The beautiful Savannah cat is a majestic, remarkable creature and is actually a hybrid breed of cat. The Savannah cat is a mix between the wild serval and a domestic feline. It is marked with the black spots of a serval as well as the large pointed ears, a standout feature of the African serval. A serval is a large-eared wild African cat who roams the savannas of Africa, hence the name being appropriate for the hybrid Savannah cat.
History of the Savannah Cat
The unlikely pairing of a wild serval and a domestic feline first gained its popularity in the 1990’s when breeders had the idea of combining a serval with a domestic feline. It wasn’t until 2001 when the International Cat Association began to recognize the Savannah cat as a full registered breed of cat. Finally, in 2012, the association began to accept the Savannah cat as a champion breed.
The history of the Savannah cat began in 1986 when a serval breeder crossed a male serval with a domestic Siamese cat. Ten years later in 1996, Patrick Kelley and Joyce Sroufe petitioned The International Cat Association to accept the breed as a registered cat and presented the association with a breed standard that they wrote. This original version of the breed standard is still used today to recognize the Savannah breed of cat.
Size of the Savannah Cat
The size of each Savannah cat will vary greatly and depends on the size of the parents. It also depends on how much Serval is in their bloodline. Many Savannah cats will be approximately two times larger in size than a typical domestic house cat. Savannah cats can range in size from fifteen to thirty pounds, with males being on the larger end of the spectrum. While some Savannah cats can be up to thirty pounds, others will not weigh much more than the typical domestic house cat. The marked feature of this cat that sets them apart from a domestic cat when it comes to size is their long legs and long body which stands out.
A Savannah cat is not considered fully grown and to have reached their full size capacity until three years of age. Each Savannah cat is unique and therefore their size differs. Because this is a hybrid breed, it is impossible to know how big a kitten will grow to be, but reasonable estimations can be made depending on the size of the parents.
The breed standard of the Savannah cats maintains the goal of breeding a cat with large ears like its African serval parent. A nice tempered cat that is suitable as a house cat, yet with the wild looking appearance as its Serval ancestry is the goal of the breed standard for this beautiful cat. Like its serval parent, the Savannah cat features a long body and long legs, which allow him to leap to high surfaces with ease.
Like any kitten, Savannah kittens are very playful and will need a lot of time for play and exercise. Savannah kittens should stay with their mother for at least the first twelve weeks of life to gain weight and become as healthy as possible. Staying with the mother is very important during this time, as she teaches her Savannah kittens valuable skills such as how to use the litter box.
Savannah kittens will not reach their full grown size until three years of age. It is only at this age that they are considered to be fully grown and an adult. It’s important to note that Savannah cats are not cuddly lap cats. While Savannah kittens can show affection, it won’t be that of a typical domesticated house cat. Savannah kittens are more independent in nature, just like their African Serval parent.
It would be wise to cat-proof your house or apartment when you have a Savannah kitten living with you. Savannah kittens are able to jump extremely high due to their wild roots. This can mean that Savannah kittens are able to get into a lot of trouble when you aren’t home. A Savannah kitten will need plenty of interesting toys to keep her busy and occupied. These are intelligent cats with a lot of curiosity. In addition to being able to jump high, these intelligent cats can quickly learn how to turn on sink faucets and get into cabinets in order to snoop around and see what they can find inside. It’s a good idea to remove breakable items from shelves, as a Savannah cat might decide to go on a romp and knock things over.
You will be rewarded by being greeted at the door by your Savannah kitten, as this is a highly social cat who enjoys interacting with her people. She will greet your guests happily at the door and generally these cats aren’t the type to shy away from house guests, although keep in mind that each cat has their own unique personality. Savannah kittens need social interaction and enriching toys and activities. This highly intelligent cat shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time or she will become bored and may get up to trouble around the house when you aren’t there. It’s a good idea to carefully consider if this is a type of cat you can accommodate before adopting a Savannah kitten.
Personality of the Savannah Cat
The Savannah cat doesn’t possess the personality of a quiet or sweet lap kitty. This is a totally different type of cat altogether. It is important to keep in mind the wild roots of this cat at all times. It greatly defines so many attributes of the Savannah cat. The Savannah cat personality revolves greatly around their curiosity and love of adventure and activity. Their ability to jump high and their high level of intelligence means they can mess up things around your house in no time whatsoever. It’s important to know that this cat needs daily physical and mental stimulation before adopting one.
Electrical cords can quickly become chew toys and high surfaces will become leaping grounds for these adventurous felines. Instead of curling up in your lap, a Savannah will be roaming around and perhaps stalking things in the house to exert energy. It must be emphasized that it’s important to safety-proof your home before letting a Savannah cat roam free within it.
While these are not the type of cat to curl up in your lap and cuddle, they will be likely to be at the door to give you a friendly meow when you come home for the day. Their curiosity will also lead them to say hello to friends and guests that stop in for a visit. While some cats will shy away and hide under a bed, the Savannah cat will want to be front and center, saying hello to people who stop by the house.
Health Concerns of the Savannah Cat
Because this is a hybrid cat, it may inherit health problems from either side of its bloodline. However, it is fortunate that many Savannah cats tend to be very healthy and free of any serious health concerns.
While these are generally very healthy cats and no major health concerns are noted within the breed, it is important to keep in mind that due to their African serval lineage, they may inherit the small liver size of the African serval. Due to this possibility, the medication ketamime should never be administered by a veterinarian during veterinary treatments. This is due to the fact the ketamime is metabolized through the cat’s liver. Ketamime has been documented to cause various health concerns when administered in this breed and it should be avoided at all costs. Tell your veterinarian this so they can document it within their notes. This will prevent it from happening in the first place. Some veterinarians may have never worked with this breed of cat before, or may not have experience working with many wild breeds of cats. For this reason, it’s best to inform them before a situation like this could possibly arise in the first place.
All cats must have taurine in their diet or they face illness and even death. Serval cats are prone to a shortage of taurine in their diet, so it is important for the Savannah cat to get enough taurine in their diet. Taurine is an amino acid found in many various forms of fish and meat. This is the diet that serval would normally dine on in the wild. With the Savannah cat being a domesticated type of hybrid cat, it’s important that they get enough of this in their domesticated diet. Savannah cats depend on high quality protein in their diet. High amounts of protein, such as chicken are necessary for this cat to thrive. Taurine is also added in many domestic cat foods. Savannah cats will greatly benefit from a low grain or no grain diet. Corn products and corn by-products should be avoided in cat foods. It’s also important to feed your cat a high moisture diet. Canned foods contain a higher amount of moisture than dry kibble. A cat’s diet should contain high amounts of moisture within the diet because they tend to get a lot of their moisture from eating raw meats in the wild. Canned foods will allow your Savannah cat to get more moisture in their diet than a dry kibble allows. High moisture supports the kidneys and will help to prevent kidney disease later in their life. Kidney disease is a common illness among older and geriatric felines.
Care Requirements of the Savannah Cat
Savannah cats have a few care requirements not typical of a regular domestic feline. With their wild roots, a Savannah cat will benefit from an outdoor enclosure. If you let a Savannah cat outside, she may well roam far beyond your garden or yard and get up to trouble. This cat is capable of hurting other animals in the neighborhood, so it’s important not to allow this cat to roam freely as you might allow a domestic feline.
Outdoor enclosures allow the Savannah cat to get much-needed outdoor time in the environment without getting hurt or hurting others. It also keeps them in your area and won’t allow them to get distracted and roam far from home. With their ability to jump high, they can easily jump up in a tree and refuse to come down for a while. Unfortunately, Savannah cats who are allowed to go outside may become stolen by people who want a beautiful cat such as this. It puts them at great risk, unfortunately, because they are highly sought after and exotic. If you don’t want to build an outdoor enclosure, it is best to keep them as indoor cats where you know they will be kept safe. Allowing any cat outside, including the serval, puts them at risk of being injured by other animals and dogs, or acquiring an illness from other animals in the area.
To maintain their beautiful coats, they aren’t high maintenance like some domestic felines are, but they do benefit from a good brushing at least two to three times a week. This will help to remove dead skin, distribute oils throughout their beautiful coats, and remove dead hair. It is also something they enjoy and they may be likely to welcome your grooming sessions with purrs. It’s also important to help them maintain their dental hygiene by brushing their teeth with a special cat tooth brush that has a long handle. You can also purchase tooth paste suitable for cat, but never use human toothpaste, as it has ingredients such as xylitol that is highly poisonous to both dogs and cats. It’s best to try to brush their teeth every day, but once or twice a week will suffice. It is recommended to start brushing their teeth while they are young to help them become used to it, as it is not a feeling that many cats like.
Savannah cats, like all cats, benefit from highly nutritious cat food with high quality ingredients. Look for real ingredients such as chicken and beef. Avoid animal by-products and grains. Many will also enjoy raw fish and poultry as a treat. They also need fresh water at all times and will appreciate a cozy place to curl up and sleep.
It’s important to check in with the laws in your area regarding keeping an animal such as a Savannah cat in your home as a pet. Not all areas will allow this. Your county clerk’s office or government office will be able to supply you with this information. Some areas will require that you register your animal so that their records are on file.
With proper care, a Savannah cat can live from twelve to twenty years. Routine veterinary appointments are necessary to help ensure the health and well-being of this beautiful feline. Your veterinarian can help to prevent any illnesses from occurring and keep a watchful eye over your Savannah cat’s overall heath. It’s important to remember that even cats who appear to be very healthy still need an annual checkup and exam at with the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can administer any needed vaccines and will look over the health of their teeth, gums, eyes, ears, and will monitor their heart rate. Every few years, it may be necessary to do complete lab work and blood work in order to get a better understanding of your Savannah cat’s health status. This will help your veterinarian to monitor their health more closely and be able to prevent any illnesses before they begin or stop them in their tracks before worsening. Healthy cats are happier cats. Your Savannah cat will live longer with close attention to her health and consistent veterinary care.
Coat Color and Grooming of the Savannah Cat
The Savannah cat features beautiful black spot markings which it inherits from its African serval parent. The black spots are set against a beige or caramel colored coat with soft velvety fur. The spots are bold like a Cheetah’s and may range in color from chocolate brown to dark black. The spots can range from circular, oval, or a more elongated shape.
There are some color variations within Savannah cats. Since this is a hybrid breed, there is no standard of coat color. Some of the variations within the Savannah cat breed include a black, brown, or black spotted tabby Savannah cat. Other variations include solid black or chocolate brown spots set against cream, sandy, white, or golden backgrounds. Each variation is exquisite and beautiful. Black silver spotted tabbies and black smoke variations are also seen in this breed. More rarely, some Savannah cats have coats that show cinnamon, color point, blue, and red. These variations come because of their short hair domestic feline ancestries. While more rare, some Savannah cats exhibit a marble pattern, which is similar to that of a longer version of a bull’s eye.
Their soft, velvety fur is short in length so it doesn’t require a lot of high maintenance. Weekly brushing is still recommended in order to maintain the coat in top condition. Many Savannah cats welcome the extra attention that brushing brings and will be likely to purr and soak up all the extra pampering. Brushing benefits every cat by removing dead fur and dead skin while spreading the oils throughout their coat. This will result in a shinier, softer coat.
It’s important to regularly trim the nails of the Savannah cat. They may not like this and veterinary assistance may be needed. If you aren’t comfortable trimming their nails yourself, it’s best to take them to a professional groomer or a veterinarian to do so. If you go past the quick of an animal’s nails, it can cause pain and bleeding and it is sometimes hard to stop a nail from bleeding. If your Savannah cat is unhappy, they may try to bite or scratch you while having their nails trimmed. Don’t hesitate to take them to a professional to have this done. It’s important to stay on top of it, as their long nails can easily destroy furnishings and scratch loved ones even when they don’t mean any harm.
It is also a good idea to regularly check the appearance of your Savannah cat’s ears to check for redness and irritation that could signal something is wrong or an ear infection is present. If you notice any redness, irritation, or your Savannah cat scratching at their ears, a veterinary visit is recommended. Every couple of weeks, you can gently wipe the outside of their ears with a dampened cotton ball. This will help remove any built up outer ear wax. However, never go inside their ear with a q-tip, as this could hurt your Savannah cat or damage their inner ear. It is very important to never use a q-tip inside your cat’s ear.
Children and Other Pets with Your Savannah Cat
Due to her long legs and athletic ability, a Savannah cat is a much better choice for a family with older children rather than young, small children in the house. This cat is not one for cuddling, so curious children who may want to pick her up, squeeze her, and cuddle with her will not be appreciated by this highly active yet independent feline. Older children are a better match for the Savannah cat. They will delight in her athletic ability and will be able to respect her boundaries in ways that young children simply are not able to.
Children must be taught to treat this feline with respect while appreciating her boundaries. Older children will love the fact that many Savannah cats can learn to walk on a leash and will enjoy this activity. They will enjoy playing with her and the Savannah cat will greatly benefit from the children’s time and attention given to her need for playtime and enrichment. They can throw toys for her to catch and keep her busily entertained, which she greatly needs. A Savannah cat is not a match for a family with small children. Children are often curious about animals in the household are are likely to pulls tails and fur, something that the Savannah cat will not appreciate. This cat doesn’t want to be cuddled — at least not on other peoples’ terms. Older children who can respect boundaries while keeping the Savannah cat entertained will be a great fit for this athletic and active feline.
Before bringing a Savannah cat into your family, it’s extremely important to consider the existing animals in your household who call your house their home. A Savannah cat won’t do well with cats who don’t share a personality similar to their own. Some cats who are meek and timid may not be safe around the Savannah cat. Cats such as the Siamese cat or Oriental short hairs may be very compatible with the Savannah cat. Cats with relaxed personalities, such as a Maine Coon, will be able to sit back and relax while the Savannah cat gets up to their own antics around the house.
Think twice before getting a Savannah cat if you have small animals that will be placed in harm’s way with the addition of a Savannah cat to the household. Animals such as birds, hamsters, and guinea pigs will not be safe with a Savannah cat in the house. The Savannah cat would likely stalk these animals, causing them fear and putting them at great risk of being injured or killed. It’s important to always keep in mind the wild roots of the Savannah cat when you have one in the household. Aquarium fish also are not safe in the presence of a Savannah cat. Even with your efforts to protect pocket pets such as mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs, a Savannah cat’s fine hunting ability will allow him or her to find ways to get around any barriers and hunt small animals. Please think twice before bringing this stealthy hunter into your home around smaller animals.
If you and your family are away for much of the day, it’s also very important to consider the Savannah cat’s need for companionship. This is not a typical house cat who is okay spending long hours alone. A Savannah cat will do much better when paired with another animal she has things in common with. Aside from Siamese cats and Oriental short hair cats, Savannah cats usually get along with dogs. It’s ideal if the Savannah cat can grow up with the dog. That way she will become used to her companion and they can gradually gain a sense of mutual respect for one another.
This beautiful hybrid cat is highly intelligent and athletic. They make an excellent companion for those willing to accept their independence and need for daily mental and physical stimulation. Sharing your life with a Savannah cat can mean lots of fun and adventure. There will never be a dull moment with this glorious feline beauty.