Savannah Cat- The Wild Side
Savannah Cat comes as a black Savannah cat and a spotted Savannah
The Savannah is a tall lean graceful cat with striking dark spots and other bold markings. There is also a solid black Savannah. It is a domestic breed which closely resembles its ancestral source, the African Serval, but is smaller in stature. It is affectionate and outgoing, with exceptionally long neck, legs, and tall ears, as well as a medium length tail, the Savannah is both unusual and beautiful. The Savannah is also an exceptionally graceful and well balanced cat. The Serval gives the Savannah its spots and large stature.
Where it all began
The first known Savannah was born April 7, 1986 when a female Siamese cat gave birth to a kitten sired by an African Serval. This F1 (first generation hybrid cross) was the first on record. This unusual female kitten had both domestic and Serval like traits.
Both the kitten and breed were named “Savannah”. Patrick Kelly heard about Savannah and decided he wanted to try to develop a new breed. He persuaded a breeder, Joyce Sroufe, to join him in his efforts. Together they wrote the original TICA Breed Standard. TICA accepted the Savannah for registration in 2001. The Savannah was accepted for championship status by TICA in 2012.
Savannah has personality galore
One of the most amazing traits of the Savannah is its remarkable personality. It is a very curious, assertive cat that seeks out adventure at every opportunity. The Savannah is a very active cat, that needs a great deal of interaction on a daily basis, either with its human family or with a companion cat.
It is also a very loyal cat who will bond strongly with its human family. Not a lap cat, but will show affection on its own terms, often by greeting family members at the door, following them around the house and giving frequent headbutts. Savannahs love to play in water and can easily be trained to walk on a leash with a harness. Most love to play games such as fetch.
The Savannah cat is a unique and amazing feline. Most people who own or have met Savannahs will say that they have never met a cat like them and become avid fans. The Savannah is not for everyone, but for those who seek a unique pet and lifelong companion, the Savannah fits the bill.
The Savannah has many traits that make it stand out. Perhaps the most obvious are the large ears that are set right on top of its head. Another unique trait of the Savannah is it’s hooded eyes that are flat across the top. This gives it an exotic look unlike any other breed. The breed comes in various colors that include spots and stripes as well as a solid black Savannah.
The body on the Savannah is very long and the legs are quite long as well, creating a false image of a very large or heavy cat, but in reality, most Savannahs are just the size of a large domestic cat, and weigh less than another cat of similar size. It also has a very long neck and a short, thick tail, adding to its distinctiveness. The first generation of the cross breeding, (50% African Serval), is the largest. Following generations are smaller.
|LIFE SPAN||12-20 years|
|COLORS||The coat of a Savannah should have a spotted pattern, the only pattern accepted by the TICA breed standard. Non-standard patterns & colors include rosetted, marble, snow color (point), blue color, cinnamon color, chocolate color, lilac (lavender) and other diluted colors.|
|OTHER TRAITS||easy to train easy to groom friendly toward humans friendly toward other pets highly territorial high prey drive strong loyalty tendencies|
Did you know…
- Savannah cats love water. They dare to go where few felines venture!
The Black Savannah is the ultimate black cat with a distinctive look. Sleek body, and a deep black and shiny coat. This trait is also in the wild serval. The black Savannah cat has a mystique all of its own.
Brigitte Cowell Moyne has been keeping Savannahs for many years and was a breeder for several years. It has become a major part of her life and she would have it no other way.
“I fell in love with the breed back in 2001. There was something about the look that drew me in, and the personality of the Serval that I read about. We went to a cat show to look for an Abyssinian breeder when I saw a Bengal and was drawn to that. And learned it was a high energy interactive breed (so similar to the Aby in that respect).
We went home and looked online and I saw that some Bengal breeders were starting to breed this new breed the Savannah. And then that was it. I think that any generation past F1 is fine for an inexperienced cat owner (I regard the F1 as distinct from the entire rest of the breed in intensity and challenges). you just need to want and be prepared for a high energy interactive cat.
They aren’t a cat for those that want a pretty ornament but work long hours and just come home to sleep. They are a clever cat so learn fast, as long as you find a treat they are intensely interested in they clicker train well.”
She currently has the following:
- Missy, F1, 16 years old
- Zari, F5, will be 10 years old next month,
- Téo, Peterbald, 4 years old
- Kammie, F2, 3 years old
- Themba, F2, 1 year old next month
Also pictured here is Nina and Baz, who are no longer with us.
Taser is all LOVE!
This wild man belongs to Will Powers. “His name is Fenrir Antares Powers. He’s an F2 Savannah cat and massive, way bigger than average for a Savannah. He’s 35 lb. And he’s still growing. Savannah cats are not for anything less than expert cat owners. They are extremely active and extremely energetic. They need a lot of play time and focus from you.” Including Fenrir, he has six Savannahs.
“People are generally thrilled to have a giant cat wander into their exam room when they’re there for something unpleasant. It makes their day.”
F Generations Explained
I asked Brigitte to explain what F generations is. Starting with F1 which is the first generation cross between a domestic cat and a serval
“F stands for “filial” in Savannahs, so not the general notation used in genetics. Hence the F1 is the first generation derived from that initial cross between a Serval and a domestic cat. The F2 is the second generation and the progeny of the F1 female and a domestic cat, the Serval is the grandfather of an F2.
What makes a purebred
An F3 is the 3rd generation and Serval is the great-grandfather and so on. Following Haldane’s Rule, the males of the early generations are sterile. We have never had a documented male of a generation earlier than F4 (so four generations away from the Serval) prove to be fertile. So those males (F1 to F3) are exclusively pets.”
She went on to explain: “There are an infinite number of generations possible. There is no real limit, but you don’t often see anything further than F8 at this stage. Generally breeders are going back to the Serval with the SBT Savannahs produced and breeding down again to further develop the look of our breed. Our breed, strictly speaking, is the SBT Savannahs. SBT means Stud Book Traditional, and is the level of breeding considered “purebred” in the TICA (the International Cat Association) cat world.
SBT is when the entire three generation pedigree (so parents, grandparents and great grandparents) is the same breed. Thus in Savannahs, the earliest one can achieve that level is F4. F1s to F3s are registered in TICA’s Foundation Registry and are the foundation of the breed. It is those in the Stud Book Registry that are considered purebred and the true breed by TICA.”
Training the spotted or black Savannah
This breed is highly intelligent and therefore easy to train. They are known to take to leash training easily and quickly. Some guardians even put them on a leash to allow them to climb a tree and experience the outdoors. Allowing them to free roam is not a good idea. When a neighbor sees one of these in their back yard they tend to freak out and call the authorities. It often does not end well. Savannahs are still pretty expensive, which is motivation for thieves. A leash or catio is the answer. They can also learn tricks.
Marilyn Krieger is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, with extensive experience specializing in Savannahs. “Savannah Cats, are very easy to train, but like with all breeds, only force-free methods, such as clicker training should be used. Although all breeds of cats can be trained, Savannah Cats, being ultra-intelligent respond a little quicker than some of the other breeds. Clicker training is a successful training method that reinforces behaviors that are desired.”
The key is finding what gets the spotted or the black Savannah cat s attention. “In order to train any animal, it’s important to know what kind of treat rocks their socks. A treat doesn’t have to be a food treat, it does have to be something that the cat loves. Some cats love food, others love being brushed. Both are examples of treats,” Marilyn explained.
They are a very active breed, high energy, how does this affect training? I asked her.
“At first it might. Some cats that are high energy are best trained in multiple short sessions.”
According to Marilyn the breed has no problem areas when it comes training. Their “wild” genes do not cause Litter box avoidance and the cat is no different than other breeds when it comes to litter boxes. Servals and F1s may spray in the house.
Savannah Cat Health
There are no health issues unique to this breed.
The African Serval
The African Serval is bred in captivity and sold a pets in just a few states in America. Servals are legal to own in only a very few states in America. They can be unpredictable, high strung and nippy, and likely to spray in the house. They love to run and jump which can cause havoc in a house with breakables.
Is my cat part Savannah or Bengal?
I often see this question on social media. Just because the cat you got from a shelter or a friend has spots or stripes does not mean it is an exotic breed or “part” exotic. The color pattern alone does not constitute the breed. Domestic breeds with a wild cat in their lineage are expensive, and owners are unlikely to allow their cat to roam outside where it can breed with other cats. So while it may be possible, it is highly unlikely. The Savannah breed also includes a solid black Savannah cat.
Savannah Cat– Conclusion
The Savannah will give you a cat with the look of a wild animal. A registered pure bred Savannah must be an F4 or greater and has the lesser defined physical traits of the Serval. The earlier generations have more Serval characteristics of physical traits and the behavior challenges of a Serval. F1s are the most expensive, typically over 10 grand. Some breeders are back breeding to have an even larger percentage of Serval in the mix than the F1: 60 to 70% Serval. We will get into that another time.