Savannah cats are known for being a lot taller than an ordinary domestic house cat. However, this fact does not apply to every type of Savannah, since this kind of hybrid is not always a “true” Savannah cat
. The exact branch generation of a savannah cat tells us, if the cat is allowed to be called a true savannah cat. We will go into much more detail about the different generations of Savannahs later.
A Savannah cat is a very lean type of TICA-approved cat, which is known for quite long legs. Most Savannahs have the special and well-known fur pattern called brown black spottet tabby. The fur is one of the details which proofs, that the Savannahs are closely related to servals. Savannahs are known for being very active and surprising owners with a very dog-like behavior. If you think about buying a Savannah, you will notice that those Cats are very close to humans and built a strong connection to their owner.
This also a reason for Savannahs often having a deep connection to humans, especially their owners. Savannahs can be trained like a dog and make a great company, but always keep in mind, that the characteristics of a wild animal might show from time to time, while living together with a Savannah cat.
The origin and history behind Savannah cats
The closest relative of Savannahs is the serval, a medium sized African wild cat, which can be tamed like a normal cat. Male servals are able to reach a weight of 18 kilograms. The large ears are another remarkable detail about Savannahs, since their ears are the biggest ones between all types of cats. Due to their ears which almost work like a radar, Savannahs are excellent hunters with a 50% chance of success and are able to jump up to three meters. Savannahs usually eat small reptiles, fish and rodents.
In the past, Savannahs were breeded by a crossbreed of a domestic cat and a serval. These days Savannahs are no longer breeded with a serval, but with a generation F1 or F2 Savannah, which are the higher generations of Savannahs. These generations look similar to a serval, due to their size. As a breeder ourself, we would never advise someone to crossbreed a domestic cat with a serval. Due of the height difference between both animals, the female cat might undergo a health risk while giving birth. If you think about buying a Serval you have to get in contact with the district veterinary office or the nature conservation authority due to several guidelines for crossbreeding with a Serval. The veterinary office is in charge to decide which type of cat can be crossbreed with a Serval.
About 40 Years ago, a serval paired with a domestic cat, that lived in the same household. This crossbreed bore the first known Savannah hybrid-litter called „Savannah F1“. To better understand the race of Savannah cats, it is important to look further into the topic of the
filial generation (F). The filial generation shows the degree of relationship to the Serval.
If a Serval is paired with a domestic cat, their offspring will be a Savannah F1 kitten.
If the father is a Serval, the offspring kitten will not be a Savannah kitten but a Serval-hybrid.
F1 means, the father is a serval
F2 means, the grandfather is a serval
F3 means, the great-grandfather is a serval
F4 means, the great-great-grandfather is a serval
Every generation until generation F4 is a serval-hybrid, that is liable to the
Species Protection Act. Depending on the federal state, those hybrids differently underlie the compulsory registration and licensing requirement. They are also even banned in some states.
Savannahs of generation F5 and higher are not liable to any requirements and can be held like a normal cat. But keep in mind that even if your Savannah is a type F5 kitten, that fact does not necessarily tell you something about the purity of breeding. The reason for that is, that a male offspring of a serval only counts as fertile by generation F5. Therefore, the well-known outcrossing method is used to avoid inbreeding but maintain the breed at the same time. This Method uses a male cat of another breed, like an Egyptian Mau or Bengal, for the crossbreeding. There is no rule that tells us, which breed of cat should be used for the crossbreeding.
The short cuts, A, B, C and SBT, provide a better orientation and overview of the cat’s family tree. It might sound complicated but in fact, the letter short cuts make things clearer: A means, only one parent cat is a Savannah. Therefore, a Savannah type F1 is always A, because its father is a serval. B means, only one grand-parent cat is a Savannah. F2 therefore means B and F3 always C. The short cut SBT tells us, that all members of the last three generations were Savannahs. If you are offered a Savannah F5 A, that cat has both, a Savannah as a parent cat and a cat of another breed, or a mixture. So, remember that in this case, you will not get a pure Savannah. By the way: Most sellers simply get rid of the short cut letters.
The character and nature of Savannah cats
Now that you know, that the filial generation informs us about the degree of relationship to the serval and the amount of wild blood, we will look into the differences between the generations.
When it comes to looks and the height, generation F1 (and sometimes F2 as well) are very similar to a serval. Generation F3 however does not look that much like a serval and does not behave like one. F3 does also not call for being taller or breed specific than generation F5.
The appearance depends on the breeding line. Most future cat owners dream about getting a Savannah of the earlier generations, but there are several regulations due to the keeping of a Savannah of generation F1 to F4. We will go into more detail later.
Speaking of justification of the safety regulations that apply until generation F4, people have very mixed opinions. Actually, most people would not be able to tell a difference between a F3 and a F5 Savannah. At this point, Switzerland is setting a good example by only forbidding keeping a F1 or F2 Savannah. The following descriptions of the character and training ability apply for generation F3 and up:
Due to their deep connection to their owner, Savannahs are known for being very active and social and can be trained like a dog. Their nature and behavior are often compared to dogs, since Savannahs need to move a lot and want to be fostered. If you are looking for a cat to just cuddle with, you might get your eye on another cat breed. If your Savannah is very social, it will be a lot easier for you to train and educate your cat. Savannahs often follow their owner by foot, like to take a bath and also love to fetch – just like dogs. Savannah cats also like to go for a walk, as long as they are used to wear their leash and like to do energetic activities such as clicker training.
A lot of people still think, that Savannahs are more wild and harder to train, then other breeds. In our opinion, that in the beginning, it is necessary to invest a lot of time in training and developing a relationship with your Savannah. We believe that this time investment will pay back later and influences the cat’s whole life. Savannahs are active cats. Therefore, they need to be challenged – physically and mentally – by going for a walk, playing and jumping and being trained by their owner. That is what makes them different to other cat breeds.
Savannah cats – loner or group animal?
Usually every animal is in need of a fellow, since humans cannot replace another animal. Even though many people only hold one savannah, this type of cat was not always a loner. Normally cats go for a hunt on their own, but they are used to life in groups, together with their family.
Some savannahs, that often were alone during the first life phase, never learn how to behave in a group of fellows. Savannahs are known for their extraordinary and strong social behavior.
Even if Savannahs enjoy the company of a fellow, we do not think it is necessary to get another Savannah. Experiences show cat owners that it is always a must to make sure, that cats go well together and respect each other. Therefore, the cats should both like to be active, have the same nature and about the same age. We believe that Savannahs can easily be paired up with another cat, as long as both get the same amount of attention, education and playtime.
If you already have an old, relaxed cuddly cat in your household, an active and agile Savannah does not make a good furry partner. We recommend that you first make sure, that you really know your first cat and know all of its characteristics before you think about getting a Savannah. That’s why it is always best to visit a professional Savannah breeder and try to get a feeling for the behavior and nature of Savannah kitten, before buying one. A fully-grown male Savannah F5 SBT kitten usually reaches a weight of 7,5 kilograms. Female savannahs weigh about 1,5-2 kilograms less. Savannahs are expected to live for up to 15-20 years.
The right way of taking care of a Savannah cat
Since the law for Savannahs of generation F5 are the same as for a normal domestic cat, this breed can live inside or outside your home. A Savannah needs a lot of space for playing, jumping and running to maintain their active life. The ideal environment for a happy Savannah contains a save balcony, a large garden and an opportunity of taking a bath, since Savannahs love water baths. Savannahs can spend its life at your place like a normal cat would do, as long as you offer enough space and time to support your kitten.
When it comes to Serval-Hybrides of the Generation F1-F4, regulations made by are a lot stricter. Serval-Hybrides have a strong hunting and jump instinct. You also might experience wild-animal characteristics that often cause the hybrids to damage things by accident while being outside. Due to these aspects, you have to be informed about all possible restrictions that come with keeping a serval-hybrid and stay in touch with your local veterinary office.
The Savannah cat diet
The right food for Savannahs is another topic of discussion. A natural diet is always recommended. While dogs show omnivore tendencies, cats stick to a carnivor diet, which means, they eat meat. The cat’s gut is quite short – which is typical for meat-eaters – and also geared towards meat-based food. Generation F4 and F5 Savannahs can be feeded like a normal cat breed. Some owners prefer to keep their Savannah on a mixed diet, that includes fresh meat, such as day-old chicks and barf-products. A high-quality wet food makes another good alternative.
Buy a Savannah cat
Are you thinking about buying a generation F1-F4 Savannah? You should then inform yourself first about all necessary regulations for keeping a Savannah that apply for the state, that you are living in. Keep in mind, that you will need a large enclosure for your Savannah. What a lot of future owners not know is the fact, that the enclosure itself is also subject to several building regulations.
Therefore, the costs of getting a Savannah are very high at first. A Savannah cat is one of the world’s most expensive cat breeds, that costs more, than one might think. Take your time to figure out, if you can fulfill your Savannahs needs, by making time for training, walks and playtime. If you never had a cat and therefore no Savannah experience, we recommend you getting a F5 Savannah, since you can keep this type of Savannah like a normal domestic cat.
Next, you should choose a proper breeder, who takes his responsibility very seriously. The breeder should also check the health of each of his Savannahs, to find out, if there are any genetic diseases. There should also be an official family tree of an approved association. This way you can rest assured, that you will get a purebred, social and healthy Savannah F5 SBT.