Q: WHAT IS A SAVANNAH CAT?
A: Savannah cats are the hybrid breed that resulted from breeding the wild cat species known as an African Serval to a domestic cat. These terms are often confused but savannahs are a 100% domestic breed and the terms are not to be used interchangeably. While some do keep servals as pets, they often can be very difficult, either due to personality or legality challenges. They generally do not make great pets for the average person due to their "wild" nature. However the serval is a very beautiful animal, closely resembling a cheetah, and in an effort to capture this beauty in a more manageable form without all of the negatives that come with serval ownership, the savannah breed was born. The first Savannah produced was by a Bengal breeder, Judee Frank. She crossbred a male serval, belonging to Suzi Woods, with a Siamese to produce the first Savannah cat on April 7, 1986. In 1996, Patrick Kelley and Joyce Sroufe wrote the original version of the Savannah breed standard and presented it to the board of The International Cat Association. In 2001, the board accepted the breed for registration.
Q: WHY ARE THEY SO EXPENSIVE?
A: Firstly f1 savannahs are very difficult to produce, only a handful of people actively produce litters. Due to gestational differences between servals and domestic cats, kittens are often born premature, and often around the clock breeder care is needed if they are to survive. Even then only 1-3 kittens is common for an f1 litter. You also have to feed and house a serval, which is quite expensive, with the added chance they might never mate a domestic cat. With breeding rights for an f1 costing between 15k-22k the start up cost for each subsequent generation is high as well. Buying a stud will also set you back around 5k-10k. Now all of this does not include the additional costs that go into raising any purebred cat. You have to factor in the cost of vet care, food, toys, registration, health testing, advertising, and emergencies. This is why there is no such thing as a cheap savannah. If you find what you think is a "crazy deal" on a kitten, you are being scammed or you are buying from a backyard breeder, which will in return mean you are getting a kitten that has not been properly vetted, sick, isn't registered, and probably isn't even a savannah at all.
Q: THEY'RE BIG RIGHT?
A: No, not necessarily . With the f1-f3 generations being on the larger side (especially the males), the later generations are more or less the size of regular cats. Even with f1-f3 being bigger the averages are not a guarantee, you can still have an f1 only weigh 10lb! On the flip side sometimes you will see a 20lb f6, its all the luck of the draw with genetics. Ideally you do not want a heavy overweight savannah, more importantly than weight they should be long, tall, and lean. This makes them look like a much larger cat than they really are. Any breeder that promises you a 20-40lb cat should be avoided, size can be estimated based on previous litters from the same parents but NEVER promised. If you are only wanting a big cat, a Maine Coon is a safer bet.
Average sizes by generation:
these are just rough averages, they can be bigger, or smaller.
F1: 14-25 pounds
F2: 12-25 pounds
F3: 9-20 pounds
F4 and later: 9-15 pounds
Q: WHAT DOES THE "F" MEAN? WHAT ABOUT "A,B,C,SBT"?
A: The "F" stands for filial and refers to how many generations removed from the serval ancestor the savannah cat is. An f1 would have one serval parent and one domestic parent, an f2 would have a serval grandparent with the rest being domestic, and an f3 would have a serval great-grandparent. The other letters such as "A,B,C,SBT", refers to how many savannah to savannah mattings are in the pedigree, and if there has been any recent outcrossing of different breeds.
A: one parent is a (non-Savannah) outcross
B: both parents are Savannahs
C: both parents and grandparents are all Savannahs
SBT: parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are all Savannahs. This is considered purebred, these cats can be shown at TICA cat shows, the earliest you can have an SBT is an f4.
Percentages: (rough estimates)
F1: 50-75% serval
F2: 25-37% serval
F3: 12.5-20% serval
F4: 6.5-14% serval
F5: 3.1-12% serval
Q: DO THEY USE A LITTERBOX?
A: Yes Savannah cats will use a litter box like any other cat, and we will make sure they have good habits before leaving to their new home. It is a myth that they are more likely to spray than other cat breeds because they are part "wild". With that being said ANY cat can mark inappropriately if under a large amount of stress or can not find their litter box. this is why it is important when you bring them home to acclimate them to their new environment, start them off in a small room such as a bathroom so they can easily find the litter box, do not let them have full run of the house. Additionally any intact cat, especially males will mark their territory, which is why it is a good idea to have them neutered before 6 months.
Q: DO THEY GET ALONG WITH OTHER PETS/KIDS? ARE THEY REALLY DOMESTIC?
A: YES! most will get along just fine with other pets and children. There is always a chance that the other pets in the household will reject a new addition, and that they do not get along but that is the risk with any new animal. This is just up to their individual personality and does not have to do with the breed. You will want to introduce them into their new home slowly and do not rush introductions, and give them their own space, going to a new home is very stressful for them and rushing things can make them act out of fear . This is the same for introducing any new pet, not just savannahs. Savannahs are incredibly smart, curious, loving, and act more like dogs than cats. They are in no way a 'wild animal' and do not act aggressively. The earlier generations such as f1/f2 can be slightly more timid around new people and situations and most prefer to not be held. However our f2 is an exception and prefers to be carried around like the big baby she is. They are very high energy and equally as intelligent breed that needs lots of play time. Many love to play fetch, splash around in water, and go for walks on a leash/harness. Having other pets in the house is actually ideal, that way they have someone to play with, especially if you are away from home several hours a day, however older cats may become annoyed so another savannah or dogs are best! A savannah cat will love you like no other and the bond they form with their humans is deep and for life.
Q: DO THEY NEED A SPECIAL VET?
A: No, savannahs of all generations can see a normal vet, and do not need any special care, nor do they need to see an exotic vet. While it is ideal to have a vet that is familiar with savannahs, it is not a requirement.
Q: WHAT DO THEY EAT?
A: All cats big and small, wild and domesticated are obligate carnivores. What this means is that to synthesize the proteins they need to live they MUST eat a diet that contains meat, without meat they will suffer severe health consequences and eventually die, cats CAN NOT be vegan or vegetarian. A species appropriate diet consists of a raw meat diet containing organs and bones, or whole prey. Homemade raw is what makes up a majority of our cats diet. While a balanced raw diet is what is best and appropriate diet for ANY cat (not just savannahs), though it is not technically necessary, and a high quality- high protein grain-free food will suffice. Wet food is preferable over dry food, as exclusively kibble fed cats typically suffer from dehydration.. Again we HIGHLY recommend you keep your kitten on raw if you want them to thrive, not just survive.
We have been feeding raw since we started breeding, and we have NEVER had an issue with salmonella or them (or us) getting sick. We have also had bloodwork done to check for any deficiencies and everything came back perfect. Since we also want our kittens to go to their new home familiar eating different foods in the event their new owner decides to not keep them on raw, we do expose them to canned wet food and some dry food as a treat.
I FOUND A CAT, IS IT A SAVANNAH?
The savannah breed is still very rare, and with these cats costing thousands of dollars, and ethical breeders being willing to take back kitties in the event people can no longer care for them... it is EXTREMLY unlikely for them to be "dumped". Many other breeds and randomly bred cats come in spotted, striped, and swirly patterns you can see in savannahs. Pattern and behavior alone do not give any indication to a breed. Unless this kitty has registration paperwork it is very reasonable to assume its just a very pretty domestic shorthair. If you have very strong reason to believe you have an escaped or abandoned purebred kitty please take them to the vet to check for a microchip, all ethical breeders microchip their kitties and someone may be missing their baby!