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Savannah Cat

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Even though the domesticated Savannah cat is a relatively newly recognized breed, this large eared hybrid cat is rapidly gaining in popularity. The breed was first introduced in the 1980's, and received recognition from the International Cat Association in 2001, and again in 2012 as a championship breed. Even before the cat began receiving accolades, it was already capturing the hearts of cat lovers.

Savannah Cat History

The Savannah cat (domestic hybrid), began as a cross breeding effort conducted by Judee Frank and Suzi Woods, using a male serval and a domesticated siamese cat. Savannah, the first domesticated hybrid, was born on April 7th, 1986. This new breed started gaining national attention when cat lover, Patrick Kelley, brought one of Savannah's kittens and decided to have the breed internationally recognized. This lead to a breeding program that was instituted by Kelley and renowned breeder Joyce Sroufe. They would later develop and write the original standards for the breed. Sroufe was also the first to bring the savannah hybrid to the West Chester cat show in 1997. By 2012, the new breed had skyrocketed to being listed as a championship breed in an unbelievably short period of time.

The Recognized Standards of the Savannah

Savannah cats are one of the larger hybrid cat breeds, as they are generally compared to small dogs. The size of the cat is misleading though, as their long legs, and long, thin bodies make them appear much larger than their actual weight which can be relatively light, (7-30lbs). Breeders are learning that due to the cat's genetic African heritage, the size and markings on each cat can differ greatly even in the same litter. Today's breeders are trying to weed out these random genetic variations, while still preserving some of the cat's more tradition standards.

What is perhaps the most recognizable trait of the savannah cats are the large, rounder shaped ears that dominate their small, angular heads. Their trademark ears are a genetic trait of their serval heritage, and this is causing some breeders to limit the breeding influences on future generations. Along with their distinctive ears, the markings on the savannah cat are also extremely recognizable. There are several patterns that are recognized by the International Cat Association as meeting their breeding standards, and these include,

  • Brown spotted coat colors should be light to warm brown or tan and gold with only black and dark brown spots.
  • Silver spotted coats are with black to dark gray spots
  • Black coat with black spots
  • Black smoke which is a blacked tipped silver coat with black spots.

There are other variations on certain breeds of savannah's coats, but the majority of breeders are slowly erasing the unwanted genetic traits now that there is a wide selection of fertile male savannah cats to choose from.

Other Savannah Standards

Other recognizable standards for the savannah hybrid breed is the slightly wild appearance that seems to be characteristic of the breed. The elongated eyes help to give the cat an exotic look that appeals to many breeders, and the long back legs help to give it a sleek, athletic appearance. While this is not a standard, many breeders look for the tear shaped mark under the eyes, which can help enhance the animal's wild appearance.

Savannah Personality

Perhaps one of the reasons for the popularity of the savannah is the cat's friendly and curious personality. Through breed experts warn that there are three factors that help to determine a savannah's personality, as a breed, they are friendly, loyal, and social and have often become compared to dogs. Though as breeders warn, the breed is still in its early stages, and personality traits are still emerging. With this taken into consideration, the three main influences on the cat's personality are the animal's generation, lineage, and the amount of socialization the cat receives during infancy. Socialization seems to be the key factor in developing any animal's personality, with the general agreement being that the more the cat is introduced and familiarized with people, the more comfortable and social the animal will be as an adult.

There are common personality traits associated with the hybrid breed, and the most common trait is the often incredible jumping and leaping ability the cat has with its elongated back legs. These curious cats can leap onto almost anything, and have been known to jump over 8ft., straight into the air. These cats are also intelligent and easy to train, and have been known to fetch and walk on leashes.

As part of the serval heritage, these playful cats love water, and have been known to jump into showers or place their heads under running water. Many owners have even found it impossible to have a dish of water lying out, and have resorted to using water bottles for their cats to drink from.

Savannahs, like their siamese relatives can be extremely vocal with noises that mimic wailing meows or the same chirping noises as a serval. What truly can make a savannah stand out is the snake like hissing noise that some of them can make. This angry noise is different than the domesticated house cat's and can be a requirement among some breeders.

While almost all wild and domestic breeds of cats fluff the fur on the back when alarmed, savannahs are one of the only breeds that full out the fur around the base of their tails as a way of saying, “hello.” Savannahs frequently wag their tails, similar to dogs, when they are happy or excited.

Savannah Health and Care

A savannah cat, (domestic hybrid) does not require care that is different from the level of care that is given to a common domestic cat. Unlike popular myth, a pure breed savannah does not require specialized immunizations or diet. Their main differences in the care for this cat is that they do require room to play and explore, they are active and energetic cats and do not do well if they are kept enclosed in small areas.

Their dietary needs are the same as other domestic cats and vets recommend feeding the cat dry or wet food that is high in protein and antioxidants. Some owners prefer a natural diet and prepare their own cat food.

Since savannahs have large, round ears, it may be necessary to occasionally clean the inside of the ears. This will also help to prevent certain medical problems from developing, along with helping to keep the animal well groomed. The tips of the nails will also need occasional trimming to prevent damage to furniture and to the animal.

Regardless of the animal's breed, all domestic cats need to be vaccinated against not only rabies, and feline distemper, but also panleukopenia, calicivirus, and rhinotrachetis. The local vet or adoption agency can advise and administer the necessary vaccinations.

Common Savannah Breed Questions

Some of the most frequently asked questions about the savannah cat breed can include,

1. The size of the average savannah

The average length and weight of the savannah cat varies among generations, with the first generations being significantly larger. The most common generations are the third, fourth, and fifth, which are averaging between 14-18lbs., and 13-15” across the shoulders, and 15-18” long. It is important to remember that these are averages and they do vary between the generations.

2. Their ability to socialize

Savannahs are normally very social and curious cats who play well with children and other animals, including dogs. Much of this depends also, on the amount of time they spent socializing when they were kittens.

3. They can be trained

These cats are incredibly intelligent and curious, which can make them easy to train. A common misconception is that since the breed is only recently domesticated that the “wild” cat may be difficult to train to even use a litter box. Not only are they easy to train to use the litter box, they can also be trained to walk on a leash and to fetch small toys.

4. Immunizations

As with any breed of animal, savannah cats need the same series of vaccinations. Ideally beginning during their kitten stage, a veterinarian will be able to schedule the necessary regimen of shots.

5. Lifespan

The average age of a healthy serval is close to twenty years, and there is not any reason not to expect the domesticated hybrid to live as long.

The Savannah Cat, Domestic Hybrid

The main question breeders and cat enthusiasts are asking themselves is if savannahs really make good house pets, and the answer is that they could be a great pet for the right person. Savannahs are not only striking in their looks, their personalities are also making them the new darlings of the cat world. Their playful and intelligent natures make them great for families with children and other pets, but these same personality traits also demand a lot of attention.

Like their Siamese relatives, these intelligent cats are also extremely social and can be rather demanding. With activities and the room to keep the entertained and occupied, they can become destructive in their boredom. This breed of cat is not recommended to anyone who does not have the time to spend with their cat. On the other hand, if the time is spent with the cat, the owner will have a playful and loyal friend for life.

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