The cape serval was found in savannas throughout Africa. They cannot be found in arid desert regions, tropical rainforests, or near the Western tip of South Africa, and are almost always found near water.
Servals have the longest ears and legs, relative to the size of their bodies, in the cat family. Their body length can be as big as 1 meter in length, their tail can grow to the length of 45 centimeters, and their shoulder height can be up to 62 centimeters. Males are generally larger than females. Their long legs lets them see over the tall grasses in the savannas, allowing them to follow their prey easier. The auditory bullae and pinnae inside their ears are enlarged to help them detect the presence of prey that emit high frequency sounds. Their ears are rounded with white stripes on the back. The pelage of the cape serval is a reddish-brown with many dark spots that may merge and form into stripes on the back. Servals that live closer to wet spots have more detailed markings on their body and those living near dry spaces have large, bold spots.
Not much is known about the mating of servals, but it is not seasonal. From time to time, males and females may rest and hunt together for several days. Gestation lasts anywhere from 65 to 75 days. On average, 3 servals are born from each litter.
Servals are solitary animals that mostly communicate by urine spraying and rubbing saliva on objects such as rocks or trees. They can also communicate using shrill cries, growling, and purring.
Generally, they do not like to confront each other, but can occur when home territories overlap. Servals will often take cover and hide when surprised. When confronted, they may hide using sudden directional changes and leaping.
Servals are primarily crepuscular. Their peak activity times are between ten to eleven o'clock, deep into the night, and four to five in the early morning.
Hunting and taking care of the litter is mostly what the female serval does during her day. While she is out hunting, the unprotected kittens are hidden in a den built with tall, thick grass. Mothers will hunt for male kittens only until they are able to hunt on their own. The mothers will hunt for the females for a longer time.
Food and eating habits
Servals are carnivorous, and their diet consists of mostly hares, mole rats, ground squirrels, viel rats, quails, queleas, frogs, and flamingos. They pounce on their victims and land on them with their two front paws. They can also reach into very deep holes and may enter water to catch prey. If it fails to catch their prey on the first time, they often won't try again. Like most cats, when they catch prey, they might play with them before eating. They can leap up to 10 feet in the air and can change direction midair, even at full speed. This makes servals very efficient hunters. 40% of their pounces in the day are successful, and 59% in the night.