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Behind the Breed: Savannah Cats

by | Jan 22, 2022 | Animals, Behind The Breed, Cats, Front Page Slider, Pets | 3 comments

As an adventurous, outgoing breed, Savannah cats are not for those wanting a quiet, couch potato feline. These cats can be quite large and in charge compared to other cat breeds and would do well with people who understand their audacious spirits and agile skills. While this breed can be wonderful, it’s important to note that ownership of a Savannah could be illegal or highly regulated in some states, as the breed is actually a wild cat hybrid. Additionally, getting a Savannah can mean forking out a good chunk of change!

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Savannah cats originated in 1986 when a Bengal breeder named Judee Frank in Pennsylvania crossbred a Siamese domestic cat with a serval, a medium-sized African wild cat. The resulting kitten was named Savannah, which is how the breed got its name. However, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the breed really started being developed when Patrick Kelly and Joyce Sroufe joined forces. It was after this partnership formed that other breeds, like the Egyptian Mau, Bengals, and Oriental Shorthairs, were used to further develop the Savannah breed. By 2001, The International Cat Association was registering Savannahs and the breed gained full TICA recognition eleven years later.

As far as looks go, Savannahs have an incredibly unique one. Their ears are tall and sit right on the top of their heads while their eyes are hooded and flat across the top. But the most unique trait for these cats? Their spotted coats! These coats are typically brown, tan, or gold but other colors include rosette, marble, and cinnamon. As far as size goes, many Savannah cats take after their wild side and can get quite large, weighing anywhere from 8-30 pounds and standing quite tall. Their legs and bodies tend to be very long and one Savannah was even documented to be 19 inches tall, making it the tallest domestic cat!

Their size can actually vary based on generation and sex and like other hybrid cats, first-generation Savannahs possess more of the exotic serval traits than later generations. Every generation of any hybrid cat is marked with a filial number that correlates with how far removed said generation is from a wild cat. F1 Savannahs, for example, have one serval parent and one domestic cat parent, making them 50% wild cat. F2s, on the other hand, have a serval grandparent and their mother is an F1 Savannah. Higher generations of Savannahs, like the F1, have significantly more serval genetics.

The genetic makeup of a Savannah cat plays a part in their personality, size (as mentioned), purchase cost, and, believe it or not, legality. Savannahs that have more serval traits in them tend to be larger and can jump incredibly high, with some easily jumping 7-8 feet in the air! Even those with fewer serval genes are known to be curious, assertive, graceful, active, and loyal. In fact, some have noted that Savannahs act like no other cats they’ve ever met, as these cats can be easily trained to walk on a leash, love adventures, and have been known to even love water and playing games like fetch.

However, these cats also tend to be more expensive than your average housecat; the cost of a Savannah depends in large part on the generation, pedigree, and health of the kitten but can range from $1,000 to $25,000. And finding a Savannah isn’t easy, as they can be difficult to breed. But the rarity (and high cost) of this breed isn’t just that getting a serval and domestic cat to reproduce is a challenge.

In some states in the US, Savannahs and other wild cat hybrids are actually illegal or highly regulated, as they are actually considered exotic pets. The site Savannah Cat Association does have a list of which states do and do not allow Savannah cats but it’s always important to do your own research to make sure that local jurisdictions allow the breed. For example, some areas, like certain counties or cities, might have different requirements than the rest of the state and may have strict permits for owning a Savannah, even if they’re just a pet.

Savannahs are just one of the wild/domestic cat hybrids that have been bred over the last century and because of their exotic serval lineage, they are incredibly beautiful and graceful cats! These cats have long legs and bodies that are covered in spots and they’re known to be adventurous, playful, and spirited. If you’re looking for a lap cat that likes to snuggle all day, a Savannah is definitely not for you. Even though they may not like to snuggle, these cats are friendly and affectionate with family and strangers.

Have you ever met a Savannah cat before? Or even hear of the breed? Let me know in the comments!

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3 Comments

  1. KDKH

    My daughter wanted one of these when she was a teen, but she had to settle for a bengal!

    Reply
    • Andrea Merrill

      A Bengal just came into my local shelter and I want to adopt him so bad. They seem like such a wonderful breed!

      Reply
      • KDKH

        We’ve enjoyed our Bengal for 17 years now, and she is certainly a strong-willed force of nature! She can be affectionate, but only on her own terms; we don’t dare pick her up.

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