What is a Savannah Cat?

The Savannah cat is one of world’s rarest hybrid cat. Its a cross between an African Serval and a domesticated house cat. Savannahs are recognized for their tall legs, long slender bodies, large ears, long necks, short tails and of course their exotic spots. 

The first Savannah produced was by a Bengal breeder, Judee Frank. She crossbred a male serval, belonging to Suzi Woods, with a Siamese (domestic cat) to produce the first Savannah cat (named Savannah) on April 7, 1986. In 1996, Patrick Kelley and Joyce Sroufe wrote the original version of the Savannah breed standard and presented it to the board of The International Cat Association. In 2001, the board accepted the breed for registration. 

Today many own Savannahs and they come in all different sizes and colors. Ranging from 10lbs-30lbs. The coat colors vary as well. The traditional BST (brown spotted tabby)comes in two shades warm golden and cool toned with black spots. There are silvers SST (silver spotted tabby) which are almost white/light grey with black spots. There is the melanistic (Black with black spots) they look like a panther. Then there is the classic (marble) they are ones with swirl pattern. I usually only produce the BST but on occasion will have some melanistics show up.  I have never had any silver or classic.

Different Generations of “F” ?

The Savannah is referred to by its ‘F’ generation. The ‘F’ stands for ‘filial’ and refers to how many generations removed it is from the wild, the Serval. So an F1 is one generation from the Serval (has a Serval parent), an F2 is two generations removed so has a Serval grandparent, and so on.

  • F1 (~50-75% Serval)
  • F2 (~25-35% Serval)
  • F3 (~16-20% Serval) and so forth.

Letter coding- What does A,B,C & SBT mean?

This has to do when outcrosses (non-Savannah, domestic cats) have been used in a pedigree. The reason this is important is because when you are crossing two different species there are usually fertility issues. For instance, crossing a horse with a donkey creates a mule, but a mule is sterile so it can never procreate. In the feline world, crossing two different species such as the Serval and a domestic cat renders only the males sterile until about the 5th generation out.

  • A means that one parent is a (non-Savannah) domestic outcross
  • B means that both parents are Savannahs
  • C means that both parents and grandparents are all Savannahs
  • SBT means that parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are all Savannahs. 

An SBT is bred down from the Serval but it is at least 4 Generations removed.  The SBT Savannah is a “pure” Savannah that has guaranteed only Savannahs as parents for at least 3 Generations.

The size or appearance of an SBT Savannah can be compared to an F4 or an F5 Savannah.

SBT Savannahs are more consistent in their type. Personality and size are better foreseeable and the temperament is predictable. An SBT Savannah is the perfect choice for a family with other pets and small children.

Why Are Savannahs So Expensive?$$$

Establishing a quality breeding program there is a large financial investment required up front. Plus the proper care of all the cats on a daily basis takes a lot of time and patients and money.  In addition to the cost upfront, the Higher percentage Savannahs (F1 )are rare and very difficult to breed. It takes many years and a lot of luck to mate a Serval with a domesticated cat. Only a few breeders worldwide have had success.

If mating occurs there are still lots of risks. Because of the gestation difference between the Serval and domestic (about 10-15 day difference) all F1s are born premature. Some are too weak to survive and need 24 hr care by the breeder to ensure survival. Also their litters are generally small, averaging from 1-3 per litter. 

When it comes to producing the F2, there are similar challenges.  You take a large F1 female and breed her with an F5, F6, or F7 male (remember the males are sterile until the F5 generation).

The first challenge is size difference, large female to small male and the act of breeding can be difficult. Another challenge is the f1 female in heat can be very moody and aggressive toward the male and not allow him to mate her. There are some males that are too scared of an F1 and wont try. Once breeding occurs, an F2 litter is small, averaging 1-3 kittens per litter.  Theres countless hours the breeder spends to ensure health, safety and socializing of these kittens.

Difference between the Savannah and Bengal

If you love bengals, you’ll fall head over heels more love with the Savannah. The Bengal is bred with the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC)which is actually a really mean cat whether it’s domesticated or not they just are not a friendly cat. The Bengal being a hybrid from the Asian leopard cat inherents a handful of those characteristics. Savannah is a hybrid of the African serval.

 The African Serval behaves like a domesticated dog, very smart, very loyal, very loving. The Savannah inherits the size and personality of the Serval. The Asian leopard cat full-grown is about 11 pounds. The Serval full-grown is 45 to 55 pounds. So when you’re dealing with a hybrid, Savannahs are significantly larger than any Bengal.  So not only do you get size but you get personality. Don’t give me wrong Bengals are very cool and have awesome markings but once you experience both the Savannah leaves a bolder statement.

What do they eat?

Savannahs are considered domestic cats and can be fed cat food like any other domestic. But dont go cheap. They should be on a high protein non grain food, both for wet and dry. I feed Acana, Taste of Wild and Earthborn dry, (all mixed together for variety) along with raw chicken twice a day. But there are lots of high quality food, blue buffalo, Evo, Natures Variety, Feline instincts(if you choose raw).  Be sure that when you get your kitten that you keep your fur baby on the same food that the breeder used and GRADUALLY change their diet if you choose to. Never abruptly change food or it will make them sick. Just like any other cat.

Extraordinary characteristics

Savannahs stand out for so many reasons.

  1. Their INTELLIGENCE. These cats are smart. They can open doors, cabinets, drawers, they can learn basic commands like “come”, “sit”, “lay down”. They are currious creatures. Always exploring and testing limits.  Mine know how to turn on the water faucet and unzip zippers.
  2. They also TALK a lot.  Not all savannahs are vocal but in my experience 7 out of my 8 are vocal. You ask them questions and they talk back. When they speak, they often scream or in my case they sound like a velociraptor or a lamb.
  3. Savannahs love WATER! Not all will enjoy the water, but most are obsyssed with it. I turn the faucet on and they come running. I can’t brush my teeth with out a paw batting the water, and they ALWAYS get in the shower with me. When I’m outside watering the yard, they will run in the sprinkler or swim in puddles or pools. 
  4. Savannahs love to go for WALKS. Most will wear a walking jacket/harness and go for walks on a leash.  Some are better than others with the leash, but the majority are thrilled to get outside and enjoy fresh air.  Make no mistake- These cats are NOT outdoor animals. If they have an outdoor enclosure, that is GREAT! They are to never roam freely unattended.  They are very currious and will explore and may not return.

How high can they jump?

 Savannahs are very agile. On average, they can jump 8 feet or higher from a seated position…and can run 35 mph! So they will scale almost any fence given the chance.

Are they good with the litter box?

Yes, Savannahs have good hygiene and learn litter box habits from their mother.  All kittens should be 100% litter box trained prior to their new home. Keep in mind that kittens are babies and if given a big space with lots of freedom they could have accidents. They can get so caught up in playing and forget that they need to go until its too late. 

So in the beginning frequently take them to their litter box and tell them to go potty. They will learn real quick where the box is.  Start them in a small room or bathroom so they can get used to their new space and then give them more freedom once you feel they are comfortable with their space. If a kitten has litter box problems there is probably a reason, like a bladder infection or sick.

Do they require vaccines like other cats?

Kittens should receive their first veterinary visit and set of vaccines by 8-10 weeks of age. It is the responsibility of the owner to get the remaining 1-2 vaccines.  It is important to note that Savannah cats should receive KILLED VIRUS vaccines or MODIFIED LIVE. Also please DO NOT vaccinate for FELV (Feline Leukemia Virus) or FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) as it has been reported these vaccines either have very bad side effects or may even predispose cats to contract the very diseases they are purported to prevent.

Are there waiting lists?

Savannah kittens are in high demand so it is very likely you may have to wait until new litters are born to get exactly what you want. This seems particularly true of the F1s and f2 as not many breeders are devoted to producing the high generations and therefore the number of kittens available for purchase on an annual basis is very limited. You may also have to wait if you are only interested in a kitten from a specific pairing.

Many breeders require a deposit to add your name to their waiting lists and it is not unusual to wait up to 12 months before the kitten of your choice becomes available. You may decide that you cannot wait and purchase a cat from another breeder. As a matter of courtesy, please notify the breeders who have added you to their wait lists if you change plans, so that the next person on their lists can be given an opportunity to purchase.

How old are they when they can go to a new home?

Breeders typically release their kittens to new homes anywhere between 10 – 14 weeks of age. We typically release our kittens to their new owners at 10-12 weeks of age.  Kittens may be held longer if they have had difficulty weaning or are not demonstrating 100% accurate litter box habits. 

Can I register my Savannah cat?

 Yes. The International Cat Association (TICA) accepts Savannahs for registration and show.  All of my cats are TICA registered.

Do they get along with other pets (ie dogs, regular cats, birds, bunnies)?

Yes, Most do. I say “most” because bringing a savannah or any animal into a home where other animals currently reside, can be scary and make them act standoffish.  But the majority get over it and become best friends in no time. Savannahs NEED play mates! So having a dog or another savannah is ideal.  Domestic cats work but usually can’t keep up with the savannah and get annoyed.  I have friends with Savannahs that also own horses, bunnies, chickens, birds and more and the savannahs do just fine with them.  I have 8 savannahs and all get along great.

How big do they get?

There is no guarantee on size, but there is a general expectation per generation. Most f2 males are as big as F1 females.  Once you get your savannah, you’ll realize that their personality is even cooler than their looks. weight is not even relevant on most because the Savannahs  are built long and lean and aren’t usually very heavy.  My first f 2 male, Tytus.  He was 19.5 lbs but looked like a 40lb cat.  He was tall and long and big boy.Savannahs are the BEST!

These are rough averages

  • F1 range 18-30lbs
  • F2 range 15-30lbs
  • F3 range 12-20lbs
  • F4 range 12-18lbs
  • F5 range 11-16lbs
  • F6 range 10-15lbs
  • F7 range 10-15lbs

Are Savannahs legal where you live?

Illegal states

  • Rhode Island
  • Hawaii
  • Nebraska 
  • Georgia

Restricted States

  • Texas –  bans in many counties and completely Illegal in some.
  • Colorado –  Illegal in Denver 
  • Alaska –  F4 and later only 
  • Iowa –  F4 and later only 
  • Vermont – F4 and later only 
  • New Hampshire – F4 and later only 
  • Massachusetts – F4 and later only 
  • Delaware – F4 and later only with a permit
  • Maryland – Limited to 30 lbs and under
  • New York – F5 and later only (Illegal in Queens, Manhattan, Bronx,Brooklyn, Staten Island)