Are Serval Cats Legal In California?

Do you have a soft spot for exotic pets? Perhaps you’ve been captivated by the beauty and grace of the serval cat? If so, you might be wondering if it’s legal to keep one of these majestic creatures as a pet in California. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straightforward. The laws and regulations surrounding exotic animal ownership are complex and can vary depending on several factors.

It’s crucial to understand that servals are wild animals with specific needs and requirements. They demand ample space to roam, a specialized diet, and expert veterinary care. Moreover, they can be incredibly dangerous if not treated with respect and care. However, if you’re up for the challenge and willing to provide the necessary care, owning a serval can be an enriching experience.

In this blog post, we’ll delve deep into the legality of owning a serval cat in California. We’ll explore the state’s laws concerning exotic animal ownership, required permits and licenses, and the possible consequences of keeping an illegal pet. Furthermore, we’ll examine ethical considerations related to owning a wild animal while providing resources for those interested in responsible pet ownership.

So, let’s get down to business – are serval cats legal in California? The answer may surprise you.

What is a Serval Cat?

A Serval cat, also known as Leptailurus serval, is a remarkable wild cat native to Africa that stands out for its distinctive appearance and exceptional physical abilities. With a striking coat of bold spots and stripes, long legs, and large ears, Serval cats are fascinating creatures that have captured the attention of many.

In their natural habitat, Serval cats are agile and fast hunters that can leap up to 10 feet in the air to catch their prey. Their exceptional jumping ability and speed make them one of the most successful predators in their environment. However, these amazing creatures are facing significant threats in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching for their fur. The global population of Serval cats has declined in recent years, leading to their listing under CITES Appendix II to regulate international trade and ensure their survival.

Despite being wild animals, some people have sought to keep Serval cats as exotic pets in certain parts of the world. It is important to note, however, that owning a Serval cat as a pet is not legal in California. In fact, it is illegal to own any wild cat species without a permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife in California. By obeying these laws, we can ensure that both humans and animals remain safe.

When considering owning an exotic pet like a Serval cat, it is crucial to prioritize their well-being and understand their specific needs and behaviors. These beautiful creatures should be appreciated and protected in their natural habitats. If you are interested in learning more about Serval cats or supporting conservation efforts that protect them in the wild, consider visiting a wildlife sanctuary or donating to a reputable organization.

Are Serval Cats Legal in California?

Before you start dreaming about cuddling up with this majestic feline, let’s talk about the legal requirements for owning one in California.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that owning a serval cat in California without a permit is illegal, according to California Fish and Game Code Section 2118-212As an exotic species, any animal not native to California requires a permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife for importation, transportation, possession, or release.

But don’t let that deter you. With some paperwork and qualifications, you can still legally own a serval cat in California. However, the process is not for the faint of heart. It involves proving that you have the necessary knowledge and experience to care for the animal properly, as well as ensuring that it will be kept in a safe and secure environment.

It’s essential to note that even with a permit, there may be restrictions on breeding or selling serval cats. Before making any decisions, it’s essential to research and consider all local regulations to avoid any legal troubles.

Overall, owning a serval cat in California requires a deep commitment to conservation efforts and prioritizing the animal’s welfare. If you choose to pursue a permit, take the time and effort to do it right by following all applicable laws and regulations. Failure to do so can result in fines or even criminal charges.

The Laws Surrounding Exotic Pets in California

Well, before you start browsing online for a cute cheetah or a serval cat, it is essential to understand the strict laws and regulations surrounding exotic pets in this state.

First and foremost, wild cats such as lions, tigers, and cheetahs are strictly prohibited from being kept as pets in California. The state has a comprehensive list of animals that cannot be kept as pets due to their potential danger to humans and native wildlife. This means that even if you dream of having a playful lion cub in your backyard, it is not allowed under any circumstances.

What about serval cats, which are often sought after as exotic pets? Unfortunately, they too fall under the prohibited animals category in California. To own a serval cat legally, you must obtain a special permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. However, obtaining this permit is no small feat. You must demonstrate extensive knowledge and experience in caring for these animals and provide a safe and secure environment for them.

If you do manage to obtain a permit, you must adhere to strict regulations regarding their care and housing. These restrictions may include housing the animal in a specific type of enclosure, providing them with appropriate veterinary care, and complying with restrictions on breeding or selling these animals.

It is also essential to research local city and county laws regarding exotic pets before making any decisions. These laws may have additional restrictions or outright bans on owning exotic pets.

Penalties for Violating the Laws

Well, hold your horses and consider the potential penalties for violating the laws surrounding these exotic animals.

To begin with, it is illegal to own a serval cat without proper permits. This means that possessing, importing, transporting, selling or releasing a serval cat without a permit can lead to heavy fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to one year. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife takes this law seriously and will not hesitate to take action against violators.

If caught with an illegal serval cat, authorities can seize the animal and even euthanize it if it is unable to survive in the wild. Not only is this a tragic ending for the animal, but it also puts the owner at risk of losing their beloved pet.

Moreover, there are ethical considerations when it comes to owning a serval cat. These animals require specialized care and attention that not everyone may be equipped to provide. Additionally, they pose a danger to other pets and even humans if they’re not properly trained or socialized.

To avoid legal troubles and potential harm to yourself and the animal, it is recommended that individuals interested in owning exotic pets seek out alternative options that do not involve breaking the law. Consider volunteering at your local zoo or simply sticking to traditional pets that are legal and easier to care for.

Obtaining a Permit to Own a Serval Cat

These exotic and beautiful creatures can be a fascinating addition to your life, but the process for obtaining a permit to own one in California is not easy.

First, you need to research whether your city or county allows the ownership of exotic animals. Some areas have ordinances that prohibit it, while others may require a permit or license. Once you confirm that owning a serval cat is legal in your area, you can begin the process of obtaining a permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The application process involves completing a detailed form and paying a fee. The application requires information about the animal’s health, origin, and proposed living conditions. Additionally, you must prove you have liability insurance and possess the knowledge and experience necessary to care for the animal.

After submitting your application, the CDFW will review it and conduct an inspection of your property to ensure it meets the requirements for housing a serval cat. This includes providing adequate space, shelter, and enrichment opportunities for the animal. If approved, you’ll be granted a permit that allows you to legally own a serval cat in California.

It’s important to note that owning a serval cat is not for everyone. These animals require specialized care and can be dangerous if not properly socialized and trained. Before applying for a permit, research the breed thoroughly and ensure that you are prepared to provide the necessary care and attention required for these exotic animals.

Bringing a Serval Cat into California

In California, Serval Cats are classified as wild animals and are regulated by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. As such, it is illegal to own a Serval Cat without obtaining the necessary permits. Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to legal consequences, including fines or imprisonment.

To bring a Serval Cat into California legally, there are several requirements that must be met. Firstly, you will need to obtain a permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Additionally, you will need to obtain a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian and provide proof of ownership. The cat must also be kept in a secure enclosure that meets specific size and safety standards.

It’s important to note that some local jurisdictions within California may have additional regulations or restrictions on owning exotic animals, so it is crucial to research and comply with any local laws before bringing a Serval Cat into the state.

Protecting Wild Animals and Humans from Harm

Not only can owning a wild animal without the proper permits lead to legal consequences, but it can also put both humans and the animal itself at risk.

Wild animals have specific needs and behaviors that are different from domesticated animals, and attempting to keep them as pets in a domestic setting can lead to physical and mental health problems for the animal. For example, serval cats require a specialized diet and environment to thrive, which may not be possible in a household setting.

In California, it is illegal to keep wild animals as pets without the proper permits and licenses because these animals can cause harm to both humans and themselves. To protect both wild animals and humans from harm, it’s crucial to adhere to these laws and regulations.

This means obtaining the necessary permits and licenses before bringing a wild animal into your home. It also means educating yourself on the specific needs and behaviors of the animal before making any decisions. By doing so, you can ensure that you’re providing appropriate care for the animal while also keeping yourself safe from harm.

When it comes to serval cats, it’s best to appreciate their beauty from a distance in their natural habitat or in accredited zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. These majestic creatures require specialized care that may not be possible in a household setting. By supporting reputable organizations that provide proper care for these animals, we can protect them while preserving their natural habitats.


In conclusion, the ownership of serval cats in California is a complex topic that requires careful consideration. The laws and regulations surrounding exotic animal ownership are stringent, and violating them can result in severe consequences. While it’s possible to obtain a permit to own a serval cat legally, it’s not an easy feat. It demands extensive knowledge and experience in caring for these animals and providing them with a safe environment.

Serval cats are wild animals with specific needs and requirements that must be met to ensure their well-being. They require ample space to roam, specialized diets, and expert veterinary care. Additionally, they can be incredibly dangerous if not treated with respect and care.

It’s important to note that owning an exotic pet like a serval cat comes with significant responsibilities. It requires thorough research, preparation, and commitment to ensure the animal’s health while adhering to all applicable laws and regulations.

For those interested in supporting conservation efforts that protect these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats or learning more about them, visiting wildlife sanctuaries or donating to reputable organizations is an excellent option.

In summary, owning a serval cat is not something one should take lightly.