The Savannah Cat is not for everyone, especially if you have no experience in keeping a feline. While it is an overstatement to claim the breed dangerous, it can be a handful and even destructive it its needs are not met.
Are Savannah cats dangerous?
No, Savannah cats are not dangerous. Although the breed traces its roots to a wild breed of cat and has a tendency toward destructive behavior when bored, a Savannah cat poses no harm to humans.
Much of the concerns regarding ownership of the Savannah Cat stems from its origins. The breed is a cross between the domestic cat and the wildcat Serval. The Serval lives on the African plains and is known for its graceful, long and lean features, and its distinctive spotted coat.
The Savannah Cat is a relatively new breed. The Bengal Breeder named Judy Frank is credited for making the first attempt to create this cat breed way back in the 1980s. Frank’s efforts were followed by another attempt in the 1990s by cat breeders Patrick Kelly and Joyce Sroufe. Kelly and Sroufe are credited for successfully developing the breed by using the offspring of the first wildcat and domestic cat hybrids.
Eventually, the two managed to get the Savannah Cat recognized by the International Cat Association. Today, the breed is recognized by a few more registries, including The International Progressive Cat Breeders’ Alliance.
Savannah Cat Genetics
If you manage to adopt a Savannah Cat, does that mean that you are getting a feline that is part domestic cat, part wildcat? Most likely not. To better answer that question and quell concerns about the perceived dangers of owning this breed, it is worthwhile to look at how the cat has been bred.
To show how far removed a Savannah Cat is from its wild ancestors, breeders use genetic nomenclature expressed as filial generation. For example, a direct cross between a serval and a domestic cat results in an F1 Savannah Cat. This means that the offspring is 50 percent domestic cat and 50 percent Serval.
Female F1 Savannahs are often fertile while males are sterile until they reach F6. Typically, Savannah Cats that are currently being sold are offspring sired by an F6 male Savannah.
At around F4, the breed’s temperament becomes more stable and its size meets the breed standards. By this point, the cat’s wild instincts have been essentially bred out while still retaining its distinct personality.
Much of the controversy and perceived dangers regarding owning a Savannah stems from its ancestry. In fact, some states and cities classify the cat as an exotic animal. This has resulted in the ban or restrictions on the ownership of this gorgeous cat breed. However, these legislations are not fixed in stone and may eventually be lifted.
Physical Characteristics of a Savannah Cat
According to the Savannah Cat’s breed standards, this feline should mimic the physical characteristics of the Serval, albeit in a smaller package. The breed, like the Serval, is characterized by its long and lean legs and neck, big ears, and the spotted pattern on its coat. Accepted coat colors include brown spotted tabby, black, black smoke, and black silver spotted tabby.
Savannahs can weigh anywhere between 12 to 25 pounds and can grow as long as 22 inches. Its life expectancy can range between 12 and 20 years.
Savannah Cat temperament
In terms of temperament, the Savannah Cat is similar to dogs. It quickly warms up to his family members and actively seeks interactions. Like dogs, Savannahs are intensely loyal. Although they may be lukewarm to strangers at first, their innate curiosity and desire to interact overcomes this initial aloofness.
This intelligent breed is not for people looking for a laidback feline. The Savannah is an active breed that requires plenty of play and interaction.
Like canines, this cat can be trained to play fetch and walk while wearing a leash. And like the Serval, Savannah likes playing in the water. Savannahs are expert climbers and like to perch themselves.
The breed can thrive with other furry members of your household. However, they should be kept along with dogs or cats with the same energy level and temperament.
The cat is also excellent with older kids, but not with younger ones.
How to care for a Savannah Cat?
1. Keeping destructive behavior at bay
Like dogs, the Savannah Cat tends to display destructive behavior when it is not physically and mentally stimulated. The best way to keep this tendency at bay is to actively engage with your furry little pal. Here are a few helpful tips that you can follow.
2. Tweak your home setup
If you have decided to get a Savannah, it is imperative to prepare your home beforehand.
Start by sealing off possible exit points. Remember, once your cat goes outdoors, the possibility of it coming back is virtually non-existent.
Next, make your home child/cat-proof. Savannahs are highly intelligent and have a way of figuring out how things operate. Err on the side of caution and make the necessary adjustments.
If possible, install perches where your new family member can climb. Savannahs like to climb and park themselves atop perches, observing their surroundings.
Invest in cat scratching posts to help deviate your pet’s attention away from your furniture.
3. Play with your Savannah
Savannahs are not aloof, unlike other breeds that can be left on their own devices to amuse themselves. This breed actively seeks companionship and activity. As such, you should earmark a part of your day to play with your cat. Plus, playtime allows your cat to expend his pent up energy toward his interaction with you instead of engaging in destructive behavior.
Choose sturdy cat toys. Savannahs can play rough and they can easily damage flimsy products.
Savannahs are trainable. Like some dog breeds, these cats respond better to training when you offer them treats as a reward.
You can take your Savannah out for a walk. He will enjoy the fresh air while new surroundings can stimulate his mind. But make sure that you buy a quality leash for him, one that will not hurt him.
4. Consider neutering/spaying
If you are not keen on breeding this cat, you should strongly consider spaying or neutering your pet. Both can help reduce destructive tendencies.
The Savannah and other members of the household
Due to the cat’s energy level, it is not advisable for homes with young kids. However, the cat is a perfect companion for older kids with similar energy levels.
The cat can also get along with other breeds like the Siamese and the Abyssinian. It can also bond with dogs in a household, as long as the canines have a similar temperament.
Do not get a Savannah Cat if you have more laidback or smaller pets in your home. Savannahs have a strong prey drive and can terrorize and annoy smaller pets.
Challenging but rewarding
The Savannah is not for the inexperienced pet owner or someone looking for a laidback pet. Indeed, the cat’s coat is stunning and attractive. But along with that gorgeous appearance comes the challenge of keeping up with the breed’s high activity level.
Simply put, Savannah is not for everyone. But if you are willing to step up to the challenge, you will be rewarded by a fiercely loyal and affectionate member of the family.
Image: istockphoto.com / Volchanskiy