Savannah Cats: A Hybrid Domestic Cat
If you've already heard of a Bengal cat, a Chausie, or a Toyger, then let me introduce you to the Savannah Cat. This exotic cat breed has been accepted by the International Cat Association (TICA), as of 2002, and is a popular alternative to "ordinary" domesticated cats.
Savannah Cats are created by breeding a Serval (also known as an African Wild Cat) with a domestic cat with striking features, usually an Abyssinian. The end result is a larger-than-usual pet cat that looks wild, but is a wonderful family pet.
Features of this breed include the following:
- large, erect ears
- a long, slender torso, which belies its larger 20-30 pound size
- a short tail with black tip and rings
- a "Serval," wild-looking coat (acceptable colors include Brown Spotted Tabby, Silver Spotted Tabby, Black and Black Smoke)
- green eyes
- a long neck and elongated head
- so-called "tear streaks" of black from the corner of its eyes down to the sides of its nose
What Makes This Breed Unique?
Like other hybrid domestic cats, the Savannah cat is described as having dog-like characteristics. They enjoy playing fetch and walking on a leash. Savannah cats are exceedingly loyal, as well. Surprisingly, these cats love water... you don't have to convince them to take a bath. Some Savannahs will even go swimming.
The intelligent breed is strong, agile and energetic. In fact, its the largest domesticated cat breed, yet one of the easiest exotic hybrid breeds to care for. Because they are so playful, many believe they are excellent family pets, getting along with children and other pets.
Smart, loyal and stunningly beautiful - no wonder so many people are interested in adopting a Savannah Cat!
Of the hybrid cats recognized by TICA, the Savannah cat is the newest and most rare breed. In part, this is due to the difficulties in breeding a domestic cat with an African Serval. There are only a few breeders that have successfully produced litters of the exotic domestic cat. Perhaps not surprisingly, you'll have to invest if you wish to include a Savannah in your family.
Probably the first question in your mind pertains to the cost. Yes, Savannah Cats are expensive, ranging in price from $1,000-$22,000, depending on the quality, the sex of the animal and the number of generations away from the African Serval ancestor.
There ARE Savannah Cat rescue websites (see below), from which you may find a lovely family pet at a much lower price.
Number of Generations
Savannah Cats have an "F" number saying how many generations away they are from their African Serval ancestor. For example:
- F1 (approx. 50% Serval)
- F2 (approx. 30% Serval)
- F3 (approx. 15% Serval), etc., to F7 or more
The closer in generations to the Serval, the larger the Savannah Cat. F1 and F2 males may be more than double the size of other domesticated cats. Their weight could reach up to 30 pounds. It will take up to three years for a Savannah kitten to grow to full size.
Diet and Veterinary Care
Just like any other house cat, your Savannah cat will enjoy high-quality cat food. There are no special diet considerations. Be sure to regularly vaccinate, as you would your other pets. Savannah cats can be litter box trained as well. And, they love to play, so be sure to consider some stimulating pet toys.
Although it may be illegal to own a wild Serval, in most areas there are no legal restrictions against owning a Savannah Cat. It is considered to be a hybrid domestic cat. According to one breeder:
While strongly resembling the African Serval, Savannahs are bred to demonstrate domestic temperament and are classified as domestic cats by both the USDA and The International Cat Association.
Be sure to check your local regulations, however. Many areas limit the number of pets that can be kept legally, as well.
Could a Savannah Cat be Right for You?
As with any pet, be sure to consider the investment of time and money that will be required for your Savannah Cat. These animals can live up to 20 years and require love and attention, food and water, regular exercise and veterinary care.
Like other hybrid cat breeds, the intelligence and high energy level of a Savannah may be challenging... as well as rewarding! Take into account your living space and arrangements, including children and other pets. Many breeders warn against letting Savannahs outdoors if not on a leash.
Think about whether you want to purchase from a breeder, or perhaps look into foster care or adoption through a Savannah Cat rescue organization. NOTE: Because the breed is extremely popular, yet difficult to breed, most Savannah Cat breeders will carefully screen prospective buyers to make sure that their kittens go to appropriate, qualified homes.
Should you have the good fortune of matching up with a Savannah Cat, count yourself lucky. Its sure to be a unique and rewarding experience!