What’s In This Guide
Thinking about bringing home a Savannah cat?
Or just curious to learn more about this fascinating new pedigree breed?
We’re here to help!
Savannah Cat FAQs
Savannah cats are one of the cat world’s newest pedigrees.
They have gained a steady following in the last thirty years.
And interest in them is growing.
Here are our readers’ top questions about the breed.
- What does a Savannah cat cost?
- Are Savannah cats legal to own as pets?
- Are Savannah cats dangerous?
- What is the lifespan of a Savannah cat?
- Are Savannah cats good pets?
Breed At A Glance
- Type: Domestic cat and Serval hybrid
- Coat: Short, spotted
- Weight: Varies hugely, but averages around 13lbs
- Temperament: Loving, loyal, intelligent and active
Although you can estimate some traits of the Savannah cat, it is a hybrid.
Savannah Cat Breed Review: Contents
- History of the Savannah cat
- Fun facts about Savannah cat
- Savannah cat appearance
- Savannah cat temperament
- Indoor vs Outdoor Living for Savannah cat
- Savannah cat health and care
- Do Savannah cat make good family pets
- Rescuing a Savannah cat
- Finding a Savannah cat kitten
- Raising a Savannah cat kitten
- Popular Savannah cat breed mixes
- Savannah cat products and accessories
History of the Savannah cat
The history of the Savannah cat is interesting.
If not particularly long.
Oddly enough, we know the exact day the first Savannah kitten was born.
It was Monday April 7th, 1986.
Savannah cats are hybrids of domestic cats and servals.
That spring the first Savannah cat kitten was born to a female domestic cat who had mated with a male serval.
Servals are medium-sized wild cats found across sub-Saharan Africa.
They are cousins of the better-known lynx and ocelot, and they sport the same spotted coat.
But the first thing you’d notice about a serval, were you ever to bump into one, is their outrageously long legs.
These are a result of elongated bones in their feet.
The new kitten charmed it’s owner, and the Savannah cat breeding program began.
Fifteen years later in 2001, Savannah cats were officially recognized.
But only by The International Cat Association (TICA).
Fun Facts About Savannah Cats
Savannah cats are almost always described with a filial number.
For example F1, F2, F3, F4 etc.
A filial number describes the generation an individual cat comes from:
An F1 Savannah cat has a serval parent.
An F2 Savannah cat has a serval grandparent.
An F3 Savannah cat has a serval great grandparent, and so on.
So, the filial number is a rough guide to how far removed from servals an individual cat is.
Telling you how much wild cat DNA they possess.
It’s all about the DNA
The rule for calculating how much serval DNA a Savannah cat has looks as simple as dividing by two.
But in reality it is usually made more complicated by the practice of back crossing.
That is, mating across different filial generations.
Back crossing early generations of Savannahs is popular.
It’s carried out to “fix” as many serval characteristics as possible.
Doing this at the beginning of the breeding line is popular for keeping that wild look.
For example those lanky long legs.
F4 Savannah kittens are the first generation to be considered purebred Savannah cats.
No longer wild cat hybrids.
When you meet a Savannah cat breeder, they should be able to provide a detailed family tree for their kittens.
Savannah cat appearance
The secret of the Savannah’s mesmerizing appearance is extremes.
None of their features are quite what we expect to see in a domestic cat.
Their legs are just a bit longer than we’re used to.
The Savannah cat’s tail is just a bit shorter.
Their ears are bigger.
And when they jump, boy do they jump.
Savannah cat size
Savannah cats fall somewhere on a scale between domestic cats (9-11lb) and servals (20-40lb).
F1 and F2 generations are the biggest, and subsequent generations tend to get smaller.
Decreasing as their serval ancestry becomes more dilute.
F4 Savannah cat size is equivalent to a normal medium or large domestic cat (around the 11-13lb mark).
That doesn’t mean they’re not imposing though.
Large Savannah cats are taller than most domestic cats.
Even in lower generations, their long legs and muscular build give the impression of height and size.
Even when their weight is comparable to other domestic cats.
Savannah cat coloring
Savannah cats have been meticulously bred to retain as much of their serval appearance as possible.
Purebred Savannah cats have crisp and distinct spots on their coat.
They also have dark “tear stain” lines.
From the inside corner of their eyes to the corners of the mouth.
And ocelli (eye shapes) on the back of their ears.
These include golden brown, silver, smoke and black.
And those exotic spots?
Savannah cat temperament
Savannah cat temperament can vary a lot, due to their hybrid origins.
However, they tend to be described from F4 and beyond very favorably.
Earlier generations are less predictable, as a result of having a higher proportion of wild cat in their DNA!
Savannah cat temperament is thought to be very dog like.
Savannah cats 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.
Savannah cats require lots of mental stimuli.
To keep them from tearing up your home you’ll need a large stash of toys.
As well as plenty of diverting and enriching activities to keep them occupied.
Savannahs are also incredibly athletic, easily jumping two metres from a standing start.
Being curious fellows, they’ll use this prowess to explore every possible corner of your house.
It’s this combination of wit and playfulness which gives Savannah cats their bright and entertaining personalities.
It makes them so beloved by their owners.
The feelings are usually reciprocated too.
Savannah cats are known for meeting their owners at the door when they get home.
Are Savannah cats illegal in my area?
Due to their unusual ancestry, some regions have strict rules about owning Savannah cats.
And some places have prohibited it completely.
If you’re thinking of bringing home a Savannah cat, first make sure you don’t live in a prohibited area:
Regions with restrictions on owning a Savannah cat
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:
Only F4 or below permitted
Only F3 or below permitted
Only F4 or below permitted
- New York (except New York City – see above)
Only F5 or below permitted
Please note these lists have been compiled with the most up to date information I can find.
Please check the rules in your area before you commit to buying a Savannah cat.
And let us know if any of our information is out of date!
In the United Kingdom, F2 Savannah cats and lower are legal.
F1 Savannah cats require a special license.
If you’re reading this in Australia, all generations of Savannah cats have been illegal since 2008.
The government’s rationale for this, and the counter-arguments by critics, are a thought-provoking debate.
On the rights and wrongs not only of creating wild cat hybrids.
Are Savannah cats dangerous?
Savannah cats can be unpredictable, especially in the F1 and F2 generations.
Being illegal in some areas has led to some people thinking they are dangerous.
But this does not mean that they are aggressive.
They might be less easy to live with than your average domestic cat.
And their size means that if they did scratch or bite it could have more impact.
But we can’t find any research to suggest they are a danger to their families.
Indoor vs Outdoor Living for Savannah Cats
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.
But Savannah cats are enthusiastic athletes.
Sometimes it can be hard to satisfy your impulse to run and jump indoors.
When this happens they can get bored and destructive.
The best way to be confident they will burn off their energy appropriately is by letting them roam outside.
There’s a quirky compromise to be had too.
Lots of Savannah cat owners report successfully teaching their Savannahs to walk on a leash outdoors!
It’s important that they get plenty of exercise.
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.
This results in a high number of aborted pregnancies, still births and deaths in early infancy.
But once these hurdles are overcome, most Savannah cats enjoy pretty good health.
There are two conditions worthy of mention though.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
They 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.
But 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 male Savannahs are born with incorrectly developed testes.
They remain infertile in at least the F1 and F2 generations.
Very, very occasionally a fertile male Savannah is born in the third generation.
But 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 how it works to keep all species distinct.
Instead of infinite hybrids cropping up all over the place.
HMS doesn’t really affect male Savannahs very much, but it certainly does affect their price.
Savannah Cat Lifespan
Estimates on Savannah cat life expectancy vary depending upon where you look.
However, most reports tend to put them between 15 to 20 years.
Savannah cat food
Savannah cats tend to prefer a wet diet with a large meat component.
Your Savannah cat breeder should be able to discuss their parents’ diet in detail.
They should also give you a small amount of the food your kitten has been weaned onto in their going home pack.
Grooming your Savannah cat
Savannah cats have been bred primarily for their temperament, body shape and coloring.
Their coat has remained short, slightly coarse and practical.
Just like their wild ancestors.
It doesn’t require much grooming.
A gentle brush every now and then will suffice.
Do Savannah cats make good family pets
This breed can make great pets for the right homes.
Savannah cats crave one-to-one attention.
For this reason they are perhaps incompatible with raising small children at the same time.
But they are highly sociable and rarely shy of people.
Rescuing a Savannah cat
Savannah cats are still pretty rare, owing to the biological challenges of creating them, and their youth as a pedigree.
However, it’s not completely unheard of to find Savannah cat for adoption every now and then.
If you wish to go down the route of Savannah cat rescue, you might have to register your interest with local agencies.
Then brace yourself to be a little patient.
Finding a Savannah cat kitten
So, you’re confident that a Savannah cat is the breed for you?
And you’ve checked they are allowed where you live?
The TICA website maintains a list of Savannah cat breeders, and more can be found online.
When you have found one you like the look of, you will need to ask a lot of questions.
Make sure that the breeder has carried out health tests on the parents.
Savannah cat cost
F4 and F5 Savannah cat kittens usually costs between $1,000 and $2,000.
F8 Savannah cats tend to be sold for around $600 – $700.
Expect to pay a premium for kittens of any generation who have inherited especially serval-like features.
Effect of HMS on Savannah cat price
Already decided you specifically want a male Savannah cat or a female Savannah cat?
You’ll need to bear in mind the effect of Hybrid Male Sterility on the price of a Savannah cat.
In the F1-F3 generations the males are usually sterile.
This means that female Savannah kittens are much more valuable than male Savannah kittens.
Although in reality they are usually kept or promised to other breeders before they are even conceived.
They 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.
But the males become fertile, so their value goes up.
Raising a Savannah cat kitten
Bringing up any kitten is an important job.
But with exotic breeds like the Savannah cats you really need to get it right.
Fortunately, we’ve got lots of great free guides to help you.
Savannah cat products and accessories
Here are some handy items that you will need when caring for your kitty:
Pros And Cons of Getting A Savannah cat
Getting a cat is a big decision.
Especially when it’s a rare breed.
So let’s run through those pros and cons one last time before you take the plunge.
They are big and active.
Need lots of attention, time and toys.
Might become destructive if left alone too regularly.
And there are some serious health problems that they can be prone to.
They are fun and interactive.
Will play with you to your heart’s content.
Love to be together and spend time with you.
Comparing the Savannah cat with other breeds
Still stuck on whether to get a Savannah cat or another breed?
Check out our comparison guides here!
We’ve even looked at the question of Savannah cat vs Dog, due to their canine compatible character!
So what if you’ve come this far and decided that a Savannah cat is not right for you.
Or realized that they are outlawed in your area?
Well there are some great alternative breeds, with exotic looks and devoted personalities, but which are completely domestic.
Oriental shorthair cats are lean and muscular like the Savannah cat.
They also have the same big eyes, big ears, and big personalities.
Oriental shorthairs come in almost every possible coloring.
Including spotted tabbies, which look a little like the Savannah.
Discovered by happy accident in the 1960s.
The breed became popular because their spotted coat gives them the appearance of a wild cat.
Without any wild cat DNA.
Their temperament is friendly and energetic, so they make great family pets.
References And Resources
- David, B. W. 2015. Mechanisms Underlying Mammalian Hybrid Sterility in Two Feline Interspecies Models. Molecular Biology and Evolution.
- Gelberg, H. B. 2009. “Purkinje fiber dysplasia (histiocytoid cardiomyopathy) with ventricular noncompaction in a Savannah kitten”. Veterinary Pathology.
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