A Savannah Cat.
A Savannah Cat. Photography ©Tetsu Yamazaki.

Everything You Need to Know About the Savannah Cat

How long does a Savannah cat typically live? Will a Savannah cat get along with kids? Does this breed like to walk on a leash? Let’s get to know more about the Savannah cat right here.
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If you’ve ever daydreamed about living with a wild cat but recognize the dangers and drawbacks, the Savannah cat may be just the kitty for you.

Savannah cat basics

The Savannah cat.
The Savannah cat is a mix between an African wild cat and a domestic cat. Photography ©Tetsu Yamazaki.

Descended from a cross between an African wild cat — the serval —and a domestic cat, the spotted creatures are beautiful and engaging. Like their wild ancestor, though, they can be a handful to live with.

Highly intelligent and energetic, the Savannah seeks out his own amusement if he’s bored, and you might not always like his decisions. Shredding magazines and paper towels and splashing in the toilet are just a couple of the ways Savannahs might entertain themselves.

Wise owners choose to laugh at their cats’ antics and learn to put things away that they don’t want destroyed. “The serval has been termed the clown of the veldt, and I find my Savannahs seem to know how amusing their antics can be and play to their audience,” says breed expert Brigitte Cowell of San Francisco.

With a spotted coat; large, tall ears; hooded eyes; long neck, body and legs; and bold markings, the Savannah’s exotic appearance attracts many, but he’s not the right cat for every household. Avoid this breed if you are away from home for long hours or want a cat who’s ornamental, not active. Choose a Savannah if you want a close and interactive relationship with a cat.

“They are suited to families, as they thrive with interaction,” Brigitte says. “They can be great companions for a child old enough to be able to play with a teaser wand with them. To a person living alone wanting a companion, they can be great also, as they bond strongly to their human.”

Living with a Savannah cat

Savannahs aren’t typically lap cats. Their active nature precludes long periods of sitting still and being petted. Savannahs enjoy walking on leash. Weekly brushing and nail trimming keep the Savannah cat stunning.

History of the Savannah cat

Savannah cat closeup.
The Savannah is a relatively young breed. Photography ©Tetsu Yamazaki.

The Savannah cat descends from a breeding between a male serval and a female Siamese cat.

A relatively young breed, the Savannah cat dates to April 7, 1986, when the first kitten from the above cross was born. The kitten and the breed were called Savannah. It was some years before there were significant numbers of the cats.

The International Cat Association began registering Savannahs in 2001. The breed achieved championship status in 2012.

What you should know about this breed

This medium-size to large cat typically weighs 8 to 10 pounds or up to 30 pounds. “The weight range is a large one,” Brigitte says. “The largest Savannahs are generally F2 males, but there is considerable variation in size even within that.”

A Savannah cat has a short to medium-length coat with a slightly coarse texture that can be brown-spotted tabby, silver-spotted tabby, black and black smoke. Kittens born with rosette, marble, pointed, blue, cinnamon, chocolate, lilac or other dilute colors make great pets but can’t be shown.

Generally healthy, the Savannah cat can live to 12 to 15 years or more. Brigitte knows of one who is now 22 years old and “very healthy for his age.”

Because the Savannah is a young breed, it is probably more genetically variable than other breeds. “So far we do not have any health issues that a domestic shorthair would not be subject to,” Brigitte says. “A good breeder tests for issues such as erythrocyte pyruvate kinase deficiency, progressive retinal atrophy and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.”

Four fun facts about the Savannah cat

A Savannah cat swimming in a bathtub.
Savannah cats might enjoy water play. Photography courtesy Brigitte Cowell.
  1. Smart and sly, Savannahs like to be up high. Expect to find them on kitchen counters, the top of the refrigerator and inside cabinets.
  2. It’s not unusual for Savannahs to play in water — keep those toilet lids down — and retrieve balls and other items.
  3. Sounds you may hear from a Savannah cat include chirps, meows and hisses.
  4. Two Savannahs have held the Guinness World Records title for Tallest Domestic Cat. Trouble measured 19 inches from shoulder toes in 2013 but was surpassed in 2017 by Arcturus, who stood just over 19 inches. Sadly, Arcturus and his fellow feline housemate, a Maine Coon named Cygnus, who held the Guinness record for longest tail at 17 inches, both died in a house fire last December.

What does F1, F2, F3 stand for with a Savannah cat?

If you’ve read much at all about Savannahs or spoken to breeders, you may have seen or heard the designations F1, F2, F3 and so on.

THE LETTER F stands not for feline or foundation but for FILIAL and refers to the specific generation of a particular cat. Savannahs began as a cross between a serval — a small wild cat — and a domestic cat.

The kittens from this breeding are the FIRST GENERATION or F1.

The SECOND GENERATION — the grand kittens — are F2, and great-grand kittens are F3. A Savannah cat is considered to be “PUREBRED” at F4 and later generations.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Tetsu Yamazaki.

Tell us: Do you have a Savannah cat? What do you love about this breed?

Read more about cat breeds on Catster.com:

16 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About the Savannah Cat”

  1. WTF ?? This is a CAT SITE not a place for some nonsense rhetoric about some “love of one’s life” – oh yeah, the rant could’ve been from a “bot” (!!)

  2. My babies are early generation Savannah’s and they are absolutely amazing. Never a dull moment in their energy and antics. I just adore them. I admit though, that an F1 is not for everyone because of their high energy and I’ve come to realize, they don’t like to be left alone. At least not for more than a couple hours. I don’t recommend boarding them, ever. Just my opinion. A cat sitter would be the best bet. The great thing about Savannah cats, is there’s a generation for everyone. The further down the generation line ( filial degree), they tend to get more laid back. Of course there’s always the one that doesn’t get the memo, if you will. No matter which generation you choose, do your homework on them and you will be rewarded with one awesome kitty!!! Just be careful to choose a reputable breeder as there are many many scams out there on these magnificent animals.

  3. Is there a Savannah cat rescue site? We would love to have one period but thought before we went out and spent a lot of money to buy a kitten, But realize that there may be times people have bought one and it’s more than they can handle. Or sometimes the situation where they’re just not able to care for it. We are aware that there are all kinds of rescues for dogs and breeds. just thought we’d check here first to see if there was any for the Savannah cats

  4. I’m sorry Catster is promoting purchase of a special breed when SO MANY shelter cats need a forever home. Makes me cry. I have 8 strays myself; one is FIV, another is terribly crippled. I’ve trapped and spay/neuter/ released several ferals. If someone really loves cats, they should be doing more to help the homeless ones, not supporting a specialty breeder.

    1. I don’t look at it as promoting, but simply supplying information. Most folks will realize that this breed is not for them and when they see the price these beauties go for, they will opt for something more reasonable.

    2. I also don’t see it as promoting. I got a tabby kitten for my daughter (from Craigslist) and I am really thinking she is a low scale F4ish series Savannah. I am trying to learn as much as possible about these rambunctious fun little creatures.

  5. Question, do they get along with larger breed dogs, like a English lab. We have a 135 pound English black lab who need a friend, he has separation anxiety, we have been told a second dog would help. Well this house is not large enough for too big dogs, so we were thinking a cat. A cat of larger size can maybe hold their own when it comes to play time. Since our lab has separation anxiety, he will most likely stay in the Puppy stage most of his life. Also wanting to be right where you are, wanting to play all the time. So what do you think? Anyone? Thanks, for letting us reach out! TimC. Springfield, Ohio

  6. I raise both Savannah and Maine Coons. I love them both but the Savannah has my heart. They are smart, inquisitive, busy, and love to get into trouble. I would not have it any other way

  7. .I aquired a Savannah/Maine Coon kitten, Meeko, when she was just 8 weeks old. She is now seven and a half months and quite a handful. No problem for me as I love her just as she is. What I didn’t know about a Savannah/Maine Coon is how much they love water. Meeko is a sweetheart and loves to play and “steal” anything not nailed down. She’s very active and I wouldn’t want her any other way. I plan to leash train her so she can go out for walks with me. Has anybody done this and how hard is it to do?

  8. Just for the record. Savannah should NEVER be declawned. For them declawning is like amputating the tip of the fingers for us.!!!!!!!!
    pls do the proper research before publishing such harmful information…. :/

  9. I’ve got a “perfect storm”..My cat died & we got a 1 year FEMALE stray ,who I think is a Savannah,& a kitten. The Female has “adopted” the kitten as her own & is attacking my other Female cat. The vet has advised PROZAC.Anyone tried this?

  10. I must admit when entered dr_mack the love spell caster on Google, i saw he was really a genuine man when it comes to restoring relationship, i never believed that my man will ever come back to me, my man is now with me and he loves me like never before

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