What is a Savannah Cat?
Exotic beauty in a wonderful domestic pet – that’s the Savannah Cat!
Savannah Cats are hybrid cats, with the first generation (F1) derived from breeding a domestic cat with an African Serval. Savannahs are a fairly new breed that has been recognized by TICA (The International Cat Association) since 2001 and the CCA (Canadian Cat Association) even more recently.
Savannah Cats (especially early generations) are somewhat rare as they are very difficult to breed. This is due to many reasons, including the size difference between the males and females, which are either pairings of a Serval male and a regular-sized domestic female, or a fertile F6 or F7 male and a large F1 or F2 female. The African Serval used to produce the first generation (F1) Savannah is often very picky, and may turn away many different prospective “wives” before accepting one as their mate.
Africa Servals and domestic cats also have a 7-10 day difference in gestation, thus resulting in many early generation (F1-F3) kittens being born premature. These kittens may need to be incubated or bottle-fed, requiring round the clock care and many sleepless nights. F1, F2, and F3 females tend to have smaller litters and generally have fewer heat cycles per year causing the rarity of kittens to increase even further. It is not uncommon to see a single F1 or F2 kitten born in a litter and many only have a single litter of kittens per year.
Male Savannah Cats are also only reliably fertile after the fifth generation (F5), and even then fertility is not always guaranteed. Male Savannahs often need a specific temperament to be good breeding studs as early generation Savannah females can be very picky of their mates!
Picture of 16 week old African Serval Kitten owened by Hilltop Pride.
Temperament and Suitability
Savannah Cats can surprise many people who have specific ideas about what a cat is like! African Servals are naturally outgoing and sociable exotic cats. Not surprisingly, Savannahs are far more social than typical domestic cats, and have been compared to dogs when it comes to their loyalty. It’s possible to train a Savannah Cat to walk on a leash, or even play fetch! Many Savannahs enjoy shoulder rides and show their affection by grooming their loved one’s hair. Savannahs are also excellent leapers and will be found on every cupboard, shelve or door frame they can reach. Many enjoy playing in water and may even wander into the shower if the door’s not closed!
Being fairly active and very intelligent, Savannah Cats need a great deal of stimulation, and are not a good breed for people or families who travel often or are expecting a laid back pet. Savannahs want to be in the action all the time! A bored Savannah is a destructive Savannah, much like a bored dog when left alone at home for too long.
As with any pet, Savannah Cats should be well-socialized as kittens and while growing up. Thanks to their African Serval ancestry, Savannahs are not generally known for the temperament issues associated with other foundation cats from a more shy, or aggressive, exotic cat hybrid. Savannahs are naturally outgoing, energetic, and friendly at all generations.
When introduced properly into a new household, Savannahs do wonderfully with other pets and children. They generally enjoy the company of many breeds of dogs as anyone is considered a new playmate to a Savannah. Caution should be taken to never leave a new kitten unattended with another pet or small child until they have been slowly introduced to ensure both sides know their play boundaries.
Savannah Cats should not be allowed to roam freely outside. Many Savannahs have inherited the large roaming instincts of their Serval ancestry and cannot find their way back home. Also, due to their inquisitive nature, Savannahs are good at getting themselves into trouble and could even be severely hurt, or pick up fleas, parasites, or deadly diseases (such as rabies, FIV, or FeLV) from feral animals. Savannahs can safely experience the outdoors being leashed with a cat harness or through outdoor cat enclosures.