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Savannah Cat

Physical Characteristics

The Savannah is an unusual, exotic breed of domestic cat that looks much like its ancestor, the African Serval, but is smaller in size. One of the features that make this breed so unique is its strikingly bold and spotted coat, which can vary from brown, tan or gold with black or dark brown spots; silver with black or dark grey spots; black with black spots; and black tipped silver with black spots.

The Savannah’s fur can also have the classic marble pattern, snow coloration, and other diluted colors. Their overall look depends greatly on generational breeding and genetic dilution.

The Savannah has a lean muscular build, a short, thick tail, a long neck and long legs. These features give the feline a tall appearance, but it is actually medium sized and tends to weigh less than other similarly sized domestic cats. One of its other most striking features is the shape of its hooded eyes, which are flat on top, and its large, tall ears that are situated right at the top of its head.

Personality and Temperament

This very active cat is curious, assertive, and an adventure-seeker. It requires a lot of interaction and attention on a daily basis, either with its companion human(s) or other companion cats. This cat is also very loyal, and will develop a strong bond with people.

The Savannah is not a lap cat, but will show affection to its human family by following them around the house and giving them frequent head butts. They love to play in water, and are easily trained to walk on a leash with a harness. They also love to play active games such as fetch. Because of these traits, Savannahs are thought to have "dog-like" personalities.

Health and Care

Despite their exotic appearance, Savannah cats are one of the healthiest breeds and have no known established health problems. Due to their direct lineage from Servals, care should be taken to establish whether they have inherited the Serval’s tendency to have a proportionately small liver for their body size.

Care should also be taken by veterinarians to not administer ketamine during medical treatment, as ketamine is metabolized through the liver and has been known to cause potentially serious health complications for this breed.

Special attention should be given to the Savannah's diet to guard against a deficiency of taurine, a particularly dangerous condition resulting from lack of the amino acid taurine, which is found in meats and fish and to which the Savannah is believed to be especially prone. Because of this, it is recommended the Savannah cat be provided with a high protein, low or no grain diet (especially corn). High concentrations of taurine can be found in meat, poultry (which can be partially boiled), fish, and premium cat foods.

Overall, Savannah cats are healthy, hardy and athletic, and are considered to be one of the healthiest of the domestic feline breeds.

History and Background

The first documented Savannah cat was born in April 1986, when Bengal cat breeder Judee Frank paired her eight-pound female Siamese Sealpoint cat with Ernie, a thirty-pound male Serval cat belonging to Suzy Wood. Neither one expected the unusually beautiful and graceful offspring that resulted, which Suzy took home with her. The kitten was christened "Savannah," after the African grasslands that are home to the Serval’s ancestors. This kitten became the first F1 (first generation hybrid cross).

With Savannah, Suzy was able to breed the first known F2 (second generation) Savannah cat. The feline’s unique physical traits and dynamic personality attracted the attention and interest of Patrick Kelly, who then obtained one of the kittens. Patrick Kelly wanted to produce a new breed of domestic cat, and enlisted the aid of cat breeder Joyce Sroufe to assist him.

By painstakingly researching the steps needed to create a feline breed that would be recognized by the national cat registry, Patrick Kelly and Joyce Sroufe were able to successfully produce a new feline breed. Together, Kelly and Sroufe are credited with writing and presenting the Savannah breed standard to The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1996. Kelly and Sroufe were successful, and as of 2001, the Savannah cat has been recognized as a New Advanced Breed Class. 

Comments  11

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  • 08/23/2013 09:23am

    my vet prescribe 7.5 mgs daily for my 7 year old savannah who is recovering from an infection and stopped eating. he weighs about8lbs due to his weight loss. Is this dose too high? I have been halving the pills because it seemed like too much and the side effects I read about scare me if given too much. She gave me 14 pills to be given daily and I am reading that it is supposed to be administered every 72 hours. I am confused.

  • Be Careful before you buy
    02/24/2014 08:01pm

    Please consider my story before you buy a Savannah cat. It started in 2007 when I found this breed online and immediately fell in love with it and after doing research I bought from a breeder in Arizona. Long story short my little furry buddy was diagnosed at 9 months with having a tumor surrounding his heart and was not going to make it very much longer. I went ahead and did the surgery on to have a very sad and ugly battle with complications and continued growth on the tumor. We had to put our little buddy down. The breeder actually tried to blame the tumor on me then finally offered me a free cat once she saw how upset i was. One year later and after much healing financially and mentally we decided not to take that breeder up on the free cat and chose a different breeder. Our cat arrived and was healthy (so we thought) and 4 years down the road he started having bad diarrhea which turned into no eating which turned into a feeding tube which turned into watching him go blind and not be able to walk. Turned out he had FIP which mutates from the Corona virus which typically comes from other cats(or catteries).In the end we had to put him down and he was like our child baby stroller and all. I started doing a little research on Hybrid cats including talking to a co worker that had 3 Bengals. Two of them died of liver and kidney disease within 5 years. Is it that we are just that unlucky? While after doing some research we understand a little better why this probably happened to us and our pour cat. When these Hybrid cats die, the owners typically would notify the breeders and the breeders are not reporting this to anyone because there is no benefit to them to do so and it would lower the value of the breed.

    I'm not saying you cannot get a health Hybrid cat or Savannah cat, I'm just saying the odds seem to be stacked against you and you'll have a hard time getting transparency from a breeder that wants you money.

  • 02/24/2014 08:11pm

    I submitted my comment before it was ready. Please do your homework on Hybrid Cats before you buy and if you choose to go ahead please talk to the breeders past customers especially the past customers that have cats more than 8 years old. They are probably not going to give you the names of people like me that have had horrible issues, but at least you can see if they have bred cats that have lived or are living a long healthy life.

  • 05/16/2014 10:36am

    Well I had purchased a Savannah from a breeder in California in 2006. This past march I had to have him put tip sleep because he developed tumors in his groin area and the tip of his tail. It started with a limp in his hind legs and the doctors kept saying it was an infection and just prescribe antibiotics, They did xrays and saw nothing. About a week after the vet visit I noticed the swelling in his groin and then the tip of the tai. He was eating like crazy but losing weight to the point where he could hardly walk. It broke my heart that this beautiful majestic boy could get so sick so suddenly and be gone before his 8th birthday. I had no idea that the Savannah breed was so fragile. Every doctor I spoke to told me that they have no known health issues but I did some research and found out that they can have problems with their liver and kidneys as their liver is smaller than the average domestic short hair. These breeders should be up front about the possible health issues of these animals and think twice before continuing to breed them if they are an unhealthy breed. It's not fair to these beautiful cats or the people who have purchased them hoping to give them a nice home. When are people going to stop thinking about how much money they are going to make on breeding these animals???? I am furious and heart broken and will never buy from a breeder again. There are so many cats in shelters that need a good home and that is what I did. I went and adopted 2 cats from my local shelter and they are beautiful and very grateful to have a forever home

  • 07/19/2014 10:52am

    So sorry for your losses. It is so hard to loose one of your babies, and that, really, is what they become.
    You know, I have rescued cats forever, (I am 70 years old) and it seems like the kittens that are born of mothers that are often homeless, or are really just "a cat", are the most healthy little guys!
    There are so many "just cats" looking for a home. They may not have a sheet of paper that comes with them that says they are such and such, but they make wonderful companions. It's kind of like adopting children....they don't need to be all one nationality for us to love them, and neither do cats. I do hope you will check out your local shelter....you will know when you see the right one. They ALWAYS pick you......you will know. :0)

  • 08/23/2014 01:49am

    Wow, that is terrible......I purchased a beautiful Savannah from Bundas Cattery 2003.....he has fortunately enjoyed good health. My breeder has been supportive throughout his life and continues to be supportive for any related questions...... I purchased a Chausie fro Paula Roberts in 2006 she too is a supportive breeder...... Please know there are some fantastic breeders out there too..... I also have a Bengal/Siamese and two Bengal/Abyssinian crosses two of the three breeders I remain in contact with too. Best wishes if you ever get another Savannah.....

  • 10/14/2014 01:13pm

    I saw a picture of a cat and it said "THE TOP TEN REASON TO ADOPT A CAT" 1. YOU SAVE A LIFE

    DO YOU NEED ANOTHER REASON?

    There a so many cat and kittens out there that are in need of a forever home, why not make your home , their home?
    I am 62 yrs now, and over the years I have probably saved 50 or more cats and kittens. I have kept some, but found homes for most of the others. I am 100% in favor of the T-N-R programs (trap-neuter-released). I figure I'm a Heinz 57 human, why not have Heinz 57 cats. I love the way Savannah cats look. and Russian Blues, etc., but to see the eyes of a cute little stray that needs a home, I just can't imagine saying "NO", they love you just as much. Also from what I understand, purebred dogs and cats have many more health problems than Mutts and Domestics. Kathleen

  • 10/07/2014 05:56pm

    Hi There,

    I am so sorry to hear about your sad experiences with this breed of cat. And I just want to say thank you for taking the time to write about it, as I myself would consider buying this breed but will now think twice thanks to you.

    Best Wishes
    Judy

  • Research
    05/16/2014 07:57am

    I also have a family member that purchased two of these cats from a breeder in Ohio. The first died at 2yrs and the second at 4yrs both from some form of kidney issues.

  • 05/16/2014 10:45am

    Well I had purchased a Savannah from a breeder in California in 2006. This past march I had to have him put tip sleep because he developed tumors in his groin area and the tip of his tail. It started with a limp in his hind legs and the doctors kept saying it was an infection and just prescribe antibiotics, They did xrays and saw nothing. About a week after the vet visit I noticed the swelling in his groin and then the tip of the tai. He was eating like crazy but losing weight to the point where he could hardly walk. It broke my heart that this beautiful majestic boy could get so sick so suddenly and be gone before his 8th birthday. I had no idea that the Savannah breed was so fragile. Every doctor I spoke to told me that they have no known health issues but I did some research and found out that they can have problems with their liver and kidneys as their liver is smaller than the average domestic short hair. These breeders should be up front about the possible health issues of these animals and think twice before continuing to breed them if they are an unhealthy breed. It's not fair to these beautiful cats or the people who have purchased them hoping to give them a nice home. When are people going to stop thinking about how much money they are going to make on breeding these animals???? I am furious and heart broken and will never buy from a breeder again. There are so many cats in shelters that need a good home and that is what I did. I went and adopted 2 cats from my local shelter and they are beautiful and very grateful to have a forever home

  • Illness
    10/14/2014 10:54pm

    One cannot predict health of anyone. The Savannah is not really a purebred since it is a mix of two species of cat wild/domestic. My Savannah loves to be outside hunting ....he has captured rodents, a chipmunk and a wild turkey in the past month.....one has to consider the animals wild heritage ..... He gets visibly depressed if confined to the house. He is very loving ...he rubs and chirps.....
    I had 6 cats .... In August a rescue who only stayed indoors..age at least 8 got very I'll and a decision to euthanize was made.....my 7 yr old Ocicat indoor cat too, also a rescue became ill in Sept.....vet said illness was unrelated .....the vet gave hope of recovery and after $800+ she passed away....
    I am not against rescue. It is tough when one is committing to 20 years + of relationship with an animal companion. When one buys from a breeder there are certain expectations of characteristics. Good breeders are conscientious and supportive. One only has to consider ones human friends ....cancers, heart disease etc are ever so prevalent and on the rise due to environmental conditions.
    I love cats period! But if you do your research and select a reputable breeder hopefully you and your companion will enjoy many years together.

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