The Savannah Cat is a popular breed of house pet and show feline. The cats are a hybrid of the Serval, an African wild cat, and the Siamese, a domestic cat. First bred in the 1980’s, the cats have proven to be a beloved hybrid pet.
It took some time for the cats to achieve recognition as a breed. However, the Savannah Cat has become popular for its exotic appearance and its tameness as a house pet. Savannah cats are large, yet sleek.
The original generations bear a striking resemblance to their African ancestor. The cats are intelligent and social. In fact, the Savannah Cat is charming and makes a wonderful family pet.
Here are 20 fun facts you didn’t know about Savannah Cats.
1. The Serval and the Siamese
Savannah Cats are the result of cross breeding a domestic Siamese cat with an African wild cat. The Siamese cat has been bred since the nineteenth century. With distinctive eyes and bodies, the Siamese cat has become a popular breed of domestic cat. Intelligent and playful, the Siamese often becomes an important part of its adoptive human family.
The Serval is a native of Africa found mostly in the sub-Saharan region of the continent. The Serval resembles a small cheetah with a long, sleek body, golden goat and black spot and stripe markings.
The Serval is medium sized standing between 21 and 25 inches at the shoulder. Slender yet strong, the Serval can weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. Its legs are long, its head is small, and it has long pointed ears. The short tail on the Serval has a black marking at the tip. Servals can be both nocturnal and diurnal depending on what type of prey it is hunting.
2. More facts about Servals
Serval is Portuguese for “wolf-deer”. They are also called “bush cats” and “Giraffe cats”. The Serval looks like a small cheetah. Like the cheetah, Servals run fast. Servals are referred to as the “Savannah Stalker” because of their good hunting skills.
They catch their prey 50 percent of the time. The Serval’s ears are longer in proportion to their body than any other cat. The Serval’s legs are the longest of cats in proportion to their body. A Serval’s markings are unique to the individual Serval.
Like a zebra’s stripes, it is believed that no two Serval’s markings are exactly alike. Depictions of Servals are found in ancient Egyptian art where they are often presented as gifts. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the cats for their grace and power.
3. They were first bred with domestic cats in 1986
The first hybrid Savannah Cat was bred in 1986 between a Serval male and a domestic female cat. The first Savannah Cat was bred by Judee Frank for cat owner Suzi Woods. The sire was a Several cat and the mother was a Siamese.
The first cat from the litter was named Savannah. One of the original litter members of the Savannah Cat caught the attention of a man named Patrick Kelly who purchased one of the new hybrid kittens.
Kelly advocated for this beautiful breed to become accepted by The International Cat Association or TICA. Other early breeders and owners of the Savannah Cat also advocated for the breed’s success at being registered.
The first Savannah kittens were larger than the average kitten. The kittens inherited their father’s size, impressive coat pattern and exotic features. They inherited their mother’s tameness.
Breeding a domestic cat with a wild cat is never an easy task. Because of the nature of breeding these hybrids, they can be expensive to purchase. A first generation Savannah Cat can cost more than $20,000.
Second and Third generation Savannah’s will be less expensive, possibly between $6,000 and $12,000, but sometimes $2,000. Fourth generation Savannah Cats can still cost $1,000 or more.
4. Distinctive characteristics
The Savannah is larger than most cat breeds. it is also leaner and taller than many types of cats. Its head is small compared to its body. It has large ears. It’s legs are long in proportion to its body.
In order to be recognized by TICA, the cat must have a spotted pattern and dominant coloring. Savannah cats maintain the exotic features and intelligence of its African Serval relatives and the tameness and friendliness of its domestic relatives.
While golden with black spot markings is the most valuable color in a Savannah Cat, the hybrid can come with several different shades and patterns. Black, brown, silver and smoked are all colors that are accepted by TICA.
Non standard colors include the recessive colors of cinnamon and chocolate. Fawn (a dilution of cinnamon), blue (a dilution of black), and lilac (a dilution of chocolate) are also recessive colors.
Black spots and stripes are the most common and distinctive markings on the Savannah Cat and are certainly inherited from its African ancestor.
While the Savannah Cat is not the largest breed, it is certainly one of the largest. The Maine Coon is actually bigger and more solid, but the Savannah is often longer and taller. Savannah’s are deceptively heavy because their bodies appear sleek and trim.
The cats can range in weight from 12 to 25 pounds. The cats are tall and can stretch to a height of anywhere from 10 to 17 inches at shoulder height. The tallest Savannah Cat is a cat named Magic that measured 17.1 inch in shoulder height. Savannah’s are certainly one of the larger cat breeds.
The Savannah Cat is known for its charming temperament. They are intelligent cats that like to hunt prey and are filled with high energy. Because of this and some of their other traits, it’s important to train the Savannah early on so it won’t get into too much trouble.
The Savannah is also known for its domestic side. The cats are highly sociable and are loyal to their owners. With proper training as a kitten the Savannah will blend in well with a family.
They are great with other cats, dogs and people. When used to visitors, the Savannah will happily greet guests and engage in play with them. In the care of a loving family, the Savannah will become a part of the family and will expect inclusion and attention.
8. Doglike characteristic
It quickly became apparent that the Savannah Cat had some dog-like qualities. This led to increased popularity of the breed. The Savannah Cat becomes attached to its owner and will follow him or her around like a dog would.
Some Savannah Cats have even been trained to walk on a leash. The Savannah cats are also excellent swimmers. Overall, the Savannah Cat is a great pet. Breeding the Savannah Cat became popular in the late 1990’s.
The International Cat Association accepted the breed in 2001. Less than a decade later, the Savannah Cat was accepted as a championship breed by TICA.
9. They are social
Savannah Cats are social. When trained as kittens to associate with people, the cats will become social pets. They love to play with people. They even play fetch if trained at a young age.
Retrieving a thrown toy becomes a fun game for Savannah Cats to enjoy with their owner and with guests. These cats are fun and can create many pleasurable moments of play.
The Savannah Cats will also greet family and visitors by fluffing the base of their tail. This is a different gesture than cats that fluff their tails out of fear. The Savannah Cat will also often wag its tale as a greeting.
10. They like water
Unlike most cat breeds, the Savannah Cat has no fear of water. In fact, the Savannah loves water. There’s no problem giving this breed a bath. They will swim and splash in water without hesitation.
This makes it easy to bathe the Savannah but also offers an activity for these energetic pets. Of course, the Savannah Cat likes to get into mischief. Some owners find it annoying when their pet cat bats and plays with its water bowl. They will soon empty the bowl of its contents leaving a slippery mess behind.
11. They like to jump
Much like its African relative, the Savannah is an excellent hunter. This means it has a jumping ability that is far more evident than in other cat breeds. The Savannah can easily leap from a standing position.
Savannahs have been known to jump between 8 and 11 feet high. This could lead to problems if owners have any trepidation about their pet leaping on top of counters and cupboards. The intelligent Savannah can also learn to master opening doors and cabinets. These wily creatures are known to get into trouble, so Savannah proofing a home may be necessary.
12. They are vocal
Many cat breeds are vocal. The Siamese cat is particularly known for its interactive vocal ability. The vocal sounds made by the Savannah are distinctive and as exotic as these hybrids.
The Savannah Cat has distinctive voices due to their breeding. They can chirp like the wild Serval Cat and meow like the domestic cat. Sometimes the Savannah Cat will combine the two sounds for an interesting combination of vocal sounds.
When the Savannah Cat makes a hissing sound, it is different than that of other cat breeds. The Savannah Cat’s hissing sounds like a snake. The distinctive sound may frighten humans, but it is simply similar to the sound of the wild Serval Cat.
13. Changes in the breed
First generation Savannah cats are far closer to their Serval relatives than second, third or fourth generation Savannahs. Earlier generations are admired for their exotic appearance, coloring and markings.
First generations are the most sought after Savannahs and also the most expensive. As the animals are bred further away from their Serval ancestors, they lose some of the distinctive features of the hybrid.
However, the Savannah is a relatively newly bred hybrid, so even newer generations have not lost much of their unique qualities. Interestingly, the Savannah Cat can be a good study on nature versus nurture. Each generation shows how close the breeds are to the African wild cat and the domestic cat.
14. Health concerns
Not many health concerns are associated directly with the Savannah Cat. Any animal will have specific health concerns related to their breed. Pure breeds are inbred and tend to be prone to serious health issues at an early age.
The Savannah Cat tends to have a small liver which is inherited from its Serval ancestors. This hasn’t proven to be of much concern in the hybrid’s health.
Hypertropic Cardiomyopathy is a common concern in pure bred cats and is found in some breeds that are crosses of domestic and wild cats. Although a concern for the Savannah Cat, it doesn’t seem to be more prone to the heart condition anymore than other cross-breeds.
The United States Department of Agriculture governs the ownership laws of hybrid pets. The laws vary from State to State. Typically, the restrictions on ownership of the Savannah Cat become more lenient as further generations are bred.
Hawaii and Alabama are two States that will not allow ownership of the Savannah. Some countries with strict laws, like Australia, have banned importation of the Savannah Cat.
The concern with any wild hybrid cat is that it retains its hunting instincts that could threaten protected species. Any cat, especially a hybrid species, the concern is that they should never be let into the feral population. Responsible pet owners will keep their pets from becoming or adding to the problem of strays by responsible breeding, spaying or neutering.
The Savannah Cat can subsist on a normal cat diet and lead a healthy life. Bottle feeding as a kitten is often recommended with any domestic cat crossbred with a wild cat. Savanna Cats enjoy raw meat added to their diet, but its not necessary.
As long as the diet is balanced, the cats should do well. As with any pet, the owner should consult with their veterinarian and/or breeder to assure that their Savannah kitten and young cat are receiving the nutrients they need to stay strong, grow steadily and maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood.
As with any pet, Savannahs should always have fresh water available even if the cat decides to play with the water more than it drinks it.
17. Life Span
A healthy Savannah Cat can have a long and happy life. The average life span of the cats is between 10 and 12 years. Many Savannahs have been known to live for 20 years. With a good diet, proper care and a healthy environment, the Savannah Cat will live a long and happy life as an important part of the family.
Magic is the name of a Savannah Cat adopted into a family that is also the recorded tallest of any domestic cat in the world. She was named the tallest domestic cat by the Guinness World Book of Records. She stands 17.1 inches tall at her shoulders.
Magic may win the record for her length as well. Magic is a first generation Savannah and carries all of the great qualities of both her wild cat sire and her domestic cat mother.
Titan is another first generation Savannah Cat that is popular. Titan is a first generation Savannah that holds very many traits of its Serval heredity. Titan is tall and large with perfect Serval coloring.
Titan has the exotic features and qualities of the Serval. Titan is also a great family pet. He fits in perfectly with the families children. The beloved cat even has a blog and appears on YouTube.
20. Extra things to know
If you decide to include a Savannah Cat, there are some things to be aware of. The cats are intelligent and have physical abilities, like high jumping, that some cats don’t have. They need to be trained and their antics should be tolerated.
The cats are one of the most social breed of cats. They have high energy levels and have the need to be included in family activities. These characteristics are not always found in cats, so early socialization is important with the Savannah Cat. This breed tends to get along well with children and other cats and dogs, so they make a great family pet.
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