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Living With a Pet Serval
Some sources seem to indicate that living with a serval is no more difficult than feeding your pet goldfish. At the other end of the extreme spectrum, many shelters and animal rights activists paint serfs and other exotic cats as unmanageable creatures that no ordinary mortal could hope to successfully deal with. As is usually the case, the truth lies in a rational world between the two extremes.
Servals are much more demanding and time consuming to raise than a house cat. To end up with a tame, safe and loving servant who can live in your home, you will need to spend a lot of time socializing, training and housebreaking him. These things are not done automatically with a serval.
There will be problems to overcome. To do this, you will need a solid understanding of how animals learn and how to humanely modify their behavior. This is not an animal for an inexperienced pet owner, or even an experienced pet owner who has only had “easy” animals!
A Serval kitten is like a domestic kitten in speed! If you’ve ever raised a kitten, you know how playful (and sometimes destructive) they are. Then imagine kittens the size of a domestic cat, with much more energy! Prepare to be playfully tackled, bitten, clawed, climbed and otherwise wrestled by a huge kitten and make sure you have the training experience to teach your little fireball to be kind to people and the your home.
However, if you have the training knowledge and put in the time, you will be rewarded with a wonderful, loving companion who is fun to live with and easy and safe to handle. A well-bred serval is really incredibly sweet and amazing. For me it is worth every bit of time and effort.
Sirocco has an incredibly loud purr and when he feels affection he looks at me with complete adoration written all over his face, purrs and licks me. When I come home from work he greets me with purrs and ankle rubs, and it’s clear he’s very attached to me. I’ve had very loving house cats, but Sirocco makes his love known more strongly than any house cat I’ve ever owned. However, he spends far less time overall purring and cuddling than a house cat (that high energy thing). This may change as I notice he is becoming more affectionate as he gets older. I must say he looks very happy as a pet cat. He is very energetic and spends a lot of time on the move.
As a result of a lot of early socialization, he is very tame and will let even large groups of people pet him. However, I have only seen him purr once for a stranger. he seems to have real affection for his family.
Living with a serval means having your sandal stolen from under your foot and being carried to the enclosure in the rain at 11:00pm… Then being forced to go outside to retrieve it lest it swallow portions of it.
Sirocco was playing in his enclosure one night, not interested in being petted. By the time I got to bed, I found myself sobbing about a hard day’s work. As I lay there, I felt a soft nose in my ear, followed by a thunderous purr. When I didn’t answer, he gently nuzzled my face over and over again until I said hello. When I spoke he licked my cheek and then started rubbing his forehead against my face. He continued to lick my tears and “pet” me until I stopped crying. Once he was satisfied that I was okay, he laid down next to me, pressing his body tightly against mine as we drifted off to sleep.
I was sitting on the edge of my bed pulling on socks one morning, having finished petting Sirocco… Or so I thought! Approaching from behind, he rested his head on my shoulder and began to purr loudly in my ear, legs kneading the bed next to me. Needless to say, I gave up on my socks.
Shoes and sandals have been banned from the servant-occupied areas of the house since he ate part of one and almost had to have it surgically removed. In response, Sirocco has developed military strength sandal detection forces. Sometimes my mother will be naive enough to sneak into my bedroom at night to watch a movie wearing the precious contraband. Relaxing in her chair, she mindlessly slips on her sandals as Sirocco stands nearby with feigned indifference. He casually strolls by, then grabs the prize in his teeth and bolts like a cheetah to the chest of drawers and out the door of his lair, having learned long ago that thieves cannot follow. Even if one of us is lucky enough to cut off his escape route, he will not surrender. Jaws locked, he closes his eyes in contentment and grunts as we make futile attempts to tug, pull, twist and coax the tooth-marked sandal from his lap.
Punching sleeping people’s faces and nibbling (that’s polite) on their toes are also favorite nighttime activities.
I have a deliciously lazy habit of collapsing into my bed to eat dinner. This has a lot to do with the fact that the bed is one of the few comfortable places in the house and it’s within the Sirocco’s domain, so I can enjoy its company. One afternoon I neglected to prepare a side dish (tomatoes, cheese and refried beans) for Sirocco before crashing into a plate of Mexican food. He came up to me and poked his nose at the plate a few times. When I blocked him, he lay next to me purring, snorting a little and leaning his head close to my elbow, chin resting on the bed. I relented and handed out a few pieces of tomato. That wasn’t good enough so he got up again only to be blocked by my hand. He did what any reasonable servant would do: he stuck out his foot and hit my tortillas!
One night Sirocco woke me up with a karate every half hour. Finally I gathered up my noisy server and began to take him to the cage in my living room: the one now reserved for servants who won’t let their people sleep. A problem arose when my mother’s Rottweiler mistook me for an intruder as I came out of my bedroom door and started out of the darkness with a growl. Exit the server. He was out of my arms, over my head and back into the bedroom before the dog could take two steps. Enter bandages. I had a nice bruise on my jaw and the wound on my neck had people at work the next day asking what I had done to challenge Louie the Knife.
Before Sirocco arrived, I was adamant: no litter boxes in my bedroom. Now, I’m just content when he actually uses the giant box that graces the floor next to my entertainment center so nicely instead of peeing on my bed.
One night I came home from work to find the blankets dragged off my bed, one of them lying neatly at the entrance to the litter box. As a thoughtful decorative touch, she had also removed a German Shepherd figurine from my shelf and placed it in the litter box with one ear sticking out.
I think I will recommend servals to interior decorators. They can sell or rent them to clients, provided the designer is called every time the serval “redecorates” the house. What a way to generate repeat business!
One thing I’m very proud of is the fact that Sirocco isn’t too destructive indoors with his claws. For example, he did not nail the curtains. He simply pulls the curtain rod from the wall and drags the curtains under the bed. Good waiter.
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