Savannah Cat

The Savannah is a hybrid domestic cat breeds. It is a cross between the serval and a domestic cat.

Physical features
Savannahs are considered one of the larger breeds of domesticated cats. The savannah's tall and slim build gives the appearance of greater size than their actual weight. Size is very dependent on generation and sex, with F1 hybrid male cats usually being the largest. F1 hybrid and F2 hybrids are usually the largest, due to the stronger genetic influence of the African Serval ancestor. A female F1 Savannah Cat named "Scarlett's Magic," measuring 43.43 centimeters or 17.1 inches from shoulder to toe, is the tallest cat in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records. Male Savannahs tend to be larger than females. It is possible for early generation Savannahs to weigh up to 20lbs or more, with the higher weight usually attributed to the F2 or F3 neutered males, though this is not the norm. Later generation Savannahs are usually between 10 to 15lbs. Because of the random factors in Savannah hybrid genetics, there can be significant variation in size, even in one litter.

The coat of a Savannah depends a lot on the breed of cat used for the domestic cross. Early generations have some form of dark spotting on a lighter coat, and many early breeders employed "wild" looking spotted breeds such as the Bengal and Egyptian Mau for the cross to help preserve these markings in later generations. The International Cat Association (TICA) breed standard calls for brown spotted tabby (cool to warm brown, tan or gold with black or dark brown spots), silver spotted tabby (silver coat with black or dark grey spots), black (black with black spots), and black smoke (black tipped silver with black spots) only. In addition, the Savannah can come in nonstandard variations such as the classic or marble patterns, snow coloration (point), and blue or other diluted colors derived from domestic sources of cat coat genetics. Conscientious breeders are trying to cull these non-standard colours out of the gene-pool, by selling non-standard coloured cats as pets.

The overall look of an individual Savannah depends greatly on generation, with higher-percentage Savannah cats often having a more "wild" look. The domestic breed that is used will influence appearance as well. The domestic out-crosses for the Savannah breed that are permissible in TICA are the Egyptian Mau, the Ocicat, the Oriental Shorthair, and the Domestic Shorthair. In addition, some Savannah breeders use "non-permissible" breeds or mixes such as Bengal (for size and vivid spotting) and Maine Coon cats (for size) for the domestic parentage, but these "non-permissable" outcrosses can bring many unwanted genes as well. Outcrosses are rarely used these days, as there are now many fertile males available, and as a result, most breeders are exclusively doing Savannah-to-Savannah breedings. The main exception would be when using a Serval to produce F1 cats, and even then breeders prefer to use a Savannah with the Serval, rather than a non-savannah female.

A Savannah's wild look is often due to the presence of many distinguishing Serval characteristics. Most prominent of these include the various color markings, tall, deeply-cupped, erect ears, very long legs and hooded eyes. The bodies of Savannahs are long and leggy—when a Savannah is standing, their hind-end is often higher than their prominent shoulders. The head is taller than wide, and they have a long slender neck. The backs of the ears have ocelli, a central light band bordered by black, dark grey or brown, giving an eye-like effect. The short tail has black rings, with a solid black tip. The eyes are blue as a kitten (as in other cats), and may be green, brown, gold or a blended shade as an adult. The eyes have a "boomerang" shape, with a hooded brow to protect them from harsh sunlight. Ideally, black or dark "tear-streak" or "cheetah tear" markings run from the corner of the eyes down the sides of the nose to the whiskers, much like that of a cheetah.

Most F1 generation Savannahs will possess many or all of these traits, while their presence often diminishes in later generations. Being a newly developing, hybridized-breed of cats, appearance can vary far more than cat owners may be used to.

Savannahs are commonly compared to dogs in their loyalty, and they will follow their owners around the house like a canine. They can also be trained to walk on a leash, and even fetch.

Savannahs often greet people with head-butts, or an unexpected pounce. Some Savannahs are reported as being very social and friendly with new people, and other cats and dogs, while others may run and hide or revert to hissing and growling when seeing a stranger. Exposure to other people and pets is most likely the key factor in sociability as the Savannah kitten grows up.

Since the Serval is naturally a very outgoing and sociable exotic cat, Savannahs have not had temperament issues that would be associated with foundation cats of a more shy and/or aggressive exotic cat hybrid.

Owners of Savannahs say that they are very impressed with the intelligence of this breed of cat. An often noted trait of the Savannah is its jumping ability. Savannahs are known to jump up on top of doors, refrigerators and high cabinets. Some Savannahs can leap about 8 feet (2.5 m) high from a standing position. Savannahs are very inquisitive, and have been known to get into all sorts of things. They often learn how to open doors and cupboards, and anyone buying a Savannah will likely need to take special precautions to prevent the cat from getting into things.

Many Savannah cats do not fear water, and will play or even immerse themselves in water. Some owners even shower with their Savannah cats. Presenting a water bowl to a Savannah may also prove a challenge, as some will promptly begin to "bat" all the water out of the bowl until it is empty, using their front paws.

Another quirk Savannahs have is to fluff out the base of their tail in a greeting gesture. This is not to be confused with the fluffing of fur along the back and full length of the tail in fear. Savannahs will also often flick or wag their tails in excitement or pleasure.

Vocally, Savannahs may either chirp like their Serval father, meow like their domestic mother, or do both, sometimes producing sounds which are a mixture of the two. Chirping, when present, is observed more often in earlier generations. Savannahs may also "hiss"—a Serval-like hiss is quite different from a domestic cat's hiss, sounding more like a very loud snake hiss, and can be alarming to humans not acquainted to such a sound coming from a cat. Hissing, and even aggressive behavior which involves hissing, is more frequent in F1 or occasionally F2 generations, and may subside or disappear as the cat is socialized.

Health considerations
Savannahs are considered to have hybrid vigor. Different individuals contain different amounts of Serval and of varied domestic cat breeds, and there are currently no established Savannah breed-specific health issues.

Some veterinarians have noted that Servals have smaller livers relative to their body size than domestic cats, and some Savannahs inherit this. For this reason, care is advised in prescribing some medications. Lower doses per weight of the cat may be necessary. In addition, the blood values of Savannahs may vary from the typical domestic cat, due to the serval genes.

There is much anecdotal evidence that Savannahs and other domestic hybrids (such as Bengals) do not respond well to anesthesia containing Ketamine. Many Savannah breeders request in their contracts that Ketamine not be used for surgeries.

Some (but not all) experienced Savannah breeders believe strongly that modified live vaccines should not be used on Savannahs, that only killed virus vaccines should be used.

Some breeders state that Savannah cats have no known special care or food requirements, while others recommend a very high quality diet with no grains or by-products. Some recommend a partial or complete raw feeding/raw food diet with at least 32% protein and no by-products. Servals often require calcium and other supplements (unless fed a natural, complete and raw diet), especially when growing, and some Savannah breeders recommend supplements as well, especially for the earlier generations. Others consider it unnecessary, or even harmful.[7] Issues of Savannah diet are not without controversy, and again, it is best to seek the advice of a veterinarian or exotic cat specialist before feeding a Savannah cat any non-standard diet.

Ownership laws
Laws governing ownership of Savannah cats in the United States vary according to state. The majority of states follow the code set by the United States Department of Agriculture which defines wild/domesticated hybrid crosses as domesticated. Some states have set more restrictive laws on hybrid cat ownership, including, but not limited to: Alaska[10], Iowa, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Georgia. Some cities may invoke laws that differ from the state. For example, Savannahs more than five generations from the Serval are allowed to be owned in New York state, but not in the city of New York.

The Australian Federal government has banned the importation into Australia of the Savannah cat, as the larger cats could potentially threaten species of the country's native wildlife not threatened by smaller domestic cats. A government report into the proposed importation of the cats has warned the hybrid breed may introduce enhanced hunting skills and increased body size into feral cat populations, putting native species at risk. The report states that the Savannah cats are not worth the risk.

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