The Savannah Cat
A Savannah cat is a cross between a domestic cat and an serval, a medium sized, large eared wild African cat. The unusual cross became popular among breeders at the end of the 1990's, and in 2001 the International Cat Association (TICA) accepted it as a new registered breed. In May 2012 TICA accepted it as a championship breed.
As Savannahs are produced by cross breeding servals and domestic cats, each generation of Savannahs is marked with a filial number. For example, the cats produced directly from a serval/domestic cat cross are the F1 generation, and they are 50% serval.
F1 generation Savannahs are very difficult to produce, due to the significant difference in gestation periods between the serval and a domestic cat (75 days for a serval and 65 days for a domestic cat), and sex chromosomes. Pregnancies are often absorbed or aborted, or kittens are born prematurely. Also, servals can be very picky in choosing mates, and often will not mate with a domestic cat. This is also true of the other higher generation cats. This is the reason Savannah's run at a higher price than many other breeds of pedigree cat. Litters are often smaller than you would see in other non-hybrid breeds.
The Savannah is a tall, lean, graceful cat with striking dark spots and other bold markings. It is affectionate and outgoing. Savannahs are much more social than typical domestic cats, and commonly compared to dogs in their loyalty. They will often follow their owners around the house like a canine. They can also be trained to walk on a leash and to fetch. An often noted trait of the Savannah is it's jumping ability. They are known to jump on top of doors, refrigerators and high cabinets. Some high generation Savannahs can leap about 8 feet (2.5m) high from a standing position. Savannahs are very inquisitive and have been known to get into all sorts of things. They often learn how to open doors and cupboards, and anyone buying a Savannah will likely need to take special precautions to prevent the cat from getting into trouble!
Many Savannah cats do not fear water, and will play or even immerse themselves in water. Some owners even shower with their Savannah cats. Presenting a water bowl to a Savannah may also prove a challenge, as some will promptly begin to "bat" all the water out of the bowl until it is empty using their front paws.
Vocally, Savannahs may either chirpt like their serval ancestors, meow like their domestic ancestors, both chirp and meow, or sometimes produce sounds which are a mixture of the two. Chirping is observed more often in earlier generations. Savannahs may also "hiss" - a serval like hiss quite different from a domestic cat's hiss, sounding more like a very loud snake. It can be alarming to humans not acquainted to such a sound coming from a cat.
The F4 generations onwards are more domesticated and snuggly whilst still retaining the ferocious and majestic look of the wild serval cat.
The first known Savannah was born April 7th 1986 when a female domestic cat gave birth to a kitten sired by an African Serval. This F1 was the first on record. This unusual female kitten had both domestic and Serval like traits. Both the kitten and the breed were named "Savannah". Patrick Kelly heard about Savannah and decided he wanted to try to develop a new breed. He persuaded a breeder, Joyce Sroufe, to join him in his efforts. Together they wrote the original TICA Breed Standard.
One of the most amazing traits of the Savannah is it's remarkable personality. It is a very curious, assertive cat that seeks out adventure at every opportunity. It is a very active cat that needs a great deal of interaction on a daily basis, either with its human family or with a companion cat. It is also a very loyal cat who will bond strongly with its human family. It is not generally a lap cat, but will shown affection on its own terms, often greeting family members at the door, following them around the house and giving frequent headbuts.
The Savannah cat is a unique and amazing feline. Most people who own or have met Savannahs will say that they have never met a cat like them and become avid fans. The Savannah is not for everyone, but for those who seek a unique pet and lifelong companion, the Savannah fits the bill!
A Savannah's wild look is often due to the presence of many distinguishing serval characteristics. Most prominent of these include the various colour markings; tall, deeply cupped, wide, rounded, erect ears; very long legs; fat, puffy noses, and hooded eyes. The bodies of Savannahs are long and leggy, when a Savannah is standing, it's hind end is often higher than its prominent shoulders. This can create a false image of a very large or heavy cat, but in reality, most Savannahs are just the size of a large domestic cat, and weigh less than another cat of similar size. It also has a very long neck and a short, thick tail, adding to its distinctiveness. The small head is taller than wide. The backs of the ears have ocelli, a central light band bordered by black, dark grey or brown, giving an eye-like effect. The short tail has black rings with a solid black tip. They eyes are blue as a kitten and may be green, brown, gold or a blended shade as an adult. They eyes have a "boomerang" shape, with a hooded brow to protect them from harsh sunlight. Ideally, black or dark "tear-streak" or "cheetah tear" markings run from the corner of the eyes down the sides of the nose to the whiskers, much like that of a cheetah. Most F1 generation Savannahs will possess many or all of these traits, while their presence often diminshes in later generations. Being a newly developing, hybridized breed of cats, appearance can vary far more than cat owners may expect.
Sources: The Internation Cat Association (TICA) Savannah Breed Standard and Wikipedia