The Savannah cat is one of the most exciting new breeds to emerge in recent years. Created from cross-breeding servals and cats, this hybrid is unique in appearance and temperament. They have a short spotted coat, and despite being tall are not the heaviest domestic feline averaging around 13lbs. A loyal, loving, intelligent temperament and seriously active athleticism make them challenging but fascinating companions.
- The DNA, genetics and history of the serval mix
- Appearance, colors and size
- Is it legal to own a serval hybrid?
- How do Savannah cats behave as pets?
- Are they dangerous or kid friendly?
- Adopting vs buying a kitten
This unusual cat became popular with breeders in the 1990s, and interest in the breed has steadily grown since then. We will show you how these cats change through the generations, and explain some of the legal issues you might encounter.
The Serval Cat
The serval is a wildcat native to sub-Saharan Africa, related to the lynx and ocelot, with similar coat patterns. They have a golden/yellow coats with dark spots and stripes, as well as a small head with large ears. It has a short tail with a black tip, and its camouflage is perfect for its grassy home.
African servals have the longest legs in proportion to their body of any cat. This means that they are able to leap great distances and heights. These long legs are a result of elongated bones in their feet. Servals are agile and able to catch birds in mid-air, as well as digging for prey. A trait they have passed on to their mixed breed progeny.
Because they are so beautiful, humans have long coveted this wildcat. Ancient Egyptians kept them as pets and gave them as gifts. It’s no surprise that people want to keep these beautiful wildcats, but they are very wild. They really are a pet only for experienced owners, and keeping them is illegal in many places. Because of the difficulties with keeping servals, it’s no wonder that breeders tried to find a solution.
A Savannah Cat Kitten Is Born!
The history of the Savannah cat is an interesting story, if not particularly long. Oddly enough, we know the exact day the first kitten was born. It was born on Monday, April 7th, 1986. That year, a breeder, Judee Frank, mated a female domestic Siamese cat with a male serval, and she soon gave birth to the first Savannah cat.
The owner of the first Savannah cat actually gave the breed its name, calling it after the African Savannah, home of the serval. The new kitten soon charmed it’s owner, and breeding began. These cats gained popularity due to their unusual looks and resemblance to their wild serval ancestors.
Fifteen years later, in 2001, the International Cat Association (TICA) recognized these cats as a separate breed. So far TICA is the only body to recognize them.
Crossing the Filial Generations
Savannah cats are almost always described with a filial number, such as F1, F2, F3, and F4 etc. The initial cross is described as an F1 with one serval parent. A filial number simply describes the generation an individual cat comes from, and how many generations away it is from the serval:
- An F1 has a serval parent and a domestic cat or Savannah parent
- An F2 has a serval grandparent, while the rest are domestic cats or Savannahs
- An F3 has a serval great grandparent, while the rest are domestic cats or Savannahs.
So, an F1 is one generation removed from the serval, the F2 two generations, and so on. These first three generations are most like servals, so they are usually larger than domestic cats and share many personality traits.
Filial numbers continue down through the generations, up to F7 and beyond, each becoming more like domestic cats and less like servals. F4 is when the breed is considered a true Savannah cat.
It’s All About The DNA
At first glance, the rule for calculating how much serval DNA a Savannah cat has looks as simple as dividing by two. An F1 should be 50% serval, an F2 25% serval, and so on. Nothing is ever that simple, because backcrossing makes calculating the percentage of serval DNA more difficult. This is simply the practice of mating across different filial generations.
Breeders like to backcross early generations to “fix” as many serval characteristics as possible and make their cats more beautiful and more saleable. Doing this, at the beginning of the breeding line, can help keep that wild look that potential owners want. Ultimately, the lanky long legs and beautiful coat are the reasons people want them!
So, if you cross a serval with an F1, it will contain a higher percentage of serval DNA than a serval crossed with a domestic cat. Because an F1 has 50% serval DNA, this means 75% serval DNA, making these cats very like the serval.
Still With Me?
To keep track of the DNA percentage, breeders add an extra classification to the filial number: A, B, C, or Stud Book Traditional (SBT).
- A: One parent wasn’t a Savannah cat
- B: One grandparent wasn’t a Savannah
- C: A great-grandparent wasn’t a savannah
- SBT: Ancestors have been Savannahs for least three generations.
Once a Savannah is classified as SBT, it is considered a purebred Savannah. Because this takes at least three generations, F4 kittens are the first generation that can be purebred. In other words, they are no longer wildcat hybrids.
When you meet breeders, they should be able to provide a detailed family tree for their kittens. Ideally, they will provide you with a calculation of how much serval DNA each one has.
What Do They Look Like?
A Savannah looks like no other cat breed and, for some people, they simply can’t resist falling in love with these gorgeous cats.
These domestic cats have been meticulously bred to retain as much of their serval appearance as possible. Purebred kittens have crisp and distinct spots on their coat, and they also have dark “tear stain” lines, like cheetahs. These stretch from the inside corner of their eyes to the corners of the mouth. They also display ocelli (eye shapes) on the back of their ears.
They come in four background colors. These include golden brown, silver, smoke and black. Their legs are just a bit longer than we’re used to. The cat’s tail is just a bit shorter, and their ears are bigger.
Savannah Cat Size
Savannah cats fall somewhere on a scale between domestic cats (9-11lb) and servals (20-40lb). Usually, they are around 11 to 30lbs in weight. As you would expect, F1 and F2 generations are the biggest cats, and subsequent generations tend to get smaller.
An F4 Savannah cat size is equivalent to a normal medium or large domestic cat, at around the 11-13lb mark. Make no mistake, they can be very imposing though. Large cats are taller than most domestic cats and, even for lower generations, their long legs and muscular build give the impression of height and size. This means that they look more powerful than domestic cats, even when their weight is comparable.
Are Savannah Cats Illegal In My Area?
Due to their unusual ancestry, some regions have strict rules about owning them. In fact, some places prohibit it completely. If you’re thinking of bringing one home, first make sure you don’t live in a prohibited area. Regions in the United States where all Savannah cats are illegal:
- New York City
Regions in the United States with restrictions on owning Savannah cats:
- Colorado: Only F4 or below permitted
- Indiana: Only F3 or below permitted
- Massachusetts: Only F4 or below permitted
- New York (except New York City – see above): Only F5 or below permitted
While we listed some of the places where they are legal, this can always change. If you are not sure, check with your vet or a local cat breeders association. Please check the rules in your area before you commit to buying one.
Outside the US
Moving away from the US, in the United Kingdom, F2 and lower are legal, while F1s require a special license. If you’re reading this in Australia, all generations have been illegal since 2008. The government’s rationale, and the counter arguments by critics, are a thought-provoking debate.
It covers the rights and wrongs not only of creating wild cat hybrids, but also the problems Australia faces with importing alien species and managing unwanted cat populations at a national level. Because they are illegal in many places, does that mean that Savannahs are dangerous?
Are Savannah Cats Dangerous?
Cats can be unpredictable, especially in the F1 and F2 generations. However, this does not mean that they are aggressive. It means that they might be less easy to live with than your average domestic cat, and they are probably better with experienced cat owners.
Their size means that, if they do scratch or bite, it could cause more damage. There is no research to suggest they are more of a danger to their families than other breeds.
Savannah Cat Temperament
Savannah cat temperament can vary a lot due to their hybrid origins. To add to the confusion, they are a relatively new breed, so people are still learning all the quirks. However, from F4 onwards they are usually regarded as having good temperaments. They have certainly lost most of the wild instincts that make for difficult pets. Earlier generations are less predictable because they have a higher proportion of wildcat in their DNA.
Because they are intelligent and curious, they require lots of mental stimuli. To keep them from tearing up your home, you’ll need a large stash of toys, and you will need to spend a lot of time playing with them. You’ll need plenty of diverting and enriching activities to keep them occupied. Their intelligence and bundles of energy mean that most of them have some common behaviors.
Do They Make Good Family Pets?
This breed can make great pets for the right homes. However, these cats often crave one-to-one attention, so they are perhaps incompatible with raising small children at the same time. But, they are highly sociable and rarely shy of people.This makes them a great pet for older children.
Does the Domestic Cat Strain Affect Behavior?
They can meow like their domestic mothers, or they can actually chirp like a serval, or even a mixture of both, although the chirping usually occurs only during the earlier generations. The breed can also hiss loudly, which can be a surprise the first time you hear it.
Really, it’s difficult to know how much of the behavior is from the mother because the breed is so new. For example, the cat’s generation and socialization play a role. Overall, once they reach the later generations, Savannahs behave like domestic cats.
However, most Savannahs seem to retain the energy, curiosity, and intelligence of their serval forebears. If you introduce kittens to people and other cats, they will grow to be more confident and less afraid of people and new situations.
An Unusual Pet Cat
Savannahs are also incredibly athletic, and can easily jump six feet (two meters) from a standing start. Their rampant curiosity means they’ll use this prowess to explore every possible corner of your house and get into all sorts of mischief!
It’s this combination of wit and playfulness that gives them their bright and entertaining personalities. Their huge personalities make them so beloved by their owners, and the cats usually reciprocate these feelings, too.
These cats often meet their owners at the door when they get home, happy to see them and ready to play. They are one of those breeds often described as a dog inside a cat’s body.They are loyal and loving, and they are also fiercely intelligent. Most are social animals and good with people, children, and other pets.
Indoor vs Outdoor Living
Savannah cats love to be around people. They often have no desire to stray far from their owners. Many will adjust to life indoors, provided you supply plenty of entertainment, toys, and lots of time. However, they are enthusiastic athletes. Sometimes it can be hard to satisfy their impulse to run and jump indoors. When this happens, they can become bored and destructive.
The best way to help them burn off their energy appropriately is by letting them roam outside. Sometimes, this simply isn’t possible. Perhaps you live next to a busy road or somewhere dangerous for cats, and their leaping ability means they can escape your backyard in the blink of an eye. What can you do?
Well, there’s a quirky compromise to be had.
Lots of Savannah cat owners report successfully teaching their pets to walk on a leash outdoors, like a dog! That way, they can burn off their energy while safely supervised. Bet it’s fun taking the cat for a walk, too! It is really important that Savannahs get plenty of exercise, not just for to combat boredom, but also for their health. Savannahs have some unique health issues that you should know.
Savannah Cat Health And Care
The biggest problem with Savannahs is creating the first F1 hybrid, the one between a domestic cats and a serval. Domestic cats and servals have different gestation times, so this can result in a high number of aborted pregnancies, stillbirths and deaths in early infancy. Once these hurdles are overcome, most Savannah cats enjoy pretty good health. However, we should mention two conditions.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
Savannahs seem more vulnerable to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) than their moggy counterparts. Cats with HCM have an enlarged heart, which can impair function and result in sudden cardiac arrest.
In an ideal world, all pedigree cat breeders would have their breeding cats regularly checked for HCM. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for them to do so. You will need to make sure your kitten’s parents have had these checks carried out, and ask for proof from the vet.
Hybrid Male Sterility (HMS)
Early generations of male Savannahs suffer Hybrid Male Sterility (HMS). HMS means that males are born with incorrectly developed testes. Accordingly, they remain infertile in at least the F1 and F2 generations. Very, very occasionally a fertile male is born in the third generation but, generally, the F4 generation is the first to produce reliably fertile males.
In fact, Savannahs are proving a valuable species for scientists at Texas University. They are trying to understand HMS and show how it keeps all species distinct rather than seeing infinite numbers of hybrids cropping up all over the place.
HMS doesn’t really affect the health very much, and neutered male cats still have a good life with the right family. It certainly does affect their price!
Savannah Cat Lifespan
Estimates on life expectancy vary. However, most reports tend to put them between 15 to 20 years.
The Adoption Option
Savannah cats are still pretty rare, owing to the biological challenges of creating them, and the short time they have been accepted as a pedigree. However, it’s not completely unheard of to find one for adoption every now and then.
If you wish to go down the rescue route, you might have to register your interest with local agencies. Then, brace yourself to be a little patient. Of course, you can also find a kitten from a breeder, but this might cost you some money. This ranges from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
Savannah Cat Kittens
When you have found a kitten you like, you will need to ask lots of questions. Alarm bells should ring if they try to sweep your concerns under the carpet. Firstly, make sure that the breeder has carried out health tests on the parents. Secondly, check that they are knowledgeable about the breed.
Why Such A High Price?
Well, they can be very, very expensive, mainly because they are still uncommon. However, some generations and cats are more affordable and comparable to other pedigree breeds. F4 and F5 kittens usually cost between $1,000 and $2,000. F8 cats tend to go for around $600 – $700.
You can expect to pay a premium for kittens of any generation who have inherited especially serval-like features. That’s because the serval patterns are what everyone wants! HMS can also have an effect on the price.
The Effect of HMS
In the F1-F3 generations the males are usually sterile. This means that female kittens are much more valuable than males. In reality they are usually kept or promised to other breeders before they are even conceived. F1 to F3 females are rarely found for sale.
From the F4 generation onwards, the value of female kittens drops. This continues as they become further removed from their serval relatives. In contrast, the males become fertile, so their value actually goes up. Strangely, it’s easier to find an F3 on the market than an F4 kitten.
Pros and Cons
Getting a cat is a big decision, especially when it’s a rare breed.
- These cats are big and active
- They need lots of attention, time, and toys
- Savannahs might become destructive if left alone too regularly
- They can be prone to health problems
- The breed might not be suitable around small children
- Savannahs are fun and interactive
- They will play with you to your heart’s content
- These cats love to spend time with you
- You might be able to walk them on a leash
Personally, for someone with lots of time and space, I think this breed can make awesome pets. Savannah cats have big and boisterous personalities matched with that wildcat look and, as long as you check a kitten’s history or check with a vet, few of the major health issues that can affect some pedigree cats.
Great article. I would love one of these kitties when I retire.
Emily Weinstein says
We get them in rescue. Please check in with your local shelters.
Danielle Wesley says
I have a serval I plan to mate with an f2 tica registered female. She is 34% serval.
Katannya Rayne says
Will you be selling them? If not, do you know anyone who might be? I’m interested in a female. I may consider a Savannah/Siamese mix. Thank you for any info; it is greatly appreciated. Namasté , kat
Loan Nordquist says
Do u have any F3 available?
Savannahs shouid not be allowed to roam outside. They don’t have the homing beacon of a domestic and will easily go much farther away, getting lost. Earlier generations have a more distinct look and can find themselves shot being mistaken for an actual wild cat. I don’t advocate any cat being allowed to roam due to risk of being hit by a car and other dangers, but there’s additional risk associated with Savannahs. I own 2 F2s, would never own another breed as they are amazing, but they are a lot of cat requiring a sense of humor.
Ruth Burbidge says
This site has been really helpful, thank you. My husband decided to buy a savanna cat after our last cat we think got taken away from foxes. He is an f6 2 years old and gets me into trouble with the neighbours! He had got in the one neighbours house and was caught trying to get their fish out of their tank! I didn’t know anything about savanna cats and I’m learning as I go along. He gets so bored easy and find it hard to entertain him. I have brought him lots of toys and he plays the neighbours and he still moans. The nice thing is every night he sleeps with my 9 year son and they snuggle up together.
Adrienne Stroud 112 says
I am in the process of purchasing to 6 week old Savannah Bengal mixed kittens. I was told that the father is an F1 and if the mother is a Bengal. However I am wondering how true this is because from what I’m reading the mail F ones are sterile.
That’s not possible all F1 males are sterile don’t buy from them they are untruthful and probably have no idea what their doing and are just out for money
sue reinberg says
We just purchased a 3 month old Savannah F5 cat. We brought him home. What are some things I should do when I bring him home?
Tamara Spohn says
i am VERY interested in owning a Savannah cat, but the price is so high. I have shared my home with at least one cat (usually 2) for as long as I can remember. I recently lost my best buddy Fatty to an at the time unknown kidney disorder. I am very sad, and I can’t replace him, but I would like to share my time with a male Savannah if anyone knows of one that needs rescued. i would be grateful for any information that I can get.
I’m interested in buying a Savannah cat. A female Spayed . If you could tell me a few breakers I could contact thnxs
Bill Dawson says
I got my Savannah cat by accident and didn’t know I had one until I happened to see an article about them. I wanted a kitten to keep my other cat company after one of my cats died. The vet had kittens for a nominal fee, less than 100 bucks. “Buddy” just took to me right away, climbing all over me.
His hind legs are longer than his front. His tail has black rings, and a black tip. He has the stripes on his neck and stripes, spots and a tabby look elsewhere. He has white socks and feet. He is exceptionally friendly to me, very loyal, and needs to know where I am all the time. If I go to another part of the house he calls out to me in order to find me. I call back, and soon he wanders into the room looking for me.
He loves chicken and other meats.
Strangely, he loves the skins of those small tomatoes and will try to eat right from my mouth if I let him.
He sleeps close by me. If I sleep on the couch, he sleeps on the top of the back of the couch.
He is a great cat.
Ed Lawrence says
Something similar happened to me. There are a couple of outdoor cats that hang around the backyard and I will feed them. I have two indoor cats. One day I saw this cute little kitten, maybe two months old, keep coming to the back porch and would brave the other cats wrath when she would try to eat from their bowls. She would run away when I came outside but would always come back within a few minutes. She became used to me really quickly and soon became my newest indoor kitty. She follows me everywhere, meets me at the door wagging her tail when I come home, plays fetch and will bring me the toy when she’s ready to play and makes chirping sounds and growls at animals that are being walked outside. She has the black bands and black tail tip. She has a tan coat with stripes and spots. The spots are not as well defined as an F3, more like an F5 maybe. She is fascinated with water but not really into splashing around in it yet. I have a 17 pound Tuxedo male that she will take down sometimes when they are “playing”. I’ve always wanted to own one. If she isn’t a true Savannah cat, she is close enough for me!
I have an F4 who is a female and she is going to be 4 in July 2018. I just ordered an F1 Male Savannah from Texas, his name is Percy and the female is Ruby. Ruby loves to take walks with us no need for a leash she stays right by my side walking down the side walk. I have yet to receive the Kitten F1 Male named Percy he will be here tonight cant wait to raise him in my home.
Can you post pics? I would love to see him. I am purchasing two F4 female Savannahs. They are sisters and will be my first experience with this breed. I am currently not in a state to start breeding Savannahs but would like too, after I retire.
I and just adopted a 4 year old Savannah from a man who surrendered her to the animal clinic I work for. She is the absolute sweetest! Shes very tiny though, barely 5 lbs. But my husband and I love her! She gets along great with out 9 month domestic 🙂
Estelle Dutton says
four weeks ago today a friend of mine rescued this adorable kitten from a very busy parking lot in the town i live in, it was 106 degrees outside that day and after a bit of a chase she was caught and my friend brought her to his home and after i looked her over to make sure that her only problem was dehydration and overheating i determined that she was okay. gave her some water and canned tuna (as she was so small wasn’t sure she could eat his cats’ food) left her to cool down on her own until i was ready to take her home, i have 5 older cats and knew everyone would have to adjust to her. i kept looking at her face and markings and realized she reminded me of a Savannah cat, after reading this article i am thrilled to say that Lil Duchess fits the description to a T! she is adventurous, courageous and very smart. she is a welcome addition to my fur family, i don’t intend to breed her, she is very much loved here! wish i could post her picture here.
I am in Australia and got what I though was a 6 mth old tabby. Great markings, short tail, plays around me when I bath or shower and loves a good play and being higher up that me. U said they are illegal here….. But this one is not like normal cats….. I’ve had three previomy domestic short hairs over the last 40 year, this one is different. Any thoughts?
Mark D Schoch says
I’m looking for a f1 for around 1000
Hi all savannah lovers!
I got my two SBT Savannah sisters when they were 6 months old, in september 2018. The amazing sisters, renamed after two godesses, are now soon 1 year and 3 months old, and weigh 4.5 kilos. We live in Norway, in a big house, in a quite trafficed and populated
small town area not far from the sea and forrest. Cars drive at 40 km/h around us.
They were sterilized (uterus and ovaries removed after advise from a very good vetrinarian i discussed with about everything) at about 8 months old. It was done for both the same day, so they could heal together in the same process. We did it to prevent strong instincts as we descided not to breed them further, and also to keep them calmer inside when we have to work. Also in Norway people and govvernment are more and more conearned about cats killing so many birds, and also that cats that we are used to being free and independent and roam free are taken a bit for granted (the animal protection service here is flooded with abanoned cats).
Immediately after we got them, we put cat leaches on them week 2, to wear inside, and we walked with them on a leach a bit inside while playing for two weeks, and also some in the garden. After this we took daily walks outside till the snow came.
When the snow came they LOVED it. Mjauing like crazy while jumping in the thick snow. hiding in out footsteps. Trying to catch snow flakes (super cute). We let them play with us in the snow without a leach – as the coldness of the snow prevented them from wanting to be outside for long anyway. They ran back in /and out/and in again after few minuts. Lovely to see them so happy. A thay made this long loud happy mjaaaaaaaau as they ran outide down the stairs! We have also taken them to walk with us in the woods, and by the sea with varied results. Lots of people are still sceary and they seem very nervous at times.
In late february, before the spring really began, i got sick, and had to stay at home for some months. So this entire spring i have had the chanse to really take good care of my lovely cats, getting to know them and spending all my time with them. Even if i’ve been sick from a reactive depression due to burnout and stress, this has been a better process for me too. They have kept me company! They make me happy!
The only thing i feel every day that is negative, is that i ofcourse would love to see them run like crazy in big fields, hunting. That we lived on a farm. That would be optimal. I feel they are restreicted. I sometimes feel overprotective, for not just leting them run free out when i open the door. They rather stay outside in 5 meter long leaches several times during the day, in the garden, or with me at the veranda. They eat grass and hunt insects and look at the neighbours, people and cars that pass by.
Sometimes they have run away.. but they come home after an hour or so. Like nothing happened. One of them even cautht a bird WHILE in a leach! (It escaped and survived).
I also have made them follow me a few times to the nearest park and home, where we normally go with leach, without leach. It has worked well, but not always – as they get in a certain mood sometimes, when they want to disappear from me to prove a point. Mjauing after me like mad for me to come and find them in a neighbouring garden or in the nearest parking lot by a huge hospital.
Inside the house we have 4 floors they can rome in. A loft with thick braided climbing ropes (boat hemp ropes) to climb in, and wood beams to jump on, a messy old basement, and two floors where we usualy are. So they have space.
A neighbour girl, she is 8, brings all her friends here, play and cuddle, and take them for walks sometimes. So now they are really getting used to children too, as me and my man live without kids.
I am gradually learning about these cats. I used to have outdoor cats as a kid and youth. This is my first time with pedigree cats that must be more taken care of. I realize how different the two sisters are. Totally different energies, personalities and temperament. One is so much more aware of me, mature and motherly, following my routines, observing me. The other is more shy, childish in a way, and also wild, but extremely kind.
They clearly descide which of them can “have me” from time to time. Letting the other dominate. It varies. A good balance between the two, and i also try not to favour one or the other. They obviously clearly notice if i do.
They show a large spectrum of feelings, facial expressions and they are very vocal. Their mjauing is very easy to understand. An “i’m sad” sound, the “listen to me god damn it!!” sound, the “im happy” sound, the “help WHERE are you!” sound… We laugh about these sounds as they are so vivid.
They sleep with us at night if they want to. Sometimes one alone, sometimes both. Depends on their mood. I have noticed that they function due to a certain “you good to me – me good to you” kind of logic. And they listen to me. If they find me exceptionally kind some days, they reward me with f.eks. putting their paw on my mouth at night, staying extra close to me.
Practically we now have a 5 liter water fountain dispenser, and a 5 kilo dry food gravity dispenser with high quality dry food (no carb) – saves alot of energy. We also wait for a robot cat toilet (must only be changed about every 4 days), coming in june 2019. Neighbour will look after them when we are on holliday this summer luckily, so they can stay home this year.
I constantly think anout how to keep them happy. Today Ill make them a new tall claw scratcher and something they can jump and sit on, while I fugure out how to get my carriere ask on track. I can’t stay just a cat mom the rest of my life I realize, even if its a nice bubble to be in for a while.
I love these little rebels <3
Please feel free to give me advice on how to enhance their quality of life even more.
To build an outside sanctuary is not realy an option for us at this point.
Love to all cat lovers <3
In your article you said:
Regions in the United States with restrictions on owning Savannah cats:
Colorado: Only F4 or below permitted
Indiana: Only F3 or below permitted
Massachusetts: Only F4 or below permitted
New York (except New York City – see above): Only F5 or below permitted
Isn’t that backwards? A higher # would indicate a generation further from the original wild cat and thus a more domesticated cat.
patrick helmick says
looking for some guidance- we have a 10 tear old f1 male -otis- he is great! we also have a 10 year old australian shepard – they get along great- we have a friend that must give up her well socialized f3 female and wants us to take her -any tips on making sure it goes smoothly ?? thank you !