(Leptailurus Serval)

African servals are small, slender cats with long legs, a lean body, a short tail, and a small head. Their extra-long neck and legs give them the nickname “giraffe cat.” Servals’ coats are each unique, honey-colored and adorned with spots that are sometimes so close together they look like stripes. This feature helps them blend in with the shadows of the savanna grasses and forest trees, hiding from their predators.

Servals live near thickly planted streams and rivers in the savannas of central and southern Africa. Unlike many other cats, these small felines love to climb, leap, and play in water. They are crepuscular to avoid the heat of the day, although they do hunt at night when needed. Servals often share their savanna habitat with caracals.

The serval has a varied diet, eating birds, reptiles, frogs, crabs, and large insects. Servals are ambush predators. Their eyesight is good, but they may only need to hear their quarry to catch it, crouching down and pouncing onto the unfortunate rodent, small reptile, or bird. Their hooked claws also let them snatch fish and frogs from the water and take rodents from underground burrows.

Adults scent mark trees and bushes with a spray of urine to mark their territory. A female serval ready to breed alerts any male in the area with very short and sharp calls or long yowls. Other serval vocalizations include shrill cries and mews, but the serval can growl, hiss, and purr, too.

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