Sixth filial (F6) Savannah cats are meant to be similar to an ‘ordinary’ domestic cat. But I reckon hybrid vigour created a monster. The Savannah cat is a wild cat hybrid as you probably know. The F1 Savannah is half serval wild cat and half domestic cat. But at the sixth filial (6th generation from the wild serval) there’s relatively speaking not much serval DNA in them which means they are a similar size to a standard domestic cat. And their behavior is not dissimilar too.
Looking at this amazing male cat you wonder if Dexter is genuinely a 6th filial. He looks more like an F2 or F1. He is also quite chunky (‘chonky’ in modern parlance) which non-standard as the Savannah is quite a slender cat. It is possible that the breeder was having difficulties selling him and said that he was an F6 when he was a kitten and looked pretty normal. There are arguments that the higher filial wild cat hybrids are too wild and inherently too hard to handle for most.
The owner does not tell us that they think that Dexter’s extraordinary size is down to hybrid vigour but that’s my assessment. He is 2.5 times bigger than a typical domestic cat and as big as the biggest Maine Coons. He’s as big as an adult male bobcat.
Conventional stuff is too small
Dexter is 35 inches long (I presume from nose to beginning of tail). All commercially made litter boxes are way too small for him. All climbing and bedding cat trees are also way to small. Everything has to be oversized and he is expensive to maintain as you might expect. His litter box is custom made; a huge 110-liter plastic crate/storage 30-gallon storage bin. He plays with dog toys.
A little scary for some
“The last time I’ve encountered somebody being afraid of him was at the vet. They were a bit worried about how he would react. A cat his size could do a lot of damage. He has the strength to do it. He would never do something like that though.
Laura has to be careful with him in my view. Imagine if he were to be spotted wandering outside unsupervised. There’d be panic by many. They’d call the cops and animal control. A patrol car would turn up and three coppers would turn up with shotguns and possibly shoot him thinking Dexter was a wild cat and very dangerous.
Need to be a special caregiver
The point is that you need to be a special kind of person to want to care for a cat this size. It takes a lot more attention and thought. Laura, a laser technician, bought Dexter for £1,900 in 2016, which means he lives in the UK by the look of it. Dexter is currently aged 7.
All cat towers are way too small for him. I bought him the biggest one I can find, but it’s still way too small for him. Cat treats are too small for him as well. If the ingredients are all the same, which they often are, I buy him dog treats.”
As Dexter is an F6 there will be no legal restrictions placed upon Laura. F6 wild cat hybrids are treated like conventional domestic cats under the law in all countries except Australia and New Zealand where I don’t think there are any as they are banned. The Aussies thought they’d escape their home, become feral and be super-large feral cats in the outback killing native species.
The maintenance costs are daunting: £90 a month (toys, food and vet fees) which is a bit like a second mortgage. He is on a special raw diet of “raw ground chicken meat” with supplements to make it balanced with the correct range of nutrients.
People tend to like or be impressed by anything that’s big. Dexter satisfies that desire and some. Laura says that he is well behaved. He looks very calm and appears to have a friendly, laid-back character which is useful. If he was anything but laid-back, he’d be a handful for even the most tolerant and skilled cat caregiver.
So, what’s hybrid vigor (heterosis)? It is the opposite to inbreeding depression. It occurs when a breeding line is inbred and then outcrossed to a fresh cat outside the breeding line. The first offspring can be big and healthy reflecting the injection of genetic diversity into the blood line. it does not always happen.
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