Breed of the Week: Savannah

This week we feature a breed that is in truth a hybrid between a wild cat and a domestic cat – the Savannah.  The Savannah is a mix between the Serval, also known as the African Serval, (shown below) and a domestic cat.

African Serval

The first Savannah, named Savannah, was a cross between the Serval and a Siamese.


In its early development, Bengal and Egyptian Mau were used to retain the breed’s spotted coat.

Egyptian Mau
Egyptian Mau
Bengal Cat

Currently, the breed standard of the International Cat Association (TICA) allows for the cross of the Serval with the Egyptian Mau, the Ocicat, the Oriental Shorthair, and the Domestic Shorthair.

Oriental Shorthair
Oriental Shorthair
Domestic Shorthair
Domestic Shorthair

The domestic cats bred with the Serval should be brown-spotted tabbies, silver-spotted tabbies, black with black spots, or black smoke.  To prevent the passing on of undesirable genetic traits, the Maine Coon and Bengal cats should not be crossed with the Serval.  The purpose in breeding Savannah is to allow a person to bring something that looks exotic into the home without the dangers presented by owning the larger and wilder exotic big cats such as lions, tigers, and leopards.

As they are a mix of wild cat and domestic cat, the Savannah is marked by what’s called a filial number.  For example, an F1 Savannah is a first generation Savannah from a Serval and domestic cat, or else a Serval and Savannah.  Later generations with less Serval in their genetics are subsequently called F2, F3, F4, and so on.  F1 Savannah cats can be up to and even exceeding 75% Serval, though those that exceed 75% are often sterile.

There are ownership laws concerning the Savannah due to its wild heritage.  In the USA the laws vary from state to state and sometimes from city to city, so research what ownership laws exist in your region if you’re considering purchasing or adopting a Savannah.

Although their personalities and temperaments vary from one Savannah to another due to out-breeding with various domestic cats, they have two overlying traits – high energy and heightened curiosity.  The Savannah is suited to more active families as they require plenty of play time and exercise to help drain the energy their wild Serval ancestors would have used in hunting.  They are highly intelligent, which tends to get them into trouble as they learn to open cabinets and doors, turn on water taps, and find ways to escape their homes.  On the flip side, their intelligence can also lead to learning tricks like fetch and learning to walk on a leash.

If properly socialized, the Savannah can be very friendly toward people, even those outside their immediate family.  Savannah develop deep bonds with those they consider their people and become very loyal to the point of following their person(s) around the house and insisting on being included in all daily activities.  In general, Savannah do not fear water and, in fact, many like to play in it and may immerse themselves in it.  Some owners even shower with them!

The most notable and sometimes most problematic trait of the Savannah is its jumping ability.  Most Savannah can jump up to 8 ft. from a perfect standstill.  They’ll jump on top of doors, bookcases, shelves, refrigerators, and high cabinets.  Precautions need to be taken to prevent them getting into trouble or getting injured.

Serval jumping

With the right steps taken and the proper adjustments made, Savannah can be marvelous pets and can bring that exotic, wild flavor into their owners’ homes.

Please do your research if you are considering adopting a Savannah!  They need daily activity and socialization or they can become obnoxious and destructive.  Remember, they are part wild cat.  Their behavior may or may not reflect their Serval heritage more than their domestic cat heritage.  If you are not prepared to deal with a much wilder version of a domestic cat, don’t purchase or adopt a Savannah!  Instead, see about purchasing or adopting a domestic cat that more suits your lifestyle.

Fun Fact:  The Savannah holds the record for the world’s tallest domestic cat.

Do you or have you owned a Savannah?  Tell us about it in the comments below!  We’d love to hear about your experiences with this breed of cat!

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