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Why are Savannahs so Expensive?

The Savannah is a very exciting new breed of hybrid cat, which began by a successful mating between an African Serval with a domestic cat. These hybrid cats have since been bred and developed by some very dedicated breeders, to achieve the likeness and beauty of the wild, exotic Serval cat with the easy care and temperament of a domestic cat. The name ‘Savannah’ came from the grassy plains area of Africa where African Servals are prominent, and it also was the name of the first recognized F1 female kitten produced! The breed is still in its infancy of development. What you see today may not look like the Savannah Cat of the future since many different types of cats are currently being used by different breeders as “outcrosses” in order to bring fertility and desired traits to these first foundation cats.

To acquire full African Serval, the foundation wild cat for this new domestic Savannah cat breed, is extremely expensive, and in many areas, requires licensing and permits from the USDA. It takes a considerable financial, and a lifetime emotional commitment, plus many years to produce an F1 (50% serval, 50% domestic cat) female Savannah, which can be used for breeding Savannahs. Adding to this would be proper housing, large, secure, out-door runs with enclosures, feed, shots, and veterinarian services over the life span of the Serval and queens.

The best method for accomplishing this is to actually raise a variety of domestic females kittens directly with the young male Servals. Although they tend to be very even-tempered and among the most friendly of the small wild cats, Servals have been know to harm, severely injure, or possibly kill their non-serval mates, and extreme care must be taken when using a serval in a Savannah program. Many domestic queens, even if impregnated by the serval, are not able to carry their kittens long enough in utero and the kittens may be born slightly to extremely prematurely, some requiring an incubator for survival. This is because the Serval has a gestation period of 73 days, while the domestic cat has a gestation period of 63 days. Even if F1 kittens are successfully born, not all offspring from the mating will be suitable for breeding. The kittens will need to be evaluated for their potential as a breeding animal. Evaluations are done on the F1 female offspring as to the qualities for a breeding foundation queen. Not all F1 females will be used for foundation stock; some may be sold as pets. The male offspring, being sterile usually until the 5th generation, will be sold as pets until that 5th generation.

F1 Savannahs are not always readily available. It is not un-common to be placed on a breeder’s waiting list after submitting a deposit. It may take up to a year or more before one becomes available. Some breeders may keep back what they consider to be the best quality kittens and continue evaluating the development and qualities of those kittens.

Quite often breeders will not make a decision to keep or sell an F1 or later generation Savannah kitten until the age of 6 months to a year of age. Older kittens are often the pick of the crop of kittens in a litter that were not sold as pets right away. Another plus for an older kitten is that they have often been raised in a home environment and are already quite used to humans and other pets. It is very important that you find out what type of facility your breeder has and whether or not their Savannahs are well socialized in their home.

Some breeders have started with female Savannahs, F2 to F4 and will breed back to a fertile F5 or above Savannah male or a domestic male. Domestic breeds used early on were Bengals, a variety of Domestic Shorthairs, Oriental Shorthairs, Ocicat, Egyptian Maus or a Serengeti (a cross between an Oriental Shorthair and Bengal). This method is also very expensive for a breeder.

The price for Savannahs is usually somewhat less with each subsequent generation from the F1. The F1 has a Serval parent; an F2 is a Savannah with a Serval grandparent; an F3 is a Savannah with a Serval great-grandparent; an F4 is a Savannah with a Serval great-great grandparent, and so on down the line.

Some states consider the ownership of exotic cats illegal. Some states consider any hybrid cat illegal. In states that allow the purchase of a Serval, permits are needed prior to purchasing. In other states, owning an F1 or F2 hybrid cat such as a Savannah is also considered illegal. To make it even more difficult, some states do not have restrictions while some of the municipalities within the state may have laws against such ownership. Therefore, it is imperative that you check with your own city, county and state agencies PRIOR to purchasing an early generation Savannah. A good place to start investigating your state is: www.hybridpride.org.

Regardless of information obtained from the site mentioned above, laws are always changing so it would be wise to call your local city, county, and state authorities before purchasing an early generation Savannah. Purchasing an F4 generation or later Savannah is often much simpler, and that is why F4 and F5 generation Savannahs are so desirable (in addition to their wonderful, completely trustworthy temperaments)!!

According to the July 2005 Savannah Cat Membership publication, there were less than 1000 Savannahs registered in the world! The great news is that the numbers are increasing!

The Savannah Cat is a wonderful alternative for the person who would love to own an exotic cat such as an African Serval but who for many circumstances, either can’t or shouldn’t. They are the best of both worlds – an unusual exotic, wild looking domestic house cat with the litter box habits and qualities of a domestic cat, and much less difficult and expensive to keep than a wild exotic cat.

What do Savannahs look like?

Savannah coloration, like Servals, range from light beige, tawny brown, light to reddish gold, gray, silver, smoke or solid black (melanistic). Patterns may be spotted or marbled. The spotted pattern runs together in places making what appears as stripes, on the forehead, on the top of the head and down the back of the neck, on the tail, and sometimes on the legs. Their face has prominent tear lines and there are light ocelli markings on the back of the ears. They have white or lighter areas on the chin and upper neck area. Some spots are solid black and in some Savannahs, the spots are shaded, depending on what domestic cat used in the breeding. The TICA Savannah Breed Standard does not accept marbled patterns for showing however they seem to be very popular with people not interested in showing.

What kind of care does a Savannah Require?

A Savannah requires basically the same care as a domestic cat. The feed should be the same high quality food that the breeder was feeding the kittens. If you decide to use another high quality food, the transition to the new choice of food should be very gradual and should not be attempted until the kitten is completely settled and feeling very secure in his/her new home. As with any domestic cat or kitten, sudden change in food WILL cause digestive upset, and it is always important to keep the overall stress levels to a minimum.

Regarding vaccinations, the same schedule for domestic kittens is also recommended for Savannah kittens. Like domestic kittens, Savannah kittens should have their first shots by 8 weeks of age. After a two to three-week period, the second sets of shots are given. The third set is given in another two to three weeks. Kittens are ready to go to their new homes between 8 and 14 weeks of age, depending on the overall health and physical/emotional well being of the kittens, the breeder preference, and the type and location of the new family. Most Savannah breeders agree that using any type of modified live or live vaccines carry a higher risk of vaccine-related complications with the Savannah breed; therefore, specifically request that your vet only administer the “killed” 3-way vaccine series to your Savanna kitten. Most Savannah breeders also recommend that you do NOT vaccinate your Savannah kitten for Chlamydia, Feline Leukemia or Ringworm due to the associated high risks with those vaccines.

If you have other cats in your home, make sure they have been tested for Feline Leukemia, Feline Aids and up to date on their shots BEFORE you bring ANY new kitten home. A new kitten should be isolated from any outdoor cats or cats not current on shots, until after they have had ALL kitten shots.

Rabies inoculations vary from state to state, and even differ from county to county. Check with a reputable Veterinarian in your area as to what age and how often Rabies shots are given. Keep in mind that while the chances are very small for an indoor only pampered kitten to contract rabies… should your kitten ever bite someone and break the skin, even in play, hospitals are required to report animal bites to the authorities. Should you not be able to produce proof that your kitten has been vaccinated for rabies, all counties require that your kitten be quarantined for 10 days. Some counties will let you quarantine them at home; some require that they be taken to a shelter to be quarantined. In some rare cases, some counties will actually take your kitten and euthanize him/her!!

Savannahs love toys!! They also love to chew on things, so their toys should be sturdy and free of any glued-on buttons, loose strings, etc. Tiny toys that could be destroyed and swallowed are also potentially dangerous to curios Savannahs.

Bringing home any kitten requires ‘kitten proofing’ a room for safety. This will be a safe place for your new addition while you are away. Make sure any exposed wires or electrical cords are out of the way, protected or removed all together. Chewing on an electrical cord can electrocute kittens as well as puppies. The entire home should be kitten proofed as well.

Savannah kittens are very curious. Make sure your kitchen trashcan has a cover if left out in the open. Wastebaskets should have a cover as well. You may want to consider purchasing the ones with the flip type lid. Kittens could accidentally ingest something thrown out that would be poisonous to them.

Some houseplants are poisonous to kittens. A good place on the Internet to research is http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/alphalist.html. Another source would be your veterinarian.

Remove any item that may be fragile or special to you to avoid breakage by the kitten knocking it over. Savannah kittens can jump surprisingly well at an early age and are very curious about everything.

A fun thing for Savannah kittens is water! A good idea is to purchase a heavy-duty skid proof dog bowl or some other type of spill proof bowl for their drinking water. This will help keep the kitten from overturning or dragging around his water bowl and making a mess. Keep toilet seat lids down.

Do Savannahs get along with children and other animals?

As with any pet, when small children are in the household, care and supervision should be given while introducing the animal. Savannahs usually get along with well-behaved children and other pets after proper socialization. Many Savannahs love the companionship of other household pets.

I wouldn’t recommend an F1 or F2 be brought into a household that already has hamsters, birds, or other small animals. These represent prey to Servals. Remember!…these are highly intelligent animals and could easily figure out how to get into the cages, pens or aquariums.

How big will a Savannah get?

Depending on the generation, the Savannah is a large, long bodied and long legged cat. The Servals can be from 25 to 50 pounds, so when bred to a domestic; the F1′s can be 15 to 20 pounds or more. The size may be slightly smaller with each generation and may stabilize around the fourth or fifth generation. Some of the later generations are still a considerable size. Males will usually be bigger than females.

Savannahs take a much longer period of time to fully mature than a domestic cat, usually two to three years.

Which is better, a male or female?

There is no difference in their personality. Both make excellent pets. If a larger size is important to you, a male might be a better choice.

If the F1 to F4 males are sterile, do I need to neuter my male?

Yes, even if your male is sterile (and some F4′s are NOT sterile), you should neuter your male about 5 months of age, just like any domestic kitten. Your male kitten will not know he is sterile, and will still have all the urges to reproduce if he is not fixed. In a kitten that is not neutered, the presence of hormones may make the kitten want to spray and mark it’s territory; hence it is critical to your success with your male Savannah as a pet that you do neuter him.

What about litter box habits?

Savannah kittens, as well as domestic kittens, left with their mothers longer usually develop good litter box habits.

When bringing your kitten home, keep the kitten in a small kitten proofed room or cage until the kitten knows where the litter box is. Just like domestic kittens, some problems can arise and if not health related, are usually environmental problems such as a dirty litter box, the wrong type of litter, or a litter box location that is not to your kitten’s liking. If you have a large home or a home with a second floor, make sure there are litter boxes placed in several locations and upstairs as well. A very young kitten may not be able to make it all the way upstairs to the room you have its box in, or vise versa.

How soon can I bring my Savannah Kitten home?

A very good time is about 10-14 weeks or older. This allows for the first two vaccines to be given and the kitten to develop immunities. There is always stress for any kitten, domestic or otherwise, when being removed from its mother, littermates and going to a new environment. This could possibly have a bad impact on a much younger kitten. If for some reason you need to purchase the kitten prior to 14 weeks, the kittens should have at least the first two shots before obtaining the kitten and placing it in it’s new home. There are many factors that go into the best age for placing a Savannah kitten, so this is a very important detail to discuss quite honestly and frankly with your breeder. Savannah kittens form very strong bonds with their human families, and you are going to want to be able to be home to spend as much time as possible with your new Savannah kitten especially during the first few months after she/he comes home.

If the new kitten is purchased before the third set of vaccines is given it is imperative that the new owner has the third set of vaccines given at the proper time. If a kitten is to be shipped, the airlines require the kitten to be 10 weeks or older and a health certificate filled out and signed by a reputable veterinarian.

What is the temperament like in a Savannah?

The Savannah is a very highly social, intelligent, and extremely loyal cat. They are very dog-like in many ways. A lot of Savannahs love to fetch, and continue to keep trotting back to you for more. Some can even be trained to walk on a leash with a walking jacket. They are very athletic, agile and can jump a considerable height. If you want a less active animal, you may want another breed. Savannah kittens are very lively and curious. They will provide you and your family with many hours of pleasure, just watching them. They love to be petted and their “head butts”, a show of affection, are a joy to receive.