Savannah cat

savannah cat and children
F2 Savannah cat Motzie, a famous cat, with Leonie and Andreas Stucki. The photograph is copyright Kathrin Stucki of A1 Savannahs. An F2 Savannah is two generations from the wild Serval.
savannah cat video playerWould you like to see a large format video player containing 14 great videos of Savannah cats? Click here if the answer is yes: MAGIC CATS
All the photos and text on this page are protected by copyright except where indicated. Violations of copyright are reported to Google.com (DMCA).

 

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Contents
Introduction
The Serval
A Serval Breeder’s article
Appearance
More Videos
Price
Origin
Legalities
Character
Price/breeding
Health
Caution
Updates
Breeders and rescue
Nice Pix
Have Your Say and lots of articles/stories
Large format videos about MAGIC and TITAN and some large format still images too:

 
With Kathrin and Martin Stucki’s assistance, I have made all the videos on this page including the one above, which is my favorite. It shows Andreas Stucki the 6 year old son (at 2009) of Martin and Kathrin Stucki in complete harmony with the world’s tallest domestic cat, F1 Savannah cat MAGIC a beautiful female cat of massive presence. See it in large format here: A Close Relationship Between Cat and Boy.

Another one of my favorites is the one below, showing the athleticism of MAGIC, don’t miss it! You can see it in large format: MAGIC waking up Andreas magically.

MAGIC is from A1 Savannahs. She is a 16 month old (at the date of this video – early Sept. 2009) spayed f1 female. Her daddy is a Serval. Her Mommy is a Savannah cat. My thanks to Martin & Kathrin Stucki for providing the video material.

You can see it and lots more on my YouTube channel in large format: PoC YouTube Channel (71 videos at June 2010 – new window).And you can see MAGIC in another large video format here: F1 Savannah Cat MAGIC. See videos of Martin and Kathrin on this page here. MAGIC (Scarlett’s Magic) is the Guinness World Records world’s tallest pet cat (at Sept. 2009).

savannah cat

Copyright Helmi Flick

savannah cat

Copyright Helmi Flick

savannah cat

Copyright Helmi Flick

savannah cat

Copyright Helmi Flick

Savannah Cat photos – Copyright Helmi Flick. Click on the thumbnails. The cat on the far right in this line up illustrates a page on the Warrior Cats Series, called Warrior Cat

 
F1 Savannah Cat FOCUS
F1 Savannah kitten FOCUS

The above photo is by Michael @ Pictures of Cat.org. Savannah cat from A1 Supremes – The ultimate hybrid domestic felines. This kitten is an A1 Supreme Quality Savannah. His name is FOCUS an F1 Savannah cat. He is a wonderful cat and now in his new home. He is cute, alpha male, cuddly and he has a unique voice….See also pictures of a premature Savannah kitten…a bug babe.

“Ever since I first saw this breed on “Cats 101″ on Animal Planet, I have wanted one. They are so beautiful and graceful… I even did my biology report on this breed! I only wish the price could be brought down some–cats shouldn’t only be for rich people–and that there were more breeders in the US. Because with the high price of the cats and long distance of reputed breeders, my chances of getting a Savannah are ZERO. :’( Anyway, thanks for putting all the vids on here. I love watching Savannahs, and the serval one was cool. Great pics and info, too!”…..Camden (USA)

Introduction

The Savannah Cat is a striking combination of a domestic cat and a wild African Serval producing a stunning appearance. I am talking here of the USA breed. There may have been a cat breed by the same name in the UK. Apparently, the breed was a cross between the Bengal and Siamese and therefore an entirely different breed. However, Kathrin Stucki a Savannah cat breeder of extensive knowledge, very much doubts the existence of the UK Savannah.

savannah cat

Photo of kitten copyright Kathrin Stucki

The USA breed’s creation is based on the same principles as for the Bengal Cat – crossing, in this case, an African wild cat called the Serval and a domestic cat. As you might know the Bengal cat is a cross between the Asian Leopard cat and a domestic cat. The breed was founded by Ms. Joyce Souffle and Patrick Kelly.

The goal in both instances is to develop a domestic cat with the looks of an exotic wild cat. This meets peoples’ interest in exotic wild cats (and therefore their desire to “own” one) and the more practical aspect of living with one. As a result this cat must be totally unchallenging (well behaved with people and pets). Breed standards demand this. If you go to a cat show you see some amazingly well behaved cats.

The Serval

The main habitat of the African serval is the savanna hence the name of this breed. It is worth looking at the serval to help understand the Savannah.

Male serval Morpheus hissing

Serval cat – photo by Michael on PoC.

The serval is highly specialized for catching rodents. The cat lives in the savanna landscape, which is an open lanscape with tall grass. The serval has long legs, a long neck, a small head and large pricked forward ears – serval description.

These characteristics have been developed to catch its prey in long grass. For example, when stalking, the serval will pause and might listen for 15 minutes with its eyes closed.

The servals long legs provide speed (think of the cheetah – a similar body conformation. However the serval has longer legs to body size than the cheetah) and the ability to jump very high and pounce down on the prey. It is the longest leg to body ratio of all the wildcats.

The impact on landing on the prey kills or stuns it. The elongated neck and body allow for a high vantage point. Read lots more about the serval.

Savannah appearance

savannah cat

Savannah Cat – copyright Helmi Flick – click for larger image

It is not surprising then that the most noticeable feature, to me, of the Savannah cat is both the striking coat pattern and the leg length and size of the cat. This breed is currently the largest domestic hybrid cat. The Savannah cat has long legs and a slender body that normally makes her substantially larger than the average sized domestic cat. Their long flexible body results in the particularly noticeable bend in the spine when they sit (see Helmi’s photograph opposite).

Their weight depends to a certain extent on how far the generation is from the wild serval, the breeding program and whether male or female. Select Exotics, an established Savannah cat breeder say that their F1 (one removed from the wild cat) males weigh between 20-27 lbs. Remember that the average cat weighs 8-10 lbs; this gives a clue as to the size. Remember too that these figures come from this cattery.

Their cats may be heavier than the average; F2s weigh 17-30 lbs, F3s between 15 and 22 lbs. They are, then, a big, leggy and therefore athletic cat. Long legs will give a lot of leverage for jumping and running. The Bengal is also athletic and a fast runner. As to the coat pattern and appearance, breeders will have as an objective a “wild” appearance and impressive markings and patterns. In order to achieve this breeders develop the breed by crossing with cats of a suitable type, which has impressive coat patterns and texture.

Under TICA breed standard, ocelli are a desirable characteristic. Ocelli are the white markings that look like eyes on the back of the ears. These are designed to protect the cat when threatened. A cat’s ears flatten and the backs of the ears face forward presenting two white, eye-like, spots. This would confuse and intimidate the other animal.

Or they serve to communicate the cat’s emotional state to other cats (src: Wikipedia). The legs are long and slender providing great leverage for those high (up to 8 feet) vertical jumps. In some cats you’ll see the black tear markings running from the corner of the eye and down along the nose (see the A1 Supremes boy above for example). Perhaps this form of marking is best known in the cheetah. (see cheetah habitat)

savannah cat up a tree
Savannah Cat photo copyright Kathrin Stucki – A1 Savannahs

 

Update 2-6-09: See some of Kathrin Stucki’s wonderful photographs of an F2 Savannah cat: Kathrin Stucki A1 Savannahs Photos.

Savannah Cat Videos

You can see some more Savannah cat videos in a pop-up window by clicking on the following link: Savannah cat videos

These videos mainly show A1 Savannahs farm where Martin and Kathrin breed the Savannah cat.

Origin

savannah cat

Savannah cat photo copyright Helmi Flick

The breed originates from Judee Frank’s decision to mate a Serval with a domestic cat in 1986. This is about 10 years beyond the creation of the Bengal breed (1975). Patrick Kelly took up the baton and developed the breed after buying one of Frank’s Savannah kittens in 1989. Kelly teamed up with a Serval breeder Joyce Scroufe and together they founded the Savannah breed.

There was (an indeed there still is) some resistance to breeding in this way (crossing wild with domestic – remember the CFA don’t register the Bengal or Savannah) but in due course and by a narrow margin of agreement at TICA (The International Cat Association), the breed was registered in 2000. Today, 2012, the breed has been fully recognized and is a championship breed able to compete at cat shows. This is the top level of recognition.

This was a relatively rare breed. However times change. However, from what I have read people who adopt a Savannah cat must be prepared to take on a little added responsibility as they are a bit more demanding that the average domestic cat. The Savannah cat, though, is rapidly becoming an increasingly popular breed (claimed 22,000 as at 2001 – Wikipedia). A1 Savannahs are the leading Savannah breeder and they report (at May 2009) that they are having a good year. They entertain prospective buyers from all over the world and have had constructed a guest house to accomodate them.

Legalities

It is important to check the legality of owning a Savannah cat where you live. Most states in the US regard the Savannah cat as a domestic cat in following federal and United States Department of Agriculture advice. New York State doesn’t, although 5 generations from the wild Serval are allowed in NY State but not NY city. Other states restrict ownership of hybrid cats (Alaska, Iowa, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Georgia). Update Feb 2011: Georgia, Hawaii and Massachusetts have banned this cat in addition to New York).

As for the UK, I shall direct you to my article of the position regarding the Bengal cat as the same rule applies to the Savannah. Note: legislation is constantly changing so check the position. Your breeder should be able to help.

At Sept. 2009 first generation Savannah Cats (F1s) can only be kept under license in the UK and in outdoor cages. Second generation and lower fillials can kept like other domestic cats, pursuant to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (DWAA).

In the UK the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which reflects the European Union (EU) European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, promotes animal welfare as well as being the relevant criminal legislation in respect of animal cruelty (e.g. causing unecessary suffering). For a person responsible for a Savannah cat, for example, the Act creates an offence of failing to meet the needs of an animal as required by good practice. [Note:the UK is not a party to the treaty mentioned above].

There has been considerable debate in Australia about the importation of breeding Savannah cats. It was deemed illegal to import them. See updates.

In Alaska the Savannah cat is banned after some confusion about the interpretation of the law: Savannah cat banned from Alaska [link].

There has been an ongoing debate about the difference between an Ashera GD and a Savannah cat [link].

One last point. The law is constantly evolving. It is sensible therefore to check. The information above is correct to the best of my knowledge at early 2008.

Keeping Wild Cats – new law in Oregon plus a discussion on how keeping wild cats is beyond the commitment of most and that under the new law in Oregon breeders of F1 Savannah cats are affected.

Character

savannah cat

Savannah cat – copyright Helmi Flick – click for larger image

I would like to refer to the Bengal cat as they have similar characters (e.g. they both like water). In fact Kathrin Stucki (see the video below at the bottom of the video section) mentions this characteristic in her introductory video. She and Martin live with F2 Savannahs ansd she mentions that they like to join her in the shower or bath even (play with the bubbles!).

There is some wild blood in a Savannah, obviously (The F3 generation is 12.5% Serval). This shows itself in an assertive and active cat. F1s have about 53% Serval in them.

They are trainable and can play fetch – dog like indicating a high level of intelligence. Combine this with a very athletic body (great jumpers – see above for the origin of this skill) and you have a cat that requires your input.

Other notable characteristics:

  • they take on the role of alpha pet (the boss)
  • they get on with other pets including dogs
  • very intelligent and a good personality
  • they have plenty of energy – do you? :-). They love to play and romp around. This may translate into damaging the odd thing but plenty of toys and playmates resolves this. There athletic rangy and flexible build make them great jumpers after their ancestor the Serval who catches prey by jumping on it from a height.
  • they have their own brand of “hiss”, which is apparently quite noticable. A cat hiss mimics a snake’s hiss and is thought to originate from the snake hiss over the period of the cat’s evolution. The cat is pretending to be a snake and other animals know that that is to be avoided. You can see a tame Serval hiss on this page.

savannah cat and serval cat together
Mary and Callie, Savannah cat and Serval at a show photo
copyright Helmi Flick and brilliantly cat wrangled by Ken Flick

The Savannah cat is adaptable and will get along with well behaved children and socialized dogs. They are apparently instinctively friendly with kids.Here is a tip from a leading UK cattery on Savannah cat diet. At Strawbell Pedigree Cats they have found that their Bengal and Savannah kittens and adults love boiled chicken including the livers and no salt. It is served cooled with the water in which it was boiled. Their cats also eat raw chicken. They found, as I do, that some wet packaged food is unattractive to cats. Unless we are fully informed as to dietary requirements of a cat, one thing worth noting is that it is unwise, as I understand it, to only provide a home made diet as it will not necessarily contain the added supplements such as taurine that are vital to a cat’s health. See, for example, Bengal cat and Taurine and Cat Food Rice Taurine. This page provides some examples of homemade cat food recipes and discusses dietary requirements: Homemade cat food.

 

Price/Breeding

Brigitte Cowell of Kirembo Savannahs says that up to and including F3 level, males are sterile. These cats are sold as pets. At F4 level some males have been found to be fertile. At the F5 level about 90% of males are found to be fertile, Brigitte says. The females are sold to other breeders and are on that basis more valuable. At Oct 2007 an F3 (12.5% Serval) is priced at $1,500 – $3,000 and an F3, F4 & F5 breeder at $3,000 – $5,000. As at Aug. 2008 A1 Savannahs sell F1 Savannah males at between $7,500 – $22,000 and SBT (see below) males at $950 – $6,000. SBT Females are priced at from $950 – $3,000. The relatively high cost of the Savannah cat is due to the difficulties and higher than average cost in breeding the cat and the cats rarity.

Martin and Kathrin Stucki at A1 Savannahs have created a new company, A1 Supremes (see link below). These are the most exotic domestic cats available, the exceptional Savannah cats from the A1 Savannahs cattery. They are very intelligent and athetic with the best temperaments.

Now that there are more lower generation Savannahs, many have been bred back to the Serval and so the Serval percentage of an F1 can range from 50% up to over 75% in some rare cases As the Savannah is a relatively new breed it is easy to research a particular cat’s pedigree. Most cats are only 4-5 generations from the first Serval/domestic hybrid. As a result the breeder will know what outcrosses have been used at each generation. As the males are sterile outcrosses had to take place. As there are more fertile F4-5 males around, it is now possible to breed without outcrossing.The allowable outcrosses under TICA breed standard are: Serval, Egyptian Mau, Ocicat, Oriental Shorthair and the domestic shorthair (not a member of a recognized breed). Sometimes breeders go outside these guidelines. I have heard the Norwegian Forest Cat being used and even a Pixie bob. It is important, Martin Stucki says to strive for the true Serval type coat, which is not a golden coat. There is possibly a tendency to breed for golden color as they are more popular but not true to the objective or the breed.How much Serval is there is in the various generations from the wild cat?

Fillial % Serval (src: A1 Savannahs) % Serval (src: Wikipedia author)
F1 53% 50-75% depending on breeding
F2 29% 25-37.5% depending on breeding
F3 16% 12.5%

 

Male Savannah cats are sterile until the 5th generation (F5).

Health

Health in relation to purebred cat means,”are there any genetically inherited diseases?” (see Genetic Diseases in Purebred cats). My research indicates that there are none in relation to this cat breed. There is talk that an anaesthetic called Ketamine is unsuitable for wildcat hybrids. No doubt the veterinarian will be able to confirm or deny this.

In fact hybrid vigor serves to improve health. The scientific term is heterosis. It is also known as outbreeding enhancement and is the opposite to inbreeding depression (ill health or a propensity to ill health caused by inbreeding). Cross breeding from different breeds creates a more robust individual cat genetically it is thought.

There are no special dietary demands for Savannah cats as far as I am aware. Some breeders will always a feed homemade raw diet, while others mix raw and commercial and yet the third group do what the rest of us do and provide commercially sourced cat food.

Caution

Make sure that you get what you buy and think hard before buying. Some Savannahs are Servals (perhaps the seller couldn’t cope) and some Savannahs are not Savannahs at all. Do some research and ask questions. For example, study the large format photographs on this website (a lot of the photographs on this page link to large images) and thoroughly understand the appearance.

Updates

1. August 2008 – The Savannah cat is in the news again. Australia has banned the importation of this cat breed (src: AFP – Google News). The ban was declared by the Australian government’s Environment Minister Peter Garrett. There was talk about this before it happened. I say that the Savannah cat ban in Australia is wrong (see link to new page on this). Australians are itSavannah cat seems to me a little paranoic about their feral cat population, which is estimated to be at 12 million. They think that feral cats of Australia are killling native wildlife but there would seem to be no firm data to back this up. There is also a myth that some Australian feral cats are growing to the size of big cats! Anyway, they think if the Savannah cat is imported to Australia, one or two may become feral then breed with the existing feral cats and bingo, you’ve got a super feral cat killing more native wildlife. Who caused the feral cat problem in Australia? There would seem to be a policy of cruelty towards the Australian feral cat and an acceptance of the irresponsible behavior of some people.

2. SBT Savannahs from A1 Savannahs- these are pure Savannah cats. This means that they have no house cat blood (moggie, mixed breed cat) in them. They have at least 3 generations of Savannah cats in their parentage. This makes their character and appearance (type) more predictable and reliable. SBT stands for “Stud Book Tradition”.

Some additional quick questions and answers in an easy read format:

Question Answer
Do they need vaccinations like other cats? Yes, see your vet and cat vaccination recommendations.
What is their lifespan? The same as any other domesic cat and hybrid vigor may enhance longevity.
Do they eat ordinary cat food? Yes, but premium is always recommended and/or properly prepared homemade cat food.
Do males and females have the same temperament? Broadly speaking, yes.
Can they be shown at a cat show? Yes, in Preliminary New Breed classes at TICA cat shows.
Can they be leashed trained? Yes, more so than for the average cat.
Should I take any precautions in the home when adopting a Savannah? As they tend to be more active and inquisitive than usual, especially the higher generation cats, the answer is that the home should be “child proofed”.

 

Breeders

A1 Savannahs
Martin & Kathrin Stucki, Ponca City, Oklahoma, USA – Raymond, New Hampshire, USA. A1 Savannahs is the cattery that founded the Savannah Breed. They have started a new venture, A1 Supremes (the website may have been re-rewritten because the link is broken at Nov. 2012) producing the biggest, wildest Savannah cats with the sweetest temperaments.

Avalon Savannahs
Located in California, USA. Savannah Cat information and pictures from a great source.

Kirembo Savannahs
Located in California, USA. This is a good website. Brigitte Cowell runs the cattery.

Click Rescue Centers to see information about rescuing this cat.

Click on the link: Savannah cat breeders world location map, selected breeders to see a map showing the location of Savannah cat breeders worldwide. This is a selection of breeders.


Sources:

  • Personal experience
  • A1 Savannahs
  • Wikipedia
  • Catwatching
  • Select Exotics
  • Messybeast
  • Kirembo Savannahs – Brigitte Cowell
  • HDW
  • As stated in the text
  • Various websites



Comments

Savannah cat — 20 Comments

  1. In Uruguay since 2011 the state has stolen his serval cat to a German, alleging dangerous breed. Shila (the cat) is a F4, and the ministry of wildlife in this country, does not have a professional who can assess the race, not hire one for this case and rejects specialized technicians from the owner of the cat made available to assess the case.
    Currently the ministry, said that it matters little what kind of F is the cat, maintaining a hardline stance and caveman about it.
    Mrs. forced to surrender the animal, signing a document without understanding the language in which it was written.
    The State asked Mrs. build a cage equipped for your animal back and commit to castrate. Both Ms. performed, but the state still does not return the animal.
    Currently the cat is caught in a zoo in the city of Peach in Uruguay, being malnourished, suffering cold and excessive heat, in a stinking cage.
    Help with the dissemination of this case, here is the request in Spanish with all the information about the case.
    Is abuse! Abuse Shila rights and an abuse of human rights of its owner!
    http://www.change.org/es/peticiones/liberen-a-shila-no-es-un-animal-salvaje

    • Thanks for the comment. It is always interesting to hear what other countries are doing with respect to the Savannah cat. Australia have banned the breed. And it seems that Uruguay is doing something similar but are unsure about things. Some states in the USA have also banned the Savannah cat. There is a fear of the consequences of escaped wild cat hybrids creating super feral cats and damaging native species. That is the general argument. Thanks again for taking time to make a comment.

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  4. Wow thank you for those Pictures, I don’t think I have ever seen one of these cats befor, I found your website by accident when I was looking to see if there are any type of large cats in West Va.

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  6. Hi Michael,

    I found this Savannah cat post on Pinterest. Just mentioning that because you might find it useful.

    Of all the domestic cats, Savannahs are my favorite.

    Of all the wild cats, Servals are my favorite.

    I love your Magic videos and I’m sure lots of cat lovers do.

    Great post.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

    • Thanks Liz. It is a good page that I wrote about 4 and a half years ago. The video of Andreas and Magic always comes up about 3 down from the top of page one on a Google search. I am proud of that video that took about 4 hours to make (a short time) but it is a joint project with Kathrin and Martin Stucki of A1 Savannahs. I have played with Savannah kittens and cats from F1 down. They are so classy. When you go to A1 Savannahs you mix with the a large number of fabulous F5 to F1 Savannah cats. Awesome.

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  15. Hi Kathrin, thanks for sharing your lovely clips & pics. My all-time favourite Youtube vid is “Waking Up Andreas”! :)

    • Hi Annette, that video is made from Kathrin’s video material (filmed in her home in Oklahoma) and I created the actual video. I am pleased you like it. Andreas is great in these Magic/Andreas videos. And magic is just magical.

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