets, which not everyone can afford to have.
Appearance and features
Serval is a wild cat of amazing beauty. External data have signs of similarity with a lynx or a golden cat. They also look like large, sturdy and strong domestic cats. The body length of one adult is 80-140 centimeters. The height of the body at the withers is 40-70 centimeters. The body weight of an adult is 18-22 kilograms. Animals have a small but thick tail, the length of which is 20-35 centimeters.
Servals have a small head relative to body size. The muzzle looks like the muzzle of a lynx. Servals have large, long ears, which are considered to be the “calling card” of the animal. They are set high and profusely covered with hair on the inside. The area of the nose and bridge of the nose are wide, the nose is most often black. The eyes are almond-shaped, very expressive, light.
These representatives of the cat family have a very flexible, slender and toned body. They also have flexible, thin and very graceful limbs. Among all representatives of the cat family, they have the longest limbs relative to the body. The hind limbs are slightly longer than the forelimbs. These representatives of the cat family have very strong, well-developed muscles.
The coat is short and thick, very shiny. The color resembles the color of a cheetah's coat. The color scheme is dominated by golden-gray. In the neck, chest and abdomen, the coat is lighter, milky or white. Against the background of golden-gray or milky wool, there are specks and black stripes. The color of the coat is largely determined by the region of residence.
Animals that live in the steppes have a lighter color and large spots, animals that live in forests have a darker, almost brown color. There are also black servals that live in the mountains.
Where does the serval live?
Under natural conditions, servals live exclusively within the African continent. At home, they are found in different regions and continents. They mainly inhabit open areas with shrubs and thickets of grass. The main requirement of wild cats for the habitat is the presence of trees on which you can climb and a reservoir in which you can swim. They can inhabit mountainous areas, as well as the edges of forests. Deserts, dry plains are not suitable as a habitat.
Geographical regions of distribution of servals:
African wild cats are distributed with varying density throughout almost the entire continent. The exception is the Sahara desert, the Cape Province and the equator zone. In regions that are located north of the Sahara, a graceful predator is a rare guest, but it is quite common in East and West Africa. Almost half of all individuals that exist in nature inhabit mountainous or hilly areas.
What does a serval eat?
Wild cats are carnivores by nature, and meat is the basis of their diet.
Servals are leaders among predatory animals in terms of successful hunting. Zoologists say that approximately 60% of the prey as a result of hunting becomes the food of skilled hunters. For comparison, it is worth noting that the success rate of hunting tigers or lions does not exceed 40%.
What is the food base of wild cats:
- small antelopes;
- feathered eggs;
By nature, wild cats are endowed with excellent hearing and lightning-fast reactions, which help to track down prey even at a great distance. Zoologists say that more than 90% of the prey of servals weigh no more than 200 grams, and only 2-3% have a body weight exceeding 2/3 of the body weight of a small female.
Servals are characterized by eating food of plant origin to obtain minerals and coarse fiber. Due to the fact that wild cats tend to be nocturnal, they also go hunting mainly at night. The greatest activity in the search and extraction of food is shown at 10-12 o'clock in the evening and at 3-5 o'clock in the morning. In some cases, they may go hunting during the daytime.
Servals are considered to be skilled hunters. Their constitution and body structure contribute to this. They have long ears, which provide very sensitive and perceptive hearing, as well as long, graceful limbs. They facilitate movement through bushes and thickets, and also allow cats to make virtuoso jumps.
Zoologists say that servals have such acute hearing that they can even hear the thrill of a mouse or other small rodent at a distance of up to kilometers.
Animals prefer to hunt by stalking prey and approaching it through dense thickets. When she is within range, the serval attacks her with a lightning leap.
Character and Lifestyle Traits
Graceful and incredibly beautiful predators are mobile, fast and dexterous animals. When living in natural conditions, they prefer to lead a solitary, hidden lifestyle and avoid conflicts. They love to climb trees and branches. That is why, when keeping a wild cat at home, it is necessary to take care of the presence of branches on which they can climb. You can build shelves in several tiers.
Another weakness and passion of graceful animals is water. Despite the fact that it is commonly believed that cats are afraid of water, servals simply love water treatments. Playful by nature, they love to splash around and play with water. Breeders of these wild cats should take into account the fact that they love to gnaw on various objects, and can easily ruin expensive furniture and interior items. Serval breeders note that they get along quite well with dogs, especially large breeds.
Also, these representatives of the cat family are distinguished by a rather playful character, curiosity and sociability. They carry all the habits of wild cats with them into their “home life”. They, just as when living in natural, natural conditions, tend to mark their territory, moreover, this is typical for both males and females.
If the animals feel the approach of danger or threat, they prefer to take flight, abruptly changing the trajectory of movement and making unpredictable maneuvers, jumps. As pets, servals show love, affection and great devotion to a caring and loving owner.
Animals are considered very smart and quick-witted. However, at the same time, secrecy and fear are also inherent in African predators. If animals are kept at home, then when strangers appear, they hide and try to stay away. Under natural conditions, they also show caution and prudence. To communicate with each other, animals use several types of sounds: shrill sounds and cries, purrs, growls.
Social structure and reproduction
The period of marriage among servals is not tied to a specific season. Thanks to this, at home, they give offspring at any time of the year under good conditions and proper care. In individuals that live in the southern regions, offspring are most often born in early, mid-spring. In animals living in the tropics, cubs are born at different times of the year. During the period of mating in nature, animals form a pair, and for some time exist together. They spend their free time together and hunt together.
Pregnancy lasts 77-79 days. When the time of birth comes, the animals look for a suitable place for this. As such, servals use aardvark burrows or nests in thickets of dense vegetation.
Several kittens are born at once, but usually no more than four kittens. They are blind, covered with light fluff. Eyes open at 13-17 days. Kittens feed on mother's milk up to 6-8 months. Babies are very voracious, and the female significantly loses weight during the period of feeding the offspring. They grow and grow quite quickly. At the age of three months, their mass relative to birth weight doubles.
At 4-5 months, the female gradually leads them to hunt, teaches hunting skills and introduces them to ordinary meat food. Male individuals reach puberty by two years, female individuals by one and a half years. By about a year old, the cubs are separated from their mother and begin to lead an isolated lifestyle. The average life expectancy is 13-15 years, when kept in good conditions they can live up to 20 years.
Servals are considered very caring and reverent mothers. During the period when the babies depend on her and are helpless, the female is very dangerous and aggressive. At the slightest threat to the kittens, she rushes to their defense and can even attack her beloved owner.
Natural enemies of servals
Almost the only enemy of wild cats , which contributes to the reduction of their numbers, is a person. Servals are killed in large numbers by poachers because of their valuable fur. Also of great value to poachers are serval cubs, which are highly valued by breeders of exotic animals.
Under natural conditions, the enemies of wild cats are hyenas, wild dogs and leopards. They often prey on baby felines, or even adults.
The greatest threat to the number of animals is posed by man and his activities. Animals are shot not only because of the desire to profit from the sale of valuable fur, but also because of the delicious, tender meat, which is considered a great delicacy within the African continent. It is also not uncommon for African cats to cause damage to poultry farms.
For this reason, they are caught as pests and exterminators of poultry. In this regard, even in those regions where the number of bush cats was numerous, it has significantly decreased. The increase in the population of the African continent has led to the impoverishment of the food supply and the destruction of the natural habitat.
Species population and status
Despite the fact that the number of bush cats is declining, only one of the 14 subspecies is listed in the Red Book. The northern subspecies of the serval is listed in the Red Book with the status of “endangered species.” All existing subspecies of bush cats are listed in the second CITES convention.
Today, zoologists do not have clear data on the number of servals. They are quite common in nurseries, aviaries, as well as in the homes of wealthy and self-sufficient people in different countries.
At the legislative level, no laws have been adopted to protect animals. Also, no programs are specially developed to preserve and increase the population. In some regions, representatives of the Rybnadzor and other bodies for the protection of representatives of flora and fauna are engaged in the protection of animals. The law does not provide for any type of punishment for capturing or shooting an animal.
In some regions, there is a trade in serval kittens, which are 1-2 months old. It is at this age that cubs most quickly adapt to new environmental and content conditions. Experts recommend taming kittens at a young age. Then they get used to people and learn to exist in a family environment among people.
Despite the fact that there are no programs at the government level to protect wild cats, the inhabitants of the African continent are striving to prevent the complete extinction of the northern serval. For these purposes, nurseries are organized in which animals are provided with optimal conditions for existence and reproduction. With good care and adequate nutrition, feral cats breed successfully in captivity.
The territory of the nursery is under protection and reliable protection. Connoisseurs of exotic animals can legally purchase a bush cat kitten in such catteries. Activists and environmentalists urge the local population not to hunt beautiful and graceful animals, and not to shoot predators for farmers.
In order to increase the number of these cats, they are domesticated and brought together with other breeds of predatory beauties, for example, caracals. Every year, there are more and more people who want to get a wild African cat. Many owners of these amazing animals successfully breed them at home.
In order to protect bush cats, animal protection organizations and movements independently, with the financial support of all caring citizens, organize nurseries in which specialists try to restore populations of not only servals, but also other rare species of African flora and fauna.
Serval is the most graceful and incredibly beautiful representative of the cat family. He is distinguished by incredible friendliness, affectionate and friendly disposition. People who get servals note their amazing character and ability to give love.