Here’s my answers to some of the common Savannah cat questions.
What are savannah cats like?
Savannah cat personality is unique among cats. As a “crazy cat lady” who has owned, bred & rescued cats & kittens every single day of my entire life (except for 2 very lonely cat free months), I have owned everything from barn cats & strays who found their way to my front porch, shelter kittens & rescued adult cats, Persians, Siamese, Maine Coons, Bengals and domestic short hairs of all sorts of varieties. As such I can say that savannah cats are not your average “cat” their personality is much more entertaining, they are more intelligent and interactive with their people. A “dog like personality” is an accurate description.
Mine follow me around the house and want to actively participate in everything I do. Savannahs excel at jumping, climbing, leash walking, playing fetch and just all round awesomeness!!!
Savannahs don’t just have “catitude” they have Spotitude!
What is a Savannah cat?
Savannahs have distinct spotted coats that are typically golden warm brown or cool brown (referred to as BST or brown spotted tabby), silver spotted tabby or black smoke in color. On occasion an all black “melatonistic” Savannah occurs, they still have a distinct spotted pattern which is visible. Melanism is an excess of dark pigment, it is the opposite of albinism. There are other non-standard colors and marble patterns that occasionally occur a well.
A Savannah cat is a specific breed of cat. It is a hybrid cat resulting from the breeding of a domestic cat and an African serval cat (or the subsequent offspring of that original domestic to serval pairing). Savannahs are distinguished by their spotted coats, long legs and huge upright ears which give them a tall sleek appearance. Their necks are long and their heads are triangular in shape with distinct hoods over their eyes.
Savannah cats are identified by their F#, more info on F#’s below.
The first African serval to domestic cat cross was in 1986 and produced a cat named “Savannah”, hence the breed name. Savannahs have been a recognized cat breed by The International Cat Association since 2001. Savannah cats F4 and later with an SBT designation are eligible are eligible for showing.
Here’s the complete Savannah breed standard from The International Cat Association.
How big do Savannah cats get?
For the most part size depends the generation the Savannah cat. The generation (as in number of generations away from the African Serval) is referred to as the F#. The above chart is a generalization, there are no guarantees regarding how large any generation of Savannah will get.
F1 Savannah cats are typically the largest of the savannah cats, they are generally progressively smaller in size (height and weight) as the F# goes up. Savannah cats are typically larger in height but not necessarily bigger in weight than the average large domestic cat.
- F1’s and F2’s are typically the largest and weight can vary greatly anywhere from approximately 10-25 lbs.
- Keep in mind that the average serval is 20-30 lbs.
- Overall Savannah cats should be tall and lean. Despite what the internet says, there is no such things as a 50 lb savannah cat.
- While Savannahs are the tallest of the domestic cats, they are not necessarily the largest by weight (that would typically be the Maine Coon cats).
What does the F# mean?
F stands for filial (denoting the generation or generations after the parental generation).
Basically the F# denotes the number of generations a cat is away from the African Serval.
- F1 is one generation away – meaning one parent is a Serval. Mom is a Savannah (of any F#)
- F2 is 2 generations away – one grandparent is a Serval. The mother is an F1 Savannah and the father is an SBT Savannah
- F3 is 3 generations away – one great grandparent is a Serval, the mother is an F2 and the father is an SBT Savannah
- F4 is 4 generations away – one great, great grandparent is a Serval the mother is an F3, and the father is an SBT Savannah
- F5 is 5 generations away from the Serval, etc.
This is the only thing the F# means.
For a more comprehensive explanation of F#’s from the Savannah Cat Association click here.
SBT Savannah means Stud Book Traditional. An SBT Savannah is at least 4 Generations away from the Serval. An SBT designation does not specify the actual generation of Savannah. In most cases an F4 or later would be a SBT so for example it would be further designated as F4 SBT. Note: F1-F4 males are usually considered to be sterile and will not produce kittens if bred, however, the occasional F4 male will produce kittens and some F5 males are sterile as well.
Also Note: any cat male or female (of any breed) should be spayed or neutered at an early age to prevent the territorial marking that unfixed cats will do.
More about F1 savannahs – The F1 is the largest generation, and most resembles a serval. A F1 will grow to be anywhere from 10-25+lbs. They are rare, expensive and more challenging to own due to their size & energy levels and nutritional requirements. There are many challenges to producing F1 kittens, which is why they are expensive. Breeders have to own, house, feed & care for a serval (which is a wild animal) and then breed it to their prized savannah cat, hoping it will infact want to breed with it at all. There are additional problems with gestation period differences between a serval (approx. 74 days) and a domestic cat (approx. 64 days) which at times results in the babies being born prematurely.
Word of caution; there are many individuals out there claiming to have F1’s for sale at incredibly low prices. They are nearly always a scam. An F1 costs around $12,000-$20,000. Take the time to read the scam section below if you are considering buy one, it will save you alot of heartache.
Is it legal to own a Savannah cat?
Yes ! All generations of Savannah cats are allowed in California.
However, there are laws in the USA in many areas which limit or prohibit the ownership of wild animals including African Servals and hybrid animals such as Savannahs. This is something to consider if you plan on moving out of state someday.
African Serval ownership is prohibited in California, so there are no F1 Savannah kittens for sale in California (unless they were imported).
To find out if you can own a Savannah cat click here hybridlaw.com
or here at:
Are they “wild animals”, will they destroy my house?
No, they are not “wild” animals, they are pretty much just animals – and act accordingly. But yes, you do need to “kitten proof” your home just as you would puppy proof it or child proof it.
I have found that the Savannahs are very easy train because they have a longer attention span and a higher intelligence than your average cat. They are respond to consistent verbal cues. Keep in mind, they are very active pets and do like to get into things. They love climbing things and everything is a toy to them.
Training any kitten takes diligence in catching them before the act and then redirecting them. Redirecting their energy is the key, this should start from day 1 of their arrival, watch them closely & redirect the behavior to something positive.
It’s not hard to redirect their energy, a favorite toy usually works. When redirecting them, unless necessary, do not touch them, pet them or hit them as it will be viewed by them as a reward and that’s all they really want, instead redirect their attention with a toy, give them something to do that’s fun for both of you. Though it may work for most cats, squirting them with a squirt gun does not work & really is great fun for them.
How do I “kitten proof” my home?
Kitten proofing your home should include:
- Remove fine china & the priceless breakables from the open shelves, they will find them, they will conqueror them, “No shelf too high” is their motto
- They easily master opening cupboard doors and regular doors for that matter.
- Remove excess wires like power chords, speaker wires as they could bite them or tangle up in them. Tie up the mini blind cords too . Consider putting biteable power cords in pvc piping or put some bitterbreak paste on them so the cords taste bad (hot sauce doesn’t work, they just lick it) Kittens seem to outgrow the bitey stage quickly.
- Be sure to check out this page on common household hazards for your pets: https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/potentially-dangerous-items-your-pet
- Remove houseplants that are poisonous to cats.
- Here’s a list of poisonous plants from the aspca
- if you don’t know what kind of plant you have, take a picture of it & do a google reverse image search for the plant. It is important to check as some plants like lilies and oleanders are deadly within a bite or 2 to even an adult cat.
- Relocated to a cat free zone the smaller family pets including; birds, fish, hamsters, gerbils, rodents & lizards of any kind. Basically any family pet that could fit in your cats mouth should be moved elsewhere or it will be anyways. Servals are proficient bird hunters, waiting for a bird to fly overhead, then jumping straight into the air, catching birds in mid flight, savannahs have inherited that trait and will display their jumping abilities for you often.
- Remember to check the washer, dryer, dishwasher before you turn it on!
- Remember underneath recliners makes for a favorite cat cave, so be sure to check before you get up.
- Remember to check their toys & remove any broken or ripped toys so they don’t accidentally ingest the stuffing.
But the internet says they’re not friendly or they’re not lap cats.
Here at Spotitude, we beg to differ, our Savannahs are among the most loyal, loving cats I have ever owned. All of my cats follow me around the house all day wanting to help out.
Overall I wouldn’t call an adult Savannah cat a “lap cat” as they are very active and mostly interact by wanting to play with you, eventually, if well socialized, when they tire out they may sit on your lap. Most of our Savannahs like sitting with us on our laps or close by.
As with any animal, it does depend on circumstance, how they are raised, how much attention, socialization and handling they receive when they are little and what both their mother and their humans have taught them. This is the same with any animal. Just like people, their personalities can differ, they may ask for attention or show affection differently, you have to love and accept them for who they are.
We’re a small cattery, breeding only 1 litter at a time so they receive the maximum care and attention. Our kittens our handled from birth and have been on our laps every time we sit down since the moment they could crawl up on them. They follow us everywhere in our home and have to out compete their mothers for our attention & boy she loves attention!
Socialization is the key to a happy well adjusted pet. It’s the in home care & constant attention makes for the best possible personality. Our kittens are very friendly with all of our other cats, our dog and our guests as well.
Do they use a litterbox?
Yes, they use a litter box just like any cats. They use normal cat litter, clumping or non clumping, scented or non scented or pine pellets. The kittens learn to use the litterbox at about 5 weeks of age, they start with using pine pellets and eventually I transition them to clumping litter. Usually they are very particular about to using the box so as long as they can get to it, and feel safe in it, they’ll use it.
Things to remember about a litterbox,
- Some cats prefer a cat box with a lid, and some don’t.
- Larger savannahs will be too tall for a covered box.
- All cats prefer a clean litterbox. Can’t emphasize that enough, clean litter box = happy cat = happy family!
- Incidentally, the easiest way to get a kitten to use a litterbox is to grab the scooper and start ‘playing in the sandbox’, no kitten can resist joining in.
- If you have more than one cat you will need 1 box per cat, plus one extra, also a good idea to put at least one per level of your home.
- It must be in a place where they feel secure, think – low noise, low traffic.
When introducing a new kitten to your home, it is a must to confine it to a small room such as bedroom / bathroom where the litter box is kept, that way they don’t have to wander around the house with their legs crossed wondering where on earth the bathroom is. Keep the kitten in the room for at least a few days and slooowly show them around the house, bringing them back to the litter box room periodically and for feeding time.
That being said, unfixed cats, male or female of any breed will mark their territory, including your house and everything in it, so get them fixed, earlier the better! Getting a cat fixed after it has starting marking your house, may or may not work, but in any case, usually will still take months for the hormones to subside and for them to stop having the those urges. So again, get them fixed before it starts is the only answer.
What do they eat?
They eat a normal high protein (complete nutrition) grain free kitten or cat food. Some kittens & cats prefer dry, some prefer canned either one is acceptable. We feed both wet & dry. We leave dry food out all day for free feeding and feed canned food 2 times a day for adults and smaller portions 3-4 times a day for the younger kittens. Fresh water should always be available.
Just remember when changing foods, plan ahead and sloooowly change their food mixing a little bit of new food with the original food until their stomach gets accustomed to the new food, give it at least a week. (If you change their food too quickly they will typically either get the runs or vomit it back up whole). Even if they love the new food and devour it all the first time keep slowly mixing old with the new anyways so they don’t get a stomach ache from too much of a good thing. We’ve all experienced getting sick from overeating delicious food, ie: Thanksgiving dinner, now imagine having to continue to eat that food at every meal. This is one of the things that leads to food aversion and them becoming a fussy cat that won’t try anything new.
In addition we also feed them unseasoned cooked chicken, beef, canned mackerel, scrambled eggs and a small amount of cheese for treats. (Do not feed a cat cooked whole chicken bones – they splinter! ) Please note: chicken, eggs, mackerel, etc. is not nutritionally complete, they will need a complete nutrition canned or dry as well.
I do not typically recommend a raw (as in uncooked) food diet for the average cat owner due to the high cost of the commercially available raw cat foods and/or the time consuming complexity of preparing your own raw food from scratch.
Keep in mind a raw diet does not mean giving them “some pieces of chicken” as their only source of food, that would not be nutritionally complete and they would eventually develop health issues from lack of essential nutrients.
A raw diet must contain required meats, excretory organs, vitamins, amino acids, protein and fat, etc. in the correct percentages it can be a bit tricky to prepare. That being said, many Savannah owners do feed a raw diet and their cats reportedly love it. If you are interested in raw food recipes, I can point you in the right direction.
Here is a list of currently recalled pet foods from the American Veterinary Medical Association
Do they talk alot?
Yes, it is said that savannah cats do talk more than your average domestic cat, in reality some do, some don’t.
The unfixed males & females talk your ear off. They are loud and insistent and have aloooot to say. The fixed savannahs do not have nearly the same amount of things to talk about, but sometimes they just have to tell you about their day. The kittens are not overly talkative unless they get lost in the house.
Overall it just depends on the individual cat and what it is they have to talk about, be sure to listen to them, sometimes it’s important.
Do they like water?
Yes, but on their terms. It does not necessarily mean they will like it if you give them a bath. My cats and kittens get bathes, but each one has a different tolerance level. Frequent bathes are not a necessity for cats.
We have several cats that self bathe, as in they turn on the water & get in. No, they do not turn off the water. We invested in an automatic faucet, which they play under all the time. If you find them playing in the sink, it’s a good idea to remove the drain stopper before they flood the house.
Do they like to walk on a leash like a dog?
Yes! It is one of their most endearing traits, they love to go out walking with their humans & look forward to it. It’s a great way to get them some safe outdoor time! I have seen many leash walked Savannah cats, it’s not uncommon.
Our male Spot-A-Kiss loves to go on daily walks. He wears a gps tracker when we go out (that’s the grey thing you see on his harness) and they are capable & high energy enough of long walks. Our longest walk was 5.2 miles!
It does take a little time and patience to train them, similar to leash training a puppy. Spotty was a leash walking expert after about 2 weeks of daily walks. A good fitting harness is a must! Look for an escape proof cat harness. Larger Savannahs can fit into an x-small dog size harness.
Do they really play fetch like a dog?
Yes, they really do! Ours are rather insistent about it too! Not all savannahs fetch, but it is instinctual, not something they need to be taught.
Here’s some of our Savannah fetching videos:
Do they get along with other cats, dogs, kids, hamsters, goldfish?
Generally speaking, they get along well with other cats, domestic or savannah and they usually get along with cat loving dogs as well. Our kittens are very interested in playing with our dog and bug her to play with them. All of our adult savannah cats get along with each other and with our dog & with kids that come visit.
That being said, there’s no guarantees, every cat is different, you’d have to get to know the individual cat.
I would not leave your cat unattended around your prize koi fish or tasty looking pet mice, hamsters, gerbils or birds.
Can they roam free outdoors?
No, No, NO!!! Absolutely not, they will wander off and they can wander fast, far and without fear, fixed or not, it doesn’t matter, it’s just who they are they like to go places . They’ll be too trusting of the neighbors dog and the neighbor for that matter.
If you really, really want to let them roam, and feel your situation is safe enough for them put a gps tracker on them! That way you can know where they are at all times and where their usual route is in case they don’t come back. Also get them microchiped.
What’s a microchip?
Spotitude kittens come with a microchip. A microchip is small about the size of a grain of rice implanted in the top of their neck between their shoulder blades. When scanned by a reader it gives a 15 digit number which is registered in a microchip database with your name & contact info. Generally speaking, a microchip is permanent and lasts your pets lifetime I have read of a few instances where a microchip did not last a lifetime, I do not know if it’s true or why, but it’s a good idea to have it scanned by the vet when getting their shots.
Please note: A microchip is not a gps tracker, it will not help you to locate your pet, however, it will help if someone finds your pet and takes it to a vet or an animal shelter & they scan it. There are many microchip databases online, many are free, you may want to ask your local animal control who they suggest you register it with.
Here’s the one we register with, it’s free and it’s used nationwide:
What’s a gps tracker?
Our male wears a gps tracking device and it has saved him a few times. It’s the grey box on his harness.
A gps tracker tracks him 24/7 anywhere in the world that there’s cell reception as long as the battery is good. You load the gps manufacturers app on your smartphone, set it up and a map appears showing you his location and it also alerts you if he’s gone outside of a perimeter fence you manually setup on the map. Drawbacks, it has to be taken off and placed on a charger every so many days, the map perimeter fence is a bit too large an area so he’s already out by the time you get notified and you have to pay for a cellphone connection. Most gps trackers are made for dogs and are just too large for cats. We use a Whistle gps tracker as it’s the smallest actual gps tracker I could find. The charge lasts about 5-7 days depending on the amount of tracking you do. Here’s the Whistle website
There are also bluetooth trackers which are different from gps trackers in that they only track your pet for a few thousand feet using your phones bluetooth. That can be a problem if you weren’t home when your pet got out. A Savannah cat can run a few thousand feet in a few seconds, how fast can you run is the question, because to keep tracking them you will have to chase after them while remaining within the bluetooth range. Bluetooth trackers often advertise as gps trackers or pet trackers and are much smaller in size, so be sure to read the fine print. They are often much cheaper than an actual gps tracker, more like $5-$20.
Do they need special veterinary care?
No, they can be cared for by a regular veterinarian. They get the regular yearly shots & a yearly rabies shot.
Kittens should be spayed or neutered as soon as possible, earlier the better, a female cat can go into heat at 4 months of age, though 6+ months is more typical. An unaltered cat male or female will eventually start marking their territory, even if their territory is inside your house, getting them fixed at this point is a little late, and they may or may not stop marking. Cats that are fixed at an early age usually do not mark anything, marking behavior is hormonally driven so it doesn’t really occur to them. Cats that are fixed after they start marking, may or may not stop marking.
What’s the difference between savannah cats and bengal cats?
They’re both higher energy hybrid cats.
- A Bengal is a hybrid of an Asian Leopard cat and a domestic cat.
- A Savannah is a hybrid of an African Serval cat and a domestic cat.
Personality wise, they are both more active than your average cat, but Savannahs are even more active than Bengals. Appearance wise:
- Bengals have a rosetted pattern, short ears and shorter legs and a rounder face.
- Savannahs are tall and lean with a spotted pattern and large ears, and long legs, long neck with a triangular shaped face.
- Occasionally there are marbled patterned Bengals and Savannahs which are pretty cool looking as well but the body type will still be distinctly different.
Note: while Bengals cats were used in the beginning of the Savannah breed, it is no longer considered an acceptable to cross with a Savannah as it does not produce a Savannah cat in appearance as they are two distinct body types. This is according to The International Cat Association Savannah cat breed standards.
Are savannah cats hypoallergenic?
No, not particularly. They do have a short coat, and seem to shed less than alot of cats, so that may help somewhat. However the actual allergic reaction to cats is to protein in the cat saliva, skin and urine not the hair itself.
BTW, all cats have this protein, so there is no truly hypoallergenic cat, though a persons reaction can vary cat to cat even within any given breed of cat.
Where can I read more about savannahs?
Breed specifics: The Savannah Cat Association
Breed basics for beginners: Wikipedia – Savannah Cats
What about the cheap Savannah cats I see advertised on the internet?
It takes some but not alot of effort to sort the actual breeders from the scammers. I know it can be frustrating to hear there are pet scammers out there, but alas, there are, here’s what you need to know to avoid heartache:
1. Search for a reputible breeder online at the following
- The International Cat Association (TICA) Their websites lists
- TICA Breeders that adhere to Savannah breeding standards and TICA Code of Ethics are listed on their website here. (Spotitude is listed under California) and at
- The Savannah Cat Association website click here (Spotitude is listed here as well).
2. Go in person Easiest way to not get scammed when purchasing a pet is to go meet the kitten in person, meet the breeder and the kittens parents, see for yourself how their cats are housed & cared for and what their personality is like. If a breeder does not want you to come to their house or actually allow you to meet the pet you will spending the next 10, 15 or 20 years with, that’s a huge red flag.
3. If you cannot go in person, ask to video chat with them & the kittens. If they refuse to video chat with you – that’s a red flag!
Often times you will see pet scammers showing beautiful pictures of their pets for sale, that are not really their pets at all, they’ve just stolen someone else’s photos and reposted them. This is specifically why all Spotitude photos have a Spotitude Savannahs watermark or a cat name.
Do a google reverse image search and see if the kitten shows up somewhere else. Right click on an image and choose “Search Google for image” in one instance I saw recently of a cheap savannah kitten, a search of the image revealed the exact same picture on ads stating the kitten was in San Diego, Illinois, New York, Florida, etc. that kitten was actually a stolen photo from a legitimate breeders website from a litter 4 years ago.
4. When researching beware of the following:
Prices that are to good to be true. Due to their high cost, F1 Savannah kittens are usually what the scammers try to “sell”. F1’s cost anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000 + USA dollars. (Serval kittens typically cost somewhere around $5,000).
“Buy now” links, reasonable breeders want to talk to a prospective buyer first.
Poorly worded sites in broken english.
Sites that only have one picture of a specific kitten, ALWAYS ASK FOR MORE PHOTOS! and ask for photos of both the parents.
Sites that have many kittens pictured with each of the kittens being a different F# and/or age and all the photos have different backgrounds. Ask yourself if it’s really possible for them to have that many litters of kittens at once – are they a scammer who has stolen legitimate breeders photos or are they some sort of a high production cat mill?
Of course beware of sites that tell you they don’t have time to post a single picture of the kitten they have for sale but will send you pictures once you tell them what specifically you are looking for – that’s ridiculous!
High pressure tactics such as people rushing you into a quick decision to send money now because other buyers are coming out tomorrow.
Beware of “breeders” without TICA (The International Cat Association) paperwork for their cattery or their kittens. With all the cost and effort involved in cat breeding, the TICA registration paperwork is a very minor cost that does help identify legitimate thoughtful Savannah breeders.
Beware of websites that do not provide a location, or phone number, only a contact us form to fill out.
Also be wary of out of the country breeders, yes there are legitimate ones, but the paperwork to import an animal into the USA is very time consuming and costly.
Be extra wary of anyone selling F1’s in California. First, you need a serval to make an F1, thus F1’s are rare, there are very, very few breeders that are actually able to consistently produce F1’s. Legitimate F1 breeders are located in one of the very few states where serval ownership is legal. Servals are not legal in California. Many states, (such as Florida) require a (difficult to obtain) wildlife permit to own a serval. Hint – ask to see their permit and verify that permit! There have been many reports of individuals in southern California selling servals as “high percentage” F1’s, and also selling later generation Savannahs as F1’s.
Some of these scammers are notorious within the cat world, we actively try to get their sites removed only to have them pop up with another site within a day.
If you have questions regarding a particular breeder, I’d be happy to help as would the cat organizations listed in #1 above.
Also this needs to be said, just because a cat has a spotted or somewhat spotted pattern, this alone does not make them a Savannah cat. The “tabby” coat pattern is actually very very common in domestic cats, all kittens have oversized ears that they eventually grow into and all kittens act like “wild animals”.
A Savannah cat is a specific breed of cat with distinct body type and distinct personality resulting from the pairing of two savannah cats, (or Savannah/Serval, if it’s an F1). Asking any Savannah owner, the Savannah personality is much more important than the coat pattern and yes Savannahs personality is far different from any domestic cat.
Also needs to be said, there is no DNA test that proves what breed a particular cat is, thus no DNA test will tell you your cat is a Savannah or what generation of Savannah it is. Yes there are DNA tests that can tell you what bred your dog is, however, there is no cat breed DNA database at this time. Still, there are companies that vaguely market this service anyways, read the fine print, what the results actually tell you is what region of the world your cats could possibly be from not what breed it is.
(It is possible to DNA test 2 cat parents and their offspring to determine they are indeed the parents.)
Again see the kitten in person or in a videochat, and not just in a couple photos, ask to see the parents, photos of the kittens growing up, etc.
Hope this faq was helpful. Please keep in mind, these are my opinions on the matter as a Savannah owner & breeder but others may disagree, and you know, everyone has opinions! Just make sure to get the facts from actual breeders & Savannah cat owners, like everything on the internet, there is alot of misinformation out there too.
We wish everyone good luck in their kitten finding experience, & we’re happy to answer all your questions, text, call, or email us & we’re happy to have video chat with you, zoom or facebook messenger works best for us just contact us to set up a time.
Spotitude aka Spotitude Savannahs
Spotitude is a TICA registered cattery # 35799
Spotitude is a Savannah Cat Association member.
Arroyo Grande, California
Jenny Merfa Owner/Breeder
805 – 801 – 5510 text first then call