Can Savannah cats be vaccinated like other domestic cats?

The answer to the question in the title is, YES. But the reason why I ask the question is because a lady on a page of mine about serval cats as pets said that “The Savannah, like servals, cannot be vaccinated for distemper, FeLV and other cat diseases which means they cannot safety be kept overnight at a vet’s dental surgery or other ailments.” The Savannah is a wild cat hybrid (serval x domestic cat) and the serval is a wild cat.

Can Savannah cats be vaccinated like other domestic cats
Can Savannah cats be vaccinated like other domestic cats?
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This made me investigate. Her information comes from a general feeling or thought among quite a lot of people that you can’t vaccinate Savannah cats in the normal way. The argument is that if you vaccinate them with a live vaccine, they get the disease rather than build up an immunity against it which kills them. But the reason for this is not explained as far as I can see. And it seems illogical.

The question in the title has been answered in full by one of the world’s biggest breeders of Savannah cats, Select Exotics (my thanks to them). They must be the best source of information on this topic as they have to vaccinate Savannahs cats all the time and therefore have a lot of first-hand experience. They mention the controversy about vaccinating Savannahs for feline leukaemia (FeLV). They admit that many readers will say you cannot vaccinate them for this disease for the reason above.

But they say, as the longest standing breeder of the Savannah, that they always vaccinate for this disease and have never had an individual cat contract the disease from the vaccine.

They searched for stories of Savannah cats being killed by the vaccine and couldn’t find any. The question for them and for me is why the story about the dangers of this vaccine came about. They suggest that it was a concern about modified-live vaccine compared to the killed vaccine.

Modified-live and killed vaccines

The modified-live vaccine is what it says: the viruses in the vaccinate are modified so they can’t infect the patient. The killed vaccine is one in which the viruses have been killed with heat or chemicals. They are combined with an ‘adjuvant’ which makes it more effective. The killed viruses cannot infect the cat but they do stimulate the cat’s immune system into creating antibodies which in turn protect cat.

She says that many people feel that a killed vaccine is safe because there’s no chance of the cat contracting the disease. And they recommend using a killed vaccine.


There is another problem however which is that the adjuvant in the vaccine which is sometimes an aluminium can itself cause damage to the site of the vaccination. Specifically, it can cause cancer in a tiny percentage of cats. As I recall, this is one reason why veterinarians administer the vaccine at the most distal point on the cat which is sometimes the leg rather than in the scruff of the neck area.


Another weakness with the killed vaccine compared to the modified live vaccine is that they are said to be slightly less effective according to Select Exotics. They’ve used both forms of vaccine, actually, but they appear to have settled on the killed vaccine. But they cannot see any real difference in the effectiveness between them.

Customers and breeders

This fear of vaccinating Savannah cat against feline leukaemia fed through to customers who’d bought a very expensive Savannah cat. Their concerns were raised with Select Exotics. They received calls on a regular basis at one time. I don’t know whether this is still happening years later.

The customers were complaining that they couldn’t find a veterinarian in the area that administered the killed vaccine and the breeder who sold them the animal said that they had to use a killed vaccine. As it happens, many veterinarians do not carry killed vaccinations because they have greater faith in the modified-live version.

Select Exotics don’t see a problem but they do say that you should the consistent which I presume means using the same vaccine if possible. If a Savannah cat owner can’t find a veterinarian delivering a killed vaccine, then the other is okay “but make sure to give two doses at 2-3 weeks apart to ensure a proper immune responses achieved”.

Serval cats

The last question is, can serval cats be vaccinated safely? My research is that they can be vaccinated safely but you should ask your veterinarian. There is no reason (to the best of my knowledge) why they shouldn’t accept a vaccination like any other cat. But the fears mentioned above have fed through to the serval and there are quite a good number of people who own serval cats in America as pets. That’s another problem area namely whether it’s a good idea to have a serval cat as a pet. I have written about that as other people.

My opinion is that it is not a good idea. Despite being domesticated they are wild cats. Many owners don’t have proper facilities. They keep them confined to their home which is a home range many thousandths smaller than their true home range. They escape and cause mayhem in the neighbourhood. Some are killed by shooters and some on the roads.

Click this link for info about servals.

Are servals legal in PA?

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important
Scroll to Top