A hybrid of a domestic feline and a medium-size African wild cat, the Savannah is a challenging and rewarding companion.
The Savannah was developed after a domestic cat crossed with a serval — a medium-size African wild cat — gave birth to a kitten on April 7, 1986. The kitten was named Savannah. After hearing about her, breeders Patrick Kelly and Joyce Sroufe joined forces to create a new breed.
Among the breeds that contributed to the Savannah’s development were spotted cat breeds such as Bengals and Egyptian Maus; Oriental Shorthairs; and some average Joe domestic shorthairs. Outcrossing is no longer permitted now that the breed is established.
The International Cat Association (TICA) began registering Savannahs in 2001. The organization granted the breed full recognition — known as championship status — in 2012.
If you want to live with a sweet, quiet lap cat, don’t get a Savannah. This is an active, adventurous feline who enjoys life in the fast lane. Her athletic body allows her to jump to very high places, and her questing spirit leads her to take well to walks on leash, seek out water to play in, and thoroughly explore her surroundings. This is a confident, alert, curious, and friendly cat.
While some cats are retiring sorts, most Savannahs are gracious hosts who will greet your guests with aplomb, as well as close companions who will want to spend time interacting with you. Be sure you have a well-developed sense of humor if you live with one of these cats; they are not above playing jokes on you. It takes a highly intelligent person to outwit a Savannah. You may need to switch faucet styles to prevent them from turning on their own private waterworks, or attach childproof locks to keep them out of cabinets.
Don’t forget to protect breakables. Put them away where the Savannah can’t knock them over as she makes one of her famous leaps, and ensure electrical cords are protected from gnawing kittens. Provide a Savannah with toys that will stand up to rough play and interactive games that will challenge her mind.
To live happily with a Savannah, plan to spend plenty of time interacting with her. Be sure she has interesting toys to occupy her when you’re not around. Reward her when she does things you like, and redirect her energy and interests when she does things you don’t like. Protect special belongings by putting them out of reach. If all of this sounds like too much work, choose a different cat.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. The Savannah is generally healthy, however, and does not have any known genetic problems. Cosmetic flaws may keep some Savannahs out of the show ring, but they don’t affect his health or his ability to be a great companion.
Brush a Savannah’s short to medium-length coat once or twice a week to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing.
It’s a good idea to provide a Savannah with a large outdoor enclosure or to keep her as an indoor-only cat to prevent diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors (such as being hit by a car). Savannahs who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have a unique and beautiful cat without paying for it.
Be aware some cities or states have laws against keeping hybrid or exotic animals. While the cats registered with TICA are considered fully domestic, a first- or second-generation Savannah (meaning one who has a serval as a parent or grandparent) may face restrictions. Check the laws in your area before purchasing any Savannah that could fall under laws governing hybrids. Check the Hybrid Law for more information.
Coat Color And Grooming
Savannahs come in several different colors and patterns: black, brown, or black spotted tabby; black silver spotted tabby; and black smoke. Most have solid black or dark brown spots on golden, cream, sandy, or white backgrounds. They stand out for their bold, solid markings, which can be round, oval, or elongated. Some Savannahs have what’s called a marble pattern, in which the spots resemble an elongated bull’s-eye. Because domestic shorthairs figured in their ancestry, some Savannahs come in colors and patterns that aren’t described in the breed standard, including chocolate, cinnamon, blue, red, and colorpoint. Savannahs that are non-standard colors can be registered but not shown.
The Savannah’s triangular head is supported by a long neck and topped by large, wide ears. The medium-size eyes can be any color. Nose leather ranges from pink to black, but black Savannahs must have solid black nose leather. A Savannah has a medium-length tail.
If she were an athlete, the tall and lean Savannah would be heavily recruited by all the best basketball teams. Her unusual height comes from her long-legged serval ancestor.
It takes a Savannah approximately three years to reach adult size. A kitten who looks average in size may rocket up in height after she’s 3 months old. She usually achieves his height in the first year and then her body fills out over the next couple of years. Interesting fact: the back legs are slightly longer than the front legs.
Children And Other Pets
The active and social Savannah is a good choice for families with older children and cat-friendly dogs. She likes to play, learns tricks easily, is often willing to walk on leash, and appreciates the attention she receives from children who treat her politely and with respect.
If you are away during the day, it’s probably a good idea to provide your Savannah with a companion: Another Savannah, another cat breed, or even a dog. Most Savannahs get along well with dogs, especially if they were raised with them. Otherwise, a period of adjustment may be necessary for both Savannah and dog. Introduce them gradually, and ensure they are both always under control until you are sure that they have come to an amicable understanding.
With other cats, Savannahs do best with breeds who either have a similar personality and activity level — such as Abyssinians, Siamese, or Oriental Shorthairs — or more laidback cats such as Maine Coons, Ragdolls, or domestic shorthairs who will just yawn good-naturedly as they watch the Savannah swing on the chandelier.
Some pets aren’t safe in the presence of this stealthy cat. Think twice about getting a Savannah if you have pet birds; pocket pets such as hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, or rats; or an aquarium full of fish. The Savannah is a very fine hunter and can probably get past any safeguards that you attempt to put up.
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