ALL CAT BREED PROFILES

Savannah Cat: A Half-Blood Prince

Close-up image of a Savannah Cat
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Are you one of those people who are drawn to wild and dangerous things? Well, what can be wilder and more dangerous than living with wild cats? Cats today come in many colors and patterns, and many of them resemble wild cats—examples include the Bengal, the Cheetoh cat, and the Ocicat. Sadly, few, if any of them actually have the blood of an actual wildcat running through their veins. The half-wild Savannah cat, however, is the exception.

The eye-catching Savannah cat is a cross between a domestic cat and the tallest of Africa’s small cats—the serval. They are huge, and the bold black spots on a tawny-colored coat give them a luxurious and untouchable feel. An interesting aspect, though, is that the cat is sometimes compared to dogs for their loyalty. They like following their owners around and can sometimes even walk on a leash.

savannah cat walking in a studio

We’re going to find out a lot more about the awesome Savannah cat in this article. You’re going to want to know what to expect before you go ahead and welcome a wildcat into your household, so be sure to pay attention to their care features, feeding habits, as well as exercise and grooming needs.

Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability: High
  • Grooming: Low Maintenance
  • Health: Good
  • All Around Friendliness: Good; friendly but not lap cats
  • Exercise Needs: High; very active and requires daily exercise
Cat Breed GroupShort-Haired, Hybrid
SizeLarge
Weight12 – 20 pounds
Lifespan14 – 20 years

Breeders have worked hard to perfect this breed of cat, and their efforts have paid off, with TICA recognizing the breed in 2001. Today, when you’re looking to buy a Savannah kitten, you’ll notice the cats are always described with a filial number, for example, F1, F2, F3, F4, and so on. The filial number describes the generation of the cat. For example, F1 will be indicative of a kitten having a serval parent, F2 means a serval grandparent, while F3 has a serval great-grandparent. These numbers give you an idea of how far removed an individual cat is from a serval and how much wildcat DNA they possess.

Savannah Cat sitting and meowing on a street

The popularity of the Savannah as a domesticated house cat is increasing rapidly, but because this cat belongs to a hybrid group, the feline is banned in a number of states and cities in the United States of America. Savannah cats have been bred to retain as much of their serval appearance as possible. They come in 4 four background colors: smoke, silver, brown, and black.

It will take your Savannah kitten about three years to reach their adult size. The Savannah will give birth to a litter of up to 5 kittens, and because this is generally a healthy breed, Savannah cat lifespan will be around 14 to 20 years.

Savannah cat temperament is exceptional, and when you’ve got a Savannah in your home, you’ve got a true companion. Cat lovers who have owned one of these cats will tell you that this cat is similar to a dog in many ways. This intelligent cat will follow their owners around to be a friendly, loyal, and devoted companion.

Savannah female cat in a studio

The social Savannah is also an active cat and is a good choice for families with older children and even other pets. This wily cat is intelligent and can learn a trick or two, delighting children in the home.

If you’re going to be working full time during the day, the social Savannah should at least have another pet companion. Even then, in your absence, you will need to supply your 4-legged friend with some robust toys to chew on, or you may return home to find that they have destroyed your leather shoes. Savannah cats need to be stimulated at all times.

Main Highlights

  • The Savannah cat has held the Guinness Book World Record for the world’s tallest domestic cat.
  • One of the many notable, striking features of this cat is their hooded eyes.
  • These hybrid cats are affectionate and devoted to their owner and will follow their human family members like a dog would.
  • The Savannah cat needs to eat quality food with efficient levels of protein and taurine. A properly balanced raw diet will be the best you can provide.
  • The Savannah has a short coat, and although this is a low maintenance cat, the coat still needs to be brushed once a week. This will ensure a healthy sheen, it will remove dead hairs, and your feline friend will just lap up the social contact that the grooming session offers.
  • This exotic cat came about during the 1980s when a breeder was able to successfully mate a Siamese cat with a wild Serval cat. The result was a sleek F1 Savannah with dynamic markings.
  • The Savannah cat isn’t officially recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association, but they are listed among the most popular ‘exotic cat’ breeds.
  • Their ears are very distinct. Depending on the F1, F2 stage they are in, they will have black-tipped ears with longer fur.
  • Because Servals don’t usually mate with smaller domestic cat breeds, it is difficult to get them to mate and have kittens, and this is why first generation Savannah cats are rare and so expensive to buy.

Breed History

The first Savannah cat was born in the United States in April 1986. The first person to make this miraculous mating happen was Judee Frank, who set up a meeting between a Serval wildcat and a Siamese cat.

They mated and produced a female kitten Frank decided to call Savannah—named after the African savannas from whence the serval cat is from. This F1 hybrid cat was the first on record.

Savannah Cat walking in leash on a river side

Wanting to develop a new breed, a certain Patrick Kelly, upon hearing about the Savannah, persuaded breeder Joyce Sroufe, to join him in his efforts. Together, they wrote the original TICA Breed Standard. The Savannah was accepted by TICA for registration in 2001 and accepted for Championship status in 2012.

Size

The Savannah cat is a tall, medium to large cat of sturdy build. When describing the Savannah, the features will differ depending on whether it is a first generation hybrid or a cat that is several generations removed from the original domestic-serval cross.

Savannah-Cat getting up preparing to walk

The heaviest documented Savannah was an F1 cat—clocking in at 25 pounds. On average, F1 and F2 Savannah cat weight is in the region of 17 to 22 pounds, with the F3, F4, and F5 being slightly smaller—weighing in at about 12 to 16 pounds. The F1 has a height of 14 to 17 inches. They’re a strong, muscular breed.

Personality and Character

Savannah cat personality is much like other domestic cats. While the first generation Savannah cats are bigger and display more of their wild nature, they make excellent pets.

This breed loves water more than most other domestic cats, and if you have a pond or a swimming pool, you may find your Savannah cat making use of them. The Savannah is an active cat, and you’ll need to be involved in their lives. They love it when you get involved in their games. You can put a leash on them and take them for a walk too; you’ll definitely be drawing some stares if you do that.

A Savannah Cat sitting on the grass

The Savannah is truly an amazing cat, and their affection knows no bounds. They certainly aren’t lap cats, but they still have plenty of love to spare for their human family.

On the other hand, it is important to note that every cat is different and not all Savannah cats have the same amount of serval blood and characteristics in them. Maybe it’s the wildness creeping in, but while some Savannahs are friendly and social, others portray their wild-sided nature—running away when meeting strangers and hissing and growling with uncertainty.

Take note that the Wildcat Sanctuary receives many calls from owners who want to surrender their Savannah cats because they can’t get used to the fact that there are some ‘wild’ habits that remain intact in some of these hybrids.

Health and Potential Problems

Although the Savannah is generally healthy and doesn’t have any genetic problems, there will typically be some diseases that you need to keep an eye out for.

  • Allergies happen with cats when their immune system becomes sensitive to certain things. Cat allergies are mostly divided into three categories: environmental, flea, and food allergies. Some allergies will require an examination by your vet because they can include itchy skin problems. Typical allergy symptoms include sneezing and coughing, runny eyes, paw-chewing, diarrhea, and vomiting. If the vet does suspect cat allergy, blood tests might rule out some of the causes. Medications are sometimes prescribed, and you might want to be looking at some flea prevention products.
  • Gingivitis is a form of periodontal disease with inflammation of the gums. It is brought about by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. This inflammation spreads from the gums to the bone that supports the teeth. If you don’t attend to your pet’s teeth, they can become loose and fall out. The trouble with gingivitis is that it doesn’t just cause bad breath, but the inflamed teeth and gums have a negative impact on the body too. The gums have a rich blood supply, and this means that bacteria are swiftly transported to other organs such as the kidneys.
  • Irritable bowel disease (IBD) can affect cats of any age, but it is found more often in older cats. Chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can come about because of a food allergy, for instance, or a parasitic or bacterial infection. Some common signs of feline IBD include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Symptoms can vary depending on the area of the digestive tract affected by the disease. Treatment will usually involve medications and a change in diet.
  • Hookworms are parasites that invade the small intestines of a cat. The specific hookworms that infect a cat are known as Ancylostoma ceylanicum and can cause anemia and inflammation of the small intestine. They attach to the intestinal wall and feed on blood and tissue. Once they detach and move off, they leave small ulcers where they once were. Hookworms can produce symptoms such as weight loss, coughing, anemia, and diarrhea as well as skin irritations. Your vet will administer treatment; it may need to be repeated to deal with larvae as they mature.
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a condition that causes a thickening of the muscular walls of a cat’s heart. The heart’s left ventricle thickens, and this leads to a decrease in the volume of the heart chamber. The heart will beat rapidly, and this results in more oxygen usage. It can also lead to oxygen starvation which causes heart cells to die off, and a condition known as arrhythmia may develop where the heart beats irregularly. This decreases the heart’s efficiency, and as with many diseases, it creates symptoms in other parts of the body too.

Remember that even though your Savannah cat is a healthy feline, you still need to be constantly looking out for their health. Your kitten will need to be seen by the vet to vaccinate against common feline diseases such as the calicivirus and panleukopenia.

A well fed and well cared for Savannah is a healthy cat, and there will be no reason with such expert care why they shouldn’t live to be 20 years old or more.

Care Features

Caring for your Savannah doesn’t only mean nutritious food, fresh, clean water, and a warm bed; it means providing this intelligent cat with physical and mental stimulation too. Apart from providing them with a variety of interactive toys, you need to become involved and play games with them too.

The Savannah is an athletic, intelligent hybrid breed with distinct wildcat markings

Make sure your Savannah is up-to-date with all their vaccinations too, not forgetting that all-important rabies shot. If you’re in any doubt about your pet’s health and wellbeing, take them to the vet. The vet will provide you with valuable information on their health, their diet, and their grooming to ensure optimal health for your unusual feline friend.

Feeding Schedule

Feeding your adult Savannah will be quite different to feeding a kitten. You need to pay special attention to age-appropriate foods for your feline friend. Your vet will advise you on how to supplement with vitamins and minerals. Savannah kittens will require a diet of raw, ground chicken. From about 12 weeks of age, your kitten can be weaned off the raw chicken and onto a wet cat food diet.

With your full grown Savannah, the diet will have to be adjusted. You may want to switch to dry cat food because they eat more and wet cat food can be expensive, but if you can afford it, then the latter is the best choice for them.

Orange Savannah Cat hanging on a wall

Check that the primary ingredients in your cat’s dry food are meat or chicken-based. If possible, don’t buy retail cat food. Rather, speak to your vet about special cat food. This is because dry cat foods not recommended by your vet can contain low-quality carbs which can jeopardize your cat’s health.

Some people make their own raw cat food, but if you’re not an expert, you may miss out on the calcium-phosphorus ratio required, which is so necessary for the feline diet. Maybe you can speak to a nutritionist or get answers from a cat breeder.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

The Savannah’s spotted coat is short, and all it will require is a brush twice a week. This is important as it will get rid of your cat’s loose hairs and encourage a shiny coat. Brush their teeth with a special cat toothpaste and toothbrush. Of course, some Savannah cats don’t take kindly to this. If such is the case with your cat, hard kibble can be provided so as to remove tartar buildup from their teeth.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Savannah cats are social cats who get along well with children and other pets. You have to always bear in mind, however, that one Savannah personality isn’t indicative of the breed. The way people raise their pet can impact the way they turn out.

Silver Savannah wild cat in the rainforest

Treating your Savannah with love and care and teaching your children how to respect animals will ensure that you have an exceptional pet. Savannahs love children as they know that they can expect some exciting games and it works well for them to have that extra energy spent.

Wrap Up

Savannah cats are awesome, and they make great pets. With so much intelligence, a princely beauty, and energy in the house, this beautiful cat has come to symbolize the best qualities in a cat.

Savannahs are often compared to dogs because of their loyalty to their family members. The Savannah is a low maintenance breed who will form a particularly strong bond with the human family member who grooms and feeds them. They will often follow their favorite human around and be more than willing to go for a walk on a leash.

Savannah cats are available in different colors and patterns. The most sought-after color and pattern is the traditional gold coat with black spots. The spots will vary from cat to cat.

Savannah Cat lying on a side

Everybody who has known the social, affectionate, loyal Savannah likes to paint a pretty picture of the cat. They’re strong, healthy, low maintenance cats that certainly have got all cat lovers talking.

Do you think the exotic Savannah is for you? Have you owned one before and would you advise another cat lover to buy a cat that came from the wild side? If you’re apprehensive about wild cats, how about adopting a member of one of the oldest and most popular domestic cat breeds instead? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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