Savannah cat breed information and advice

The Savannah is an exotic, hybrid breed and closely resembles its wild cat ancestor, the African Serval. The first known Savannah kitten was born in 1986 in the US and was a cross between a domestic cat and an African Serval. This beautiful breed is tall, lean and graceful. Their size depends on which generation they are - first-generation male cats are the largest.

Savannahs are active, curious cats and need a lot of interaction with their human family or other pets. They may not be suitable for everyone, especially families with small children. This breed guide will help you decide whether you should welcome a Savannah into your home.

Savannah cat facts

Lifespan 15-20 years
How much a kitten can cost between £800 and £16,000
Size 335-43 cm
Weight 3.2-6.8 kg
Grooming minimal
Temperament affectionate, outgoing, loyal, playful
Exercise very active so need lots of exercise



Savannah cat insurance

It’s important to protect your Savannah with pet insurance. If your cat is diagnosed with an illness, cat insurance can help cover the cost of vet bills. This includes any medication, vet prescribed complementary treatment or surgery.

Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance

Sainsbury’s Bank Savannah insurance can be taken out as soon as your pet is 8 weeks old, right up until their 10th birthday. And once you have cover in place, we’ll insure your Savannah for their entire life - as long as you renew your policy year after year. Giving you one less thing to think about.

How to care for a Savannah cat

Savannah cats need a balanced diet, regular grooming, and lots of exercise and attention. As they’re a fairly new and uncommon breed, we’ll help you find out as much as you can before deciding if this is the breed for you.

The Savannah tends to prefer a high protein, meat-based diet. They may not be able to digest cat foods containing grains or corn. Your breeder should be able to provide details of your kitten’s diet and how often they’re fed. Savannahs are particularly susceptible to changes in their diet, and any change should be gradual to avoid tummy upsets.

Savannah cats have a short coat and don’t need much grooming. A gentle brush once a week will do.

Their coat is black, brown spotted tabby, black silver, or black smoke in colour. It can be short to medium in length with striking dark spots and other markings. These spots can be round, oval or elongated and other distinctive features are their ears and eyes. Their ears are large and set high on top of their head. Their eyes are hooded and flat across the top. They also have a very long neck, a long body, and long legs. Their medium-length, thick tail has black rings with a black tip.

Savannah cats are energetic and love to play, especially in water. They’re happy as either indoor or outdoor cats, but most owners tend to keep them as house cats. Give them toys to keep them amused and a perch so they can climb. They’re athletic and agile and can easily jump high from a standing position. So, remember to put your valuable and fragile ornaments somewhere they can’t be knocked over.

If Savannah cats have access to a garden, they can use up all that energy outside. But if you’re concerned about your pet wandering off or being stolen, you can teach it to walk on a lead. Or consider installing an outdoor ‘catio’ (cat patio/cat enclosure) so your feline friend can play safely outside.

Savannahs are an intelligent cat breed. Over time - and with plenty of positive reinforcement - they can be trained to walk on a lead. They love playing games and can be trained to ‘fetch’. Toilet training should be simple too, but make sure the litter box is large enough for their long legs.



Temperament and behaviour

As Savannahs are such a new breed, it’s hard to be specific about general character traits. Their personality will depend on how close they are to the first cross with their wildcat ancestor. Savannahs are given a filial number that shows how far removed they are from their wild parent - and how much wild DNA the cat has. It takes at least three generations for Savannah kittens to stop being considered wildcat hybrids and purebred Savannahs - i.e. F4 Savannah kittens.

Purebred Savannah cats are intelligent and confident. Being curious, they’ll seek out adventure and need a lot of mental stimulation. They can be destructive if they’re not entertained and are sometimes described as assertive. They need a lot of human interaction and a companion cat or ‘cat-friendly’ dog will help stop them from getting up to mischief.

Your pet Savannah will be loyal and form strong a bond with you. They’ll greet you at the door and follow you around the house. But if you’re looking for a lap cat, this won’t be the breed for you.

These cats have a high prey drive and are good hunters, due to their wildcat instincts. Other household pets such as goldfish, hamsters, gerbils, birds, etc. might not be safe in their company.

Common health problems

The Savannah is generally a healthy cat and no known genetic problems have been identified yet. However, they’ll still be susceptible to the same health issues that can affect other breeds of cats. Protecting your Savannah with cat insurance will help them and give you the peace of mind of knowing you’ll get financial help with vet bills and treatment costs.

HCM is a serious heart condition that can affect many cats. It causes the heart muscle to become thick, preventing the heart from working correctly, which leads to heart failure. If recognised early enough, long-term medication and other measures can slow the disease.

This can affect the early generations of Savannahs. The male cats are born with incorrectly developed testes. It isn’t until the fourth generation, or F4 cats, that reliably fertile male cats are produced. This doesn’t affect the health of the cat but will affect the price.

PK deficiency has been diagnosed in Savannah cats. PK is an enzyme found in red blood cells. If this enzyme is lacking, the lifespan of the red blood cells is reduced. This results in anaemia. There is no treatment or cure as it’s an inherited condition. However, the anaemia can be successfully managed.



How much is a Savannah cat?

You can expect to pay between £800 and £16,000 for a Savannah kitten. The cost varies greatly depending on their generation – i.e. whether the kitten is an F1 cross or an F2, F3 or F4 etc. Breeders should be able to provide a detailed family tree for their kittens. Female Savannah cats usually cost more than males.

Are Savannah cats friendly?

The first couple of generations can be unpredictable, and there are reports of these pets being unfriendly to strangers. The more closely-related the Savannah is to the Serval, the more like its wildcat ancestor it will be.

Later generations are no more dangerous than other domestic cats. But you should never leave young children with any cat without supervision.

As they’re extremely loyal to their owners, they can be overprotective and wary of strangers. They can chirp (like their Serval ancestors) and hiss loudly – the ‘snake hiss’. Socialisation is essential to avoid hissing at strangers. They can also meow like their domestic cat relatives and will get along with other cats.

What do Savannah cats eat?

Savannahs prefer foods their wild ancestors would have eaten. They may not have evolved to eat cat foods containing grains or corn. Ask your breeder how often they feed their Savannahs and what type of foods they give their cats and stick with this diet. It is likely to be a specialised, high protein diet that is grain and corn-free.

So, is a Savannah cat right for you?

In the UK, F2, F3 and F4 Savannah cats are legal and available to buy from reputable breeders. It’s illegal to own an F1 Savannah cat without a Dangerous Wild Animal Licence, which an average cat owner will not be able to get.

Savannahs make lively companions. They need minimal grooming but need lots of attention in other ways. Make sure you know as much as you can about this intelligent, energetic and distinctive new breed. They may be better suited to more experienced cat owners.

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Content provided from Vetstream’s Vetlexicon

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Autumn P Davidson, David Godfrey (online Infertility: male – overview. In: Vetlexicon Felis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: https://www.vetstream.com/treat/felis/freeform/infertility-male-overview.

Michael Day, Urs Giger (online) Pyruvate deficiency. In: Vetlexicon Felis. Vetstream Ltd, UK. Website: https://www.vetstream.com/treat/felis/diseases/pyruvate-kinase-deficiency.