provided courtesy of Cynthia King, The Kasbah, Ltd.

General

Why are Savannah cats such desirable companion pets?

Many people dream of sharing their lives with an exotic cat but most find that this is not a practical option.  Specialized dietary requirements, challenges brought on by less than perfect litter box habits, space constraints and federal, state and local laws prohibiting exotic ownership make acquiring an exotic cat difficult, if not an impossible challenge for most people.

The Savannah cat, bred to strongly resemble an African Serval, is not only very exotic in appearance, but the largest domestic cat in existence today.  Much smaller than its African Serval ancestor, the Savannah demonstrates a milder, more predictable temperament, and does not require the specialized care of an exotic cat, which makes it a very appropriate and exciting alternative to those longing for pure exotic ownership.

What's the difference between a Savannah and a Serval?

An African Serval is a 30-50 pound exotic cat, regulated in the United States as a wild animal.  The Savannah is a hybrid of the African Serval and grows to approximately 15-20 pounds at maturity.  While strongly resembling the African Serval, Savannahs are bred to demonstrate domestic temperament and are classified as domestic cats by both the USDA and The International Cat Association (TICA).

What is their life span?

Domestic cats average 15 years and Servals have been known to live as long as 20 years.  Although the Savannah is a relatively new breed, experts estimate life span at 17-20 years.

What does F1, F2, F3 mean?

The "F" stands for Filial Generation and indicates how many generations removed the cat is from its African Serval ancestry.  (An "F1" is a first generation offspring and has a Serval parent.  An "F2" is a second generation offspring and has a Serval grandparent, and so on.)

Are all males sterile?

Savannah males are typically sterile until the 5th (F5) generation.

Is it necessary to neuter sterile males?

Yes, despite sterility, they still have male hormones and will most likely start to spray and mark their territory as they mature.  Most veterinarians recommend neutering at approximately 5 months of age.

Do you need a permit to own a Savannah?

Every state is different.  In fact, even in states where no permit is required by State law, some localities require permits, and others outlaw hybrids altogether.  Therefore, it is crucial to research local, county AND state laws in your area BEFORE attempting to acquire a Savannah.

How big do they get?

Savannahs reach maturity at approximately 3 years of age.  F1s weigh approximately 15-20 pounds when full grown, and subsequent generations decrease slightly in size.  Although still distinctively exotic in appearance, by the third/fourth (F3/F4) generation Savannahs are similar in size to a regular housecat.

Are males bigger than females?

Yes. Male kittens are generally larger than their female littermates.

What colors/patterns do Savannahs come in?

TICA (The International Cat Association) is the only registry that recognizes Savannah Cats and currently recognizes the spotted pattern only.  Acceptable colors include brown spotted tabby, silver spotted tabby, black and black smoke. Savannahs are also produced in other colors, and some feature classic (marbled) patterning instead of spots.  These "non-standard" colors and patterns may be registered with TICA but not shown.

 

Behavior

Are males or females friendlier?

Gender does not affect temperament.

Are they lap cats?

No.  Savannahs ARE extremely affectionate, love to sleep in bed with their owners, give head butts and respond to being petted, but they very rarely enjoy being picked up, held or restrained in any way.

Do they get along with children?

Yes.  Savannahs seem to bond with and can be trusted with well behaved children.  As with any animal, interaction with infants or very small children should be supervised at all times.

Do they get along well with other animals?

Yes.  Properly socialized from a young age, Savannahs are known to live in harmony with other animals that do not represent a food source to them, dogs included.  Birds, rodents, rabbits, and other small animals are generally NOT appropriate companions for cats in general and Savannahs are no exception.

Are they destructive?

With proper socialization from a young age, most destructive behavior can be avoided.  The rule of thumb is to never let your kitten adopt behavior that you would find unacceptable from a full grown cat.

Although all Savannahs demonstrate a keen sense of curiosity this is more pronounced in the earlier generations who also tend to exhibit a somewhat higher level of energy.  As with any animal in the learning process, household or personal items can often be mistaken for toys.  Therefore it is essential to provide a variety of stimulation in the form of appropriate toys and/or playmates for your Savannah.  Allowing ample daily romping and playing time will also assist greatly in discouraging unwanted behavior.

What kinds of toys are safe for a Savannah kitten/cat to play with?

Before purchasing any toys, examine them carefully to assure they are very tough and sturdy.  Avoid toys with loose parts that can be opened and accidentally ingested.  Rubber toys that can be shredded are also poor choices.  Some soft toys are appropriate, provided that any glued or sewn on parts (eyes, nose, tail etc.) are removed to prevent accidental ingestion.  Tennis balls and Nyla Nylon Dog Toys are also safe options.  Variety will keep your cat stimulated and happy.

Do I have to childproof my home?

Yes. Taking precautionary measures and attending to basic safety issues will give you peace of mind regardless of your kitten's personality.  Just like most children, inquisitive kittens seem to have a knack for finding trouble, so safeguarding your environment is an ABSOLUTE MUST.

  • Kittens can ingest small objects, so check to make certain they do not have access to items like rubber bands, string, tiny plastic objects, coins and small rubber objects.  Also frequently check toys to assure they are not broken.
     
  • Secure any small spaces in your home (such as uncovered floor vents),  to prevent your kitten from exploring and getting stuck in an area where you cannot get to them.
     
  • Remove poisonous plants, all access to human medications, poisons and cleaning products as these can be deadly.  NEVER give a cat ANY medication that has not been prescribed by a veterinarian.  Cats do not metabolize medications the same way people and dogs do and will likely react poorly.  Tylenol and aspirin can actually be fatal to a cat.
     
  • Remove heavy objects that could fall on them and either remove or secure your precious knickknacks.
     
  • Prevent kittens from chewing on electrical cords by covering them, treating with Bitter Apple spray or running them through PVC pipe.  Electric shock can cause severe injuries and even death.
     
  • Close toilet lids and be conscious of leaving an unattended kitten near a full bathtub or a sink full of dish water to avoid possible drowning.
     
  • Secure hanging drape cords as playing kittens can easily strangle in them.
     
  • Be wary of rockers and lounge chairs as small kittens can become trapped in the mechanical parts and be seriously injured.
     
  • Exercise extreme caution when opening and closing doors.  Cats are infamous for trying to slip through open doorways.  Your attention to this small detail can prevent an unwanted escape or the disaster of an accidental crushing.
     
  • As your kitten grows you will also need to pay close attention to prevent interaction with a hot stove top and may also find it necessary to install child-proof locks on your cupboards.

 Will these cats really open doors, cabinets and drawers?

While not all Savannahs develop this habit, many quickly learn to open cabinets, drawers and entry doors with lever handles.  Not too many can manage a door knob, but some have figured that out too.  You may also be surprised to discover that a few even enjoy flushing the toilet.

Do they like water?

Most (NOT ALLl) Savannahs enjoy bathing and playing in water.  In fact, many owners report that their Savannah cats insist on regularly joining them in the shower or bathtub.

Are they 'trainable' like a dog?

Savannahs are not quite as versatile as dogs, but they are highly intelligent and as such, can easily be trained to respond to simple commands.  Most Savannah cats respond well to leash training, a vigorous game of "fetch" and will recognize their names and come when called.

Can they be leash trained?

Most Savannahs enjoy walks and are easily leash trained using a special harness or "walking jacket."

Are Savannahs outside cats?

No.  Savannah cats should not be allowed to roam freely outside, even part time.  Savannahs are extremely curious and therefore are at very high risk for being run over by a car, wandering off never to return, or being injured or killed by another animal.  In addition, because of the Savannah's unusual and exotic looks, they are also in danger of being mistaken for a wild cat and injured by humans, or stolen by an admirer.  Never, ever allow a Savannah cat outside unless on a leash or within the confines of an enclosure complete with a secure top.

How high can they jump?

Savannahs are very agile.  On average, they can jump 8 feet or higher from a sitting position.

Do they climb fences (like chain link)?

Yes, they can climb almost any type fence and therefore must only be allowed outdoors in an enclosure that features a very secure top.

Do they have good litter box habits?

Yes, Good hygiene habits are taught by mother cats to their offspring at a young age and most kittens generally have little to no difficulty with establishing and maintaining good consistent litter box habits.  Consequently, kittens should be fully litter box trained long before they time they arrive in their new, forever homes.  There is of course, ALWAYS the chance that an individual cat may have difficulty, but this is usually due to an environmental problem that CAN be identified and resolved easily in most cases.

Care

Are there any known breed-specific health risks or problems?

No.  With any breed of cat as with any individual, you may find a certain cat or kitten that has a cold or a disease, however, in general, Savannah cats are very healthy and there are no known, breed-specific diseases of concern to date.

Do they eat cat food?

Yes. Savannahs are considered domestic cats and are able to maintain optimum health on a diet of premium commercially manufactured cat food.   Always remember to ask your breeder for a dietary recommendation and do not ever make any sudden changes in diet. This is particularly important with kittens who may not even tolerate a different flavor of the same brand of food without suffering a severe dietary upset.

Do they require inoculations like other cats?

Kittens should receive their first veterinary visit and set of vaccines by 8-weeks of age.  As individual states and municipalities mandate somewhat different vaccination schedules, once the kitten has arrived home, it is the responsibility of the owner to assure these regulations are followed.  It is important to note that Savannah cats MUST ONLY receive KILLED VIRUS vaccines and under no circumstances should be administered anything classified as MODIFIED LIVE.  Also please DO NOT vaccinate for FELV (Feline Leukemia Virus) or FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitus) as it has been reported these vaccines either have very bad side effects or may even predispose cats to contract the very diseases they are purported to prevent.

Do I need to worm my new kitten?

Kittens should be tested for internal parasites and wormed prior to arriving at their new homes.

What kind of veterinary care should I expect my kitten to receive prior to coming home?

You should work with your breeder to assure your new kitten has been tested for Feline Leukemia, has been wormed and administered at least one round of vaccines.

Should I be concerned with fleas?

Unfortunately any household can be a breeding ground for ticks and fleas, particularly if you own an outdoor dog.  If you think you might be at risk for a flea infestation, ask your veterinarian to prescribe Frontline Flea and Tick for Cats, which is even safe for breeding females, unlike some of the other prescription medications.  Never use products manufactured specifically for dogs or resort to any over-the-counter flea products for cats as they have been documented to cause very toxic reactions.

Purchasing

How do I acquire a kitten?

Decide what generation and sex will best suit your family environment and your budget.

Contact breeders to determine which cattery has or will have kittens available that meet your requirements.

Due to the overwhelming popularity of this breed and the limited number of kittens produced annually, it is very important to note that, in general, Savannah Breeders consider their kittens very precious, and many have adopted a screening process to qualify prospective buyers.  As it is part of the Breeder's responsibility to assure that the kitten you select is well matched to you and your living situation, please do not feel offended if at some part in your search, one or more breeders request a wealth of personal information from you.  Although not every breeder will require this, you should be prepared to answer questions regarding your lifestyle and type of home you can provide, including information about your family members, the ages of any children, ages and type of existing pets, space available for play, time spent away from home working, etc.  You should also provide your veterinarian's credentials and include a telephone number where he/she can be reached for comment and a personal reference.

If the breeder(s) you wish to purchase from do not have kittens available, decide if you are willing to place your name on their waiting list, or if you would rather alter your requirements in order to be able to purchase your kitten sooner.

Once you determine that your breeder of choice has an available kitten, request a copy of that breeder's purchase agreement, keeping in mind that buying a Savannah is not only a big monetary investment, but is a life-long commitment.  READ IT CAREFULLY.  Clarify any and all questions you may have UP FRONT, including the terms of the deposit agreement.

Agree on the terms of purchase, and provide the breeder with a deposit to hold your kitten.  (Most breeders will not hold a kitten without a deposit and typically request half of the purchase price.)  If, for any reason, your situation changes and you are NOT able to take the kitten agreed upon, notify the breeder AT ONCE!  Failure to do so may result in the forfeiture of your deposit and/or legal ramifications, particularly if the breeder has turned away other buyers interested in purchasing the same kitten.

Are there waiting lists?

Savannah kittens are in high demand so it is very likely you may have to wait until new litters are born to get exactly what you want.  This seems particularly true of the F1s as not many breeders are devoted to producing the high generations and therefore the number of kittens available for purchase on an annual basis is very limited.  You may also have to wait if you are only interested in a kitten from a specific pairing.  Consequently, you may have to add your name to a waiting list and contact several breeders to locate a kitten.  Many breeders require a deposit to add your name to their waiting lists and it is not unusual to wait up to 12 months before a kitten becomes available.

Waiting lists are sometimes long and in your excitement, you may decide that you cannot wait and purchase a cat from another breeder.  As a matter of courtesy, please take a few moments to notify the individuals that have you on their waiting lists of your decision to buy from a different breeder, so that the next person on their lists can be given an opportunity to purchase.

Why are they so expensive?

Establishing a good Savannah breeding program requires a substantial financial investment and demands a wealth of patience.  Gestation periods vary greatly between exotic and domestic cats.  Because of this, a great number of kittens are born premature, require incubation and 24-hour round the clock care, which is extremely time-consuming.  As a result, there are a limited number of Savannahs produced and offered for purchase each year, and at present the public demand for Savannah kittens far outweighs availability.

How old are they when they can go to a new home?

Most breeders release their kittens into their new homes after they have had a least one vaccine and in most cases their first two vaccines. As it does little to no good to vaccinate kittens while they are still nursing, the first vaccine cannot be even be administered until 8-9 weeks of age or it will have little to no effect at boosting the kittens’ immune system. The second vaccine should be administered two weeks later, and is also typically given prior to sending the kitten to the buyers’ home, at which time, the kitten is approximately 10-12 weeks old.

 

Registration and  Showing

Can I register my Savannah cat?

Yes. The International Cat Association (TICA) accepts Savannahs for registration and show.

Can Savannahs be shown at a cat show?

TICA accepts F3 and later generation Savannahs for show. While not yet eligible to compete for Championship points, they may be shown in Advanced New Breed classes which are a very important means of promoting this amazing breed to TICA judges and the general public.  Due to the Savannahs' overwhelming popularity with Judges and the public alike, it appears likely that Savannahs will achieve the ultimate goal of obtaining Championship status within TICA in the very near future.