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What is a Savannah?
A Savannah is a domestic cat with a Serval ancestor.
What is the Difference Between a Savannah and a Bengal?
This is a question frequently asked! There are some obvious differences between the two breeds. Bengals are derived from the Asian Leopard Cat (ALC). Savannahs are derived from the African Serval. The different species of wild cat influences many attributes of the two breeds. Although both have beautiful spots, Bengal spots are tri-colored “rosettes” and Savannah spots are solid. There are several differences in physical type, also. The Bengal has a compact body type similar to a wrestler or football player. It has smaller ears set wide apart and large round eyes. The Savannah is taller and leaner in body likening to a basketball player. It has large ears set close on top of its head. As the Bengal was used in the early years of the Savannah breed development, it is not unusual to find them in Savannah pedigrees or to find Savannahs that have rosettes mixed in with solid spots. While this is not the ideal, it does not make a Savannah any less of a Savannah as the shape and color of the spots is not as important as the other features that gives the Savannah its unique looks. (For more information of what the ideal Savannah should look like, please read the TICA Breed Standard.)
What is the Difference Between a Savannah and an Ashera?
The Ashera is basically a designer cat created from the Savannah, Bengal, and possibly other breeds. They receive a great deal of hype and publicity, and are sold for about 10 times the cost of a Savannah. Basically, the Ashera is not a legitimate breed and there is no traceable breeding records through a reputable registry, so basically anyone can claim any cat is an Ashera, even a cat taken out of an animal shelter and called an Ashera and resold for a lot of money by scammers. Don’t fall for it. No registration papers from a known cat registry means no proof of lineage and any non-registered cat should be assumed to be a mixed breed and no one should pay more than the cost of what the seller has in the cat/kitten in vet fees or what it would cost to adopt a cat from your local animal shelter.
I have read on the internet that Savannahs are huge cats. How big will My Savannah kitten get?
There is a lot of incorrect information on the internet in general, so it’s not at all surprising that tales tend to get “taller” down the road. This is certainly the case with the size of the Savannah. Many people are interested in the Savannah strictly because they want a BIG cat and so are expecting to get a cat that is 20 lbs. and up because that’s what they read on the internet. The size of a Savannah depends on the generation and cats outcrossed into a particular pedigree to create him. Although there have been some huge F2 and F3 Savannahs, the largest generation is the one closest to the Serval – the F1 generation. By the time you get down to F4 and F5 generations, most Savannahs are simply taller and longer than a domestic but not much heavier.
As to how big will a particular kitten get, there are no guarantees when it comes to the size of a Savannah cat. The heritage of Savannahs is both the very tall Serval and the normal-sized domestic cat, therefore the kittens could end up anywhere in between. The extremely tall kittens occasionally produced started out as average weight and size kittens. They do not typically exhibit tell-tale signs of how big they will be often until they are four months or older. No reputable breeders will guarantee the size that a kitten will grow to be as an adult because this will vary so much depending on the particular genetics each kitten inherits and kittens from the very same litter often end up with no two kittens being exactly the same size.
When Does a Savannah Reach Full Size?
Savannahs appear to grow for up to three years. Most of the height of a Savannah will be achieved in the first year, but may still grow up to an inch or two after a year old. More muscle mass is gained in the second year, and the body will fill out over a year or two once it is not growing upwards so fast.
What Colors and Patterns Do Savannahs Come In?
Savannahs come in a variety of colors and patterns. Most Savannahs are spotted, preferably with solid black or dark brown spots. Some are brown spotted tabbies (BST), which means they have golden, cream, or sandy colored backgrounds. Others are silver spotted tabbies (SST), which means they have a pale gray background with black spots. Still others are black with black spots, or smoke (black with white hair roots) with a spotting pattern. Because of the variety of domestic breeds introduced into the Savannahs’ gene pool you might also see some non-standard colors including chocolate, cinnamon, blue, red, or colorpoint. You might also see a marble pattern, which looks like a swirling elongated bullseye pattern.
What are the Most Important Attributes of the Savannah Breed?
As discussed earlier, size is NOT the most important attribute. The Savannah should be tall, long, lean and elegant in appearance. His ears should be tall and upstanding and the spots dramatic. It is the proportions that make a Savannah appear exotic, and so, simply being large does not necessarily mean ‘correct.’ Most Savannah owners will probably tell you that the attribute they consider the most important and unique is their Savannah’s personality.
What is the Savannah’s Personality Like?
The Savannah personality is usually highly energetic, intelligent and sociable. It is hard to describe what it is like to live with a Savannah. They are wonderful companions for people who enjoy interacting with their pets. Savannahs enjoy the company of their humans and will always want to be right in the middle of whatever their humans are doing, “helping” along. Because of their intelligence and energy, they may also get into trouble as they are problem-solvers and find ways to get what they really want. They require an owner with a sense of humor and one that can handle a cat that may outsmart them from time to time!
I read on the internet that Savannahs love water- is that true?
Servals hunt in water for frogs and small fish, so we often find that some Savannahs tolerate water more than the average domestic cat. However, not all Savannahs share this trait, so please do not expect them to want to take a bath with you. You should never force your Savannah to be in water by throwing him in a full bathtub, pool, etc. No cats, Savannahs included, like to be dumped into the water – if they enjoy water they will come to the water and play all by themselves. Many Savannahs enjoy going outside into an outdoor enclosure when it rains and come in dripping wet, or will play in a sink with the faucet left on at a slow trickle, but not all want to jump in the bath!
Can You I Walk a Savannah on a Leash like a Dog?
Savannahs are curious, outgoing cats that often enjoy going for walks. They usually adapt well to a harness or walking jacket. With careful training you can often have them walking on a leash like a dog, except maybe not quite as obedient. They love to explore so will want to wander around.
Why is There Such Variation in the Prices Asked for Kittens of the Same Generation?
Some kittens conform more closely to the breed standard, they are more sought-after and the price reflects this.
If the breeding stock was selected as the absolute best then that breeder probably paid “top dollar” for their cats and might expect the same for the kittens produced.
Sometimes there is an element of “you get what you pay for.” A kitten that is not as typey might be priced lower than its littermate that is amazing looking. Remember that this does not mean the personality of the kitten is different or lesser-quality, and if you are looking for a pet then the blackest of black spots might not be as important as an outgoing friendly disposition.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a kitten that is priced high is necessarily the “best” kitten available, just that the breeder is asking a premium price. Buyer beware – do your research and ask enough questions to know that the price is fair for that particular kitten.
How Do I Select the Kitten with the Most Servally Looks When They All Look Cute as Babies?
This is a HARD question, and there are no easy answers! Many times breeders have sold a kitten they thought was “pet quality” only to see it grow up into a stunning cat and wished they had kept it.
There are some indications that a kitten will be better than another, but kittens grow and change so much in the first weeks that it really is difficult to make that assessment when they are so young. It is easiest when there has been a previous litter from the same parents. Then you can possibly see pictures of how they turned out as older kittens or adults and compare that to baby pictures of the current litter to get an idea of how the kittens that are offered now might turn out.
Also, if you can see baby pictures of one or both parents and compare those to current pictures of them now, then you might get some clues as to how the their kittens will turn out as well.
I Want a Golden Kitten, Will the Kitten be Gold?
This is also very hard to predict. Often kittens are born brown and as they develop golden highlights appear. Some kittens seem extremely golden as babies yet may end up more brown or ‘cool’ toned. A bold spotting pattern looks dramatic, no matter what the background color may be.
Are Savannahs Legal in Every State? Will I Need a Permit to Own a Savannah?
States, counties, and cities differ in their laws and regulations. There ARE some states where Savannahs are illegal, and other states where only certain generations are allowed. You MUST check your state, county, and city laws before you purchase your Savannah kitten. Remember that even if your State allows hybrids your local laws may have more stringent rules that will override State regulations – www.hybridLAW.com is a good place to start your investigation.
BRINGING A SAVANNAH HOME
Why Do I Need to Quarantine My Savannah When It First Arrives?
There are two important reasons why your new kitten should be quarantined for a minimum of two weeks. First, the stress of being removed from all familiar surroundings and people, traveling to a new home, and meeting a new family is very stressful on a kitten. This can sometimes cause health problems by suppressing the immune system, just as it can in humans. Cats in general are very susceptible to certain illnesses and a stress response can trigger an illness such as an upper respiratory infection (cold) or a bout of diarrhea. If there are other cats in the household, it is always a good idea to keep them separated until you are assured that the new kitten is not going to succumb to such an event.
The second reason is that the kitten needs to be kept in a small room where it can easily find its food, water, and litter box. It also needs this time to get to know its new human family and to develop a bond with them. A new kitten being left to wander freely in a new home when first arriving can easily be overwhelmed and at the least have some litterbox mishaps because it forgets where the box is, or at the worst hide in as safe, dark environment (e.g., under a bed), which will necessitate you ‘chasing after’ it to retrieve it. This can cause even more fear and stress in the kitten and set up an unhealthy relationship between it and you.
When a kitten is restricted to a single room such as a bedroom or a bathroom with only you going in and out to interact with it, it will soon learn that you are the center of its life and a strong bond will form. Once this has been accomplished, you can start to slowly introduce it to other parts of the house, and to other pet members of the household as well.
How Do I Bond With My Savannah?
Will They Savannahs Get Along with My Cats and Other Pets?
Yes, generally a Savannah gets along well with other animals. If you have a dog, it may take a Savannah a little while to adjust if they were not raised around dogs. Other cat breeds that are similarly high energy (Oriental breeds, Abyssinians, Ocicats) seem to work well, as do very patient breeds such as the Maine Coon and Ragdoll.
A Savannah is not recommended in a house full of birds and fish. A Savannah, like any cat, has strong prey drive and likely will devote much time to devising ways to “play” with caged birds or tanks with fish.
Are Savannahs Destructive?
Savannahs are high energy cats that are very intelligent, but are not necessarily destructive. If left alone for long periods though, a Savannah might find things to amuse itself with what may not be an activity you would choose for them. It is important to make sure that they are well-occupied, possibly with another companion pet, or that your house is well Savannah-proofed.
It is also important to train your pet in the way you would like it to behave. Dissuade and distract from inappropriate behavior and give them suitable toys to expend their energy on. A Savannah is not simply a gorgeous animal, it is highly interactive and needs time with its humans. If you do not have much spare time between your job and activities, then a Savannah may not be the right breed for you.
Do Savannahs Need Special Toys?
The rambunctious energy of a Savannah may be “hard” on toys. Many cat toys available are not suitable for a Savannah. Toys that lack durability may not last long, and some toys might be ingested causing serious harm to your cat. Talk to your breeder about the type of toys suitable for a Savannah. For some Savannahs, dog toys may be a better choice as they tend to be a bit more durable for Savannahs that are “hard” on toys.
What is “Savannah-Proofing?”
Preparing your home for a Savannah can be similar to toddler-proofing your house from floor to ceiling.
Any breakable objects should either be put away for a year or two, or safely shut into a glass-fronted cabinet. Savannahs are energetic and definitely can be clumsy when racing about the house in a fit of gleeful play.
Secure objects that might be knocked over before bringing your Savannah kitten home. Museum wax/gel is reported to work well for some households.
Remove poisonous plants, definitely. Here is the link to the ASCPA webpage listing plants that have been reported as having serious deleterious effects on animals.
Be aware that a potted plant looks like a lot of digging fun to a Savannah kitten, and the plant itself is “asking” to be dragged all over the house. So, even if the plant is not toxic to your cat you may not successfully keep house plants after introducing a Savannah to your household.
While teething, many Savannah kittens will chew on inappropriate things, including electrical cords. Bitter sprays can be perfect for this, also consider removing and storing any cords that are not necessary at that time. There are also home products available that can encase many cords within the one larger tube. This is a really good idea, especially while your Savannah is young.
Toilet lids should be placed down, as a Savannah kitten will see an open toilet bowl as a “wading pool” and splash around in there. Some Savannahs learn how to turn on water taps, which will either require changing the taps (to a round shape that is more difficult for them) or learning to keep the bathroom door shut.
Savannahs have been known to open doors and drawers. Childproof latches on cupboards containing toxic substances (such as cleaning supplies) is a good idea.
Not ALL Savannahs will be troublesome – it depends on the individual personality and the time they have to themselves. It is best to be aware of situations an intelligent and energetic cat might create. Forewarned is forearmed!
If the kitten is to be left alone for many hours a day, it may be advisable to make a “Savannah-Safe” room to shut the kitten in while you are away. Design it with cat trees, and safe toys, and comfy beds (maybe even leave the radio or TV on) so that it is a pleasant place for your cat to be until you return home.
Can a Savannah be an Indoor/Outdoor Cat or Will They Stay Inside Fenced Yard?
NO and NO!
Savannahs have amazing energy combined with high intelligence and come with a strong “prey drive” — they LOVE to chase things. These cats do not make good outdoors cats. They will be fascinated by a bird and stalk it, see a butterfly and follow that, then see another bird and chase that one… within hours they will be miles from your home with no idea how they got there! When a cat wanders, they are rarely located and returned to their homes. Savannahs are not recommended as anything but indoor-only pets. Keep in mind that the lifespan of an indoor-only cat is 12-20 years while the average lifespan for a cat that is allowed to roam outdoors is only 5 years.
Savannahs jump higher and further than most domestic cats. Those long legs are very functional! Even with the highest fence, a Savannah will easily find a way up and over it.
HEALTH AND CARE OF YOUR NEW SAVANNAH
What Food Do Savannahs Eat? Will They Eat “Normal” Cat Food?
Savannahs eat commercial cat food like any other domestic cat would, but are usually also very receptive to a raw diet. We recommend a high-quality cat food brand be used, especially as Savannahs grow fast in the first years of their life, so will need good nutrition.
Raw vs. Kibble: Premium cat food, whether raw, canned or kibble is recommended and your Savannah will be happy and healthy on premium foods. If you choose to feed raw food, please research dietary requirements for cats prior to preparing a raw diet. You can find many nutritious recipes by researching BARF diets online.
NOTE: No cat of any breed should eat a diet that is exclusively dry kibble as this leads to health problems such as inflammatory bowel and bladder and kidney disease. Cats are not good water drinkers and must receive most of their moisture by what they eat. Cats that eat exclusively dry kibble are usually in a chronic state of dehydration and over time, this causes damage to their organs. Feeding a canned diet or raw diet or a combination of wet food twice a day is highly recommended. Dry kibble should not make up more than 30-40% of the diet at the most. Think of kibble as a snack between meals instead as the main staple.
What Health Problems are Common in Savannahs?
Savannahs are a new breed and as yet do not have any health issues associated with them. Of course, different breeds have been used in Savannah breeding programs and those breeds may bring genetic susceptibilities with them. As the breed progresses, more health information will become known.
Will My Savannah Need a Special/Exotic Veterinarian?
Savannahs are in reality domestic cats so should not need a veterinarian that specializes in exotics. However, there are veterinarians who have never seen or treated a hybrid cat, and others who have strong feelings about whether hybridization should even be allowed. It would be wise for you to talk to your veterinarian about his/her experience and comfort level with treating a hybrid before purchasing a Savannah. If your veterinarian doesn’t seem comfortable, or you don’t have a veterinarian, be sure to call around to find one in your area who has treated hybrids before, or who is at least willing (and better yet eager) to learn more about them. We recommend trying to find a feline specialist practitioner in your area if possible as sometimes when cats are sick, general veterinarian practitioners don’t always think of everything that a feline practitioner would and so sometimes miss important things or are not aware of the latest and best treatments for certain issues.
Does My Savannah Need Vaccinations Like Domestic Cats?
Yes, Savannahs should receive routine kitten vaccinations just like domestic cats. The type and number of vaccinations is sometimes debatable, but it is generally accepted that they should have at least two initial vaccinations as a kitten (most veterinarians recommend three), with one being after they are 12 weeks old, and then a booster at a year of age and then every three years thereafter. There has been a lot of research into the detrimental health effects of over-vaccination. If your vet says that your cat needs a vaccination booster every year, find another vet as annual vaccination is no longer the recommendation of the AVMA nor feline practitioners. You may find your breeder will be very specific and require you to use only a certain type of vaccination, another breeder will allow you to choose your personal preference.
Do Savannahs Spray? Do They Use a Litterbox Faithfully?
Intact breeding cats often spray. When neutered/ spayed at an appropriate age (4- 5 months or as recommended by your vet is optimum) Savannahs are not known to spray.
A well socialized, happily acclimated Savannah will use its litter box religiously! Like most cats, some Savannahs can absolutely require their boxes be extremely clean, and you must make sure there are plenty of litter boxes for the number of cats in your house. The general rule is one litter box per cat and one extra. Additionally, Savannahs can grow to larger-than-normal sizes, so you may need the jumbo-sized litter pans. Some people find that plastic tote boxes make excellent litter boxes, especially with those cats that like to dig and fling litter about.
Any cat litter that your cat prefers is acceptable.
If Males Up Until F5 (Fifth Generation Away from the Serval) are Sterile, Why Would I Need to Neuter a Male Kitten?
Although males may not make viable sperm, they still produce the male hormones and will exhibit male (tomcat) behavior that makes them undesirable as pets in the intact state. For example, they will still spray and mark their territory and be continually searching for an available female to mate with.
REGISTERING AND SHOWING YOUR SAVANNAH
Can I Register My Savannah in a Cat Registry?
Yes, The International Cat Association (TICA) is the only feline registry that will accept Savannahs or other hybrids. You can learn more about TICA and how to register your Savannah at www.tica.org If your breeder doesn’t register your kitten for you, you should receive a ‘blue slip’ with it when it arrives that you can send in to TICA to register the kitten with a name of your choosing. The kitten will have the breeder’s cattery name as part of its registered name per TICA protocol. You should always send in the registration and register your Savannah as this is the only proof that you have a purebred cat.
What Does the “F” Mean in F1, F2, etc.?
“F” stands for “filial” generation… in the case of the Savannah breed, it refers to the number of generations away from its wild ancestor, the Serval. For example, an F1 is one generation away from the Serval, this means that the Serval is the parent of an F1. An F2 is two generations away, so the Serval is the grandparent.
What Does “A-Registered”, “B-Registered”, “C-Registered” and “SBT” Mean? Why is it Important?
These terms refer to the Registration Codes given to our cats by our Feline Registry TICA.
A-registered Savannahs are Savannahs with only ONE Savannah parent, usually the Savannah mother and a domestic outcross sire (such as one of our permissable outcross breeds – Egyptian Mau, Oriental Shorthair, Ocicat or Domestic Shorthair).
B-registered Savannah is one in which both parents are Savannahs, but not all grandparents are Savannahs. For example, crossing an A-registered Savannah to another A-registered Savannah will give you B-registered offspring.
C-registered Savannahs are when all four grandparents are Savannahs … or two generations of Savannah to Savannah breeding. Crossing a B-registered Savannah to another B-registered Savannah will give you C-registered Savannah offspring.
SBT stands for “Stud Book Traditional” and is a cat with three generations of Savannah to Savannah breeding – all great-grandparents are Savannahs. Two C-registered Savannah s will produce an SBT litter. This is what is considered a purebred cat and is the eventual goal of our Savannah breed section.
These codes are not terribly important to the pet buyer, but critical to a breeder. To develop this breed, we need to progress through the codes to SBT.