The serval is a handsome cat with a striped, spotted coat and large, satellite-like ears. You can see these beautiful cats on safari in Southern Africa.

Need Advice?


They are leanly built, light tan colored cats, much like cheetahs. Their bodies are covered in spots, though their spots are slightly larger and may merge to form a type of stripe on their sides and ears.

Their distribution starts in coastal regions of South Africa, where the sub-tropical climate and denser cover offer an adequate hunting ground. They occur in Kruger National Park, Zambia, Mozambique, and parts of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

Scientific Name
Leptailurus serval
9 to 18 kg
Shoulder Height
54 to 62 cm
Mating Season
Throughout the year


Like other small cats, Servals are in no danger of being endangered and are quite common, although shy. Their populations are considered to be stable and even growing. The population densities of these cats are naturally low because of their solitary lifestyles. Around one individual every 2 square kilometers is a good population density among them, with a density of 0.1 individuals recorded in Zambia for every square kilometer of land, considered the bare minimum in areas with a self-sustaining population.


It is no coincidence that they have abnormally large ears, as they use them to find, identify and catch their specialty prey. They are known for catching tiny mammals, mainly rodents such as mice and shrews, along with birds. They torment the same animals a typical house cat would in addition to some more exclusively wild prey such as the young of small antelope. Their prey of choice occurs in areas of medium to tall grass, usually found in grasslands or woodlands. They are specially adapted for this habitat with their long legs, which help them look from above the grass and jump when necessary.

Social Organization

Servals are solitary, avoiding contact with other servals of the same or opposite gender as far as possible for most of the year. They are territorial animals, although the home range of one serval might overlap with that of several others, indicating that they are only territorial regarding a small part of their home range. Two servals may walk through or even hunt within the same part of their respective home ranges, which overlap just days apart, and may even catch a glimpse of one another without any hostility.

Finest Safari Areas in Africa for Encountering Serval

We recommend the following National Parks and Private Reserves for the best chances of spotting the serval on safari game drives and bush walks.

Social Behavior

They mark objects around the center of their home range, usually by urination or by rubbing their faces against them like house cats regularly do. Furthermore, they hunt, looking and listening for any slight movements of prey that might be passing. They then silently stalk prey in typical feline fashion before pouncing at the exact right moment to deliver an instant killer blow. The only interactions they have with others of their kind are when mating, and with newly born and still dependent young for whom they care and provide.


When females enter heat, a pair may be seen hunting and feeding together while mating regularly before finally parting. The female's gestation period is between 65 and 75 days. Typical litter sizes are two to three, but as many as five kittens can be born. Their mother hides them for the first part of their lives to protect them from the predators in the area.

Anti-Predator Behavior

The presence of more significant or pack animals is very unwelcome to Servals. They typically duck, run or find shelter as soon as possible because of their vulnerability. Hyenas are the most common enemies they avoid, especially in areas where they encounter one another more regularly in places like Tanzania. When faced by other small cat species, such as Caracals or small spotted cats, they react very similar to how house cats respond to visitors, by hissing or clawing at them until one of the parties finally chooses to take off.

The Big 5

White Rhino
Black Rhino