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Adopting a Wild or Exotic Cat

NOTE: This page was originally written for those interested in adopting a serval, but much of the information is applicable to other species. Two of the resources listed at the bottom of this page also coordinate adoptions for other species.

This page is for those who are interested in adopting an exotic cat. If you are a sanctuary or are interested in the rescue and placement process, you might wish to read my article Exotic Feline Rescue and Placement: A New Perspective for some suggestions on how we could improve our system by looking at successful domestic animal placement stratagies.

Most of my own animals were either rescued from various situations or adopted from a shelter, so naturally when I became interested in adding a serval to my life, my first thought was to adopt one.

I read so much on the Internet about sanctuaries flooded with unwanted exotic cats, people getting rid of exotics that were too much for them to handle, and game farms rearing kittens for canned shoots that I assumed a serval in need of rescue would be readily available.

Interestingly enough, most of those claims turned out to be pure hype once I actually started looking for a cat to rescue. Game farms told me that animal rights outrage had stopped canned hunts of cats long ago, and I later found out that it is illegal in the US to run canned hunts of exotic cats.

None of the supposedly flooded santuaries I contacted were the least bit interested in adopting out a cat; they just wanted my donations. Any sanctuary that claims to be "flooded" with exotic cats but somehow isn't desperate to find good homes for any of them needs to get a serious reality check. Spend a few months volunteering at a domestic animal shelter during kitten season and you'll find out what it really means to be overwhelmed with homeless animals.

As far as people getting rid of their servals for various reasons, I soon found that the few available servals around the country would be quickly adopted, and were actually in so much demand that sometimes angry flame wars would break out on the chat lists with each person arguing that he or she deserved the cat!Large felines like cougars and tigers are harder to place and therefore may be easier to find.

There is a genuine need for qualified homes for displaced exotic cats though, just not an overwhelming one. If you are interested in adopting an exotic, read on.

Problems with adopting a rescued exotic cat

As time has gone by, I've located a few resources for those interested in adopting an exotic cat, which I'll provide for you here. There are servals and other cats out there who are in dire need of loving adoptive homes, and blessings upon you if you can provide one. It is rare, perhaps unheard-of for a young kitten to be available for adoption; rescue animals are typically adults or older kittens. But before you decide this is the way to go, please bear the following factors in mind.

Servals in particlar often have extreme difficulty adapting to new homes. They bond very closely to their first owners, and become much more upset than the typical domestic animal (and even most other wild cat species) when seperated from their beloved humans. Losing a home can cause a serval stop being tame, stop using the litterbox, and stop getting along with other animals. A formerly tame pet may not be touchable by its new owners. Other species may also experience quite a bit of difficulty adapting to a new home.

Sometimes this reaction is permanent; other times you can win back the cat's trust and affection over time. There are also unusual cases where the cat adapts just fine from the beginning. But you can count on having to spend quite a bit of time gaining your new cat's trust, and that takes a special kind of person. It's also important to note that even loving owners may have to give their pets up for reasons beyond their control, and the fact that your adopted serval acts like this probably does not indicate that it has been abused.

If you can accept that your adopted cat may never match most people's idea of a "pet," if you aren't intimidated and won't get your feelings hurt by the fact that he'll spend a lot of time hissing and growling at you fiercely, and if you are skilled at befriending traumatized animals, you might be a good candidate for an adopted serval or other exotic.

Be aware that those involved in coordinating the placement will be very cautious about letting you adopt (especially a large feline) if you are a first-time exotic cat owner. The theory is that raising your first serval from kittenhood is difficult enough, and you just may not be able to cope with the special needs of an adopted feline. The very last thing anyone involved with rescue work wants to see is a cat traumatized by being passed from home to home as each person realizes that they've gotten in over their head.

However, if you can demonstrate that you have the knowledge and committment to whoever is coordinating the placement, you could get approved. Be prepared to present proof that you have any permits required in your area, detailed descriptions of how you plan to care for the cat, pictures or your enclosure and housing, etc.

Financial Considerations

There are a few things I would like to say on the subject of money. Exotic kittens are quite expensive animals, so it's easy to see how one might want to adopt to save the cost of buying a kitten. Before you commit to this, though, realize that while you save money up front, you will more than pay for that cat in time, effort, and inconvenience. You may also end up spending those dollars you save on vet bills (if the cat can't be handled, he will have to be anesthetized for even routine work....expen$ive!) and on building an enclosure for a cat who doesn't want to live in the house with humans.

I realize that in some cases the only way one might be able to afford a serval is to adopt one. You don't have to be rich to own a serval, but servals are expensive animals to feed and maintain, and a responsible owner always has resources to cover unexpected vet bills and other expenses. I ended up with a total of about $1,600.00 in vet bills when Sirocco ate a dog toy, and it seems like I end up spending anywhere from $50 to $200 on a fairly regular basis on improvements or repairs to his living areas. If money is the reason you are considering adopting a serval rather than buying a kitten, make sure you really have the resources to be a responsible owner.

On the other side of this, some people getting rid of their exotics decide to try to sell them for hundreds or thousands of dollars. This is just plain silly. The kittens are worth money. The adults (unless they are a proven breeding pair) are not, for all the reasons you read about above. No knowledgable person in their right mind would pay money to go through all of that!

You won't get a higher calibre of owner by selling your cat; the only person who will pay hundreds of dollars for an adult is someone who doesn't know anything about them and probably wouldn't provide a suitable home. If you are placing your exotic cat in a new home or a sanctuary, forget charging money for the cat and consider giving the new owner some money to help with housing, feeding, and veterinary expenses.

If you are adopting a feline in a different part of the country, it is reasonable to pay the cat's airfare or gas money to drive the cat to your location, especially if the adoption is through one of the grassroots adoption coordinators listed below. It would also be reasonable to help repay any other expenses the rescue group incurred on your new cat's behalf. They operate on a shoestring for the good of the cats, paying rescue expenses out of their pockets.

Groups offering rescue and adoptions

The first group to consider is Servals.Org. They are the only group in the country that I know of specifically focused on serval rescue and placement. They coordinate adoptions nationwide.

The second is Wild About Cats. They do rescues and adoptions of all species.

You can also contact the Feline Conservation Federation's placement coordinator at memberservices@felineconservation.org . The FCF also helps with all species.

Below is the Servals.org initial adoption questionnare.

As each month goes by, the “Servals” Group is finding more servals are in need of good homes. If you wish to help, in providing a good home, please fill out the information below and forward in a private email to the servalsmoderator@yahoo.com

The Servals Group wants to match the right serval to the right person. We are looking for permanent homes, for this reason we are asking for only experienced owners who are willing to provide a permanent home apply. So the transition of ownership can proceed smoothly, please have all your legal documents ready such as a copy of your state law along with any documents (permits/licenses) stating you may possess a serval legally. In the event we agree the owner may want to see the prospective new owner, it is imperative, that all legal documentation be signed and validated, and readily available. And also the welfare and health of the Serval involved, comes first and foremost. By taking all these steps in advance we can minimize the stress on both the serval and the owners both new and old.

NOTE: The list and all parties involved, homes, relocates, and rescues, etc., will be kept confidential.

Number of people in house:
State license/permit number (if none answer none):
USDA number:
Years Experience:
Breeder/facility name:
Willing to talk to the serval's owners?
Willing to allow visitation from previous owners?
Disposition of the Serval willing to take in (friendly?):
Which of the following problems are acceptable (answer yes or no)
Missing litter box:
Not good with women:
Not good with men:
Not good with people
Age of Serval you are willing to take into your home?
Will the serval be kept indoors or outdoors?
Are you looking for a pet or breeder?
What other animals are you willing to give a home?
Willing to travel for a pickup/how many miles willing to travel
Willing to pay for shipping:
Willing to be inspected and/or investigated:
Tell us a little about yourself:

You remain responsible.. Forever...
For what you have tamed.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Exotic Feline Placement Network site coming soon!


Updates and Alerts

A public thank-you

Thank you to all the Oregon legislators who opposed HB 3437 and all of you who took the time to write your legislators in opposition on this FAILED ban bill!

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