What is a Savannah Cat?

Exotic beauty in a wonderful domestic animal – that’s the Savannah cat!

Savannahs are hybrid cats, originally derived from breeding a domestic cat with an African Serval. They are a fairly new breed that has been recognized by TICA (The International Cat Association) since 2001 and the CCA (Canadian Cat Association) even more recently.

Savannah cats are somewhat rare as they are very difficult to breed. This is due to many reasons, including the size difference between the males and females, which are either pairings of a Serval male and a domestic female, or a fertile (and often smaller) F5-F7 male and a large F1 or F2 female. Male Savannahs are only fertile around the fifth generation (F5), and even then fertility is not always guaranteed. Male Savannahs often need a specific temperament to be good breeding studs as early generation Savannah females can be very picky of their mates!

Servals and domestic cats also have a 7-10 day difference in gestation, thus resulting in many early generation (F1-F3) kittens being born premature. These kittens may need to be incubated or bottle-fed, requiring round the clock care and many sleepless nights. F1-F3 females tend to have smaller litters and generally have fewer heats or cycles per year causing the rarity of kittens to increase even further. It is not uncommon to see a single F1 or F2 kitten born in a litter and many only have a single litter per year.

For more information on what the letters and numbers mean, check out our Guide to Filial Generation Numbers!

Temperament and Suitability

Savannahs can surprise many people who have specific ideas about what a cat is like! African Servals are naturally outgoing and sociable exotic cats. Not surprisingly, Savannahs are far more social than typical domestic cats, and have been compared to dogs when it comes to their loyalty. It’s possible to train a Savannah Cat to walk on a leash, or even play fetch! Many Savannahs enjoy shoulder rides and show their affection by grooming their loved one’s hair. Savannahs are also excellent leapers and will be found on every cupboard, shelve or door frame they can reach. Many enjoy playing in water and may even wander into the shower if the door’s not closed!

Being fairly active and very intelligent, Savannahs need a great deal of stimulation, and are not a good breed for people or families who travel often or are expecting a laid back pet. Savannahs want to be in the action all the time! A bored Savannah is a destructive Savannah, much like a bored dog when left alone at home for too long.

As with any pet, Savannah Cats should be well-socialized as kittens and while growing up. Thanks to their African Serval ancestry, Savannahs are not generally known for the temperament issues associated with other foundation cats from a more shy, or aggressive, exotic cat hybrid. Savannahs are naturally outgoing, energetic, and friendly.

When introduced properly into a new household, Savannahs do wonderfully with other pets and children. They generally enjoy the company of many breeds of dogs as anyone is considered a new playmate to a Savannah. Caution should be taken to never leave a new kitten unattended with another pet or small child until they have been slowly introduced to ensure both sides know their play boundaries.

Savannah Cats should not be allowed to roam freely outside. Many Savannahs have inherited the large roaming instincts of their Serval ancestry and cannot find their way back home. Also, due to their inquisitive nature, Savannahs are good at getting themselves into trouble and could even be severely hurt, or pick up fleas, parasites, or deadly diseases (such as rabies, FIV, or FeLV) from feral animals. Savannahs can safely experience the outdoors being leashed with a cat harness or through outdoor cat enclosures.

What Generation is Right for You?

Generally speaking, all Savannahs are known to be high energy and incredibly social cats. They are affectionate and want to be doing whatever activity their person is doing. They are lapcats only on their own terms.

Savannahs of all generations are meant to be tall and lean cats with beautiful spotted markings. While earlier generation (F1-F3) cats are more likely to become larger then average cats, this is not always the case and ALL generations (F1-F7) can grow to be small, average, or larger cats even within the same litter! They can be as little as 10lbs to as great as 25+lbs. Males are often larger then females, but even this cannot be guaranteed when choosing a young kitten. Savannahs are meant to be taller then heavier, thus even a lighter Savannah will look larger due to it’s long legs and overall stature.

When looking into what generation to choose you will want to consider the price you are willing to spend, the disposition or temperament that would fit your household and lifestyle, and the overall “look” you would like to have. The closer you are to a Savannah’s African Serval ancestry, the more energetic the cat will be and the higher the price will be. Savannahs at later generations (F5-F7) are not only easier to fit into the average lifestyle, but more reasonably priced (due to them being easier to breed – as explained above). Savannah breeders are working hard to keep the unique looks and traits of the African Serval in the later generation or further removed cats.

Are Savannah Cats Hypoallergenic?

There are websites that advertise Savannah Cats (among other hybrids) as hypoallergenic cats. This is a marketing tactic as there is no such thing as a true hypoallergenic cat! There are cats that are easier on allergies then others, but it depends on what part of the cat a person is allergic to. If a person is allergic to the fur, then a low shedding, short haired cat, or hairless cat would definitely be easier on the allergies. If a person is allergic to the dander then there are breeds that produce less dander as well. There are also certain cats that produce less of the particular proteins in their saliva that causes another allergen. All cats will come with some amount of dander, saliva or fur (even hairless cats have a “peach fuzz” to them) no matter what! Thus, each individual person will react differently depending on how strong their allergy is.

Savannahs, among other hybrids, are known to be low-shedding cats and many produce less dander and seem to be overall easier on people with allergies. It might have to do with the exotic cat in their pedigree. They are definitely not hypoallergenic, however!

At Exotic Tails we’ve carefully homed cats into minor allergy homes without problems. What we recommended is for interested people without moderate or serious allergies to come spend some time interacting with out cats and see how they do during and after their visit. We also ask them to bring a cloth for us to rub down one of our cats with. We ask the person to take this home and interact with it the next day (hold it, rub it on their hands, etc.). If they still don’t have a reaction then a kitten is a possibility. If they are set on getting a kitten in the future, and are willing to take the chance that they will need allergy medication later on, then we will sell kittens to them on special contracts. For one, we require people understand that they should never allow the kitten/cat into their bedroom and especially not where they sleep! Regardless of how well their allergies are doing, breathing in the allergens all night while asleep definitely increases the chance for reactions to build up!

For more information, please email us at info@exotictails.ca