Here’s my answers to some of the common Savannah cat questions.

What are savannah cats like?

 

20190118_011209Savannah cat personality is unique among cats.   As a “crazy cat lady” who has owned, bred & rescued  cats & kittens every single day of my entire life (except for 2 very lonely cat free months),   I have owned everything from barn cats &  strays who found their way to my front porch, shelter kittens & rescued adult cats, Persians, Siamese, Maine coons, Bengals and domestic short hairs of all varieties.   As such I can say that savannah cats are not your average “cat” their personality is much more entertaining, they are more intelligent and interactive with their people.   A “dog like personality” is an accurate description.

Savannahs excel at jumping, climbing, leash walking,  playing fetch and just all round awesomeness!!! 

Savannahs don’t just have “catitude” they have Spotitude!

What is a Savannah cat?

A Savannah cat is a specific breed of cat.   It is a hybrid cat resulting from the breeding of a domestic cat and an African  serval cat  (or the subsequent offspring of that original domestic to serval pairing).  Savannahs are distinguished by their long legs  and huge ears which give them a tall sleek appearance.  Their heads are triangular in shape with distinct hoods over their eyes.

Savannahs have distinct spotted coats that are typically golden brown, tan, brown or sometimes silver in color. On occasion an all black “melatonistic” Savannah occurs, they still have a distinct pattern which is visible. Melanism is an excess of dark pigment, it is  the opposite of albinism.   There are other non- standard colors that occasionally occur a well.

Savannah cats are identified by their F#, more info on F#’s below.   

The first African serval to domestic cat cross was in 1986 and produced a cat named “Savannah”, hence the breed name.    Savannahs have been a recognized cat breed by The International Cat Association since 2001  Savannah cats F5 and later with an SBT designation are eligible are eligible for showing.

Here’s the complete Savannah breed standard from The International Cat Association.

How big do Savannah cats get?

For the most part size depends the generation the Savannah cat.   The generation (as in number of generations away from the African Serval) is referred to as the F#. 

  • F1’s are typically the largest and can be approximately 15-25lbs.
  • Each generation typically goes down in height and weight, this is a generalization, it  is not always the case
  • Males of every generation are typically larger than the females.
  • They keep growing in size til they’re around 3 years of age.
  • Keep in mind, there are no guarantees regarding how large any generation of Savannah will get.

How big will the F5 kittens get?

F5 Savannah cats are typically larger in height but not necessarily bigger in weight than the average large domestic cat. 

Due to their long legs, taller appearance, they often appear to weigh more than they actually do

  • F5’s are more closely like average house cats in size and overall cat personality (vs a wild cat personality) yet they have the exotic savannah legs, ears, spots.  
  • Our male F5 is about 15 lbs.

 

What does the F# mean?

F stands for filial.

Basically the F# indicates the number of generations any given cat is away from the Africa serval.

  • F1 is one generation away - meaning one parent  is an African serval and one domestic parent
  • F2 is 2 generations away - one grandparent is an African serval and one is a domestic cat. 
  • F3 is 3 generations away - one great grandparent is an African serval 
  • F4 is 4 generations away - one great, great grandparent is an African serval
  • F5 is 5 generations away, etc. 

This is the only thing the F# means.

 For a more comprehensive  explanation of F#’s from the Savannah Cat Associtaion click here.

 

Note: F1-F4 males are usually considered to be sterile and will not produce kittens if bred, however, the occasional F4 male will produce kittens and some F5 males are sterile as well. 

Also Note:  any cat male or female  should still be spayed or neutered at an early age to prevent the territorial marking that unfixed cats will do. 

More about F1 savannahs -  The F1 is the largest generation, and most resembles a serval. A F1 will grow to be anywhere from 15-30lbs.  They are  rare, expensive and more challenging to own due to their size & energy levels and nutritional requirements.    Not to mention the fact that breeders have to own, house, feed & care for a serval which is a wild animal and then breed it to their prized savannah cat, hoping it will infact want to breed with it at all.  There are additional problems with gestation period differences between a serval (approx. 74 days) and a domestic cat (approx. 64 days) which at times results in the babies being born prematurely.

 

Is it legal to own a Savannah cat?

All generations of Savannah cats are allowed in California.

There are laws in the USA in many areas which limit or  prohibit the ownership of wild animals including African Servals and hybrid animals such as Savannahs. 

African Serval ownership is prohibited in California, so there are no F1 Savannah kittens for sale in California (unless they were imported).   

To find out if you can own a Savannah cat click here  hybridlaw.com

or

here at https://savannahcatassociation.org/states-allow-disallow-permit-savannah-cats/

Are they “wild animals”, will they destroy my house?

No, they are not “wild” animals, they are pretty much just animals - act accordingly.  But yes, you do need to “kitten proof” your home just as you would puppy proof it or child proof it.

I have found that the Savannahs are very easy train because they have a longer attention span and a high intelligence than your average cat. 

Training any kitten takes diligence in catching them before the act and then redirecting them.   Redirecting their energy is the key, this should start from day 1 of their arrival, watch them closely & redirect the behavior to something positive. 

It’s not hard to redirect their energy,  a favorite toy usually works.  When redirecting them, unless necessary, do not touch them,  pet them or  hit them as   it will be viewed by them as attention and that’s all they really want, instead redirect their attention with a toy,  give them something to do that’s fun for both of you.  Though it may work for most cats,  squirting them with a squirt gun does not work & really is great fun for them.

How do I “kitten proof” my home?

Kitten proofing your home should include

  • Remove  fine china & the priceless breakables from the open shelves, they will find them, they will conqueror them,  “No shelf too high” is their motto
  • Remove excess wires like power chords, speaker wires as they could bite them or tangle up in them.   Tie up the mini blind cords too . Consider putting biteable power cords in pvc piping or put some bitterbreak paste on them so the cords taste bad (hot sauce doesn’t work, they just lick it)   Kittens seem to outgrow the bitey stage quickly
  • Remove houseplants that are poisonous to cats
  • Here’s a  list of poisonous plants from the aspca if you  don’t know what kind of plant you have,  take a picture of it & do a google reverse image search for the plant.   It is important to check as some plants like lilies and oleanders are deadly within a bite or 2 to even an adult cat.  
  • Relocated to a cat free zone the smaller family pets including;  birds, fish, hamsters, gerbils,  rodents & lizards of any kind. Basically any family pet that could fit in your cats mouth should be moved elsewhere or it will be anyways.  Servals are proficient bird hunters, waiting for a bird to fly overhead, then jumping straight into the air, catching birds in mid flight, savannahs have inherited that trait and will display their jumping abilities for you often.
  • Remember to check the washer, dryer, dishwasher before you turn it on!
  • Remember underneath recliners makes for a favorite cat cave, so be sure to check before you get up.
  • Remember to check their toys & remove any broken or ripped toys.

But the internet says they’re not friendly or they’re not lap cats.

Here at Spotitude, we beg to differ, our Savannahs are among the most loyal, loving cats I have ever owned.  As with any animal, it does depend on circumstance,  how they are raised, how much attention, socialization and handling they receive when they are little and what both their mother and their humans have taught them. This is the same with any animal.

We're a small cattery, breeding only 1 litter at a time so they receive the maximum care and attention.  Our kittens our handled from birth and have been on our laps every time we sit down since the moment they could crawl up on them.    They follow us everywhere in our home and have to out compete their mother for our attention  & boy she loves attention! 

Socialization is the key to a happy well adjusted pet.    It’s the in home care & constant attention makes for the best possible personality.   They’ve been very friendly with all of our other cats, our dog and all of our guests as well. 

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Do they use a litterbox?

Yes,  they use a litter box just like any cats. They use normal cat litter, clumping  or non clumping, scented or non scented.   The kittens learn to use the litterbox at about 5 weeks of age and they are very particular about wanting to bury their business so as long as they can get to it, and feel safe in it,  they’ll use it.  

Things to remember about a litterbox,  

  • some cats prefer a cat box with a lid, and  some don’t
  • either way all cats prefer it to be clean.  Can’t emphasize that enough, clean litter box = happy cat = happy family!  
  • If you have more than one cat you need 1 box per cat, plus one extra, also a good idea to put at least one per floor
  • it must be in a place where they feel secure   

When introducing a new kitten to your home, it is a must to confine it to a small room such as a bathroom  where the litter box is kept,  that way they don’t have to wander around the house with their legs crossed wondering where on earth the bathroom is.   Keep the kitten in the room for at least a few days and slooowly show it around the house, bringing  it back to the litter box room periodically and for feeding time.

That being said, unfixed cats of any breed will mark their territory, including your house, so get them fixed, earlier the better! Getting a cat fixed after it  has starting marking your house, may or may not work, but in any case, usually will still take months for the hormones to subside and for them to stop having the those urges.   So again, get them fixed before it starts is the only answer.   

What do they eat?

They eat a normal high protein (complete nutrition) grain free kitten or cat food.  Some kittens & cats prefer dry, some prefer canned either one is acceptable.   We feed both wet & dry.  We leave dry food out all day for free feeding and feed canned food 2 times a day for adults and smaller portions  3-4 times a day for the younger kittens. 

Just remember when changing foods,   to sloooowly change their food mixing a little bit of new food with the original food until their stomach gets accustomed to the new food, give it at least 4-6 day.

In addition we also feed them unseasoned boiled or pressure cooked chicken, canned mackerel, scrambled eggs and a small amount of string cheese for treats.   Please note: boiled chicken, eggs, mackerel, etc.  is not nutritionally complete, they will need a complete nutrition canned or dry as well. 

I do not recommend a raw (as in uncooked) food diet for the average cat owner due to the time consuming complexity of preparation, as in you must get  the required vitamins, amino acids, protein and fat, etc .in the correct percentages  additionally salmonella poisoning  is a real possibility with raw foods. That being said, many Savannah owners do feed a raw diet, so it comes down to research &  use your best judgment   There are commercially available raw cat foods available, on occasional they have had salmonella recalls so check the list in the link below when deciding.

Here is a  list of currently recalled pet foods from the American Veterinary Medical Association

Do they talk alot?

Yes, it is said that savannah cats do talk more than your average domestic cat

The unfixed males & females talk your ear off.  They are loud and insistent and have aloooot to say.  The fixed savannahs  do not have nearly the same amount of things to talk about, but sometimes they just  have to tell you about their day.  The kittens are not overly talkative unless they get lost in the house.  

Overall it just depends on the individual cat and what it is they have to talk about, be sure to listen to them, sometimes it’s important.  

Do they like water?

20190817_013140Wreny the self bathing cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, but on their terms.    It  does not necessarily mean they will like it if you give them a bath. My cats and kittens get bathes, but each one has a different tolerance level.  Frequent bathes are not a necessity for cats.

We have several cats that self bathe, as in they turn on the water & get in.  No, they do not turn off the water.   We invested in an automatic faucet, which they play under all the time.   If you find them playing in the sink, it’s a good idea to remove the drain stopper before they flood the house.

We also have a fountain inside our house & they all play in it then run around the house all wet.  It’s great fun. Here’s a kittens playing in the fountain video

Do they like to walk on a leash like a dog?

Spotty on a walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes! It is one of their most endearing traits, they love to go out walking with their humans & look forward to it.   It’s a great way to get them some safe outdoor time!    I have seen many leash walked Savannah cats, it’s not uncommon. 

 Our male Spot-A-Kiss loves to go on daily walks.  He wears a gps tracker when we go out (that’s the grey thing you see on his harness) and they are capable & high energy enough of long walks.  Our longest walk was 5.2 miles!

It does take a little time and patience to train them, similar to leash training a puppy.   Spotty was a leash walking expert after about 2 weeks of daily walks.   A good fitting harness is a must!  Larger Savannahs can fit into a  small dog size harness.

Do they really play fetch like a dog?

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Yes, they really do! Ours are rather insistent about it too!  Not all savannahs fetch, but it is instinctual, not something they need to be taught.

Here’s some of our Savannah fetching videos:

www.facebook.com/spotitudesavannahs/videos/2721041184615509/

www.facebook.com/spotitudesavannahs/videos/381829869321276/

www.facebook.com/spotitudesavannahs/videos/498155297386148/

Do they get along with other cats, dogs, kids, hamsters, goldfish?

Generally speaking, they get along well with other cats,  domestic or savannah and they usually get along with cat loving dogs as well.  Our kittens are very interested in playing with our dog and bug her to play with them.   All of our adult savannah cats get along with other cats and with our dog & with kids that come visit.    

That being said, there’s no guarantees,  every cat is different, you’d have to get to know the individual cat. 

I would not leave your cat unattended around your prize koi fish or tasty looking pet mice, hamsters, gerbils or birds.

Can they roam free outdoors?

No, No NO!!!  Absolutely not, they will wander off and they can wander fast, far and without fear, fixed or not, it doesn’t matter, it’s just who they are they like to go places . They’ll be too trusting of the neighbors dog and the neighbor for that matter.   

If you really, really want to let them roam, and feel your situation is safe enough for them put a gps tracker on them!  That way you can know where they are and where their usual route is in case they don’t come back.  Also get them microchiped.

What’s a microchip?

Spotitude kittens come with a microchip.   A microchip is small about the size of a grain of rice implanted in the top of their neck between their shoulder blades.  When scanned by a reader it gives a 15 digit number which  is registered in a microchip database with your name & contact info.   Generally speaking, a microchip is permanent and lasts your pets lifetime I have read of a few instances where a microchip did not last a lifetime, I do not know if it’s true or why,  but  it’s a good idea to have it scanned by the vet when getting shots. 

 Please note:   A microchip is not a gps tracker, it will not help you to locate your pet, however, it will help if someone finds your pet and takes it to a vet or an animal shelter & they  scan it There are many microchip databases online, many are free, you may want to ask your local animal control who they suggest you register it with.  

Here’s the one we register with, it’s free and it’s used nationwide foundanimals.org

What’s a gps tracker?

Our male wears a gps tracking device and it has saved him a few times.  It’s the grey box on his harness.20190817_020525

A gps tracker tracks him 24/7 anywhere in the world that there’s cell reception as long as the battery is good.   You load the gps manufacturers app on your smartphone, set it up and a map appears showing you his location and it also alerts you  if he’s gone outside of a perimeter fence you manually setup on the map.  Drawbacks,   It has to be taken off and placed on a charger every so many  days, the map perimeter fence is a bit too large an area so he’s already out by the time you get notified and you have to pay for a cellphone connection. Most gps trackers are made for dogs and are just too large for cats.   We use a Whistle gps tracker as it’s the smallest actual gps tracker I could find.   The charge lasts about 5-7 days depending on the amount of tracking you do.   Here’s the Whistle website 

There are also bluetooth trackers which are different from gps trackers in that they only track your pet for a few thousand feet using your phones bluetooth.    That can be a problem if you weren’t home when your pet got out.    A Savannah cat can run a few thousand feet in a few seconds,   how fast can you run is the question, because to keep tracking them you will have to remain within the bluetooth range.   Bluetooth trackers often advertise as gps trackers or pet trackers and are much smaller in size,  so be sure to read the fine print.   They are often much cheaper than an actual gps tracker, more like $5-$20.

We also  use a hybrid gps/bluetooth tracker called Findster duo.   The advantage is you don’t need to pay for a cell phone subscription as it pulls the gps location from your phones bluetooth connection and rf technology and you can see location on a map on the app.   It’s range is roughly 3 miles, line of sight. You also have to charge this one, it last 1-3 days.  It’s small enough for a cat to wear & yes it too has saved Spotty. Here’s the Findster website.

Do they need special  veterinary  care?

No, they can be cared for by a regular veterinarian.   They get the regular yearly shots & a yearly rabies shot

 Kittens should be spayed or neutered as soon as possible, earlier the better, a female cat can go into heat at 4 months of age.   An un-nuetered male will eventually start marking their territory, even if their territory is inside your house, getting them fixed at this point is a little late, and they may or may not stop marking.   Cats that are fixed at an early age usually do not mark anything as it doesn’t really occur to them. Cats that are fixed after they start marking, may or may not stop marking.

Whats the difference between savannah cats and bengal cats?

They’re both higher energy hybrid cats.  

  • A Bengal is a hybrid of an Asian Leopard cat and a domestic cat.  
  • A Savannah is a hybrid of an African Serval cat and a domestic cat.

Personality wise, they are both more active than your average cat, but Savannahs are even more active than Bengals.

Appearance wise

  • Bengals have a rosetted pattern, short ears and shorter legs and a rounder face
  • Savannahs are tall and lean with a spotted pattern and large ears, and long legs with a triangular shaped face. 
  • Occasionally there are marbled patterned Bengals and Savannahs which are pretty cool looking as well.  

Note: a Bengal crossed with a Savannah does not produce a Savannah cat in appearance as they are two distinct body types and is not an accepted cross according to The International Cat Association Savannah cat breed standards.

Are savannah cats hypoallergenic?

No not particularly, they do have a short coat, and seem to shed less than alot of cats, so that may help somewhat.   However the actual allergic reaction to cats is to protein in the cat saliva, skin and urine not the hair itself.

BTW, all cats have this protein, so there is no truly hypoallergenic cat, though a persons reaction can vary cat to cat even within any given breed of cat.

Where can I read more about savannahs?

Breed specifics: The Savannah Cat Association

Breed basics for beginners: Wikipedia - Savannah Cats

What about  the cheap savannah cats I see advertised on the internet?

 It takes some but not alot of effort to sort the actual breeders from the scammers.    I know it can be frustrating to hear there are pet scammers out there, but alas, there are, here’s what you need to know to avoid heartache:

1.   Search for a reputible breeder online at

2.  Go in person  Easiest way to not get scammed when purchasing a pet is to go meet the kitten in person, meet the breeder and the kittens parents, see for yourself how their cats are housed & cared for,   if a breeder does not want you to come to their house or actually allow you to  meet the pet you will spending the next 10, 15 or 20 years with, that’s a huge red flag.

3.  If you cannot go in person, ask to video chat with them & the kittens  If they refuse to video chat with you - that’s a red flag!  Often times you will see pet scammers showing beautiful pictures of their pets for sale, that are not really their pets at all, they’ve just stolen someone else’s photos and reposted them.   This is specifically why all Spotitude photos have a Spotitude Savannahs watermark or a cat name & usually a date on them.   These pet scammers are not that sophisticated often an actual cattery watermark is in their photo or the watermark is partially cropped, do a google reverse image search and see if the kitten doesn't show up somewhere else. Right click on any image and choose “Search Google for image”   in one instance I saw recently of a cheap savannah kitten, a search of the image revealed the exact same picture on ads stating the kitten was in San Diego, Illinois, New York, Florida, etc.  that kitten was actually a stolen photo from a legitimate breeders website from a litter 4 years ago.

 

4. Beware of “buy now” links, poorly worded sites in broken english, prices that are to good to be true, high pressure tactics such as  people rushing you into a quick decision because other buyers are coming out tomorrow, “breeders” with many breeds of cats or without TICA (The International Cat Association) paperwork for their kittens,   Beware of websites that do not provide a location,  phone number only a contact us form to fill out.   Also beware of so called breeders that have to sell the last kitten before they move out of the country next week.   Also be wary of out of the country breeders, yes there are legitimate ones, but the import paperwork is very time consuming and costly.

5. Finally be advised that kittens that are advertised as bengal/savannah crosses or jungle cat/savannahs etc. are not savannah cats (this is an unacceptable cross as they are 2 distinctly different cat body types that do not result in a savannah cat).  

Again see the kitten in person or in a videochat, and  not just in a couple photos, ask to see the parents, photos of the kittens growing up, etc

Hope this faq was helpful.  Please keep in mind, these are my opinions on the matter as a Savannah owner & breeder but others may disagree, and you know, everyone has opinions!   Just make sure to get the facts from actual breeders & savannah cat owners, like everything on the internet, there is misinformation out there too.  

We wish everyone good luck in their kitten finding experience, &  we’re happy to answer all your questions, call, email or text us & we’re happy to have video chat with you, facebook messenger works best for us just contact us to set up a time &  we welcome visitors by appointment too!

 

Spotitude

A TICA registered cattery #35799

Arroyo Grande, CA

Owner/Breeder Jenny Merfa

805 - 801 - 5510

spotitudesavannahs@yahoo.com

facebook.com/spotitudesavannahs

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