Categories: Savannah Cat

Famous basketball player admits defeat in ownership of two Savannah cats

Ben Simmons, a well-known and talented basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers adopted a second Savannah cat which proved to be a terrible mistake as they became unmanageable. Despite being a huge fan of animals he decided to relinquish both of them back to the breeder in ignominious failure and it was the correct decision!

Ben Simmons and his Savannah cats in the #RaiseTheCat pose. ‘Raise the cat’ is a meme to celebrate the Philadelphia 76ers winning. Photo: nbcsports.com

We don’t know what filial the cats were. There were probably high filial cats (say F3) which means they had more serval in them which in turn made them more wild. That exotic wildness is attractive but there is a huge potential downside: behavioural traits.

Here is the story in detail. Simmons suffered a fracture to his fifth metatarsal bone of the right foot. He was unable to play professional basketball during the 2016-17 season.

At the time he was living with a guy, Sean Tribe, in Philadelphia. Simmons told Tribe that he wanted to get a cat. His first attempt failed as the cat had a ‘blood disease’ and was returned to the breeder.

Simmons searched the internet and decided on a Savannah cat. He may well have visited PoC to read about the Savannah as this site features some fantastic and very exotic Savannah cats including Magic.

Anyway he fancied one and he bought one; a female I understand. We don’t know the breeder but if he visited PoC he would have contacted A1 Savannahs as PoC has an historical connection with A1 Savannahs.

Having one Savannah cat was fine Tribe said but even that must have had its moments of difficulty. Then Simmons decided to get a second Savannah because his existing cat “needs a friend”. We have heard that before. Simmons bought a male Savannah cat as a friend for the female.

High filial wild cat hybrids (which is what the Savannah cat is) will exhibit high intensity cat-like traits. Whereas domestic random bred cats are indeed territorial, F1 Savannah cats will be super territorial. They’ll behave somewhat like wild cats which is how the second cat behaved to the dismay of Tribe and Simmons.

This is how Tribe explained things (quoting from theundefeated.com – author: MArc J Spears):

“So he gets a male one this time, and this cat is crazy. It doesn’t want to eat. It’s hiding from us. Every time we go near it, it’s scratching. You can’t go near this cat. You give the cat a bowl of fruit and it’s clawing at your hand when you put the fruit down. It’s like a wild animal.”

The cat was indeed a wild animal! The unmanageable behaviour of the second male cat proved impossible to cope with and they decided to return both to the breeder.

The female was sent back without problems. However, the male cat problems continued. I won’t go into detail but let’s say that Tribe had enormous difficulties getting the cat on the plane to fly back to the breeder. There were scratches and near panics. Tribe used an oven mitt to handle the cat! These exotic cat breeders often ship their cats far and wide and even internationally to discerning and wealthy owners. The Savannah cat is a great status symbol for the rich and famous. But at the end of the day these are wild cat hybrids and the wild cat comes through in these situations.

The problem was adopting a wild cat hybrid and then a second. This is always tricky for any type of pet cat but for these cats as one can see it presented unforeseen problems that were simply unmanageable.

There are are two other stories on PoC about people adopting F1 wild cat hybrids (Simmons’ cats weren’t F1s as far as I can tell by their size) and in both cases, for their owners, it proved an impossible task to accommodate the wild nature of these gloriously exotic creatures. People who adopt high filial wild cat hybrids are mesmerised by their stupendous appearance while temporarily ignoring their character traits and the demands that the cat places on the caregiver. ‘Buyer beware’ caveat emptor, is the moral of the story.

Associated page:

Living with Wild Cat Hybrids



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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • There is a difference between tame and domestic.
    They are not exotic creatures they are creations of man's arrogance and failure to understand the very nature of the animals. It should be flat out illegal to breed them

  • Looking at the picture and comparing to pictures of Savannah I've seen, the cat on the right looks like high filial and the one on the right look further down the line.

    But... where the story stops making sense to me is that he returned the female first. As I understood it, he was doing fine when he just had the female cat. But when he added the second cat, male, was when the problems started and that it was the second cat that was wild. So why did he return the first cat first? Wouldn't it have made more sense to return the wild cat that caused problems first and keep the one that was doing fine?

  • People from high economic levels and intelligence get these cats, without any thought beyond their beauty and the fact that they're a status symbol.

    It's unfortunate for all concerned. We know that this also happens when people adopt any cat without investigating what it means to be a cat guardian, and they are totally unprepared for what is natural feline behavior.

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