The Savannah

The Savannah cat is one of the newest and most exciting breeds of cats currently being developed by a select few breeders around the world. There are still relatively few Savannahs 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. While it is natural and not difficult to have a Serval breed with another Serval, it can be extremely difficult to accomplish the Serval to domestic cat breeding. Since with any hybrid cross resulting from the breeding of a wild cat to a domestic cat, the males are almost always sterile until the 4th-5th generation, there are a variety of domestic intact male cats used in breeding programs to create the early generation Savannahs.


The Savannah cat was named for the native African grasslands where the Serval makes its home. Savannahs are breathtakingly gorgeous, with beautiful spotted and striped coats and colors ranging from silver to amber. The Savannah is a very graceful, uniquely built cat, with a lovely long neck, long legs and ears, and a three-quarter length tail.

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 large and alert, with a wide base and slightly rounded tips. Savannah cats typically grow to weigh 25-30 pounds, which makes them as large as many domestic dogs, if not larger.

Their slim build gives them the appearance of even greater size. Average size is also very dependent on generation and sex, with F1 male cats usually being the largest. The Savannah can have a tan coat with black or brownish spots, or a silver coat with dark spots, a marble (also called classic) pattern, and many other patterns and colors, although The International Cat Association (TICA) breed standard calls for black, brown spotted tabby, silver spotted tabby and black smoke types only.

The bodies of Savannahs are long and leggy. When a Savannah is standing, their hind-end is often higher than their shoulders. The head is longer than wide, and they have a long slender neck. The back of each ear has a light band bordered by black stripes, which are called ocelli. The short tail has black rings, with a solid black tip that extends several inches. The eyes are blue as a kitten, and usually green as an adult. Black "tear-streak" markings run from the corner of the eyes down the sides of the nose to the whiskers, much like a Cheetah's. The black tear marks help reduce glare from sunlight, which aid the Savannah's vision during hunting.

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, more manageable version of the beautiful, exotic Serval Cat for people to live with and enjoy appropriately in our own homes. Savannahs are generally quite content as indoor-only housecats, and usually make wonderful family pets. While the Serval can be anywhere from 30-50 pounds, and stand quite tall on those long legs, Savannahs are typically most often reaching an adult weight of between 18-25 pounds. Unlike Servals, Savannahs use litterboxes and do not require any special diets, facilities or veterinary care than any other type of domestic housecat.

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 play 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. One noted trait of the Savannah cat is its jumping ability. Many Savannah cats do not fear water, and will play or even immerse themselves in water. Some owners have been known to 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.

The Serval


This slender built cat stands 500 mm at the shoulders. The back, flanks and tail are covered with a golden brown coat, with black stripes down the spine and black spots on the flanks and tail. The Serval has extraordinarily long legs for its body size which can be up to 3 feet in length, while standing up to 20 inches in shoulder height.

The Serval has a small but long head and large rounded ears marked with alternating black and white stripes on the rear. It has been observed that the Serval uses these prominent stripe markings on its ears to communicate with others of its species. Melanistic Servals can be found in the moister and densely forested areas of its range.

The bulk of its diet constitutes rodents, especially vlei rats. Birds, frogs, insects, small reptiles and even fish are taken to compliment the diet.

Kittens, in litters of three to four, are born in thick grass cover or underbrush. The gestation period is 68-72 days. Births often occur at the end of summer.

Like the Cheetah, the mother raises her kittens alone and must leave them frequently to hunt. When the cubs are large enough to hunt, the mother will drive the males away from the family first. Females will stay together with the mother until they become sexually mature. Then they will be driven away by the mother so they can establish their own territories.

Solitary in habits, except when mating or when a female is accompanied by her young. Serval scent mark their large home ranges of 15 - 30 square km. Home ranges are not exclusive, but occupants avoid contact. Scent marking is conducted with urine and feces. Males range over larger areas than females. Elusive and shy, Servals are for the most part nocturnal, hunting by sight and sound more than scent.

In areas of Africa where this cat has not been disturbed, they will also be active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular). It has an excellent sense of hearing and can locate prey that is moving underground. Once it hears its prey, the Serval will quietly approach and then leaping, will pounce on it. Often, they will play with their meal before consuming it.

This cat has a number of different vocalizations which include snarling, growling, spitting, purring and a high pitched cry used to call other Servals. When defending themselves, they will arch their backs and growl loudly.

Its preferred habitat is moist, tall grasslands, often associated with wetlands. This preference results in a patchy and localized distribution.

Where they are found
In South Africa the Serval is found in parts of the Northern Province, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg and in Lesotho. It is classified as rare in the South African Red Data Book.

The natural enemies of the Serval are Hyenas, African Wild Dogs and Leopards.

Latin name
Leptailarus serval

Vital Statistics
Latin Name : Felis Serval
Weight (Female) : 8,6 - 11,8 kg
Weight (Male) : 8,6 - 13,5 kg
Length (Female) : 110 cm
Length (Male) : 110 cm
Gestation Period : 2 months
Number of Young : 1 - 3 kittens
Order : Carnivora
Family : Felidae
Breeding : 1 - 4 young are born from September - April after a gestation period of ± 2 months.