Dramatically Elegant Savannah


The Savannah is a dramatically elegant spotted cat, descended from an original cross of an African Serval and domestic cat. Know more about this active and interactive breed designed to be a domestic replica of that tall, big-eared spotted exotic cat.
Brigitte Cowell
Salient features
Although generally the size of a domestic cat, Savannah should be proportionally tall, long and leanly built and he should have large rounded upright ears, hooded smallish eyes and wide generous nose leather in an angular face. This breed has a long neck to go with the long body and long legs but a shorter tail than expected. The pattern should be spotted with good contrast and the texture of the coat loose and non-resilient. Savannah accepts four colour patterns:
brown (black) spotted tabby, silver spotted tabby, solid black and smoke. He is active and interactive cat, full of exuberance and joy with a streak of mischief.
Behind the name
The Savannah breed has had one of the longer roads to acceptance in TICA (The International Cat Association). The first documented Savannah was born in 1986, the result of a chance mating between a pet Serval and a domestic female cat in the same household. Imagine the surprise when that kitten was born, a dramatically spotted kitten with rapidly growing legs and ears. He was named ‘Savannah’ to represent the habitat of the Serval of the grasslands in Africa. It took some time for word to spread. But by 1996, some key people in the development of the Savannah breed were involved. Patrick Kelley had interested Joyce Sroufe in the idea of making a domestic cat breed and the first breed standard was presented to the TICA board that year. TICA’s new breed programme underwent some changes along the road, and the Savannah breed had a few hiccups going from the NBC (New Breed & Colour) programme into Preliminary New Breed to Advanced New Breed… and back to Preliminary New Breed and again to Advanced New Breed.
Then the breed was eventually accepted into Championship Class on 1st May 2012.
Associated myths
There are certain myths associated with this breed. Many people have seen a few carefully posed pictures and assume that all Savannahs are huge cats. And although the World’s Tallest Cat was a Savannah, he was unusually tall and even his siblings did not reach the same proportions. People also assume that ‘wild heritage’ means they will be ‘wild and dangerous’ cats and cannot be trusted as house pets or around children. For many people, ‘wild’ equates with ‘feral’ as they figure that the exotic cat heritage must express in a cat like a Savannah as aggression and dominance. This is simply not true!
Most domesticable
The African Serval is known to be one of the most ‘domesticable’ of the exotic cats. The reason is that he is more commonly kept as a house pet than most other wild cats. Our breed group does ‘not’ recommend this at all, he is still a wild cat and as such unpredictable and not easy to live with. But the fact remains that he is more gregarious and interactive with humans than most other wild cats. And most importantly he doesn’t view the human as prey. So, by crossing this exotic cat with a domestic cat we do not get an F1 Savannah (the breed directly produced from Serval cat cross) who is difficult to
handle, antisocial or dangerous. We get a very high energy, interactive house pet who although is more suited to some pet households than others, making him a wonderful loving pet for many.
Right selection
It is my opinion, F2 (the breed with his one parent is Savannah and other outcross or both parents are Savannahs) 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! Other myths are that all Savannahs are extremely expensive (while most at SBT level are the same price range as any other purebred cat breed), they need a special diet (we recommend a high quality cat food), or need special veterinary care (they need a good veterinarian like all cats deserve).
(Brigitte Cowell is the current chair of the Savannah Breed Section for TICA, chair of TICA’s Feline Welfare Committee and member of TICA’s Legislative Committee and president of Savannah Cat Rescue (the only breed-specific rescue for Savannahs). She got her first Savannah in 2001 and first breeding Savannah in 2003).