Southern Savannah's is a Serval sanctuary owned and operated by myself, MeChel Whitaker and my family. I am located in Southern Alabama on a beautiful 30 acre farm outside the city limits of Geneva County. It is a safe and loving haven for rehomed Servals.. My first encounter with a serval was over 35 years ago at a zoo in Tennesse. I used to work there part time while I was attending college to acquire my Medical Laboratory Science Degree. The servals were always my favorite, always friendly and ready to play. They were so mejestically graceful and beautiful. I instantly fell in love. I was not aware at the time that it was possible to have a serval as a pet and at that time would not have dreamed of it.
Later in life I started taking bengal cats to cat shows and always admired the savannahs that were there. I was curious about the savannah and decided to do a little research and found out that the serval is the wild cat that is used to produce savannahs. I was amazed to find out that the Serval has been kept as a pet for thousands of years, starting with our ancient egyptian ancestors. Pictures of servals can be found illustrated on the walls of tombs and other ancient egyptian structures. I also learned that servals are much easier to tame and are alot more socialable than early generation savannahs and are very intelligent and bond very intensely with their human parents.
I decided to start a Serval Sanctuary because occasionally serval owners may find themselves in a situation where they are no longer able to care for there serval fur babies. There are several reasons why this may happen. One reason is the cost of caring for a Serval. It is very expensive and if, for example, a owner loses his job or gets injured in some way, it could make it impossible to continue caring for the Serval in the way it needs to be cared for. Another reason is if the State the Serval cat is in decides to change the exotic animal law and makes it illegal to keep the Serval, the owner is faced with a heart breaking decision that has to be made. This is a shame because the bond that a Serval forms with their owner is very intense and the separation is extremely upsetting to them. Rehoming is a hard thing and it takes a special person with a lot of Serval knowledge and patients to be able to help the sad, and emotionally upset serval adjust to his/her new environment. Not only do you have to understand how to supply a well rounded nutritional diet plan and health care program for these cats, you also have to understand how to read their temperament, body language, and vocal sounds. I has had over 20 years experience with exotic cats and have studied them and researched them endlessly. There is not a whole lot of information on line about rehoming exotic cats, so maybe this website will help anyone attempting to do so. A rehomed Serval can become so upset that they may refuse to eat. When a serval is rehomed they seem wild again only because they are scared and they are trying to protect themselves from strangers and strange surroundings. Servals are very smart and they have survived on this earth for thousands of years, so the fact that they are very skittish and will run from danger is really a good thing. So it is important to understand that if you run after or chase a Serval, they will think you are trying to hurt them. So they run from you thinking you are danger. You will have better success trying to get the Serval to come to you instead of you trying to catch him/her.
I have already accepted 5 serval rehomes and the experience has helped me learn a lot more about the characteristics and habits of servals. A serval can be a lap cat to their owner but when they are rehomed they become a wild animal again. In order to change their behavior you have to spend a lot of time around them. The main thing you have to understand is that you have to earn their trust and this may take months, but just stay patient, calm and non-threatening toward your serval and soon they will start to calm down. Never raise your voice, hit them, or throw something at them. Let them come to you on their own terms and don't make them do anything against their own will, except in the case of an emergency.
My first rehomed serval came from a broker that had a first generation male Serval that needed a new home. Kaos was a 3 year old serval from Africa. His mother was bred in the wild by another wild serval. Kaos had been rehomed three times due to the fact that he was not human imprinted. When I first got Kaos he was not very friendly and I had to sit with him for hours, days and months on end in order to win his trust. Now he will come to me and love on me when ever he chooses. He can be a lap cat when he wants to, but on his on terms. I am lucky to have any kind of relationship with him. No one else can even get close to him. He was a lot to handle at first and was 40 pounds of pure piss and vinegar. I was the only one brave enough to enter the cage with him. I would sit for hours with my laptop or book in his cage for weeks and weeks. It took 9 weeks before he decided he would sit in the chair beside me and now after 3 more years he will come to me on his own terms and allow me to pet him. But you have to wait for him to decide if he wants your company. If not I leave him alone. One thing I do that he can't resist is to take a nice fluffy blanket into the pen and spread it out on the ground, sit down and 90 percent of the time he will come lay down beside me and put his head in my lap. I have a few more successful rehoming stories to tell you later and I hope to have more in the future. Rehoming a Serval is a very hard thing to do and I would not recommend it unless the new owner is very experienced and patient with exotic animals. He/she must fully understand that they may never have a friendly relationship with a rehomed Serval. But I have had pretty good luck with my rehomed Serval's.
Since Kaos, I have acquired 4 female servals. Tiki was 2 years old and about as hard as Kaos to bond with. Shera was a one year old serval and took to me almost immediately. Shera is a very sweet and loveing serval and is the most affectionate serval I have ever encountered. Ziva was a 4 week old serval kitten when I got her. She came from a breeder who was having trouble getting her to eat. This breeder was very busy with the rest of her animals and did not have the extra time needed to take care of Ziva. When a kitten does not eat or drink it usually means there is something seriously wrong. Ziva's breeder took her to the vet several times for treatments and tests but still she would not eat. When I got her I took her to Andrews Avenue animal Hospital in Ozark Alabama and they kept her for several days running tests and lab work and finally found out that she had a very bad kidney infection. The vet did not think she would make it and felt that she might go into kidney failure soon. The Vet kept her for a few days longer and she surprisingly got better. When she came home we still had to hand feed her by forcing one little piece of food in her mouth at a time and finally as she started to regain her strength she was able to eat on her on. Ziva developed a very strong bond with my husband because on the days I had to work he would sneak her into work, and put her in a box under his desk in order to be able to hand feed her every two hours trying to nurse her back to health. My latest rehomed Serval is Puma, she came to me at 4 months old. She was playing too aggressively with a 7 an 4 year old and the father and mother became scared that she would hurt them. That's why I recommend not to attempt to adopt a Serval as a pet unless all your children are grown. Because Serval kittens love to play and they have very sharp claws. Although, Servals are very smart and can be taught as a kitten to only play with toys and not to use your hands or other body parts as toys. I have one female Serval that I got when she was almost 2 years old. She surprised me by rebonding with me within a few weeks. So there are special cases like this. She is very loving and affectionate, even more than a domestic cat would be if rehomed.
Mojo is my tamest serval, He was born here at the sanctuary and is the offspring of kaos and shera. He has a dog like personality and loves everyone. I keep him in the house because he does not spray yet. I had him fixed when he was 6 months old so I am hoping this will keep him from feeling the urge.
I am in the process on building another large enclosure for a pair of girls that are coming from a zoo in south florida. They are almost a year old and I cant wair to see them. I am hoping since they are so young I will still be able to form a bond with them. We will see!!
If you have a Serval that needs to be rehomed or know of some one that needs help, please contact Mechel at 334-449-0168 anytime. Leave a message if their is no answer, she maybe outside playing with her Servals!
Join me on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/mechel1959