When the African serval was combined with a domestic cat, the result was the Savannah cat, named for the African home native to the serval. These cats vary in size according to how much serval is in their blood, but are generally considered to be intelligent, engaging cats. They have a strong need for attention and activity and have a few special considerations when it comes to their day-to-day care.
Say Hello to the Savannah
The Savannah is a relatively new breed, established in 1986 when an African serval was bred with a seal point Siamese. Because he's the result of a cross between a wild cat and a domestic cat, he's not recognized by the Cat Fancier's Association, though The International Cat Association recognizes the breed. The Savannah ranges in size, depending on how many generations removed from the serval the Savannah is.
- F1 Savannahs are the result of a serval and domestic pairing.
- F2 Savannahs have an F1 parent and domestic parent; the serval is a grandparent.
- F3 Savannahs have an F2 parent and domestic parent; the serval is a great-grandparent.
- F4 Savannahs have an F3 parent and domestic parent; the serval is a great-great-grandparent.
The F1 through F3 Savannahs are considered foundation Savannah cats while the F4 is considered to have reached studbook tradition status, the type of Savannah recognized by The International Cat Association. As the line progresses and the cat's serval bloodline is diminished, he changes, becoming smaller in size and more sociable to resemble the domestic cats in his heritage.
Owning a foundation Savannah can be a different experience from owning a Savannah with a more diminished serval bloodline. Foundation Savannahs often require more time and attention from their people and have a greater tendency to be destructive and shy.
F1 Savannah cats can reach more than 20 pounds, with F2 Savannahs typically ranging between 12 and 18 pounds. The rest of the Savannah breeds tend to weigh between 10 and 15 pounds, though they may vary outside that range. Foundation Savannahs usually bond with one or two people and remain wary of strangers. The closer they are to their wild roots, the more likely Savannahs are to have a very high energy level and engage in potentially destructive behavior such as climbing and exploring places that aren't necessarily suitable for cats.
Commercial cat food is sufficient for a Savannah, provided it contains enough taurine, an important amino acid for all cats. Look for a premium cat food with little or no corn or grains and high in animal-based proteins, which are a natural source of taurine. Savannahs tend to use the litter box without incident and have no special litter requirements, beyond normal, responsible litter box maintenance.
Part of caring for a Savannah cat requires understanding and accepting his personality so you can live in harmony. Due to his serval blood, he'll likely be a climber so provide him with safe climbing opportunities, such as cat trees -- preferably with a view. Many Savannahs enjoy playing in water, so consider putting a few inches of water in the tub so he can splash around with his favorite toys. This cat won't be content sitting around all day while his owners are at work or winding down watching television; he needs engagement. You can train your Savannah to enjoy walks outside on a leash or to play fetch; plan on spending time socializing with him to keep him out of trouble. Interactive toys or puzzles will keep his intelligent mind busy
Overall, the Savannah is a healthy cat who does well with regular vet visits for routine checkups and immunizations. His liver may be smaller than a normal cat's liver because the serval tends to have a proportionately small liver size; you should discuss this possibility with your vet to understand if your Savannah cat has an unusually small liver. The breed may experience complications when using the anesthesia ketamine, because the drug is metabolized via the liver.
As a hybrid cat created from a wild animal, the Savannah may not be legal to own in your state or town because it's considered an exotic pet or hybrid. If you want a Savannah, ensure your state, municipality and homeowner's association will permit it.