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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.

A serval cat against wire fence
The Wildcat Sanctuary

Subscribe to the BC SPCA’s WildSense e-newsletter for more information:



It is illegal to keep or sell a wolf as a pet in B.C. Some dogs are sold as wolf-dog hybrids for thousands of dollars, but they are really just dogs and have little to no wild wolf in them.

The BC SPCA is opposed to keeping, breeding and importing wolf-dog hybrids as pets.

Cross-breeding a wolf and dog counteracts 12,000 years of domestication. These animals are difficult to train and contain, and often show aggression toward other animals and humans.

Wolf-dogs already kept as pets should be spayed/neutered, fully vaccinated, contained in secure runs or pens, and muzzled when not contained. These animals need a high level of care that is difficult to achieve, and they do not make good pets.

Read our position on wolf-dog hybrids.

Photo by John E. Marriott

Under provincial and federal law, it is illegal to keep a wild animal, as designated under the BC Wildlife Act, as a pet. Very rarely, the provincial government issues permits for the personal possession of wild animals.

The BC SPCA does not support keeping wild or exotic animals as pets due to their unique physical and emotional needs. Both types of animals – those found wild in Canada and those exotic in Canada but wild to other countries – will suffer in care because of their specialized needs.

Under provincial law, it is illegal to keep certain dangerous exotic animals like tigers, primates or crocodiles as pets. Many cities also have exotic animal bylaws that make it illegal to keep some or all exotic pets. Check with your local municipality for a list of banned exotic animals.

Read more about exotic animals and the law.

If you are concerned about someone owning a wild or exotic animal illegally, please contact our Provincial Call Centre at 1-855-622-7722.

Wild northern pygmy owl hunting in snowy weather sitting on a wood post with a dead prey
Photo credit: Tania Simpson

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happy golden retriever lying on a cushion couch indoors getting pets from a man