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Serval (Leptailurus serval) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Diet & Feeding


  • Consume small prey
    • Size of prey small given their body size
    • >90%  of items weigh <200 g (c. 7 oz)

Common prey items

  • Muriad rodents most often taken
    • Arvicanthus spp. - grass mice
    • Mastomys spp. - multimammate mouse
    • Otomys - Swamp rats or vlei rats
    • Many other small rodents

Other prey items

  • Small mammals
    • Shrews (Soricidae)
    • Golden moles (Chrysochloridae)
    • Cane rats (Thronomyidae)
    • Scrub hares (Lepus saxatilis)
  • Small birds
  • Lizards, and grass and sand snakes (Colubridae)
  • Fish and frogs
    • Can hunt in water and swampy areas to hook live fish and frogs
  • Insects
    • Grasshoppers, crickets, locusts
  • Rare or occasional food items
    • Common duikers, flamingos, hares, and young antelope (York 1973)
    • Reported to sometimes eat bananas and avocado (Breitbeil 2002)

Eat grasses regularly

Hunting technique

  • Rodent hunting technique
    • Pounce on prey
    • Stun prey with blow of forepaws
  • Bird hunting strategy (from Smithers 1978)
    • Jump vertically
    • Clap front paws together to immobilize bird in flight
  • Avoid hunting on windy days
    • Rustling of grasses may impair ability to locate prey

Prey Capture

Servals got hops!

Serval jump high in the air to grab small. The front paws clap together to secure the bird in flight.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Page Citations

Bowland & Perrin (1993)
Geertsema (1976,1981,1985,1991)
Macdonald et al (2010)
Smithers (1978)
Sunquist & Sunquist (2002, 2009)

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