Things you should know about the Savannah
The Savannah cat is one of the newest breeds of cats currently being developed by a select few breeders around the world. There are very few Savannahs currently in existence, and the demand for them is quite high. The Savannah is the result of crossing an African Serval cat to a domestic cat. There is a variety of domestic cats (most often termed domestic shorthairs) used in breeding programs to create the early generation Savannahs, including Oriental Shorthairs, Egyptian Maus, Serengetis, Bengals, etc. While it is not difficult to have a Serval to Serval breeding take place, it can be very difficult to accomplish the Serval to domestic cat breeding. The first documented breeding of an African Serval to a domestic cat was accomplished in the mid 1980's by Judy Frank, a Bengal breeder and cat fancier in Pennsylvania. The Savannah breed, still in the early stages of development, provides a smaller (approximately 20 pounds, vs. the 40 pound Serval), more manageable (Savannahs use litterboxes and do not require any special diets, facilities or veterinary care) version of the beautiful, exotic Serval Cat for people to live with and enjoy in our own homes. Savannahs make wonderful family pets.
The kittens resulting from the first and subsequent generations from the breeding of a Serval cat to a domestic cat or a Serval cat to a Savannah cat are recognized as DOMESTIC Savannah cats. The goal of the Savannah breeding program is to create a uniquely beautiful domestic cat which has physical features distinctive to the Serval cat, and with the loving, dependable temperament of the typical domestic cat. Savannahs are known to be extremely friendly and talkative, and very playful and curious in nature. They are the largest hybrid cat available at this time. This breed was named for the native African grasslands where the Serval makes its home, and also for the first and only Savannah kitten produced by Ms. Frank, who named the female kitten resulting from this Serval/domestic shorthair cross "Savannah". Savannahs are breathtakingly gorgeous, with beautiful spotted and striped coats and colors ranging from silver to amber. They have distinctive "tear drop" markings around their eyes and large round ears. The Savannah is a very graceful, uniquely built cat, with a lovely long neck, long legs and ears, and a three-quarter length tail. The breed standard states that they may be solid, tabby or silver/shaded in pattern, with the allowable colors in those patterns to be black, brown spotted tabby, silver spotted tabby or black smoke. The breed standard calls for a head shape that is longer than it is wide. When the face is viewed from the front it should form a distinct triangle. The head of the Savannah is slightly smaller than in proportion to the body. In profile, the nose is long but with a small chin and should add to the cat's wild appearance. The ears of the Savannah are to be large and alert, with a wide base and slightly rounded tips.
The first generation cross is referred to as the F1 (Serval x domestic). The next breeding of (F1 Savannah x domestic) will create a litter of F2 generation Savannah kittens. Because of the fact that the first three generations (F1, F2 and F3 - and sometimes even the 4th generation) of Savannah males are sterile and cannot reproduce, it will usually be 5 generations or more before there can be a Savannah to Savannah breeding. Male savannahs are fertile only in 5th generation when the serval percentage is about 3 %. Some rare fertile F4's also exist. Using F5 males in savannah breeding produces the most serval-like offspring. The fertility does however occur also the other way around: 97 % savannahs are fertile. The gestation period of a serval is a bit longer than that of a domestic cat. It is only 1/10 of domestics that become pregnant of a serval and only 1/10 of those can carry in full term. Hence the rarity and the price.
In 1996, Savannah breeders first presented their breed to the TICA board of directors, at which time they gained registration rights. The Savannah has continued to evolve both in its development as a breed, and in the recognition and popularity of the breed through The International Cat Association (TICA) and in the hearts of cat fanciers around the world. In 2001, TICA granted evaluation status to this exciting new breed, which means that currently, you may see Savannahs of F3 or beyond generation, being shown in the evaluation rings at TICA shows.