Although serval cats are not included in the provincial Controlled Alien Species Legislation, that doesn’t mean they should be kept as pets. Native to many parts of Africa, serval cats roam savannahs and wetlands hunting for prey. The best way to see one is always in the wild!
These wild cats are not much bigger than a medium-size dog, but they still retain their wild instincts and are cunning escape artists – they are definitely not appropriate house pets. They are difficult to contain in a home or enclosure setting, and pose a risk to people, children and other pets. Their own safety is also in jeopardy in captivity. Escaped servals have died by being hit by cars or of starvation, since they never had the opportunity to learn how to hunt.
Serval cats are strong, fast and have an incredible capacity for jumping. In the wild, servals will leap high into the air to catch flying birds, and can slap fish hard enough to stun them. They are not easily house-trained, and will frequently mark their territory with urine. It is extremely challenging to provide for the nutritional and veterinary needs of a wild cat like a serval in captivity. Without their needs met, they experience poor welfare. There are no accredited sanctuaries in Canada for servals. Their breeding is unregulated and animal welfare organizations are not equipped to house these wild cats.
The BC SPCA has always opposed the declawing of cats. Declawing painfully removes the nails and bones of the toes – comparable to amputating human’s fingers at the last knuckle. In the past, serval cats were declawed when kept as pets, but declawing has since been banned by the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia (CVBC). This means serval cats pose an even greater risk to people and pets in the home. They may scratch while attempting to play, or out of frustration because their wild needs aren’t met.
The BC SPCA encourages municipalities and governments to adopt exotic pet laws that prohibit the keeping of serval cats.