Savannah: Two breeds in one

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Savannah is one of the few hybrid cat breeds created by crossing a domestic cat with an exotic feline, in this case the Serval. Let’s find out more about this unique breed.

Patti Struck
Patti Struck

The first Savannah was created from an accidental breeding between a male Serval and Siamese female in 1986. The development of the breed has not been without growing pains. One of the complications of crossing two different species was that males for the first several generations bred away from the Serval were sterile, so it took many years before breeders were able to produce fertile males. Once this happened, the ability to create a cat who looked more and more like a Serval became exponentially easier, since the Serval genes were finally being introduced from both sides of the pedigree.

Championship breed

Dark Boy Kiro
Dark Boy Kiro

Along the road of development, the breed was accepted by The International Cat Association (TICA), but shortly thereafter a moratorium was placed on bringing in any new breeds, so the breed’s acceptance into TICA was put in a holding pattern. It took a few years for that moratorium to be lifted, but once it was breeders were finally able to start registering their cats and exhibiting them at TICA shows.
The road through TICA’s new breed programme has been long and hard but the Savannah has now been accepted as a Championship breed for three years. They have already made their mark as an important breed with TICA, ranking as one of the top ten most popular breeds for the past several years. There have been several Supreme Champions, multiple Regional Winners, and an International Winner in just the few years they have been shown in Championship.

Passing generations

Agato Siri and Genny
Agato Siri and Genny

Savannahs must be at least four generations removed from the Serval to be allowed to show in TICA. When the breed first started out it was very difficult to keep much of the serval look because of all the outcrosses that were required until fertile males finally became available. Now, one can see fourth, fifth, sixth, and even more remote generations removed from the Serval who are able to rival the beauty and exotic looks of the early generation Savannahs. This is an extraordinary breed with the exotic looks of a Serval but the personality and care requirements of a domestic cat.

A few myths
Still a few myths about Savannahs persist. The first myth is in regard to the Savannah’s huge size – although the Serval is larger than a domestic cat (the males on average weigh about 40 lbs), after the first couple of generations removed from the Serval, the Savannah becomes simply an average or large sized domestic cat. The second myth is that Savannahs are dangerous and will hunt and kill small children and animals – this is simply not true, the Savannah is a domestic animal who will run away rather than become aggressive in the face of danger.

Just a little care

Riki
Riki

Savannahs do NOT need a special diet; any high-quality cat food is adequate. Savannahs do not need an exotic veterinarian – again, this is a domestic breed of cat with no special health needs. Savannahs are not hypoallergenic – while it is true that some people are less allergic to Savannahs than other cat breeds, it is just as true that some people are more allergic to Savannahs! Finally, not all Savannahs cost a fortune – one can find a beautiful later generation Savannah for the price of any other purebred domestic cat breed.
In conclusion, the Savannah is an amazing, exotic looking, high energy, playful, inquisitive, and intelligent domestic cat. The breed is making her mark both in the show world with TICA and in the pet community as one of the newest and most popular cat breeds. People who have experienced life with a Savannah never want to give up that special bond that develops between Savannah and human – a truly unique experience.

(Patti Struck has been breeding Savannahs for the past 12 years. She is a member of TICA Rules Committee, TICA Mentors Program and Savannah Committee).

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