It is common to hear people ask, can a Serval cat kill a human? When they visit the grasslands of Africa. The African Serval cat is a beautiful animal that some animal lovers consider an exotic pet.
Their bodies have black spots similar to that of a cheetah however, they are smaller than cheetahs but bigger than normal domestic cats.
Here, we will comprehensively look at the natural behaviors of a Serval cat and see if it can kill a human. We’ll also see if you can pet them and look at the most effective ways to care for them.
So, Can A Serval Cat Kill A Human?
No. A Serval cat can’t kill a human, but it can injure one to the point of hospitalization. Serval cats are shy animals, and they tend to avoid human interaction. However, they will launch attacks on humans when they feel threatened as a way of protecting themselves.
In December 2001, a 7-year-old boy was admitted to a hospital in Florida after being bitten and assaulted by a 40-pound African Serval. The boy was trekking when the unattended Serval attacked him.
Anatomy Of A Serval Cat
The African Serval cats are small, slender, and have longer limbs than other domestic cats. Their coat is tawny with black lines and black spots similar to that of a cheetah. They can weigh up to 40 pounds and grow to 23 to 36 inches.
Their long limbs enable them to reach a height ranging from 17 to 24 inches when measured from their shoulders down. Serval cats are easily distinguishable from other cats by their large ears.
Their long limbs have muscles that are useful for hunting. They can pounce on birds up to nine feet high using their legs which is higher than the tallest men in the NBA. They can also jump up to 12 meters horizontally to pounce on a rodent.
Their special body type makes them 90% successful in their daily hunts. Their large ears can rotate up to 180 degrees, which is helpful in precisely locating prey. Their sharp teeth can claws are useful for catching and killing prey quickly.
Why Do Serval Cats Attack Humans
Serval cats do not attack humans as they usually shy away from us. However, certain situations might trigger them to attack humans. They include:
1. When They Feel Cornered
A Serval cat is a wild cat that does not like feeling vulnerable. Therefore when you try to threaten it, it will respond with an attack on you. Its attack can cause minor to major injuries to you.
In June 2000, in New York, a four-year-old boy had to go for surgery after being assaulted by an African Serval cat that was being taken for a walk. The cat’s owner also got stitches on his hands for trying to stop the cat. The incident is an example of an injury.
2. When Their Offspring Is In Danger
The evolutionary goal of living organisms is to procreate and leave their offspring to thrive on the little resources left on earth. Trying to interact with the offspring of a Serval cat leaves it feeling vulnerable, triggering it to launch an attack.
3. When You Invade Their Territory
The African Serval cats are territorial animals and may act aggressively when they see you trespassing. Interacting with Serval cats can be risky, and you should take some precautionary measures as you do so.
Preventing Serval Attacks
Since Serval cats are wild animals, you should take precautionary measures when you handle them. Some preventive measures include:
- Never touch a Serval cat in the wild
- When you encounter one, maintain a safe distance from a Serval cat in the wild.
- Respect the space of a Serval cat and do not invade its territory.
- Avoid making sudden noises or movements near a Serval cat
- Do not touch its offspring
- Please do not stare at the eyes of a Serval cat, as it may perceive you as a threat.
- Please do not touch the sensitive areas of a Serval cat, such as its tail
By observing the above precautionary measures, you will avoid getting hurt by a serval cat.
How To Handle A Domesticated Serval Cat
A serval cat can make a perfect exotic pet, but only if you know how to handle it. Before getting a Serval cat as a pet, you need to know how to take good care of it to prevent potential attacks. Here are some tips for handling a serval cat:
1. Provide It With Enough Space And Toys
A serval cat is a very active animal, and in the jungle, it can walk up to four kilometers in a day while searching for rodents to eat.
Therefore, you should find ways to keep it preoccupied at home to prevent it from getting bored or frustrated.
An excellent way to keep it occupied at home is by building a scratching post and providing enough space and toys to interact with.
2. Train It
Just like a dog, you must train serval cats to perform tasks such as using the litter box. Train it to be around people and try to teach it not to bite. If you do not train it, it might behave aggressively around people.
That is why it is essential to start bringing it to parties where people are plenty so that they can learn to associate with humans.
Nonetheless, you should always keep it on a leash when around people, as it is a wild animal, and you can’t trust it entirely.
At Potawatomi Zoo, a serval cat attacked a baby held by her mother at a Sunday birthday party. The owners of the serval cat claimed that the incident was unfortunate and had never happened before.
They added that the animal has been to many parties before and has never demonstrated wild behaviors. It indicates you cannot fully trust a serval cat even after training.
3. Respect Its Territory
If you pet a serval cat, you must handle it respectfully and carefully. Give it its own space and respect it. Do not make fast movements around it that may startle it.
4. Feed It On A Balanced Diet
Provide your serval cat with a healthy and balanced diet and try to pet it every time it eats to stop it from being aggressive with food.
Petting it also associates allows it to associate humans with positive emotions making it more domestic.
Reasons Why Serval Cats Do Not Make Good Pets
Even if a serval cat can be a lovely exotic pet, there are many negative reasons why they cannot make a good pet at home. Here are a few:
1. They Are Escape Artists
Correctly housing a serval cat is a daunting task that needs a lot of commitment as they are used to roaming freely in the African grasslands. You need to have a spacious room to pet serval cats successfully.
Additionally, your home needs a sturdy fence several feet up so the cat cannot escape. It is also great to have a roomy outdoor space with some trees and grass to make your serval pet feel at home.
There have been many incidents where a serval cat has escaped from its owner and potentially caused damage.
On 2011 August 23rd, in Weedsport, New York, serval cat escaped from its owner’s home through a gap at a fence and was run over by a car on the highway.
2. They Are Not Good House Guests
Serval cats are not relaxed animals, and keeping them in the house is difficult. When they feel restricted, they could get destructive in the house scratching through the couch and jumping all over the house. They might also move around the house at night, licking dishes.
3. It Is Not Easy To Train Them
Training a wild serval cat is not a walk in the park. They often prefer to be alone, and as they grow older, they like their own space.
Serval cats usually mark their territory with scent. They will constantly urinate around the house to mark their territory.
This behavior makes it hard to train them to use the litter box. Even if you succeed in teaching them how to litter appropriately, they will still urinate around the house to claim possession.
Veterinary hospitals have no approved form of vaccination for use in serval cats. Therefore, there is no proper way of protecting the cat and those who come in contact with it from diseases. Lack of vaccination directly puts your life in danger.
5. They Are Powerful
A serval cat’s body is adapted explicitly to hunting. Its solid limbs and sharp claws help tame its prey. They also have a powerful knock that can slap a fish out of its sense in a pond.
You do not want this animal going against you in an enclosed area. Its attack can be damaging, and it can easily destroy delicate organs in your body.
The next time you hear one ask, can a serval cat kill a human? Be sure to tell them not to be so worried. However, they should be careful with how they interact with the wild cat as it can still severely injure them.
Serval cats are excellent hunters and often succeed in 90% of their hunts. If you want to pet them, you should liaise with the laws of your state to see if it permits. However, you should note that the African serval cat is not an excellent pet.