Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Also known as: Savannahs, Serval Hybrid
Males Weight: 3.6-9 kg
Females Weight: 3.2-5.2kg
Exercise Requirements: Medium
Lifespan: 15+ years
Best Suited as: Pets / Show Cats
The Savannah is an exotic looking cat breed that is a cross between a domestic cat and a Serval (wild African) cat. They are controversial pets, and the Australian Federal government does not allow this cat to be imported into the country.
Exotic-looking Savannah cats are one of the largest breeds of domestic cats. They have a slim build, long graceful neck and very long legs making them as tall as some medium sized dogs. Savannah cats that have a lower percentage of Sevral tend to be smaller. Their hind legs stand taller than their shoulders and they have large, erect, cupped ears, puffy nose and hooded eyes. While they are born with blue eyes, their eye color will transition into a green, brown, gold or a blended shade as an adult. Savannahs have “cheetah tear” markings from the corner of their eyes to the sides of their nose and whiskers.
The appearance of the Savannah varies greatly because they are a product of many different domestic cats. The Egyptian Mau, the Ocicat, the Oriental Shorthair, and the Domestic Shorthair are most often used in cross breeding. The higher percentage of Serval the cat has the more of an exotic look they exhibit. Today most Savannahs are born from a Savannah mom and dad.
A Savannahs coat depends largely on its bloodline. The International Cat Association (TICA) breed standard calls for brown spotted tabby (cool to warm brown, tan or gold with black or dark brown spots), silver spotted tabby (silver coat with black or dark grey spots), black (black with black spots), and smoke (black with white undercoat). Pet Savannahs also may have a marbled or spotted pattern.
The first Savannah cat (named Savannah) made its debut in 1986 when Bengal breeder Judee Frank crossbred a male Serval with a domestic female Siamese. In 1989, when Savannah had a litter of her own, Patrick Kelley purchased one of Savannah’s offspring and began to champion the cause to get the new breed recognized. He enlisted the help of Serval breeder Joyce Sroufe, with this task. In 2001, The International Cat Association accepted Patrick Kelley and Joyce Sroufe’s version of the Savannah breed standard, and the breed was registered. Since 2006, the breed has grown in the United Kingdom.
Savannahs are measured by a filial system, a formula that measures the percentage of wild genes in each cat. An F1 Savannah is a cross between a Serval and a domestic cat. The F2 has a Serval as a grandparent; the F3 has a Serval great-grandparent and so on. An F1 generation Savannah is actually quite rare because of the difference in the gestation periods of the Serval (75 days gestation) and a domestic cat (65 days gestation) and because Servals are highly selective when choosing a mate, often snubbing domestic cats. F1-F3 male kittens are often sterile.
Savannahs are both intelligent and loyal cats. While they can have a “wild” streak due to their lineage they usually make good pets and can be trained to walk on a leash and play fetch. Often compared more to a canine companion, some are social with new people and other animals especially if they have been socialized as a kitten. When greeting their owners they often flick or way their tails with excitement.
Curiosity is one of the Savannahs other key traits. They love to explore their environment, are territorial and active. Savannah owners report that their pets get themselves into all kinds of trouble.
Savannahs are not extremely vocal cats, but when they do vocalize they either chirp or meow or a mixture of both. When startled or upset, a Savannah might hiss. While most cats hiss when they want to be left alone, this wild hiss can be very disconcerting to a human listener and has been described to be “snakelike”.
Care and Grooming
Unlike the Sevral, a Savannah does not require an all meat diet. There is an ongoing debate however about whether they do need a special diet. Some breeders feel that they need a very high quality diet with no grains or by-products. Most Savannah breeders do agree that adding taurine to their food is necessary.
Savannah cats tend to be healthy and there are currently no established Savannah breed-specific health issues. Some Savannahs are sensitive to medications and anesthesia and care should be given when receiving either.
While you may want to take your F1 Savannah to a special veterinarian, other Savannahs can be seen by a regular vet.
Suitability as a Pet (Outside Australia for now – sorry)
If you like to walk on the wild side and are prepared to own a cat that is more often dog like that cat, you have found a good pet in the Savannah. An F1 or even F2 Savannah is usually quite expensive but the further they get from their Serval ancestor, the less expensive they are to own.
Savannahs are extremely active cats and known to be acrobatic. If you are looking for a lap cat you probably need to keep searching. They are able to jump 2.1 meters in the air from a dead standstill. If there are high places in your home that you do not want your cat getting into, it is best to train them not to, as kittens. Likewise they can easily learn to open cabinet doors and their curiosity may get them into trouble. If you have many breakables in the house, it is probably a good idea to remove them much like you would if you have a toddler around.
Savannahs do well in many households, including those with children. Because their antics tend to be more dog like they also do well with dogs. They like to play like dogs as well and many pet owners buy their Savannahs dog toys.
Strangely, some Savannahs actually enjoy water, unlike many other cats. They are known for playing in their water dishes and will occasionally shower with their owners.