(Ponca City, OK)
Yesterday, at A1 Savannahs, I spent about a hour inside an enclosure with a melanistic F4 Savannah cat. Her name is Midnight; a good name for a near black cat. Near black is the correct description because melanistic cats have faint patterns. The classic is the black panther which usually describes melanistic leopards and jaguars. She was desperate for human contact. It was a sad experience. Her life in a cage like a captive zoo animal.
Here is a better quality version of the photograph as it is embedded from Flickr.
The target background colour for Savannah cats is a yellowish colour, near the colour of the serval. I am using layperson terms. The spots are dark or near black.
A recessive mutant gene causes an overproduction of a pigment called melanin in the individual hair strands and this turns the cat near black because the individuals hairs have sold black rather than banded black. In the jaguar this gene is dominant. The gene that is affected is the agouti gene. This is the gene that normally produces banding (of the black pigment) in individual hairs that contributes to the the ticked coat and tabby coat.
In humans melanin is the pigment that produces our tan to protect us from the sun’s harmful wavelengths2.
Black servals (the wildcat parent of the first fillial – F1 – Savannah cat) are also known. They are fairly common in the Aberdare mountains of Kenya, Africa. This may be an adaptation to the colder climate as black absorbs heat more efficiently.
Black is linked to a resistance to disease1.
There are some other melanistic cats on this site:
I think that Midnight is a wonderful looking F4 melanistic savannah cat. She was nervous because of limited contact with people but gradually approached me and kept her distance. Her male partner, a normal coloured and patterned cat was very interested in licking me, so much so that he licked my trousers wet through, over quite a large area!
Melanistic Savannah cat – Notes:
Melanism – pulling strands together.