Servals (Felinae serval) have the largest ears and longest legs in relation to the size of their body of any cat. Their fur is yellow, gold to reddish with black spots that often merge to form stripes on the neck and back. Their ears have horizontal stripes. The stomach is usually lighter color than the rest of the body. They have a long neck and a small head.
Servals live in well-watered grasslands of Africa. Their habitat overlaps with the caracal who usually preys on larger animals. The serval cat mainly eats hares, ground squirrels, hyraxes, and mole rats, but will also prey on frogs, snakes, lizards, insects, fish, and birds. They listen for their rodent prey. Once they have a position fixed on the animal, they leap with all four feet off the ground and pounce on the prey. Their success rate of pounces is 50%. Most other cats’ success rate is only 10%.
In length, serval cats are about 2 to 3 ¼ feet. Their tails are ¾ to 1 ½ feet long. At the shoulder they stand 1 1/3 to 2 feet tall. Weight ranges from 17.5 to 40 pounds.
To call other servals, servals have a high-pitched cry. Like other cats, they snarl, growl and spit when angry. Contented servals purr.
1 to 3 kittens are born per litter, although sometimes as many as 5 are born. They weigh about 9 ounces each. Kittens are born with their eyes closed, but they open in 9 to 12 days. They reach independence at about 6-8 months, but will stay in their mother’s range until they reach sexual maturity at 18 to 24 months.
The main threats to servals are hyenas, leopards, dogs and man. Sometimes they are hunted for their pelts which are passed off as immature leopard pelts.
Fun Serval Cat Facts
- Serval cats are diurnal or nocturnal depending on the habits of the prey where they live.
- The name serval is derived from a Portuguese word which means wolf-deer.
- The serval’s hind lets are longer than the front ones.
- A serval can leap in the air to catch birds.