About the Savannah Cat
Gorgeous markings and fantastic personalities make Savannah cats pretty and popular. These incredible felines get their exotic appearance from the Serval, a small African wildcat with stunning spots, long legs, and massive ears. Their domestic parent (usually a Savannah cat that’s a few generations away from an F1 Serval / domestic hybrid) contributes all the wonderful personality traits that make domestic cats such desirable companions.
If there’s one thing you should know about the Savannah cat, it’s this: These kitties are typically very high-energy, even when they’re several generations along. They do love to settle in for snuggles but their play drive is incredible, and they are also wonderfully intelligent. This means lots of cat proofing is required; without it, your Savannah cat will happily explore every cupboard and drawer in your house, probably while removing various items for a thorough inspection.
Savannah cats can develop destructive behaviors if they’re allowed to become bored, so companionship, safe toys, and plenty of space are absolute essentials. Teach your cat to walk on a leash if you can; regular walks provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation - plus they give these friendly cats even more opportunities to socialize.
While most cats will go to great lengths to avoid water, Savannahs are the opposite. An aquarium soon becomes a coveted fishing spot, a koi pond presents an opportunity for swimming (and fishing) and your faucets quickly become favorite playthings. These cats quickly learn how plumbing works, and when given the chance, will hop up onto countertops to activate a stream of water for splashing. Open toilets are fair game, too.
Savannahs can be quite vocal at times, demanding food or attention as the need arises. Their vocabulary ranges from insistent meows to adorable chirps - and the odds are good that if you speak to them, they’ll carry on a conversation with you.
If you’re lucky enough to bring a Savannah cat into your family, prepare for daily adventures, and be ready to offer lots of love and patience as your kitty learns. Savannah kittens are quite a handful, and adults retain their need for ample activity throughout their lifetimes. We’d love to say that Savannah cats are fantastic for all families, but the truth is, this big, active cat comes with unique needs. Chat with the breeder or rescue you’re considering to make sure that you’re ready to be a Savannah’s cat parent.
The closer your Savannah cat is to its Serval relative, the wilder their diet needs to be. These cats truly appreciate fresh food and raw diets with proper feline supplementation are often recommended by breeders. Of course, you can also offer a high-quality dry or dehydrated food along with a high-quality wet food. If you do choose a commercial food for your Savannah cat, their diet should be high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
Savannah cats do a fantastic job of keeping their short coats in tip-top shape; however, they do appreciate weekly brushing sessions. Not only does grooming help to strengthen the bond between you and your cat, it’s also a fantastic way to remove excess hair before it has a chance to wind up on your furniture. Grooming short haired cats helps to reduce hairballs too - a win-win for all involved!
Since Savannahs are such large, active cats, it’s a very good idea to teach them to accept nail trims from a young age. Without sharp tips on their claws, these big, beautiful kitties will be far less likely to damage your belongings or scratch you by accident. Periodontal disease is a problem for many cats. For this reason (and to help extend the time between professional cleanings) you might want to teach your cat to have their teeth brushed using a specially shaped brush and feline toothpaste in a flavor your kitty will enjoy.
Big cats call for big play structures! Treat your Savanna cat to the biggest, best cat tree you can find and consider building them a catio or a similar safe outdoor / semi-outdoor enclosure where they can really stretch out and express their wild side. Window seats are highly appreciated as are durable scratching posts, puzzle toys, and rugged cat toys.
Because Savannah cats are very tough on their toys, you’ll want to avoid anything that’s easy to break or chew apart. Check your cat’s toys frequently to ensure that there are no broken or worn parts that could be swallowed by mistake.
Savannah cats are generally healthy, however they are at risk of two heritable diseases that responsible Savannah cat breeders typically prevent via testing: Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency.
Savannahs are also at a slightly more elevated risk of developing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy than cats with a completely domestic background. In addition, most male Savannah cats are sterile until they are six generations removed from their full serval ancestor. This is simply something to be aware of. It isn’t a problem for the cat, and it isn’t an issue for those who are looking for a pet Savannah.
The first Savannah cat was the result of an accidental breeding between a Siamese queen owned by Judee Frank and a male Serval that Frank was watching for another breeder. The kitten, born in 1986, was named Miracle, but soon after, was re-named “Savannah.”
In 1989, Savannah bred with a Turkish Angora cat. She had three F2 kittens; two lived, and one was stillborn. Savannah subsequently changed hands, finding herself with a breeder named Lori Buchko. Two of her kittens from later breedings were sold to Patrick Kelley, who had seen pictures of Savannah in a 1986 copy of the Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter.
Patrick joined forces with an exotic cat breeder named Joyce Scroufe, who wasn’t at first enthusiastic about the concept of the Savannah cat. Soon, though, word of the new hybrid spread and in 1996, a small group of breeders including Patrick Kelley and Joyce Scroufe wrote and presented the Savannah cat breed standard to The International Cat Association (TICA).
Four years passed before TICA ended a moratorium on new breeds, and in 2001, the Savannah was accepted for registration only. By October of 2001, the breed advanced to exhibition only status, and soon, Savannah cats were impressing judges at TICA cat shows across the US.
The Canadian Cat Association accepted the Savannah in 2006 and soon, the breed gained recognition and popularity worldwide. TICA granted Championship status in May of 2012, allowing Savannah cats to compete against other breeds and further expanding popularity.
Did You Know?
Savannah cats are beautiful, but they aren’t welcome everywhere, so check into local regulations before committing to one of these kitties. Some states forbid citizens from owning Savannah cats even when they are registered as domestic cats, and some states require Savannah cat owners to obtain permits. Some states that ban Savannah cats from earlier generations allow those from F4 or F5 and later generations. Some states where Savannah cats are allowed have limits on which cities they can live in.
Savannah cats typically get along well with everyone, but the Savannah Cat Association recommends that homes with infants or small children choose generations F3 and later.
F1 Savannah cats have a purebred African Serval parent. F2 Savannahs are a generation removed, F3 Savannah cats are two generations removed, and so on. Most pet Savannahs are from generations F3 and later, partly because these cats have highly predictable temperaments.
The Breed Standard
Legs & Paws
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a Savannah cat cost?
Savannah cats cost between $1,500 - $25,000 (depending on generation).
How big do Savannah cats get?
Savannah cats tend to be large in size. A fully grown Savannah cat might weigh between 15-28 pounds or more and range in height anywhere from about 12"- 14" inches tall.
How long do Savannah cats live?
The Average lifespan for Savannah is 18-20 years.
Do Savannah cats shed?
Savannah are short-haired cats. Therefore, they do not shed as much as long-haired cat breeds.