There are many wild species of cats. One of these cats is the serval. These cats are one of the many species of “small cats” in the wild.
The serval, or felis serval, is native to Africa. They mainly live in the savannah regions of the continent, especially places near water. The coat of the serval is a pale golden tan with a variety of spots and bands and stripes. These medium sized cats are much smaller than most of the big cats but are larger than a house cat. Their ears are proportionally large for their heads.
These animals are nocturnal and mostly hunt small prey such as rodents, frogs, insects, and other small animals. They mostly rely on their sight and hearing to hunt and rarely rely on their sense of smell. Their hearing is excellent and allows them to track some prey underground. They are relatively successful hunters with an estimated fifty percent success rate, the lion is estimated at having only a thirty percent success rate for its hunting. These cats much prefer fresh meat and will only eat carrion in the most extreme circumstances. These animals live and hunt alone except when during breeding.
A male and female serval may travel together for the few days a female is in heat in order to mate. After this they separate and the mother has her kittens after about seventy days. They usually have two to four kittens which they keep in a den until they are old enough to hunt. Once they reach hunting age, the mother drives out all the male cubs. The female cubs are allowed to stay for a little while longer but are driven out to find their own territories once they reach sexual maturity.
Servals face a couple of different threats in their natural environment. One of these is larger predators. Hyenas, leopards, and wild dogs all prey upon the serval. They are also somewhat threatened by the fur trade. The animals are relatively small so fur traders kill many of them in order to make one coat. Traders may also market their fur as “young leopard” fur in order to make more money from ignorant buyers. Most subspecies of serval are not yet endangered, but if these problems persist or increase they could be in the near future. Some subspecies are already in quite a bit of danger. The North African subspecies is endangered and some of the other species are marked as threatened.
The serval is a beautiful and interesting animal. We do know some things about these cats, but we do not by any means know everything about them. These capable hunters are usually wary of people, so many of their behaviors and habits are not known or understood at this point.