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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: SAVANNAHS

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(scroll down for Savannah Cat breed MYTHS)

Why are they so expensive?
Savannahs are very difficult to breed. It takes several years and lots of money to purchase and raise a serval with several queens. Out of these queens few will go on to produce litters. Savannahs are very rare thus they are priced accordingly.

How big do they get?
The f1's usually weigh between 15 to 20 lbs. Each subsequent generation will decrease slightly in size until the third and fourth generation where the size stabilizes. They should still have the long body and long legs making them appear larger than they really are if properly bred. Ultimately, the size of the later generation savannahs will depend on the outcrosses used in each generation. Savannahs are slow to mature, usually taking 3 full years to reach full size.

What's the difference between a Savannah and a Serval?
A Serval is a 25 to 30 lb. exotic cat originally found in the Savannah Plains of Africa. The Savannah is a hybrid of the serval and a domestic cat and has more domestic qualities than the straight exotic.

Which has a better temperament, a male or female?
Gender makes no difference in their temperament.

Are they lap cats?
NO. Savannahs are extremely active cats, and rarely enjoy being picked up, carried around, or being restrained in any way. However, Savannahs are very affectionate in a manner that is more similar to a friendly loyal dog breed than a typical cat. They like to sleep in bed with their owners, they follow their owners around the house, give headbutts, love to be petted, and especially love interactive play with their owners.

What does F1, F2, F3 mean?
The F stands for filial generation meaning it is the sequence of generations following the hybridization of a serval crossed with a domestic. The number is how many generations away from the serval it is.

Do they get along well with other animals?
With proper socialization as they are growing up you will find they will become buddies with all other animals that do not represent food to them naturally. It is not recommended that an F1 or F2 savannah be placed in a home with birds or parrots. These generations might also be a bit too much for hamsters or gerbils as they are extremely intelligent could easily figure out how to open the lid on the habitat.

Do they get along with Kids?
The savannahs seem to instinctively take up with kids. As with any animal, care should be taken placing any Savannah in a household with infants or very small children.

Are they destructive?
Cats in general can be destructive depending on how you train them and what you provide for them to scratch on or play with. The early generations seem to be rather high-energy cats. They love to romp and play. You must provide them with plenty of toys and playmates to prevent destructive behavior.

Can they eat cat food?
Yes, they are considered domestic cats and eat the premium cat foods on the market.

Do they need inoculations like other cats?
Kittens should receive their first veterinary visit and set of vaccines by 8 weeks of age. They should be isolated from all outdoor cats and those not current on their vaccines until they are at least 14 weeks and after their last set of vaccines. It is wise to have household pets tested for feline leukemia before bringing home the new kitten (if they have not been tested previously) and brought up to date on their shots.
Veterinarians will have different vaccination schedules and different states have different requirements for rabies shots. Kittens should be tested for internal parasites (worms) and dewormed if indicated especially if there are young children in the house as roundworms can be passed to children through the cat’s feces.
NEVER give a cat ANY medication that has not been prescribed by a veterinarian. Cats may not metabolize medications the same way people and dogs do and may react poorly to them. Tylenol can actually be fatal to a cat within hours and aspirin can also be fatal unless dosed by a vet.
Kittens are like other babies....they do not tolerate dehydration, vomiting or not eating for long. If your kitten is playful and appears normal but has vomited once or had diarrhea call the vet for consultation during office hours but if your kitten is lethargic you may want to call an emergency center.
Also, kittens do not tolerate sudden food changes and even a different flavor of the same brand of food may cause a digestive upset.
Fleas and ticks can happen in any household especially if there is an outdoor dog. Be VERY CAREFUL what you put on your kitten....a veterinary prescribed product is safest and do not use products for your dog that can harm cats. (Even being in the same house with a dog treated with a toxic product can affect the cat) Some over the counter flea products for cats can cause very toxic reactions.

What colors/patterns do Savannahs come in?
Our registry, TICA, recognizes the spotted pattern in the colors brown spotted tabby, silver spotted tabby, black and black smoke (the black and black smoke display the spotting pattern however the spots are not acknowledged in the color). Savannah's are produced in other colors and some have the classic pattern due to the outcrosses that were used. These non-standard colors and patterns may be registered but not shown.

What is their life span?
Many domestic cats live as long as 15 plus years. Servals have been known to live as long as 17-20 years. There is no reason to believe that the Savannah cat’s longevity would be any less, especially in light of “hybrid” vigor that usually results from crossing two species.

Do they like water?
Many pure domestic cats find a fascination with water. It is believed it to be the highly active cats that tend to want to play in water thus many of the savannah's do find pleasure playing in water. The serval loves to play in water so it only comes natural for a Savannah to enjoy it too.

Are they 'trainable' like a dog?
Savannahs are highly intelligent and can be trained to do many things. They are not as versatile with their tricks as a dog. They can be taught to walk on a leash, sit, lie down, take their mark, and jump through a hoop, fetch, and other simple tricks.

Are males bigger than females?
The male kittens in most litters are generally larger than their female littermates.

Can Savannahs be shown at a cat show?
Savannahs are not eligible to compete for Championship points. However, they can be shown in Preliminary New Breed classes as a way of introducing the breed to the TICA judges and to the public. In the coming years, we hope our breed will advance to, first, “Advanced New Breed, and ultimately, to Championship status.

Can they be leash trained?
Savannah's love to walk on a leash and they learn easily.

Should you allow a Savannah to wander freely outside?
Absolutely not, and for several reasons. The danger of being run over is very real for a cat on the street. There is a chance the Savannah could wander into a yard and that person may decide to keep it or there could be a dog there that could maul or kill it. If you live in a rural area, there are several wild animals that will take a cat's life not to mention that it might get lost and not come home.

How high can they jump?
They will most likely be able to jump as high as the highest place in your home is. It may take a leap or two but they will get there.

Do they climb fences (like chain link)?
Yes, they can climb almost any type fence.

Do sterile males need to be fixed?
Yes, the sterile males will need to be fixed around 5 months of age. Although they are sterile they still have the male hormones and will most likely start to spray and mark their territory.

How old are they when they can go to a new home?
A kitten should have at lease ONE vaccination before it leaves for its new home. This will give a minimal protection for the kitten when it undergoes the stress of moving to a new environment. Since kitten’s immune system is not really functional until eight weeks of age AND it does little good to vaccinate while the kitten is still nursing, the first vaccination should not be given prior to eight-nine weeks of age. It is then advisable to wait two weeks in order to ensure the kitten has had enough time to build the antibodies from the vaccination. This puts the kitten at 10-12 weeks of age before it is ready to go home.

What of litter box habits do they have? Does it vary between generations?
Kittens that are raised by their Mom’s generally have little to no difficulties using the litter boxes. Kittens that are bottle fed should be placed in a small room with other kittens who will teach the new kitten all about hygiene. The breeder should do this prior to placing the kitten in its new home. This is another reason why kittens should not go to their new homes until they are 10-12 weeks of age. Small kittens should be confined to a small room, or sometimes a cage, until their litter habits are perfected and they remember where the litter box is. Of course, as with ANY cat, there is ALWAYS the chance that an individual cat may refuse to use a litter box. There are many reasons for this, but they are almost always environmental.

What kinds of toys are safe for a Savannah kitten/cat to play with?
Always look over the toys before purchasing them. Make sure they are very tough and sturdy toys. Remove any glued on parts such as eyes on a mouse (the kittens could care less if their mouse has eyes or not). The little open type plastic balls with bells inside them can be easily destroyed with one bite leaving the bells. The bells are just the right size to be swallowed by a kitten and this will make the kitten sick. Rabbit’s feet are natural and the kittens are naturally drawn to it making it a rather safe toy. Small tennis balls are also very sturdy and fun. Variety will keep them busy.

Will these cats really open doors cabinets and drawers?
It seems the early generations, the f1's and f2's, are well known for being able to open cabinet doors. They can open any leaver door as they learn very quickly. Not that many have the knack of turning a door knob though. Many can even open drawers.

Do any cat breed registries currently recognize the Savannah?
Currently the only international cat registry that accepts the Savannah for registration and show is The International Cat Association (TICA) although SIMBA has a committee that is working on acceptance in two other international registries at this moment.

Do you need a permit to own a Savannah?
Every state is different. In fact, even in states where no permit is required by State law, some localities require permits, and some outlaw the hybrids altogether. Therefore, it is imperative that one check with local, county AND state authorities BEFORE buying a hybrid cat of ANY kind. (For instance, Bengals are illegal in Denver, even though Colorado allows them)

Are there any known breed specific health risks/problems?
With any breed of cat as with any individual, you may find a certain cat or kitten that has a cold or a disease however, in general, the Savannah cats and kittens are very healthy and there are no known, breed-specific, diseases or afflictions to date.

Do you need to childproof the home?
Absolutely! All babies and especially inquisitive kittens can get into trouble. You should keep a kitten in a small safe room until it is perfect in the litter box. Meanwhile check your home for safety. Kittens can ingest small objects such as rubber bands, string, tiny plastic objects, coins, parts of toys, and small rubber objects. Look for holes that kittens can fit in such as uncovered floor vents. They love to crawl behind dressers and desks and into drawers. Check for poisonous plants and heavy objects that could fall on them. Put away precious knickknacks or secure them. Kittens can chew on electrical cords and die or have severe mouth damage from the shock. Cover them or run them through PVC pipe. Check for human medications that may have spilled on the floor. They can be deadly. Remove any poisons especially mouse bait. Put lids down on toilets and be careful with full bathtubs. Watch for hanging drape cords as playing kittens can strangle in them. Rocking and lounge chairs pose a big hazard as kittens can be injured easily by the mechanisms. As your kitten grows watch out for the hot stove and easy to open cupboards. Sneaking out the door is something to watch for and be careful closing any door as they like to run through them. Some kittens never seem to get into trouble and others are always into things but attention to safety issues will give you peace of mind no matter your kitten's personality.

How do I go about acquiring my kitten?
First....Decide what type of kitten will best suit your family environment. (Do you want a high energy kitten or one that is more laid back?) Decide what your budgetary constraints are. Decide whether you are willing to pick up your kitten in person, or if it will be necessary to have your kitten shipped to you.

Next....call the breeder(s) and determine which breeders have kittens available that meet your requirements (as determined above).

If the breeder(s) you wish to purchase from do not have kittens available, decide if you are willing to place your name on their waiting list, or if you would rather alter your requirements in order to be able to purchase your kitten sooner.

If you DO decide to place your name on a breeder's waiting list, and then ultimately purchase from a different breeder, please have the courtesy to notify the first breeder of your decision so that they can remove your name from their list and give your position on their list to the next in line.

Once you determine that your breeder of choice has an available kitten, request a copy of that breeder's purchase agreement. READ IT CAREFULLY. Ask any questions you may have, and obtain any clarifications that are needed UP FRONT!

When you have agreed upon the terms of purchase, give that breeder a deposit to hold your kitten. (Most breeders will not hold a kitten without a deposit.) If, for any reason, your situation changes and you are NOT able to take he kitten agreed upon, notify the breeder AT ONCE! Failure to do so may result in forfeiture of your deposit and/or legal ramifications, if the breeder has turned away other buyers for that kitten.

Make sure you understand the deposit agreement BEFORE you decide to purchase a kitten. Buying a Savannah is, not only a big monetary investment, but is a life long commitment to the care and welfare of that kitten, as well. Be sure you are willing to take on this life-long commitment BEFORE you assume the financial commitment.

Are there waiting lists?
These kittens can be high in demand so one may not be available immediately. You may have to go on a waiting list or contact several breeders to find a kitten. Some breeders may require a deposit to go on their wait list.

What is the average length of time to wait for a kitten?
It often depends on what generation kitten you are interested in. For example, for an F1 male a waiting list of 12 months is not unusual. For an F2 male you may be lucky enough to find one available, or have to wait for a few months until the next litter is born. This wait would also be dependent upon your specificity. If you want a kitten from a specific pairing, of course your wait might be a lot longer than if you were on several breeders’ wait lists for any kitten!

Why has the Savannah been called the 'Most Desired' new breed?
Many people dream of sharing their lives with an exotic cat, but due to laws prohibiting them, in addition to very few of us having the proper space and facilities to keep a wild cat, our dreams would go unfulfilled, if it were not for this magnificent breed. The Savannah breed allows us to share our lives with a feline that encompasses the best of both worlds….all the majesty, grace and beauty of the wild cat without the undesirable traits usually associated with owning a full blooded exotic.

Much like other high-energy domestic breeds, the Savannah cat thrives in a home environment. They are intelligent, affectionate, and quite dog-like in their behavior and interaction with members of the family. They are very social animals, by nature, and bond quickly to humans and pets. They are self confident and curious creatures, with a warm and loving personality.

The beauty, grace and intelligence of the Savannah, coupled with their warm, affectionate personality account for the Savannah cat being referred to as “the most desired new breed.”

Lastly, due to the overwhelming popularity of this breed and the limited number of kittens produced annually, it is very important to note that, in general, Savannah Breeders consider their kittens very precious, and many have adopted a screening process to qualify prospective buyers. As it is part of the Breeders responsibility to assure that the kitten you select is well matched to you and your living situation, please do not feel offended if at some part in your search, one or more breeders request a wealth of personal information from you.

While not all breeders will require this, you should be prepared to submit a written description to your breeder detailing your lifestyle and type of home you can provide, including information regarding your family, age of children, age and type of existing pets, space available for play, time spent away from the home working, etc. You should also provide your veterinarian’s credentials and include a telephone number where he or she can be reached for additional comment and a personal reference.

Savannah Myths and Other Useful Information as provided by SAVANNAH CAT RESCUE

Myth #1 – All Savannahs are HUGE!!!

This is an unfortunate falsehood spread by some websites and uninformed &/or less-than-honest people.

Savannah size can vary from close to the very tall Serval ancestor to the more average domestic cat height. The most consistently large generation is of course the F1 generation as it has the Serval parent contributing half their genetic make up. Interestingly though, some of the tallest Savannahs around are F2 generation, but the range of sizes in the F2 generation is more variable. There are some pretty nice-sized F3s but further on most Savannahs of lower generations (and that is the MAJORITY of the Savannah population) are simply taller and longer than the average domestic.

Of course most breeders have produced a nice big Savannah and if we all wished to do so we could take a picture of that tall cat walking with a petite toddler and photograph it so that the cat was walking in front hence exaggerating this cat’s size…but most Savannah breeders feel it is more ethical not to create such a false image of our breed. This unfair impression of the breed’s size leads to buyer disappointment, and sometimes I fear the expectation of size can lead to the new owner not valuing the other great traits of their Savannah (exotic looks and great personality) because they are upset because it is not the Labrador-sized kitty they were dreaming of.


Myth #2 – Savannahs are “wild and dangerous”!!!

For many people, “wild” equates with “feral”, they figure that the exotic cat heritage must express in a cat like a Savannah as aggression and dominance. This is simply not true.

The African Serval is known to be one of the most “domesticatable” of the exotic cats, the reason it is more commonly kept as a housepet than most other wild cats. Savannah Rescue does NOT recommend this at all, it is still a wild cat and as such unpredictable and not easy to live with. But the fact remains that it is more gregarious and interactive with humans than most other wild cats. And most importantly it doesn’t view the human as prey. So by crossing this exotic cat with a domestic cat we do not get an F1 Savannah that is difficult to handle, antisocial or dangerous. We get a very high energy, interactive, housepet that although more suited to some pet households than others, makes a wonderful loving pet for many.

It is Savannah Rescue’s opinion that F2 and onwards are the better pets, F1s are more intense and more determined to have their own way than most cats and therefore take a more experienced and prepared household. Much like not all people should have certain dog breeds, I would counsel one about deciding on a Beagle as pet for example. I love my beagle, but he’s a lot of hard work!


Myth #3 – Asheras are Not Savannahs

Although presented by Lifestyle Pets Inc as a distinct proprietary blend of Serval, Bengal and domestic cats, the three Ashera cats that were confiscated at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam were definitively determined to be F1 Savannahs bred by Chris Shirk of Cutting Edge Savannahs from his Serval and his Egyptian Mau female.

It seems that Asheras were indeed Savannahs marketed heavily for an exceedingly inflated pricetag. Buyer beware, do your research!


Myth #4 – All Savannahs are Super-Expensive

Yes, the early generations of Savannahs are expensive. They are difficult to produce and a lot of work goes into them. The later generations, the F4s and F5s are a different situation. Being mainly domestic (an F5A is theoretically 97% domestic heritage for example) they are just as easy to produce and raise as a domestic cat. Therefore you just might see lower generation Savannahs offered for the same prices as many domestic cat breeds…and possibly by the same kinds of lower-quality breeders for cut-rate pricing. If a Savannah is offered for very very little money, there just might be a reason for it! That’s not to say that if a cat is priced very high it must be of good quality of course. There’s extremes both ways, and people that advertise “supreme” branding that are outrageously priced are as much to be avoided. Always do your research and ask questions about why a kitten is priced high or low.


Myth #5 – Savannahs Need to Have a Raw Meat Diet

Savannahs do not require any care that another domestic cat breed doesn’t also need. Savannah breeders recommend a high quality diet of course, but it doesn’t have to be raw meat.

Sure there are Savannah breeders that prefer to feed their cats a raw diet, but there are also Birman, Ocicat and Tonkinese cat breeders that do the same and swear their cats are healthier for this diet. It’s easy to assume that these things must be true due to the “wild heritage” of the Savannah.


Myth #6 – Savannahs Cannot Be Around Small Children or Pets

Along with the assumption that because they have “wild” heritage then they must be dangerous, some folk assume they must be kept in cages and away from other pets and small children. The reality is that Savannahs are no different from any high energy domestic cat breed, and all small children should be supervised around pets. Children can move and act unpredictably, they can decide to see how soft a cat’s eyes might be if they poked them, or how hard they can pull the tail before they get a reaction…all things that might get a child scratched when the kitty is startled. A Savannah is unlikely to be at all different in this case, therefore we recommend children are supervised around all pets and taught to interact properly.

Most Savannahs live in houses not only with humans but with other pets, in particular other cats and dogs. They do very well with dogs, maybe as they tend to be on the more confident outgoing end of cat personalities. Like most cats though, they think fish tanks and mice cages are toys, and would love to get into their toy and play more directly. Therefore we recommend that all those kinds of pets are kept in very secure accommodations, and possibly with a door between them and the kitty when not supervised.


Myth #7 Savannahs are Super-Predators

The Australian Government passed a ban on Savannahs due to an ill-researched “report” gleaned from online sources, none of those sources actually included Savannah breeders nor cat judges that had some experience with the breed. They believed a few sensational websites that claim outrageous sizes for their Savannahs, and put that together with a presumed innately superior hunting ability and came up with a “super-predator” that would climb their trees and kill endandgered koalas. Laughable though it seemed to those of us that live with these cats, this ban passed! Due to this action, many people now claim that the Savannah is indeed some sort of superior predator cat, yet no actual proof has ever been presented to back up such a claim. The Savannah is high energy therefore likely to be enthusiastic, yet being an indoor pet is no more likely to be efficient as a hunter than any other domestic cat.


Myth #8 – ALL Savannahs Love Water

Servals hunt in creek beds, they will hunt for small fish and frogs. Therefore there is the assumption that all Savannahs are going to inherit a love of water. This is not true, just like because your grandfather or great great grandfather was an Olympic athlete does not mean you will be breaking any world track records.

It does however seem that a lot of Savannahs are comfortable with water in a way that most domestic cats are not. They may still not be impressed when you dunk them in a bath, but they may join you in the shower to bat at the spray and they may get under the tap in the bathroom making it impossible to wash your face easily at night. How much of this is due to Serval and how much is due to them being a highly interactive and enthusiastic personality breed, I don’t know. In any case, when you get your Savannah kitten, don’t assume it will enjoy being thrown into a full bathtub. Run the tap and see how interested your kitten is… make the water lukewarm in temperature and inviting. Run a bath with a couple of inches and throw in some ice cubes or bath toys. It can be very amusing, but only if your particular kitty enjoys water sports!


Myth #9 – Savannahs are Hypoallergenic

This particular myth is not confined to the Savannah, I’ve read this about the Bengal also. I’m not sure if this is because some think that there is wild cat heritage therefore this would mean hypoallergenicity. Or else the fact that these are both low-shedding breeds of cat might mean that people tend to react less to them than other cats and assume it is “hypoallergenicity”. If you are allergic to cats, be very careful! There is no substantiated data on these cats and allergies. You may have less reaction, it most likely depends on what triggers your allergies and what threshold you have to that allergen.


Myth #10 – Savannahs Need Special Housing

This comes back to the “wild” heritage, people assume this means the Savannah is unpredictable hence cannot live in a house like a regular domestic cat. This is simply not true. Every generation from F1 through F100 is suitable to live in a house. Savannahs may not be suitable for every house, their energy and exuberance may make living in a house with a lot of breakable antique vases a bad fit. We as breeders and rescuers sometimes suggest “Savannah-Proofing” as something similar to toddler-proofing a house from floor to ceiling but mainly as a way for you to keep your valuables safe and intact while you work out just how klutzy your Savannah might be and just how much fun your belongings might be to them.


Myth #11 – Savannahs Need an Exotic Animal Veterinarian

Many websites state that Savannahs need special veterinary attention; only killed vaccines, no ketamine, etc and many assume that the same vet that treats exotic cats is going to understand a Savannah better. In reality, many domestic cat breeders also advocate only killed vaccines and to avoid ketamine as an anesthetic. The only difference between the average domestic and a Savannah is really that they look “wild” and hence a vet that has never met one before might be worried and extra-cautious, while a vet that treats wild cats on a regular basis wouldn’t give them a second glance.

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