The Savannah cat is an athletic, intelligent hybrid breed with distinct wildcat markings. They are ideal for active people and families who want an interactive feline companion who’s a little different than other cats. Be aware, their exclusivity means they often come with a hefty price tag.
The Savannah is a large breed of cat; one of the largest in fact due to its length and height, and it is also nicely muscled. Not surprisingly, early generation Savannahs can weigh up to 13 kgs (30 pounds).
They have exceptionally long legs with the hind legs slightly longer than the front legs, and medium sized oval shaped paws. A smallish head forms an equilateral triangle that is longer than it is wide. Ears are high up on the head, are large, tall, wide, and rounded. Medium sized eyes point downwards and towards the nose and are outlined with dark lines which mimic eyeliner. Inherited from their wild ancestors, these markings help reflect light when hunting at night.
Coat colours and patterns vary depending on lineage but can range from brown to gold with dark brown spots. Some examples of the breed feature a silver coat with bold black spots in a marble pattern.
The Savannah breed origins date back to 1986 when Judee Frank crossed a large-eared, wild male African Serval with a female Siamese cat. One of the kittens, who was named Savannah, had traits in common with both the Serval and the Siamese. Savannah was then mated back to a domestic cat, of which a number of litters were born. One of the females was bought by a Bengal breeder by the name of Patrick Kelley who showed an interest in progressing the breed further.
After Patrick contacted several other Serval owners he happened upon Joyce Sroufe, who shared his enthusiasm for progressing and establishing the new breed.
The unusual cross breed became popular with cat breeders in the late 1990s, and achieved full recognition with the International Cat Association in 2012.
The Savannah breed like to assert their authority and also enjoy exploring and finding adventure wherever it may be. They are an extremely active, athletic cat and need a great deal of interaction throughout the day. The Savannah is happy to hang out with its human family but will also enjoy another cats company when the humans aren’t around.
While it bonds well to its family the Savannah is not a cat who will enjoy long moments quietly sitting in your lap but will show affection when it suits them, such as greeting you at the door, or following you around the house. The Savannah will often indicate its need for attention by head butting you until you acknowledge them.
Savannahs can learn to enjoy long walks on a leash and also enjoy the odd splash around in water, so don’t be surprised if they want to join you in the shower. Their high level of intelligence also allows them to enjoy a boisterous game of fetch.
Did You Know?
Savannah cats are bred with varying degrees of wildness in them which is measured by the filial system. The number after the “F” refers to the generations removed from its wild ancestor the African Serval. For example, F1 = 50% Serval and first generation removed. In Australia, tough laws surrounding the importation of Savannah cats mean that the earliest generation available is F5.
Whilst all cats hiss on occasion, the Savannah possesses the hiss of its ancestors who are known to mimic the snake hiss during times of danger.
Their longer than usual legs, means the Savannah cat can jump higher and further than any other domestic cat breed.
Caring for Your Savannah Cat
They may look exotic but caring for your Savannah is little different from any other domesticated cat. Savannah’s primarily enjoy an indoor environment with the occasional visits to the outside via a walk on a leash, or in a safe enclosure.
The breed is generally healthy, with no known genetic health issues. Weekly grooming is recommended to keep their coat and skin in top condition.
Many breeders prefer to feed a more natural raw meat diet rather than commercial wet food. Any change in diet should be gradual as the Savannah cat is particularly susceptible to dietary changes.
If you have a Savannah cat in your life, please share your experiences below.
Image: Dennis via Flickr.