The Savannah is a kitty that is perfect for people who have an attraction for living creatures of the wild. It is an exotic feline with the charm and temperament of a dog. The Savannah is a sociable cat, capable of befriending a dog and other four-legged residents in a modern home. This kitty is a great choice for families with children, as its high energy levels can equate to endless hours of fun. But take note; the Savannah is never for the newbie cat parent. This is a cat that has its origins from a true solitary and carnivorous wild cat of Africa. It also has a confident personality plus intelligence that can test one’s patience. It can be a rambunctious kitty, but one that will never fail to warm your heart with its antics. Such is the Savannah. Let’s learn more about this cat so you’ll have an idea if it’s the cat you’ve been waiting for all along.
History of the Savannah Cat
Unlike the other breeds in the cat kingdom, the Savannah is a “new” creation. We have to emphasize the fact that the Savannah is the product of a hybridization process that occurred sometime in the mid-1980s. What is worth noting is that the very first Savannah kitten was “accidental”. What this means is that the first F1 Savannah was the result of an unplanned pairing.
To understand the origins of the Savannah, let us try to understand one of its parents first.
The Savannah’s father is a very unusual cat. It is a Serval, a wild cat found in Africa. It has large ears, but a small head. Its coat can have a golden-yellow hue, although it can also be buff. The coat pattern is a combination of black spots and stripes. The stripes are often found on the Serval’s neck, back, and upper legs.
The Serval is a large cat. It can grow up to 24 inches tall and weigh up to 40 lbs. Its principal physical feature is its long and slender legs. These are extra-long compared to other cats.
Servals are solitary felines. They do not thrive on social interaction. However, this does not prevent them from establishing homes that overlap with each other. The mark these “feline territories” with their saliva and feces. They prefer living in areas with extensive cover as well as access to bodies of water. Examples of these include the savannahs and wetlands of Africa.
The Serval cat is a true carnivore, feeding on small rodents, reptiles, insects, birds, and frogs. They have a remarkable sense of hearing, allowing them to zero-in on their prey. What is amazing about these cats is that they can leap into the air as high as 6 feet, 7 inches to catch their prey.
The other parent of the very first Savannah cat was a Siamese. One of the world’s most popular breeds, the Siamese cat is an elegant kitty. It has almond-shaped eyes, made lovely by its deep blue hue. Its triangular head and elongated yet muscular body are all traits that everyone now knows about the breed. Its most distinct feature is its colorpoint coat pattern. This is what separates it from the Oriental Shorthair, a kitty that looks a lot like the Siamese except for the latter’s colorpoint.
Siamese cats are very affectionate kitties. They are also very intelligent and can be amiable with other pets in the household. Siamese kitties love to play as they tend to be sociable with kids. They may be very vocal, however. But their meows are often low-pitched and loud. Some say a Siamese’s vocalizations are like the cries of a neonate or a very young baby.
These cats have a very extroverted personality. They crave for attention and will want their owners to give them the kind of attention that they expect. They are very active and playful. Many owners of Siamese cats say these felines have traits that are more dog-like than those of cats. As such, these felines are also susceptible to bouts of separation anxiety.
In addition to the Siamese, other feline breeds used in the creation of the Savannah included an Egyptian Mau, a Bengal cat, and an Oriental Shorthair. Savannah cat breeders used these feline breeds to achieve the kind of temperament and characteristics that they wanted from the cat as a new breed. However, for the TICA to consider the Savannah as a breed, it should not have a Bengal cat as one of its parents.
As such, the very first Savannah was the product of the mating between a 30-lb male Serval named Ernie and an 8-lb female Siamese. Judee Frank owned the female Siamese sealpoint while Suzi Mutaschio owned the male Serval.
One April 7, 1986 morning, Frank woke up to the sight of a kitten beside her Siamese cat. She did not know that her kitty was pregnant. She named the kitten “Miracle” and turned it over to Mutaschio. For her part, Mutaschio “christened” the kitten “Savannah”. This is after the natural African habitat of Ernie, the savannahs of Africa.
“Savannah” had black spots. It did not have the colorful and beautiful coat of its Serval father, however. It did retain the short tail, long legs, tall ears, and long body of its father, though.
Mutaschio crossbred Savannah with Albert II, a male Turkish Angora. On the 5th of April, 1989, the breeding produced three kittens. Only two of these F2 Savannah kittens lived, unfortunately. The male F2 came with solid white coat while the F2 female had a tortie coat pattern. Lori Buchko bought the F2 female from Mutaschio and used it in her own breeding program. She sold an F3 spotted male and an F2 female to Patrick Kelly.
In 1989, Kelley was able to meet Bill Sroufe. The latter’s wife is a breeder of Servals, Canadian Lynxes, Bengal cats, and Cougars. Kelley communicated with Joyce Sroufe to further improve the breeding of the Savannah cat.
In 1994, Sroufe found success in breeding her very first Savannah cat. Since it was impossible to own a Serval in California where Kelley lived, he encouraged Sroufe to continue with the Savannah breeding program. To this very day, Sroufe continues to breed F1 Savannah cats because she is also breeding Servals.
In 1996, Kelley, Sroufe, and Karen Sausman began working on the breed standards of the Savannah cat. They presented these standards to The International Cat Association, through Leslie Bowers. The organization accepted into its New Breed Program. A few years later, the Savannah cat advanced in TICA’s Preliminary New Breed program before settling into its Advanced New Breed classification.
As of 2001, TICA is already accepting registrations of the Savannah cat as a breed. It would take around 11 more years, however, before TICA gives its full recognition to the Savannah cat as a championship breed.
In 2006, Lisa Jeffery worked to have the Canadian Cat Association recognize the Savannah cat as a breed.
Unfortunately, the Savannah cat is still not recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association as a breed. Regardless, it is only a matter of time before this feline breed will gain worldwide recognition and acceptance into the CFA.
Quick Facts about the Savannah Cat
The Savannah cat may be a new breed of kitty, but it is now gaining wide acceptance as a great feline pet. It has many of the fine social traits of dogs while retaining the exotic looks of one of its parents. It is a cat that’s perfect for those who want a fierce-looking feline, but with the heart and soul of a true domestic cat. Here are some other facts you have to know about this kitty.
- The Savannah is a large cat, owing to the fact that one of its parents is the large Serval wild cat. It can grow up to 20 lbs and is a bit larger than an ordinary domestic cat.
- Savannahs have a long neck that supports a triangular head. They have almond-shaped eyes like the Siamese and the large ears of a Serval.
- It has an athletic body, a trait that it gets from both parents. However, its extra-long legs are that of a Serval.
- The Savannah has a thick tail, but only medium in length.
- The coat is short and soft. It can come in solid black color. Most fanciers prefer cats with golden, brown, white, or cream color and complete with brown or black spots or stripes.
- This kitty retains the superb jumping ability of its Serval forebears. It can leap up to heights of 6 feet and jump a distance of 8 feet. It loves to climb tall structures and leap from one platform to the next. One second, it can be on a lower platform. In a blink of an eye, the Savannah can already be on another, higher platform.
- While Savannahs are increasing in popularity, they remain illegal in New York City, Hawaii, Georgia, and Massachusetts. The reason is simple. These jurisdictions don’t like hybrid cats, especially one that involves a wild cat.
- Savannahs, owing to their exotic look and hybrid status, are very expensive. F1 and F2 Savannahs can net a price tag of up to $20,000.
- These cats are adventurous, curious, and alert. They possess dog-like characteristics, including the formation of a strong bond with its human family.
- The predatory instinct in the Savannah is strong. Hence, it should never be kept as a pet together with smaller pets like fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, and birds.
- True to its Serval roots, the Savannah loves water-related activities.
- This cat is very intelligent. It needs continuous mental stimulation if you don’t want it to turn your house upside down.
- This breed of cat is never shy of strangers. It can be your feline doorman if you wish.
- Savannahs are a sturdy breed, capable of reaching up to 20 years.
Things You Should Know
It should be obvious that the Savannah cat is not an ordinary pet. It has the temperament of a dog, the hunting instincts of a predator, and the intelligence of a cat all rolled into one. If you’re entertaining the idea of getting a Savannah for a pet, make sure you understand the following things.
The Savannah is a sturdy hybrid. Its Serval parent is one of the sturdiest cats in the wild. The only threat to their existence is the degradation of the grasslands and wetlands of Africa. Servals are also under threat from poachers because of their skin. Other than these, the Serval parent of the Savannah is a robust kind of cat.
As for the Siamese, the breed is known for having a high mortality rate. However, this is somewhat negated by the fact that they tend to lead longer lives. Cancer and digestive problems remain a major health concern for the Siamese.
Hence, when we talk about the health of the Savannah, you’d be surprised to know that it is a healthy kitty. However, there is still a chance that it can present with some of the diseases that are common among cats. This can include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Savannahs require high-quality, meat-based diets. One has to understand that the Serval gene in this cat is strong. We also know that Servals are carnivores that thrive on small prey animals. While the Siamese is a domesticated cat, it will still need animal-based proteins in its diet.
Feeding the Savannah requires a high-calorie, high-protein diet. The calorie of its food should always come from proteins and fats and not from carbs. While it is okay to feed the Savannah with a cat food that contains carbohydrates, it is best to limit this to around 20 percent of its nutrient composition.
These cats are very active. Hence, they will need all the calories they can get. At the same time, they have muscular bodies that can benefit a lot from a high protein diet.
Caring for the Savannah is similar to other feline breeds. It needs to have its vaccination shots against common kitty diseases. Unfortunately, given its hybrid status, there is no guarantee that the immunization will provide ample protection.
This is a cat with dog-like characteristics. Hence, it needs housebreaking and crate training. It can also benefit from daily exercises. Since it is large enough, you can train it to walk on a leash. This is an intelligent cat. It can learn many tricks if only you devote enough time and effort.
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It is a must that you give plenty of interactive toys to the Savannah cat. It is a smart cat that requires continuous mental stimulation. It also has a high level of energy, which it uses to explore and do acrobatic stunts inside the home. It’s for this reason that getting it a multi-tiered cat tree is crucial.
Never let the Savannah roam outside the house. Not only is this an expensive cat, most people may think of it as a wild animal. They may call animal control and have it taken away from you. Of course, the outdoors is never a safe place for a kitty as special as the Savannah.
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The Savannah cat is very easy to groom. Its short fur only requires occasional brushing to help redistribute the natural oils present on the cat’s skin. This can also help improve blood circulation, facilitating the more efficient delivery of nutrients and oxygen. On the average, twice or thrice a week brushing of the coat is enough.
Brushing the cat’s teeth is also important. Using a cat toothpaste is important as this is safer than human toothpaste. Once weekly dental care is important, although a visit to a veterinary dentist once every 3 months is ideal.
Bathing the Savannah is optional. However, keep in mind that this cat is like a Labrador Retriever that loves the water. So, giving it a bath once a month should make your cat very happy. Cleaning its ears once every 2 weeks is also important. Clipping its nails and cleaning the outer areas of its eyes are also crucial.
The Savannah cat may have the blood of a wild cat, but it is anything but wild. This is a very friendly kitty. It is affectionate, loving, and loyal to one particular person in its human family. As such, it is like some breeds of dogs that have a knack for forming very strong social and emotional bonds with their owners. This bond is so strong that the Savannah can also develop separation anxiety if it doesn’t see its beloved human.
This is a confident and curious cat. It uses its athleticism and high energy to explore its immediate surroundings. Never underestimate its athletic abilities as it can be quite a handful. The Savannah needs a lot of activities because of its intelligence and activity level. If not, you will soon discover that this exotic cat can also have its destructive streak.
The Savannah is a beautiful hybrid of a cat. It loves adventure and will seek anything to satisfy its curiosity. If you’re prepared to take on its headstrong personality, then the Savannah cat is for you.