Planning to bring home a Savannah kitten but not sure if the cat is suited to your family?
Savannahs are one of the most beautiful cat breeds in the world, with unique traits and an exotic appearance. However, they are easily misunderstood as an aggressive breed due to their wild cat lineage.
So, are Savannah cats mean?
The answer is no, these cats are not inherently mean. Despite their wild cat appearance, the Savannah is one of the friendliest and most affectionate cat breeds. As such, most Savannah owners can testify to the great joy of having one of these cats as a part of the family.
Below, we will explain some of the positive traits of a Savannah, as well as the potential reasons they might become aggressive.
What is a Savannah cat?
The Savannah cat is a beautiful crossbreed between a domestic cat and an African serval. Although they are about the same size as regular cats, these elegant felines are known for their tall and slender bodies, large ears, and long legs, which might make them look a little larger. The solid spots on their base coats also look somewhat similar to those of a wild leopard, giving them a beautiful and exotic appearance.
Unlike most cat breeds, Savannahs have filial designations, from F1 to F5, based on how genetically close they are to their wild cat ancestors. For example, an F1 hybrid Savannah would mean that the cat is 75% serval. The second generation, F2, might have about 38% wild blood. Hence, the greater the generation, the further the cat is from a serval.
If you are planning to own a Savannah cat, then knowing these different generations of the breed is extremely important. The size and personality of the cat are greatly influenced by their level of wildness. The cost of acquiring a kitten can also vary – the closer it is to a serval, the higher its price. Hence, F1 hybrid kittens are considered the most expensive, not to mention the long-term cost of their maintenance and veterinary visits.
Savannah cat behavior and personality
As Savannahs are descendants of wild African cats, you might well wonder what their temperament is like. Are they hostile? Or are they as affectionate as a typical domestic cat?
Well, the temperament of a Savannah cat is hugely dependent on the it’s wildness. Hence, cats that are categorized as F1, F2, and F3 might have wild behavioral tendencies, making them less suitable as household pets. Some states even prohibit the ownership of the earlier generations due to their unpredictable behavior.
On the other hand, Savannah cats of the F4 generation and beyond will not inherit nearly as many wild cat traits, making them ideal pets for most households. These generations will still retain their exotic appearance, but they will be friendlier and more affectionate than those that are closer to their serval ancestors.
So, what is it like to own a Savannah cat (F4 and beyond)? Surprisingly, Savannahs are playful, highly social, and strongly loyal to their human companions. Despite their exotic looks, these majestic felines are one of the most affectionate cat breeds. They are also highly intelligent and athletic, making them most suited to environments with lots of stimulation.
Like any domestic cat, a Savannah might enjoy curling up with you or greeting you at the door when you reach home. However, they are not the ideal lap cats. Savannahs are extremely energetic, adventurous, and inquisitive. From time to time, you might find them jumping on top of your cabinets or tables, or even joining you in your bathtub. Their temperaments are more dog-like than cat-like, so it is very important to train them at a young age to prevent them from getting up to mischief.
Are Savannah cats mean?
Contrary to what many people believe, the lower generations (F4 and beyond) of Savannah cats are no different from a typical household cat when it comes to behaviors and personalities. Yes, they are descended from African servals, but they are not hostile. In fact, these beautiful cats have big personalities and are a bundle of joy for any family.
Just like other cat breeds, a Savannah’s personality is greatly influenced by the way they are raised. Some cats can be naturally shy around strangers but extremely attached to a single owner, while others are outgoing and friendly to everyone. Therefore, early socialization is crucial to ensure your Savannah grows up to be a friendly and well-behaved cat.
What makes a Savannah cat aggressive?
Again, Savannah cats are not aggressive by nature. However, like any other pet, these cats can become mean if they feel frightened, frustrated, or are not properly socialized at a young age. Due to their wild lineage, their human owners must spend enough time and attention on them as kittens so that they grow into adult cats that are suited to a family environment.
Savannahs are also not the ideal household pet for super busy individuals. If you are someone who is always away on trips and cannot spend a lot of time with your pets, then you might need to reconsider owning a Savannah. Due to their playfulness and high-energy levels, these cats demand lots of attention and playtime. Without sufficient environmental enrichment and attention from their human companions, Savannahs can become bored and aggressive.
A lack of proper introduction to new pets can also cause aggression in Savannah cats. Depending on how they were raised, they can be territorial and extremely protective of their belongings. Hence, before bringing a new puppy or cat into your home, make sure that they are slowly and safely introduced to your resident cat.
Lastly, a Savannah cat can become mean when it is in pain or struggling with an underlying medical issue. Any extreme behavioral changes without a clear reason should be a red flag and warrant a visit to your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Are Savannah cats vicious?
Most Savannah cats are not inherently vicious. But, since they have inherited some of the wild traits of a serval, they can possess strong hunting instincts and a high predatory drive. Hence, they can be dangerous to smaller pets like birds and hamsters.
Additionally, Savannahs can be destructive if they are not properly socialized or not given enough attention and entertainment. So, before deciding to own a Savannah, make sure that you are ready for the commitment of training and caring for this unique breed.
How do you discipline a Savannah cat?
Like any other pet, the best way to train a Savannah cat is through the use of positive reinforcement. Provide your cat with plenty of treats, playtime, and attention every time they display desirable behavior. Punishing them in any way is a big no, as this will only encourage aggression and owner avoidance.
As mentioned, Savannahs need plenty of exercise and playtime, and you might find them running and jumping around the house. Remember that these traits are normal, so make sure that your home is well-adjusted to their lifestyle. Provide your cats with interactive toys, cat trees, and scratching posts to keep them away from your furniture, flower vases, delicate ornaments, and carpets.
You should also discourage rough play. If your Savannah starts biting or scratching your hands, stop playing immediately and walk away.
You can also train your Savannah to walk on a leash or play fetch, just like a typical dog is trained to do. These activities will provide plenty of opportunity for your cat to spend their pent-up energy and explore the great outdoors.
Remember that Savannahs are highly intelligent cats, so it should not take too long for them to learn a few tricks.
Savannah cats are not as mean as many people might think. As long as you provide them with their specific needs in terms of attention, stimulation and exercise, these cats can be great companions to a family. Early socialization plays a critical role in ensuring that the cat maintains desirable behavior throughout their adult life.
It is also essential to understand your cat’s moods and learn to respect their boundaries. By doing so, you can create a safe and loving environment for you and your Savannah to enjoy each other’s company.
Image: istockphoto.com / Gennadiy Naumov